Syria And The 1930s

I’ve made the point numerous times that we’re living in a bit of time warp. To me, it feels like a replay of the 1930s. I won’t belabor all the reasons for why I think this. Let me focus for the moment on the current situation in Syria.

Italy was one of the focal points of unfolding international controversy in the 1930s. Its expansion into northern Africa was done as a junior partner in an alliance with Nazi Germany, much as Syria exists today with the broader regional power of Iran. Italy occupied much of the time and attention of US President Franklin Roosevelt, who reacted angrily to Italy’s further embrace of German policy when he said “the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.” And again, perhaps most intriguingly of all, Roosevelt believed that air power alone would be the key element in turning back German-Italian aggression. Roosevelt was prepared to alter the internal mix of American armed forces in his conviction that air power would dominate the future. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the similar race/ethnic-based ideology of Syria-Iran on one hand (now) and Italy-Germany on the other (then). Both sides cast Jews in the embodiments of evil.

I suggest that a careful use of history from the 1930s shows the need to look at not just as Syria but at the broader connection between Syria and Iran and the implications of that connection for the United States and its allies. Also, I think this same history argues against relying too much on one form or category of military power. Furthermore, we would do well to remember that ideas must be understood for what they are–expressions of belief and intent. The radical Islamist nations in this current period are very clear about their beliefs and intent, just as the fascists of the 1930s were.