Is history repeating? 1939: Germany/Japan; 2022: Russia/China

Commentary

In 2022, the only thing missing from the GOP is Charles Lindbergh

In 2022 Putin’s Russia invaded a sovereign nation, Ukraine, in an unprovoked attack, after annexing part of that sovereign nation, Crimea, in 2014.

In 1939, Hitler’s Germany launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, Poland, after annexing a part of another sovereign nation, the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Stalin’s Soviet Union (aka Russia) supported Germany, invading eastern Poland, until Hitler double-crossed Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union as well.

In 1939, Hirohito’s Japan supported Germany, forming, with the addition of Italy, the Axis. The result? World War II.

In 2022, Xi Jinping’s China supports Russia’s aggression in, perhaps, a pre-justification for his own attack on Taiwan. The result of Putin’s illegal actions and Xi’s support? To be determined.

There is another parallel to that history and current events: the response of the Republican Party.

In the run up to America’s entry into World War II, precipitated by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration did as much as it could to support Britain, fighting alone after the fall of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

What was the GOP response to Roosevelt’s assistance? Led by Charles Lindbergh and his “America First” movement, it was not only to stay out of war, but to support Hitler’s aggression.

Lindbergh being awarded the Service Cross of the German Eagle

In his advocating American neutrality, Lindbergh, who was awarded the Service Cross of the German Eagle in 1938 by Hermann Göring, viewed the European conflict as a fraternal squabble between an ascendant Germany and those countries which sought to deny it a place of power and prestige. He went so far, in a speech in September 1941, three months before Pearl Harbor, to call “the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration” as “war agitators” who had used “misinformation” and “propaganda” to mislead and frighten the American public.

To be fair, there were some Democratic politicians who also opposed American involvement in the War, most notably Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler. But tellingly, the platform adopted by the Republican party at their 1940 Convention (yes, I know you’re as shocked as I am that the Republican party actually once had something as quaint as a “platform”), read,

The Republican Party is firmly opposed to involving this Nation in foreign war.

We are still suffering from the ill effects of the last World War: a war which cost us a twenty-four billion dollar increase in our national debt, billions of uncollectible foreign debts, and the complete upset of our economic system, in addition to the loss of human life and irreparable damage to the health of thousands of our boys.

We declare for the prompt, orderly and realistic building of our national defense…To this task the Republican party pledges itself when entrusted with national authority…but we deplore explosive utterances by the President directed at other governments which serve to imperil our peace; and we condemn all executive acts and proceedings which might lead to war without the authorization of the Congress of the United States.

It is important to point out, that to a great measure the Republican/America First position in 1940 was as much informed by staying out of a European conflict as by racism and anti-Semitism.

“Our bond with Europe is a bond of race, and not of political ideology,” intoned Lindbergh. “Racial strength is vital, politics is a luxury.” He urged his followers to support Germany in a common struggle against “Asiatic intruders”—Russians, Persians, Turks and Jews—who would defile America’s “most priceless possession: our inheritance of European blood.”

Doesn’t that have a kind of contemporary ring to it. I mean that could have been said today by one of Trump’s “good people.”

Joining Lindbergh in his vitriol were anti-Semites like Avery Brundage, the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee at the time, who banned two Jewish runners from the track team at the Berlin games in 1936.

While in Kansas, the America First state chairman told followers that first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the leading liberal light in FDR’s White House, was Jewish that and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a “half-Jew.”

And, in an editorial titled “A Plea for Realism,” the Wall Street Journal argued in 1940 that “our job today is not to stop Hitler,” who had “already determined the broad lines of our national life at least for another generation.”

And today? Here’s what some of our Republican leading lights and their like-minded right-wing media commentators have to say (beyond criticizing Biden for everything he’s done without offering any solutions themselves):

  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) pressed Biden to refrain from deploying more troops to Europe and said that Ukraine should not join NATO. 
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) said, “We have no dog in the Ukraine fight. Not one American soldier should die there. Not one American bullet should be fired there. We just lost Afghanistan to sandal-wearing goat herders. I assure you [the] Russian military is no joke either.” Gosar added, “Getting involved in a military situation with no U.S. interest is America Last, not America First.” And finally, “We should just call ourselves Ukraine and then maybe we can get NATO to engage and protect our border.” Gosar had previously tweeted: “Putin puts Russia first as he should. Biden should put America first but instead he will let in terrorists and welfare seekers.”
  • Ohio GOP Senate candidate JD Vance said on Steve Bannon’s podcast, “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine,” going on to say “[Ukraine] has nothing to do with our national security” and it is “distracting our idiot ‘leaders’ from focusing on the things that actually do matter to our national security, like securing the border & stopping the flow of Fentanyl that’s killing American kids.
  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked on air, “Why is it disloyal to side with Russia but loyal to side with Ukraine?” while repeatedly questioning why defending Ukraine is important, even asking “why the U.S. should side with them (Ukraine) and not Putin.”
  • Candace Owens, a prominent conservative commentator (full disclosure, prior to researching this story, I had never heard of Candace Owens and, hopefully, I’ll never hear from her again), has gone even further, openly parroting Putin’s talking points. “I suggest every American who wants to know what’s actually going on in Russia and Ukraine, read this transcript of Putin’s address. As I’ve said for month – NATO (under direction from the United States) is violating previous agreements and expanding eastward. WE are at fault.”
  • And [Steve] Bannon himself, along with pro-Trump commentator Jack Posobiec praised Putin’s pugilistic speech on their podcast, while Gateway Pundit, a popular hub of pro-Trump conspiracy theories and news, downplayed Russia’s aggression. “Ukraine was part of Russia for more than 300 years,” the site declared. “This is not Russian talking points.”

I’m not even going to mention the fawning and praise of Putin and his illegal actions from one former president of the United States and that former president’s secretary of state. Nor will I mention that comments like the ones I’ve called out are being used by Russia for propaganda purposes. Way to go Josh, Paul, JD, Tucker, Candace, Donald and Mike (and the many more) who Putin refers to to as his “useful idiots.” He will be forever in your debt.

So, is history repeating itself? Michael E. Ruane, writing in today’s Washington Post wondered, “Putin’s attack on Ukraine echoes Hitler’s takeover of Czechoslovakia.” How far will Putin go? And how far will we go to stop him? Only time will tell. But until then, that time will be, unfortunately, fraught.

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy. Besides writing Around the Block, Ted is also a guest columnist for the Palm Beach Post.

3 thoughts on “Is history repeating? 1939: Germany/Japan; 2022: Russia/China

  1. I think we need to mention Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin along with the other dictators, because Stalin murdered more people than Hirohito and Hitler together. Putin is following the same policy of force instilled to him during his Soviet KGB years. Moreover, he is following the precept of total war followed by European countries for centuries.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. You’re certainly correct, particularly regarding Stalin. Aside from the invasion of Ukraine (and maybe more), Putin is emulating him in many ways. For more a personal view of Putin’s evil, read “Red Notice,” by Bill Browder. Regarding this particular post, the Germany/Japanese Axis fit the narrative.

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