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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 7, 2013/ 1 Elul, 5773

The 1930s and us

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Thank you for writing; I learn most from my critics."

A columnist soon learns to employ that phrase or one like it. For the best response to an irate reader is a polite one, and this standard reply has the additional advantage of being true. For anyone so presumptuous as to inflict his views on an innocent public is bound to learn some useful, even surprising, things from his readers.

Just the other day I learned how clear the issues confronting our policymakers were in the 1930s, when the Japanese were on the march in Asia and Herr Hitler was imposing his New Order on Europe, piece by piece.

Our choices were quite simple back then, according to my valued correspondent, as opposed to the more complicated ones now facing this administration in these more complex times, which demand a more sophisticated approach to foreign affairs. A nuanced approach, to use the current term of art for indecision.

My critic made it clear he was getting tired of my habit of making historical analogies to the 1930s -- pretty darned tired:

"Again you have compared our lack of involvement in the Syrian Civil War to the appeasement of Hitler in the '30s. As a student of history, I find this analogy faulty in the extreme. Doing so, you are comparing things that involved peoples, issues, regions and time periods that were very different. What happened in the '30s was very straightforward. It involved Hitler and his plans for Europe. We and the Gentlemen of Europe didn't realize that we were dealing with a street thug who only respected power and would do anything to further his plans. Negotiations would not work with Hitler and he needed to be driven from power. Churchill realized that, but Chamberlain didn't till it was too late.

"In Syria we have a much more complicated situation. We have religious and secular fighters fighting on both sides. We have a civil war complicated by Sunni strife. We have Islamists, including Hezbollah, supporting both sides. We have the war spilling over into bordering countries. We have Iran and Russia taking advantage of the situation to further their ends. We have Israel who God only knows what they will do. Whom do we support and who is the enemy? In the '30s that was easy to understand. In the Middle East of today, it's not so clear. I think that is why Obama has gone slow on getting involved."

Who knew the issues in the Thirties were so simple and easy to understand, and our choices so clear? And indeed they were -- viewed almost a century later. Time lends perspective. It clears away the hurlyburly of a pressing present and wraps it all up in a neat package called the past. For now we know how the story came out. But back then, did all Americans -- whether isolationists or interventionists (then called internationalists) -- find the choices facing this country so clear?

Did all Americans agree about what was happening in the Spanish Civil War, or what to do about the tide of refugees fleeing for their lives across Europe (Jews in Germany, for instance) just as Syrians are looking for a refuge now?

Talk about Sunnis and Shi'a, Islamists and secularists, dictators and democrats in the Middle East -- which part of the patchwork of nationalities and ideologies in Europe in the 1930s merited our support and which our enmity?

Should we have backed the Finns when they were invaded by the Russians, making them natural allies of Nazi Germany? Or cut them no slack?



Did all Americans agree, even after we were pulled into the Second World War, that we should or should not deal with Vichy France? See the Darlan Affair and the furor over whether General Eisenhower made the right decision in the North African campaign (Operation Torch) when he chose to deal with Admiral Darlan rather than arrest him.

What about Franco's Spain? Should we have accepted his fascist dictatorship or destroyed it? Did all Americans agree on which side to arm in the Spanish Civil War, the Communists or fascists, the loyalists or rebels or neither?

Should we have supported Communist Russia and, if so, before or after the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed?

Did all Americans back in the 1930s agree that the series of Neutrality Acts passed during that decade to Keep Us Out of War needed to be respected, or that they needed to be repealed? What about the undeclared naval war against Nazi Germany in the North Atlantic, or Lend-Lease, or the destroyers-for-bases deal with the British? Were those prudent or reckless decisions?

And was Wendell Willkie, who ran against FDR in the presidential election of 1940, an isolationist or interventionist, and just when? Or was he just an opportunist when he indulged in what he would later call "campaign rhetoric" to appeal to the anti-war vote?

And talk about government snooping: Our secretary of war, Henry L. Stimson, a true gentleman of the old school and public servant who held high office under six American presidents, shut down this country's secret code-breaking operation because, as he put it, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail."

Does his attitude then remind anyone else of today's foofaraw over the National Security Agency's using Big Data to ferret out threats to this country's security now? (Mr. Stimson soon enough changed his mind, given the dangers America faced in his time.)

I, too, get tired of historical analogies, but what's a columnist to do when they're so striking? Our divisions seem just as sharp in these polarized times, and our leaders just as divided and wavering, as they were in the 1930s.

Here's hoping my critic is appeased, to use a term the Thirties pretty much discredited, and that this explanation finds him in good health -- and certainly in better shape than his simplified history of that decade.

-------

I am indebted to another reader for pointing out that a quotation in my column on the 60th anniversary of the armistice in Korea, "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction," should have been attributed to Major General O.P. Smith, commander of the First Marine Division in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. I am sorry for my error and hasten to correct it.


Paul Greenberg Archives

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