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78 Years Ago This Week History Taught Us a Lesson. But Does Anyone Care?

The West is shrugging off the seizure of Crimea in Ukraine the same way we ignored the Rhineland invasion!

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Is it just me or is anyone else bothered by the seeming lack of focus on Russia’s seizure of Crimea? I know public schools today teach only touchy-feely tree hugging and the only history taught is how bad the White Man was, but surely there must be more than a relative handful of us who remember the important lessons history taught us?

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One such important lesson, and it’s a BIG ONE, was taught on March 7, 1936. On that day the German Army, directed by Aldolf Hitler, invaded the Rhineland and violated the Treaty of Versailles, the peace treaty that ultimately sealed the end of World War One. The Rhineland, which was part of Germany, was declared by Versailles and later the Locarno Treaty to be demilitarized. Hitler’s violation of those treaties and military occupation of the Rhineland was the first of Hitler’s many armed territorial conquests.

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Had France, backed by Great Britain, stood up to Hitler they could have expelled Germany from the Rhineland, perhaps without firing a shot. Such a humiliation might very well have caused German generals to remove Hitler from power  (1,2) and spare the world the horror that would follow in the years to come.

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No one seems to care that Putin has seized Crimea. It was after all, a former Russian province. But so was Alaska. Also, would we stand by while Mexico reclaims the southwestern United States? If Putin gets away with this first bite of the apple he’ll be back for more. That’s the lesson from history. Unless he is opposed and the cost is more than Obama wagging a finger and making symbolic moves Putin will conclude the prizes to be had are worth the negligible risk.

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Earlier this week I observed the 68th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton Missiouri. In the 1930’s Churchill warned about the dangers of neglecting Hitler’s ambitions and later he warned about the dangers of neglecting Russia’s. History has proven Churchill to be right. So why aren’t we listening when the cost of avoiding war is low and the rewards great?

About Mike Miller

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Mike's America has written 67 posts in this blog.

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Mike has experience in politics and government at every level from the Court House to the White House where he worked for President Reagan.

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  • bobmontgomery

    Probably because too many of us defer to the professorial class when it comes to big issues like foreign policy and Keynesian./burkean/free enterprise economics. The problem with that is, the professorial class ain’t what it used to be fifty years ago. They sometimes still use big, high-falutin’ words, but they use them out of context and because our eyes are glazed over, we don’t catch it.
    The greatest generation is almost gone but there are plenty of baby boomers out there who still got a good education, at school and at home, who know what the truth is. If the millenials want to harness that truth, it might save them.

    • Bob: I’m not too hopeful that the millennials will really understand the importance of these foreign policy issues. I remember the Vietnam War, I remember the Cold War, Reagan and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Those under 40 (I’m being generous) today are removed from that experience and are sadly reliant on an education in history that is mostly absent in public education.

      Even in conservative circles, where the youth are somewhat better educated (if not by the schools, by their parents and grandparents) there is an isolationist impulse represented by guys like Rand Paul.

      What Churchill said in his Iron Curtain speech 68 years ago this week (see feature at Mike’s America) is that America cannot afford to withdraw from the world again. We should have realized how true that was on September 11, 2001 but after nearly 13 years of war there are too many who want to put their heads back in the sand. Doing so only means the next battle will be more deadly than it otherwise would be.

      • NotYouNotSure

        The only ones that are sticking the head in the sand is people who openly advocate for America to run (sorry I forgot, the more polite words are “strategic partnerships”) the Middle East, Asia, in fact the whole world and expect no backlash from this. The only way a country can really be isolationist is if it blocked all outside contacts for its citizens like North Korea does, being isolationist is basically not wanting America to be a world empire.

        • I don’t know anyone who wants the U.S. to be a “world empire” but at the same time, we learned on September 11th that we can’t just pull back and expect the world to leave us alone.

          The last time I checked we were NOT running the Middle East, Asia or anywhere else. Perhaps if we could the world would be a far more peaceful place but that’s not going to happen.

  • Michael

    ” I know public schools today teach only touchy-feely tree hugging and the only history taught is how bad the White Man was”

    If you actually knew anything at all about what is taught in schools today, this would mean something, but you have demonstrated again and again and yet again that you don’t.

    • So, show me where YOU have taught the relevance of Rhineland Occupation…..

      I won’t be holding my breathe.

      Oh, and if you actually knew anything about environmental politics, as I do, you’d know what a gigantic lie global warming is.

      • Michael

        Two things:

        First, this is another example of your two-valued logic: either we’re teaching the relevance of the Rhineland Occupation or we’re teaching touchy-feely tree hugging and how bad the White Man was. Even in fourth grade, where the focus is California history, or fifth grade, where we’re teaching colonial America, or sixth grade, where to topic is ancient civilizations, or seventh grade, where we teach about the medieval world; it’s either the relevance of the Rhineland Occupation or how bad the White Man was. Did you not mean to suggest that those were actually the only two options? Then you shouldn’t have written what you wrote.

