- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

The seeds of World War II were planted 70 years ago on March 7. On that day in 1936, in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, Adolf Hitler sent the Reichswehr into the demilitarized buffer zone along the Rhine.

The Rhineland crisis was the beginning of an era of appeasement and the end of a world at peace. The moral of the 1936 story is that no one, so far, is prepared to use force to prevent Islamofascist Iran from developing nuclear weapons, unless these words of Vice President Dick Cheney mean the U.S. is ready to bomb Iran:

“The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences…. We join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Let’s see what happened in 1936 in Europe. The Weimar Republic had in 1925 signed the Locarno Pact with France for mutual acceptance of their existing border. An Anglo-Italian undertaking, for what it was worth, guaranteed the sanctity of that border. Well, it was worth nothing. Hitler came to power by a democratic election, assumed dictatorial powers and repudiated the Weimar agreements. He introduced the draft and began a crash rearmament program. Two articles in the Treaty of Versailles forbade such military activities. Never heard of it, said Hitler, and went on his merry way.

I have before me a policy memorandum of British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, dated March 8, 1936, the day after the Reichswehr entered the Rhineland. Clearly Eden, like other statesmen, had not read “Mein Kampf,” which spelled it all out.

Eden begins ominously: “Herr Hitler’s action is alarming because of the fresh confirmation which it affords of the scant respect paid by German governments to the sanctity of treaties.”

And then come Eden’s hand-wringing words: “[B]y reoccupying the Rhineland, he has deprived us of the possibility of making to him a concession which might otherwise have been a useful bargaining counter in our hands in the general negotiations with Germany which we had it in contemplation to initiate.

“On the other hand, owing to Germany’s material strength and power of mischief in Europe, it is in our interest to conclude with her as far-reaching and enduring a settlement as possible whilst Herr Hitler is still in the mood to do so…. ”

Don’t you just love this blather — Hitler and his “power of mischief”? Cheeky Adolf.

So what was the big problem in 1936? France. Yes, France. Says Eden: “We must discourage any military action by France against Germany…. But we must beware lest the French public… demand retaliatory action of a military character.”

Winston Churchill described the Second World War as the “most unnecessary war in history.” Unnecessary because had France acted in 1936 or had it been encouraged or allowed to act… but why speculate?

Islamofascism is on the march and Mr. Cheney’s words, which we have to assume are the words of President Bush, tell the world: They shall not pass.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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