Morally paralyzed

Thomas Sowell's picture

“Moral paralysis” is a term that has been used to describe the inaction of France, England and other European democracies in the 1930s, as they watched Hitler build up the military forces that he later used to attack them.

It is a term that may be painfully relevant to our own times.

Back in the 1930s, the governments of the democratic countries knew what Hitler was doing — and they knew that they had enough military superiority at that point to stop his military buildup in its tracks. But they did nothing to stop him.

Instead, they turned to what is still the magic mantra today — “negotiations.”

No leader of a democratic nation was ever more popular than British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain — wildly cheered in the House of Commons by opposition parties as well as his own — when he returned from negotiations in Munich in 1938, waving an agreement and declaring that it meant “peace in our time.”

We know now how short that time was. Less than a year later, World War II began in Europe and spread across the planet, killing tens of millions of people and reducing many cities to rubble in Europe and Asia.

Looking back after that war, Winston Churchill said, “There was never a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action.” The earlier it was done, the less it would have cost.

At one point, Hitler could have been stopped in his tracks “without the firing of a single shot,” Churchill said.

That point came in 1936 — three years before World War II began — when Hitler sent troops into the Rhineland, in violation of two international treaties.

At that point, France alone was so much more powerful than Germany that the German generals had secret orders to retreat immediately at the first sign of French intervention.

As Hitler himself confided, the Germans would have had to retreat “with our tail between our legs,” because they did not yet have enough military force to put up even a token resistance.

Why did the French not act and spare themselves and the world the years of horror that Hitler’s aggressions would bring? The French had the means but not the will.

“Moral paralysis” came from many things. The death of a million French soldiers in the First World War and disillusionment with the peace that followed cast a pall over a whole generation.

Pacifism became vogue among the intelligentsia and spread into educational institutions. As early as 1932, Winston Churchill said: “France, though armed to the teeth, is pacifist to the core.”

It was morally paralyzed.

History may be interesting but it is the present and the future that pose the crucial question: Is America today the France of yesterday?

We know that Iran is moving swiftly toward nuclear weapons while the United Nations is moving slowly — or not at all — toward doing anything to stop them.

It is a sign of our irresponsible Utopianism that anyone would even expect the UN to do anything that would make any real difference.

Not only the history of the UN, but the history of the League of Nations before it, demonstrates again and again that going to such places is a way for weak-kneed leaders of democracies to look like they are doing something when in fact they are doing nothing.

The Iranian leaders are not going to stop unless they get stopped. And, like Hitler, they don’t think we have the guts to stop them.

Incidentally, Hitler made some of the best anti-war statements of the 1930s. He knew that this was what the Western democracies wanted to hear — and that it would keep them morally paralyzed while he continued building up his military machine to attack them.

Iranian leaders today make only the most token and transparent claims that they are building “peaceful” nuclear facilities — in one of the biggest oil-producing countries in the world, which has no need for nuclear power to generate electricity.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran and its international terrorist allies will be a worst threat than Hitler ever was. But, before that happens, the big question is: Are we France? Are we morally paralyzed, perhaps fatally?

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Submitted by Davids mom on Tue, 08/07/2007 - 11:19am.

When a rock is thrown in the hen house, the 'chicken' who yelps - is the one who is hit. Why does the mention of past oppression bother you - if you and yours had nothing to do with it? Just a question. . .and a rhetorical one. There were many white Americans who have always treated black Americans with respect and dignity . . .and continue to do so. As long as there are concerns about race relations in this country and in the world, this issue will be discussed. You don’t have to be a part of the discussion unless you choose to take part.

TonyF's picture
Submitted by TonyF on Tue, 08/07/2007 - 11:52am.

Did I upset you, or hit a nerve? Why did it take you so long to respond? Were you waiting for Mr. Elder to write something that wasn't racially whiny? I am bothered because I had nothing to do with "IT" and yet, I still have to listen to you and everyone else clamoring for "racial superiority" oops, I meant equality. Rhetoric aside why must I be be constantly beaten over the head with "IT"? "Oh Mikey Vicky can't have done these things because he's Black. It's just whitey keepin' a brotha down". SPARE ME.

