If We Forget The Lessons Of World War Two, We Will Relearn Them At A Truly Horrendous Cost

There were countless opportunities to stop the fascist powers for a relative pittance. Instead, a desire to avoid conflict led to the worst conflict in human history.

Many strategy games feature something called the ‘snowball effect.’ Named of course after how a snowball gets larger and larger as it rolls down a hill. The larger the snowball gets, the faster it becomes larger.

In strategy games, a small power can become a massive power by winning a war against a weak nation, using their expanded economic and military power to win a war against a moderately strong nation, and then using their further expanded economic and military power to win a war against a powerful nation, thus becoming the greatest power.

This is what Germany did in World War Two. They slowly swallowed up small bits of territory without war by intimidating the democracies into endless concessions. Those small territories helped to boost Germany’s military and economic strength, which they used to attack a larger country – Poland. A much larger Germany was then able to defeat most of Europe – including France (which was seen as a peer military power at the time).

Conquering Europe gave Germany the strength to nearly conquer the Soviet Union, an invasion that was stopped at the cost of tens of millions of lives, and which took the combined industrial might of the world’s three most powerful countries – the United States, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union – to defeat.

The tragedy is that Germany could have been easily defeated by France alone in 1936. Additionally, had the United States, the United Kingdom, and France not been so constrained by pacifist sentiment, they could have begun their military buildups years earlier and crushed Germany with relative ease even in 1939.

Instead, they chose weakness and pacificism.

This leads us to the two key lessons of World War Two:

1) The desire to avoid war through pacificism and appeasement makes war more likely, because it gives hostile powers room to become stronger.

2) When dictators declare their intentions to conquer their neighbours and commit genocide, we should take them at their word and prepare accordingly.

China sees a chance to ‘snowball’ by taking Taiwan, which would mean pushing the U.S. Navy out of a large portion of the Pacific ocean, and giving China expanded control over key shipping lanes, give China control over Taiwan Semiconductor (a massive economic win for the CCP), and would force U.S. allies like South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia to bend the knee to the CCP.

Russia sees a chance to snowball by taking Ukraine, which would expand Russia’s population, expand their military industrial base, and – if the West abandons Ukraine – would convince the world that the West is weak and can be pushed around, thus incentivizing Russia to make more landgrabs.

Thus, appeasing China and Russia, and allowing our own militaries to wither away in the hopes of avoiding war actually increases the chance that China and Russia will become more powerful and more likely to go to war.

A key additional point is that what we ‘want’ to happen is meaningless. Many in the West don’t want conflict with China or Russia. They don’t want to get involved. They don’t think it is our problem. This is understandable, since we have many issues here at home, our economy is terrible, and people are exhausted with the constant chaos and upheaval since the pandemic and draconian lockdowns – which drained a massive amount of trust in government.

But here’s the thing. If the dictators of Russia, China, Iran, and terrorists like Hamas want conflict with the West, there will be a conflict regardless of whether we want it or not. You may not want someone to break into your home, but if someone does break in, you’re going to be dealing with a break in nonetheless.

If Russia judges the West to be weak and ends up invading Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, or Poland, then Canada and our NATO allies will be at war whether we want it or not.

If China invades Taiwan – an invasion that will almost certainly include Chinese attacks on US bases in the region – then Canada and our allies will be at war with China, whether we want it or not.

And if terrorists backed by Iran continue to disrupt shipping lanes and continue to threaten allies like Israel, then we will need to work with our allies to counter that threat, whether we want to or not.

The only choice we really have here is whether we will deal with these challenges from a position of strength, or a position of weakness.

Right now, by allowing foreign propaganda to weaken our support for Ukraine and spread hatred agaisnt Israel, by allowing China to co-opt our democratic institutions, by allowing our military to crumble, and by pushing an anti-Western, anti-Canadian, ‘decolonization’ narrative that erodes our national confidence and our patriotism, we are choosing weakness.

The fact that we’ve allowed this to happen at all indicates we have indeed forgotten the lessons of World War Two, which means we are on the path to relearning those lessons at a truly horrific cost.

Unless we turn things around – and fast – that cost will be the deaths of millions who could have otherwise been saved.

Spencer Fernando