LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Ignoring history could result in calamity

The leader of the beleaguered nation looked very much alone as he faced the world’s forum. His country was being threatened with destruction, including attacks from the air. This leader felt abandoned and received virtually no support from the international community.

Gazing down upon a largely disinterested audience, he asked, “What answer shall I take back to my people?” and warned that “It is us today; it will be you tomorrow.”

No, dear reader, this is not a recent scenario. It happened June 30, 1936, before the League of Nations. The League proved ineffective in deterring murderous aggression, which later inspired Hitler’s acts against his neighbors. Looking back, many historians argue that this was the death knell of that first world body.

The leader at the podium back then was Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia), not Israel’s prime minister. The threatening nation was Fascist Italy, not Islamist Iran. The unprovoked attack from the air was the illegal use of poison gas, not the unprovoked illegal use of nuclear-armed missiles.

I am aware than no historical analogy is absolute, but we can often learn from them, and in this case, the similarities are particularly disturbing. Why were the democracies unwilling to help Abyssinia back then, and how was that situation similar to what is happening now in the Mid-East.

Three reasons often cited are: 1) the condition of the democracies, 2) A perceived, but inanely flawed strategy, and 3) racist undertones, and compare each with the current situation.

1) The carnage and losses of World War I and the ravages of the Depression weighed heavily on the democracies in the 1930s. Today, Mideast wars have exhausted the west, and the nations are not fully recovered from the long recession.

2) England and France did not see the point of helping a minor nation like Abyssinia and alienating Italy, which was seen as a bulwark against Germany. Today many say the same about Israel, and don’t wish to alienate Iran as a potential ally against ISIS.

3) Racist feelings were especially strong in the ’30s, and Abyssinia was black. According to the many world surveys, anti-Semitism is particular strong worldwide today, and Israel is a Jewish state.

On Oct. 1, Benjamin Netanyahu walked up to a different podium from Haile Selassie, but his appeal was also greeted with deafening silence.

No one better exemplified this indifference than America. Though present, Secretary of State Kerry and UN Ambassador Powers were ordered not to attend this speech, but instead, to engage in a video conference. The remaining second-level American delegation sat silent, probably as directed.

When the prime minister denounced Iran for its threats and aggressions against Jordan, Cyprus and Yemen, many nations applauded, but not our representatives. America, from George Washington to the present, at least verbally supported the cause of freedom and self-determination, but today, not so much.

After Munich, Winston Churchill said that “France and England thought the choice as being one between war and dishonor, and have chosen dishonor. They will have war.” Pray America has not made a similar wrong choice.

Larry Koch, Ed.D.

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