On September 1, 1939, the inevitable and the inconceivable met on the fields of Poland at dawn, and the world shuddered. On the premise of a trumped up staged border incident the armed forces of Germany hurled their might into the antiquated defenses of the Republic of Poland, bringing to birth the cataclysm of World War II. The predictability of the attack was foreordained by the ceaseless pattern of intimidation and provocation by the dictator Hitler throughout the 1930’s against the tired Great War weary nations of Europe occurring in a straight line from re-militarization, the restoration of the Ruhr, the Anschluss into Austria, the destruction of the Czech nation and absorption of the Sudetenland in a process that brought the word “appeasement” into the diplomatic vernacular. Appeasement was conceptualized as the mature alternative to war in which identified grievances were rationalized and negotiated rather than fought over by governments. The underlying flaw of appeasement and the fatal illogic of appeasers was that only one side admitted flaws and only one sides grievances were appeased, in a process that allowed time for the strength of the dictator to grow to position him to achieve his ultimate aim. His aim was true on September 1 – the world was introduced to the concept of “Blitzkrieg” , the rapid and mechanized coordination of land and air forces that rapidly overwhelmed brave Polish forces that relied on outdated structures of fixed defenses and cavalry charges. By September 17th, the Polish forces had retreated to defensible redoubts in Southeast Poland only to find that their erstwhile allies, the Soviet Union, had secretly entered into a pact with Hitler to carve up Poland, and massively attacked from the east, crushing the the Poles in a vice and rapidly rolling up the nation out of existence as an independent nation for the next 50 years.
By October 5th, the general struggle for the polish nation was over and the feasting on the remains by the totalitarian states was commenced. The world saw appeasement for what it was, a delusional tea room exercise and girded itself for the six year death struggle that had commenced. It has been assumed by most that the lesson of dealing with belligerent dictators was forever codified by the resultant investment of 60 million deaths in the cataclysm of the second world war conflict, but we continue to argue today under similar scenarios as to whether early aggressive action or extended commitments to “understand” the grievances of the beligerents offers a more rational course. Our current President echoes previous leaders who felt that the key to inoculating against future violence is to “understand” and “apologize” for the perceived affronts of democracies against aggrieved intolerants, and find avenues to address their concerns that assuage them. The fascinating lesson of history remains that the agenda of all intolerants is not their own temporary disadvantaged state, but rather their overwhelming need to determine in final terms who is right, who is stronger, who will triumph. Unfortunately democracies continue the pattern of airing their weakness in public and forcing the test of the tyrants onto a timetable best suited for the tyrant. So far, the enlightened side has managed to ultimately win, at great cost. Are you willing to bet this outcome is inevitable, regardless of the adversary?