"The memories of a man in his old age, are the deeds of a man in his prime.You shuffle in the gloom of the sick room,and talk to yourself as you die."
(R. Waters)

Submitted by Davids mom on Tue, 08/07/2007 - 3:36pm.

Consider yourself spared. It doesn't take much superiority to ignore comments that don't pertain to you. Have a great- stress free day! You are spared!! LOL!

TonyF's picture
Submitted by TonyF on Wed, 08/08/2007 - 5:45am.

I feel so much better now that you have spared me. Golly, is this a great country, or what?

"The memories of a man in his old age, are the deeds of a man in his prime.You shuffle in the gloom of the sick room,and talk to yourself as you die."
(R. Waters)

Submitted by tobybob on Fri, 07/27/2007 - 4:23pm.

Please investigate and report on some local Hitlerism. Barry Amos, Tyrone's town manager, is doing the exact same thing to private property owners in downtown Tyrone. The analogy is not too hard to understand. Hitler wanted control and to purify the German race. Barry Amos wants control and wants to take all the privately owned property away by zoning people out of business and not issuing legal business licenses. Then he wants to offer the property to private developers otherwise known as his cronies, like Burt Clark. Barry is systematically eliminating business uses for private businesses, just like Hitler systematically got rid of what he deemed the undesirables. Barry is lying to everyone, even the town council and planning commission. With respect to your thoughts on foreign affairs, our community needs some help from the media and press regarding this local issue in Tyrone. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!

Submitted by Davids mom on Fri, 07/27/2007 - 8:53am.

I often thought that Europe and the US waited too long to enter the fight against Germany. Naturally when Japan attacked us - we responded.

I was all for the attack on Iraq. I was convinced by General Powell's speech at the UN that it was the morally correct action to protect Iraq's neighbors and the rest of the world.

After learning the 'truth' or lack of 'truth' for the reason for our participation in the War in Iraq -I feel that the US was erroneously led into what the American citizens thought was a morally correct attack on a dangerous regime by someone in the current administration.

That said, I feel that the American people are still among the most morally guided citizens in the world - when equipped with the correct information.

And now for Iran. The thought of nuclear power in the hands of a madman – similar to Hitler (as manifested by Iran’s leader’s hatred for the Jewish state of Israel - is frightening.

How do we stop Iran? Have we waited too long? Do we take the chance of initiating a nuclear war – which I feel would mean the immediate destruction of the Middle East and many other nations in the world (including the Americas)? I feel that we are already embroiled in this unconventional warfare – trying to out-think the terrorists – who undoubtedly are trying to hit us again – like 9/11.

Will military action by the US turn our soldiers into an occupying force in the Middle East? Will our men and women be exposed to more danger by the unconventional war tactics by a growing extremist entity? What will be the consequences of ‘action’?
Can the US afford to tackle Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran virtually alone?

What is the ‘morally correct’ action to take?

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Fri, 07/27/2007 - 9:05am.

Never listen to a general unless he is against the administration!
Powell told Bush he would "own" the Iraqis if he attacked and invaded and not to do it unless he took hundreds of thousands with him.
He told Powell, thanks but no thanks, and sent him to the UN to make a case, which he did, knowing he shouldn't!
He has said so.
They should resign when those things happen!

TonyF's picture
Submitted by TonyF on Fri, 07/27/2007 - 7:34am.

If you even bother to read this, I hope you notice not once, in this entire blog, did Mr. Sowell mention blacks, oppression or slavery. I do recognize the injustices that have been against "your people" and if it was my fault, I am sorry but why (and I hope you see it's not needed) must your type turn every-stinkin'-thing into a racial issue? Is that the only way your kind can prove self-worth? I hope you have read this post and can see it's not helping your case to make race an issue in everything.

"The memories of a man in his old age, are the deeds of a man in his prime.You shuffle in the gloom of the sick room,and talk to yourself as you die."
(R. Waters)

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