Spectators to Slaughter

September 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, while in Paris on a European tour among other things to garner support for overt military action against Syria, in addition to the usual bromides and rhetoric one would expect from a travelling salesman, sternly warned that “this is not the time to allow a dictator unfettered use of some of the most heinous weapons on earth.” Strong words coming from the world’s largest arms dealer. Alluding to the 1938 Munich agreement, in which several European nations agreed to let Nazi Germany annex the Sudetenland, Kerry stated that this was “our chance to join together and pursue accountability over appeasement.” The reference, besides being inappropriate, is interesting; at the time those designing policy in the U.S. and Britain saw fascism as a more palatable alternative to communism, and therefore believed that it should be encouraged, especially in Germany and Italy, in order to “stay the advance of Soviet Bolshevism in Europe.” Believing he represented “the more moderate section of the [Nazi] party,” the State Department observed in 1933 that “it is perhaps well that Hitler is now in a position to wield unprecedented power.” In 1937, a year before the famous agreement — which it has become fashionable for hawks to cite whenever advocating military action over diplomacy — the U.S. State Department issued a thorough report on German fascism. David Schmitz writes, in The Triumph of Internationalism:

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom on bolshevism and the Soviet Union, the department found fascism as a system compatible with free trade and liberal governments. Means, therefore, could be developed to convince Germany to reject territorial expansion and economic self-sufficiency for international cooperation. The report explained that the rise of fascism stemmed from a threat from the Left brought about by the Great Depression. “When there is suffering, the dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russian revolution before them, swing to the Left. The rich and middle classes, in self-defense turn to Fascism.” Defining fascism as the natural movement by the respectable classes to defend order and property from communism, the department believed that where fascism was in power, “it must succeed or the masses, this time reinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the Left.” […]

As the State Department concluded, “economic appeasement should prove to be the surest route to world peace.” Appeasement was essential if war was to be avoided. “If Fascism cannot succeed by persuasion” to solve Germany’s problems, “it must succeed by force.”

Putting aside the fact that those in Washington have been more than happy to be “spectators to slaughter” in the past, depending upon who the victims were, there is one sense in which Kerry’s statement rings true: they indeed don’t wish to be “silent spectators to slaughter” here — rather, they wish to participate in it directly.


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