When I was young and first learned about World War Two, Hitler and the Nazi party, I remember feeling baffled that Germans were now our ally. It’s a child’s question: How did the Germans go from hating us and wanting to kill us, to liking us and wanting to help us?
The answer I’d get — that Hitler was not representative of Germany and that most Germans never hated us — deepened the mystery rather than resolving it.
As I got older and read history, I had another question: Hitler told the world everything he planned to do, long before taking power; and he told us how he was going to do it. It was all written down, in Mein Kampf, a book in wide circulation in the 1930s. Why did so few believe him and prepare to stop him? The unsatisfying answer was, his book was so crazy, no one really believed he meant it.
I grew up on movies about the glorious Allied victories and heroic struggles of World War Two — Von Ryan’s Express, The Longest Day, The Great Escape, countless others. While I still love those films, I’m not so taken anymore by the notion of World War Two as a “good war.” It was a terrible war. Tens of millions of people died. And it could have been avoided.
Once the Allies finally were roused to fight Hitler, he was so much more powerful than he had been when he began violating the Treaty of Versailles, drafting an army, and marching troops into the Rhineland. These were illegal acts. France and Britain had the right to enforce the treaty militarily. Compared to the horror of WWII, a fight in the Rhineland would’ve cost few lives. A humiliated Hitler might have been ousted from power…and all over the world, hundreds of millions of people would have grandparents today.
On the other hand, if D-Day had failed, Hitler would have had more time to complete his development of a nuclear weapon. He would have won the war and dictated the peace. That avoidable outcome was a nearer thing than we like to admit. The movies made it seem like the Allies won because we were more heroic and had superior values. Unfortunately, that’s false. Our soldiers were brave, but our countries were also lucky.
David Warren is a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. In an essay on the Danish cartoons issue, which is getting passed around on the web, Warren finds parallels between the 1930s and today. Like the Brits who felt sure their friends in Germany wouldn’t let that wacky speechmaker go too far, the West is deluding itself by relying on the irrelevant fact that most Muslims don’t hate us.
I do not doubt the great majority of Muslims, in Canada and around the world, are decent, “moderate” people, who want no part in a “clash of civilizations”. But it has become obvious they can do nothing to stop the triumph of “Islamism” internationally, or oppose the fanatics proselytizing in their own communities.
Germany was full of moderate Germans, as Hitler rose; Stalin drove his oars through a sea of moderate Russians. While we must not forget that the Muslims are the first victims of “Islamism”, and may suffer most from its triumph, we are beyond the point where we can do more for them than destroy the tyranny by which they are enthralled.
Indeed, many Muslims, by birth or faith, remain our best allies, warning us as many fine Germans did of what is coming our way. For example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born politician in the Netherlands — a magnificent young woman — speaking recently in Berlin:
“Publication of the cartoons confirmed that there is widespread fear among authors, filmmakers, cartoonists, and journalists who wish to describe, analyze or criticize intolerant aspects of Islam all over Europe. It has also revealed the presence of a considerable minority in Europe who do not understand or will not accept the workings of liberal democracy. These people — many of whom hold European citizenship — have campaigned for censorship, for boycotts, for violence, and for new laws to ban ‘Islamophobia’. … The issue is not about race, colour, or heritage. It is a conflict of ideas, which transcend borders and races.”
Could these radicals, a minority within a minority, win? Could they bring the governments of Europe to heel? Could they accomplish what they’ve publically said they intend to accomplish? Sure they could. They can scare their opposition into silence. They can force politicians, diplomats, editors and academics to weave elaborate rationalizations to cloak their fatalism and fear. They can operate unopposed for quite awhile, and march into positions from which it will be extremely difficult to dislodge them.
Following the course they’re on, the Islamicists will be able to blackmail much of what we used to call the Free World. They’ve already started. They don’t even need a nuclear bomb to force the West’s hands. Small-scale terrorism and street action is sufficient. But the jihadists will eventually get the bomb and then it won’t be about cartoons anymore.
It’s not so hard, now, to see how the Nazis came so far. We’re watching a show just like it again.