' Assuring words --- if you don't know much about history - Paul Greenberg

Sunday

March 26th, 2017

Insight

Assuring words --- if you don't know much about history

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published August 13, 2015

   Assuring words --- if you don't know much about history

Some of this country's leading nuclear scientists -- Nobel laureates, White House advisers, physicists, a grand total of 29 grand names -- have written a two-page letter to the White House expressing their unqualified approval of this president's nuclear deal with Iran's mullahs: It's "innovative," and its safeguards are "stringent." It "will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future nonproliferation agreements." The deal should ease any and all concerns about Iran's continuing to develop plans for a Bomb of its own on the sly because it allows "unprecedented" inspections within 24 days. And so assuringly on.

Indeed, it's hard to recall such fulsome praise for a diplomatic agreement since the leading lights of British public opinion were waxing enthusiastic about Neville Chamberlain's deal with Herr Hitler in 1938 at Munich -- the one that was going to bring Peace in Our Time.

Ronald Reagan, that skeptic (and realist), famously advised Trust but Verify when it comes to arms-control negotiations, a formula that now has been conveniently reduced to Just Trust.

It's all enough to bring back the history of Germany's rearmament during the 1920s and '30s, which was supposed to have been outlawed by the Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War -- yet the Germans managed to become the most powerful military force on the continent. How? Secretly, though by the time the Nazis swept into power, it was an open secret, for Europe's democracies lacked the will to enforce the ban on Germany's rearming.

The result: A new German army of 36 divisions was outfitted with the latest equipment. That's not all. Police forces were reorganized as paramilitary units. A variety of militias, much like Iran's Revolutionary Guards today, became the nucleus of a future Reichswehr as various Freikorps, Stalheim, Reichsbanner, Nazi SA and SS troops grew from street gangs into private armies beyond any inspection regime.

The thorough-going efficiency of German science, engineering and manufacturing was soon producing all kinds of technological innovations as the buildup to war continued. The new dive bombers got their premiere in the Spanish Civil War.

It was all technically (but only technically) illegal. Advanced new aircraft like the Heinkel HE-111 bomber appeared in the skies over Guernica, and German shipyards were kept busy turning out new weapons at a prodigious rate. No wonder Germany enjoyed full employment while the West found itself still mired in the Great Depression.

There is an old joke about the German factory worker who decided to smuggle out the parts for a baby buggy piece by piece to please the wife. But when she kept asking where it was, he could only look puzzled. "I don't know, honey. Every time I put it together, no matter how carefully I follow the instructions," he explained, "it turns out to be a machine gun."

Despite all our scientists' assurances, no one should be surprised if Tehran's progress toward a Bomb of its own proves both as quick and as illegal as Germany's rearmament between the Wars.

It was left to a Tory backbencher named Winston Churchill to point out what was happening in Germany -- when it was too late to stop it. As he had the hardihood to tell the House of Commons when all about him were celebrating the arrival of Peace in Our Time back in 1938:

"I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain. ... I do not grudge them the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defenses; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history ... the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.

"And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."

Sleep on, America, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Comment by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles