This one didn’t quite make it into the column today, as it ranged rather too far afield. It deals with the failure of His Majesty’s Government to secure a tripartite alliance between Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union in 1939, prior to the Soviet-German nonaggression pact. The Soviets had eagerly pursued this alliance after the fall of Czechoslovakia exposed Poland to the Germans, but when the British de facto rejected it by sitting on it for months, the pro-Western Maksim Litinov who’d pushed it fell from favor and was replaced with the infamous Molotov.
“Here their error was not only spectacular, it was historic. Harold Macmillan, one of the handful who suspected what was coming, was puzzled by their blindness. In part they were victims of a distorted self-image, an illusion common among superpowers; like Americans a generation later, they assumed that all other countries held them in high regard. Actually, the men in the Kremlin bore malice towards the Western Allies, and with reason.”
– William Manchester, The Last Lion, vol. II, p. 474-5.
It’s important to keep in mind that the willful blindness of HMG, led first by Stanley Baldwin and later Neville Chamberlain, lasted a full seven years. During that time, Germany assassinated one head of state, annexed two countries, bombed a third and repeatedly rattled its saber despite being in a much weaker military position compared to France, let alone all of its future enemies. The Polish army alone was more than twice the size of the Wehrmacht for most of that period.
It is important to keep this in mind when considering the position of the United States versus the jihad. Unlike the pre-WWII situation, the Dar al-Islam is actually larger than the Western Allies and unlike the historical Germans, it has successfully infiltrated the West as well. The West today is arguably more susceptible to the weakness of will which Hitler successfully diagnosed and rode to successive victories over Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and France; bin Laden’s assessment of strong and weak horses is significantly less insane than it might appear on the surface.
This quote delves to the inherent flaw in the Bush administration’s approach, which relies on the concept that Muslims wish to live under Western cultural standards. This is not dissimilar to the error made by the Edwardian leaders, who found it impossible to understand that the nations of the Empire would not wish to live under Imperial rule were it to be made optional.