April 17, 2014
The Putin is Hitler and the Ukraine is the Sudetenland Thing Again
A few weeks ago I noted that historical analogies can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing when we learn the right things from correctly applying lessons learned from history to similar current events, and a curse when we make the wrong comparisons and thus draw the wrong conclusions.
Is Putin a modern day Hitler? We, especially in the US, tend to focus on Hitler's antisemitism and genocide when thinking about what made Hitler so bad. But WWII didn't start because Hitler was persecuting his own people. It started because he invaded country after country in order to 'protect' German minorities, to right the wrongs of maps that didn't mesh with his dreams of ethnic unity.
Given that, then, yes, Putin is a modern day Hitler. Over at Forbes, Paul Johnson agrees. But he takes the analogy one step further: The Western leaders are modern day Chamberlains:
What’s to stop Putin? The West is led by the modern equivalents of Chamberlain: President François Hollande of France is a political nonentity repudiated by his own compatriots; Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have both ruled out the use of force to stop Putin from annexing Ukraine; and worst of all, President Barack Obama–the one man who has the power to stop Putin in his tracks–does nothing. He makes Neville Chamberlain seem like a bellicose activist.Johnson goes on to say that we need to intervene militarily now, before it's too late. As I noted before, it's the same argument that Shirer made in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich -- had the Western powers intervened when Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland they would have nipped the problem in the bud before Germany had fully built up their military.
The question is ... what should our response be to Putin? Send the military into Ukraine to ensure that Putin doesn't invade is Johnson's idea. He thinks Putin wouldn't dare invade the remaining portions of Ukraine if US/NATO troops were there.
Me? I'm not so sure. If I understand correctly, the US has zero tanks left in Europe. I've no idea how many our NATO allies have but I can't imagine it would be enough to stop a land invasion through the Ukrainian steppe. We have air and sea superiority, but that only goes so far.
Also, the Ukraine isn't a member of NATO. We have no obligation to help it. If the Ukraine wanted our help, it should have signed on the dotted line years ago.
I guess there are two questions that I don't have great answers for: Should we even try to deter Putin from more land grabs so he won't try the same thing in NATO countries like Latvia & Estonia (also with large ethnic Russian enclaves)? And if we should try to nip this in the bud, then what are our feasible options given our weakened post-Cold War military stance in Europe and Europe's chronic under-spending on the military?