The Problem with Containment – Part III

“I can contain him.” With these words, Franz Von Papen, the aristocratic former Chancellor of Germany, convinced Germany’s President, Paul Von Hindenburg. After all, Von Papen’s choice for the new chancellor will have only three cabinet posts to Von Papen’s Conservative party’s eight. And I will have the right to sit in on all meetings between the Chancellor and the President. Within two months, we will push him so far “he’ll squeak”, Van Papen bragged.

The “him” was Adolf Hitler. And within six months Von Papen was the one squeezed out as the Nazis liquidated the Weimar republic and established its Nazi Dictatorship.

From 1933-1939, the Western Allies tried to contain Hitler through appeasement and self-delusion.  Repulsed by her losses in World War I and in the midst of the Depression, France and Great Britain, the leading Western Powers, had no stomach for war or even re-arming. But during those years, the Third Reich spent 51.9% of its total budget on building up its Army, in violation of the Versailles Treaty, which limited its Army to 100,000 lightly equipped troops, with no air-support and a feeble Navy.

Appeasement is really containment through diplomacy, with the Western Powers giving rather than receiving. And the Nazis took more than they received.
As one historian noted, a “crucial litmus test of British and French reactions proved to be the remilitarization of the Rhineland in March of 1936. In view of the military inferiority of the Wehrmacht even against the French forces alone, the move could have easily backfired for Hitler….British and French passivity encouraged him to attempt even more daring policies.” *

When the Allies woke up, after Hitler’s abrogation of the Munich Agreements, they faced a Wehrmacht of just over 3 million men, and the Luftwaffe at over 379,000 men. Germany also received the bounty of Czechoslovakia’s considerable munitions and industrial infrastructure. Czechoslovakia, the sacrificial lamb for “peace in our time."

Bomb damage to London during World War II
Bomb damage to London during World War II
Hitler had written about his intentions in 1924 via Mein Kampf. And the British Ambassador to Germany wrote shortly after Hitler became chancellor that Jews were being persecuted with impunity and “it must therefore be anticipated that they would be expelled from Germany. **

And so the Western World sauntered through the 1930’s until catastrophe struck on September 1, 1939. The ensuing World War II claimed 50,000,000 dead including 6 million of our people.

Today, we know of the Iranian Regime’s plans for Islamic domination, just as we knew of Hitler’s “final solution.” We have heard too many of her leader’s proclamations denying the Holocaust and threatening to extinguish the “Zionist entity.” But the West has appeased and dithered over the past 3-4 years. The time to act is now by imposing crippling sanctions by a coalition of the willing, even beyond any U.N. sanctions.

Human Nature Does Not Change. Accordingly history can repeat itself if we don’t glean lessons from our past. We need Churchillian resolution and solutions, not the feckless leadership of his predecessors.

The clock is ticking.

*Christian Leitz in The Origins of World War II: the Debate Continues.
**Sir Horace Rumbold, quoted in Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott’s The Appeasers.

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