        Second, whatever you write is fair game for comment and criticism, Mike. You’ve never understood this. If you don’t want people to deconstruct the stupid stuff you put into your posts, then don’t put in the stupid stuff.

        • Once again you completely distort what I have said. I guess that’s easier in your mind (such as it is) than dealing with the substance of my remarks.

          Did I EVER suggest that the only choices in education were between teaching the significance of the Rhineland and the touchy feely frauds that you swallow as truth?

          Apparently you are under the mistaken impression that YOURS is the only expertise which cannot be questioned and you reject that of others. This is the mark of a small mind. You cling to your prejudices and simply are unable to understand that people who disagree with you may not be wrong. In fact, it may very well be YOU who is on the wrong side of the truth but you refuse to even consider that alternative.

          As for what education is teaching or not I came across this:

          Common Core had slightly different stats but the same conclusion:

          Today’s students know very little about history. When it comes to World War II the many didn’t even know who we were fighting. 25% had no clue who Hitler was.

          So yes, when I say that today’s students are clueless about history and that the schools are failing them, I’m not just making it up. Perhaps you are a tad defensive because of your own failures in this field?

          P.S. I notice you failed to share with me ANY hint that students are being taught the history of this period. Score another point for Mike, not Michael 🙁

          • Michael

            “Did I EVER suggest that the only choices in education were between teaching the significance of the Rhineland and the touchy feely frauds that you swallow as truth?”


            You wrote, “I know public schools today teach only touchy-feely tree hugging and the only history taught is how bad the White Man was.”

            I suggested that I knew, as a teacher, that such was not the case.

            Your response: “So, show me where YOU have taught the relevance of Rhineland Occupation…..”

            So, yes. That is exactly, precisely what you suggested. Again, if you don’t want to have to stand behind your idiotic hyperbole, don’t be idiotically hyperbolic.

            “P.S. I notice you failed to share with me ANY hint that students are being taught the history of this period.”

            Okay. I wasn’t aware that I was expected to. Here it is. Not a hint, precisely, but more of a direct quote from the state standards:

            “10.7 Students analyze the rise of totalitarian governments after World War I.
            10.8 Students analyze the causes and consequences of World War II.”


            • Then by the reports I cited above you acknowledge the failure of public schools to meet those state standards.

              Show me ONE instance of where you have taught about the relevance of the Rhineland occupation. Putting a reference in a document hardly translates to teaching.

              Yes, we know you want to try and twist and spin all day long to try and distract away from the main points in this post. You’re behavior is so transparent and predictable that no one is being fooled except YOU.

              I’m shocked that you would WANT to introduce the widely accepted fact that our public schools are failing to teach. But then, you don’t seem to know what is good for you.

              Facts are not on your side but that’s never stopped you before.

          • Michael

            “Apparently you are under the mistaken impression that YOURS is the only expertise which cannot be questioned and you reject that of others.”

            The truth of the matter that that you’re always claiming more and more “fields of expertise.” Are you now claiming to be an expert on world history? On what basis? In another of your claimed fields of expertise, political science, you took graduate classes–no degree–and you worked as an intern in the White House twenty-five years ago. In my field of expertise, education, I have a master’s degree and I have twenty-five years of continuous experience. Training and full-time experience for twenty-five years as opposed to experience as an intern twenty-five years ago. Surely even you can see the difference, correct?

            • You’re experience is meaningless. I have worked in government at every level from the Court House to the White House yet somehow you somehow dismiss those decades (totaling far more than your few years) as they apparently do not register with your sour left wing prejudices.

              You are your own worst enemy.

              • Michael

                “I have worked in government at every level from the Court House to the White House”

                You keep writing that, but the only specifics you give is time as a White House intern twenty-five or more years ago, and a couple of years as a gopher at the EPA over twenty years ago. I’m guessing that your only experience in the court house is coming up before a judge on drunk and disorderly charges.

                Tell me more about your experience working in government.

                “You’re experience is meaningless.”

                Well, at the very least it has helped me distinguish between “your” and “you’re.” Your experience is meaningless in my field, and mine in yours. The difference is that you seem to feel that every field is your field of experience.

                • Sorry pal, but I’m not going to print my resume here for your approval.

                  You want to keep bringing up the fact that America’s education system is a failure you can continue to do so, but I’m overquota playing with TIMEWASTERS today!

                  You only WISH you had half the experience in government that I do. If you had, you wouldn’t continue to make such a complete ASS of yourself!

          • Michael

            Good God almighty, Mike, please tell me that you’re not citing a listicle titled “25 American History Facts Most Students Don’t Know” as support for your position. Okay; let’s go with it. Please point me to where the article mentions the significance of the Rhineland Occupation, since that seems to be your touchstone of educational efficacy.

            • Now you are starting to sputter. I gave TWO links. Though I am not surprised you are not aware of the survey showing the failures of our schools. You obviously are blind to any critical analysis of an institution you defend here without any question.

              As far as the significance of the Rhineland is concerned I suggest you check the references since it’s obvious you are not well versed in the history of this era. I’d bother to give you my background in this regard but since you have already said you don’t believe a word I say I won’t bother.

