14 June 1940 – Paris fell to Hitler’s army. The fuhrer had expected to loose 1 million dead in the invasion of France. In his hegemony of madness, it was worth it to him. But the conquest of France had “only” cost about 27,000 German dead. The French had lost something like 75,000 killed but had 1.5 million taken prisoner, where most would remain for 5 years.
While Germany had military advantage in every way, what made it so easy for them was the morale and fear of the defenders. Communication was poor, so false rumor and any whiff of defeat tore into the confidence of the soldiers. Entire lines collapsed without the Germans firing a shot. Tenacity was in short supply.
Fear is a powerful weapon. Its rule over entire nations can last decades. But eventually its grip loosens when its victims rise up to take back what has been stolen.
The world was a different place in 1940 than now. There are parallels to be drawn between Nazi Germany and the current world’s-worst rogue state, ISIS. The rule of fear is the most obvious. And the ethnic and nationalistic fervor in Germany in the 1930s, a reaction to defeat and punishment after the first World War fueled unconscionable cruelty and wanton destruction. Likewise, the rise of Shiite tribes in Iraq during the American occupation and their hateful crimes against the Sunnis, coupled with vacuums created by the withdrawal of American troops and the Syrian civil war, gave rise to ISIS in all its cruelty and destructiveness.
I’m writing this the morning after the attacks on Paris by ISIS, killing (at this count) 128 people. I want to voice some points in our contemporary context and atmosphere. I have no delusions of grandeur, just thoughts I need to express. Here goes:
- We, the free world, are at war. The convenient dismissal of Islamic terror as merely the acts of criminals ignores the ongoing slaughter. It’s a war we need to fight – now – in the strongest way we can. Else we will fight a bigger war later, at much higher cost. Boots on the ground. Start with Raqqa.
- The blame game doesn’t help. Bush started it by invading Iraq. Obama started it by withdrawing too early. We are where we are. All that matters is what we do from here on.
- The enemy has distinguishable characteristics. Muslims who have bought into warped doctrines. Overwhelmingly – though not exclusively -Arab and from the Middle East. The free world is so named because it has great laws guaranteeing liberty. When that liberty is attacked, it cannot extend towards those who attack it. Profiling has a bad name when applied to domestic people of color. But profiling is going on right now against this enemy. That will bother some. They should get over it. It is a small minority of Muslims we need to track and fight.
- We are clueless and have remained that way about Islam and Arab culture. I do fault the Bush administration for not having a way to win the peace after strongman Saddam Hussein was removed. And for not understanding or respecting tribal rule. These people are not American.
- Movement and flux are new weapons. We will learn – I predict – that the perpetrators in Paris were returning French citizens. Returning after a visit to a certain place and after certain periods of time. Restricting the movements of such people – with quarantine internment, say – makes perfect sense. The civil libertarians will again object and should be entertained then ignored. Borders are particularly porous in Europe, but so are laws. The murderous success of so few is testimony to something that needs to be better controlled.
- Technology is also being used against us. The Nazis and Imperial Japan both used radio to spread their propaganda and lies. It was mostly ineffective. Not so ISIS’ use of technology. They are winning disciples to their cause. We’re not perfect and we should never claim to be, but still we have a better story and a truer one. That story needs telling. On Youtube, Twitter and Facebook.
- Terror works, if you let it. The retreat of the French in 1940 – due to (often unfounded) fear – was disastrous. So will be any fear that is acted upon the current situation.
- After the fight, reparations work – the reason Germany didn’t rise again and start WW3 was because of reparations. After victory was won, forgiveness was extended and received. In 1999 my Berlin taxi driver apologized to me for Hitler. After hostilities cease – and there will be hostilities – there is a need to help people, not just rule them. It’s a foreign concept in the Middle East, but it wins hearts.
When Hitler swarmed to control the European continent, despite the climate of isolation, the rest of the world knew it would have to fight and defeat this evil. And the longer it waited the more it cost.
25 August 1944 – Paris was liberated.