80th ANNIVERSARY OF WWII AND THE POWER OF HE-CAN’T-REALLY-MEAN-IT
September 1 marked the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II in Europe with the Nazi invasion of Poland. By the time the dust settled in 1945, between 70 million and 85 million combatants and civilians were dead (3% of the world’s population in 1940). The war also brought the Holocaust, Soviet domination of Eastern Europe for half a century, and the communist conquest of China.
The key to understanding how Hitler plunged the world into the most ruinous conflict in history, is understanding five words – He can’t really mean it.
Hitler telegraphed his punches in Mein Kampf and in speeches throughout the 1930s. He said he intended to incorporate Austria and parts of Central Europe with large German populations, like the Sudetenland, in a Greater Reich. He said he intended to destroy Poland, which he considered an abomination. He said he intended to eliminate France as a military power, subdue Britain and colonize large tracts of land in the East. Finally, he said he intended to settle what the Nazis called the Jewish Question with absolute finality.
At every step along the way, European leaders said, “Oh, he can’t really mean it” – these are bargaining tools. Less than 20 years after the end of the Great War, a titanic struggle that left much of Europe in ruins and a whole generation of young men devastated, surely Hitler didn’t want to plunge humanity into another worldwide conflict.
He did and he would.
Here, his greatest weapon wasn’t tanks, planes and divisions of highly trained soldiers. It wasn’t Blitzkrieg or swinging around the Maginot Line or the terror bombing of civilian populations or fifth columnists. It was the assumption of civilized men that no leader would be crazy and cruel enough to inflict total war on humanity.
That disbelief was Hitler’s greatest weapon and it’s the greatest weapon of Islamists today.
Surely the leadership of the so-called Palestinian Authority don’t mean it when it says it intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Surely the Iranians don’t mean it when they say they intend to develop nuclear weapons and use them against the United States and Israel. Surely terrorist groups don’t mean it when they say their goal is a worldwide caliphate.
They don’t mean it, like Hitler didn’t mean it. The power of disbelief is evil’s greatest weapon.