              I suppose you think the teacher(s) using heroin at that school in Fallsburg, New York are just doing their job. And you’ve never commented on the pedophile you abused a student in Michigan and wants severance pay following his conviction. Why is that?

              I hope you get the prescriptions refilled soon. You’re starting to foam at the mouth again!

              OK, enough TIMEWASTING. If you can’t stick to the topic here instead of trying the usual distraction I’ll just have to assume you are incapable of a more intelligent response.

              • Michael


                Are you going to stand for this? Mike has now publicly accused me of pedophilia and child abuse. As he writes in this thread, “you abused a student in Michigan.”


                Does he have free rein to say absolutely anything–to make any conceivable dsgusting smear–and have it be okay because he agrees with you on some political issues?

                Is there no limit to what you’ll let him do in your forum? A public apology by Mike is absolutely in order here.

                • Just a typo. Get over it TIMEWASTER. You’ll do ANYTHING to avoid the topic won’t you? I’ll apologize the moment you apologize for being a brain dead lefty troll without an ounce of either common sense or substance.

                  But I do notice you have NEVER responded to the issue raised regarding teachers. Why is that?

                • I’ve been following the comments on this post and I knew Mike had made a typo when I read the comment. He has since corrected it.

                  It is clear to me that you have little use for anything Mike writes. No matter what the topic is, you manage to take a couple of sentences and begin a discussion that degenerates into something that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. If I didn’t know any better, I would say you two are old enemies.

                  I warned you about this before. I do not care if you agree or disagree with what is written on Political Realities. That is your choice, to think as you please. However, if your comments continue in the same manner as before, I will be forced to ban you from the forum, as you are adding nothing but hate and discontent to the proceedings.

                  • LD: “Michael,” who we know has many names, is a bully. He likes to strut his stuff and intimidate people who may perhaps be less inclined to confrontation than he is. He’s not used to people standing up to him, and especially so with FACTS, so he gets angry and tries to change the subject. I don’t think he can accept that conservatives can be as smart or SMARTER than he is (not to mention more experienced and qualified) so he perpetuates in his tactics of distraction and denial.

                    • Michael

                      Whoa, there: it looks like someone’s feelings are hurt. Sorry, buddy. You should have said something.

                    • I’m offended by stupidity and willful delusion. I am not hurt by it.

                      Once again, you must be talking about yourself.

  • SirPublius

    I do agree that appeasement only encourages tyrants. What can we do to push Russia out of Crimea though? Start a war with the Russians, a nuclear power? What do we do? That’s the problem. If I were Obama, or I should say if I were the president, I would immediately make a bold statement that further aggression will not be tolerated by the world community by means of NATO, somehow or another. I would never have appeased Russia in the first place like Obama did with abandoning former Russian blocs and our missile programs with them. Containment was the policy because of the threat of nuclear war during much of the cold war, and eventually the Soviet Union collapsed from within when Reagan went on the advance politically and economically. Today, Russia is no longer Communist and no longer has that economic model, and we aren’t as much a super-power economically as we once were to boot. I don’t mean to sound defeatist, but its a different model today, and Putin is taking advantage of that I think, especially with his knowing that America to some extent is war weary, and has a president who has made it clear time and time again that he thinks America is a bully and should not play such a prominent role on the world stage. All I know is, Obama is the absolute LAST president I would ever want in control of this country if hostilities were ever to break out, and the man is so thin-skinned, I wouldn’t put it past Obama to start a war for one reason or another. Tough situation all around. I don’t have the answers. I think perhaps the bigger danger is other world players who see Russia do things like this and see that nothing happened to them. It creates a very very dangerous model of the future.

    • As you say Sir Publius, the time to make a stand is BEFORE bad guys think we are weak and make their power grabs.

      I don’t know that Obama’s policies will invite a larger war while he is a sitting President. The more likely scenario is that he will continue to mess things up with his incompetence and weakness and leave the next President to deal with the mess. Should that happen to be a Republican and a war started on the basis of Obama’s weakness flairs up the Dems can then go to blaming the Republicans for being warmongers and once again paint themselves as the party of peace which is exactly the opposite of what their policy of weakness has brought about.

  • Citizen Tom

    Historical parallels have their limits. People have not much changed, but the world that existed prior to WW II is not much like what we have today.

    From a military perspective, there is little we can do. Crimea is not landlocked, but the Black Sea is no place the USN wants to be sending its ships. Because Turkey is not reliable ally, we cannot count upon them to support an expeditionary force. Moreover, the European Union is both militarily and morally weak, and Obama is no FDR. Sending troops into combat with the rapacious Democrats and weak Republicans we have in charge would be self-defeating.

    Before we do anything to stop Putin and other such thugs, pray God guides us to replace the thugs we have leading us with better men and women.

    • Tom: The lesson from history is not to wait until it’s too late and too costly to act. That certainly applies to Crimea. It may be too late for them, but it’s not too late for the rest of Ukraine or the Baltic States.

      And you’re right… I doubt things will change much until we throw the Thug in Chief and his band out of the White House.