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Handshakes, Betrayals and a Piece of Paper: Trump Outdoes Neville Chamberlain as Appeaser in Chief

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am an old Cold Warrior. I have served for almost 37 years in the military including tours or deployments on the intra-German border in the 1980s waiting for the Soviets to come pouring across the Fulda Gap, being on the Korean DMZ in 2001, and to complete the Commie Trifecta a bunch of time at Guantanamo Bay Cuba at the Northeast Gate. In those 37 years I have served under six Presidents and never did I believe until now that a President of the United States betray every longstanding ally and then to add insult to injury has very likely surrendered South Korea to the North Korean dictator with no conditions. It reminds me of how Neville Chamberlain sold out Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in 1938.

In 1938 Chamberlain was the supposed leader of the democracies and in order to curry favor with Hitler and to “bring peace to Europe” made a deal which surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler. As bad as that was and as horrific the consequences were for Europe and the world Chamberlain actually believed that his actions were required for peace. He believed that he could appease Hitler at the cost of a small multi-ethnic democracy, after all what did the Czech’s really matter?

When Chamberlain flew back to London he alighted from his aircraft holding a piece of paper and said:

“The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ” … We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.”

Chamberlain realized that his trust in Hitler and his word had been mistaken when Hitler overran the remainder of the Czech state just five months later. Having given up the only democracy in Eastern Europe which was also industrialized and militarily strong to the Nazis, Chamberlain went to war with Hitler over Poland, a authoritarian military dictatorship whose military and geographic position doomed her to the Nazi onslaught. Chamberlain finally did stand up to Hitler when it was too late. He was naive and in the case of Czechoslovakia he acted horribly, but he did recover some sense of honor by not appeasing Hitler in regard to Poland but by then it was too late and he has been forever remembered as an appeaser of Hitler.

Before Chamberlain surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler, General Ludwig Beck, Commander of the German Army wrote to the General Von Brauchtisch the War Minister to oppose the planned invasion:

“Now at stake are final decisions regarding the fate of the nation. History will burden these leaders with blood guilt if they do not act according to their professional and statesmanly principles and knowledge…. If a soldier in a position of highest authority in such times sees his duties and tasks only within the limits of his military responsibilities, without consciousness of his higher responsibility to the whole people, then he shows a lack of greatness, a lack of comprehension of responsibility. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary actions!”

That will not be the case for President Trump. He too has touted his “triumph” as something that will bring peace, but in the process he has betrayed an American ally whose freedom was purchased with the lives of close to 40,000 American soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen and I do not see anyone in high command

Unfortunately the current American President has made war much more likely because he has not only sacrificed military exercises that strengthen the American-South Korean alliance with no actual concessions by Kim Jung Un. His actions not only strengthen the North Korean dictator but also strengthen Kim’s allies, the Russians and the Chinese. The Chinese have been actively working against the United States in the military and economic reams in Asia and Africa while Vladimir Putin’s Russia has actively pursued undermining democratic processes in the United States and Europe.

When Donald Trump returns from Asia he will hold up a piece of paper signed by Kim Jung Un and claim that he has brought peace to the world. He may even get a Noble Prize for doing so, but in the end he will sacrifice allies and bring war to the world while making the United States weaker and more vulnerable to our enemies. His actions are not those of a patriot, but a Quisling. His followers will never admit that and like Hitler’s true believers they would much rather die with him in their bunker than admit that they were wrong in the first place.

This is a dangerous time in history and the American Republic is in danger, our alliances which have been crafted with great skill since Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill announced the Atlantic Charter, by Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barak Obama over a period of 77 years have been shredded in less than a year and a half by President Trump.

The actions of the American President in the past 72 hours have endangered the United States and its allies. French Historian Marc Bloch wrote in his book Strange Defeat:

“A genuine alliance is something that has to be worked at all the time. It is not enough to have it set down on paper. It must draw the breath of life from a multiplicity of daily contacts which, taken together, knit the two parties solidly into a single whole. That truth had been too long forgotten at First Army H.Q., and we suffered terribly as a result of our negligence.”

Bloch, who served in the First World War and volunteered to serve in the Second World War would die at the hands of the Nazis while working with the French resistance understood what a minority of Americans do today,

I want peace on the Korean Peninsula, I have served there and been on the DMZ. That being said I do not want that peace to come at the cost of the freedom of South Koreans. Likewise, the President has praised the murderous dictatorship of Kim Jung Un and given that dictator a legitimacy that he does not deserve for a minute. Less than two days before he destroyed the G7 Summit and undermined the nation’s who have stood beside the United States throughout the Cold War and then with diplomacy, economic, and military assistance stood with us when we were attacked on September 11th 2001 to the present day.

On Tuesday the President endorsed Concentration camps, re-education centers, slave labor, and human rights violations by North Korea. Today he has claimed that North Korea no longer is a nuclear threat. His decision to end joint military exercises just happens to coincide with the public demands made for years by North Korea, Russia, and China. Do not expect for one moment that he will not do the same in this country, he has already started with immigrants. One should ask who will be next?

In 1938 Winston Churchill told the House of Commons:

“We have sustained a total, unmitigated defeat…. Do not let us blind ourselves. We must expect that all the countries of central and eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi power…. The road down the Danube… the road to the Black Sea and Turkey, has been broken. It seems to me that all the countries of Mittel Europa and the Danube Valley, one after the other, will be drawn into the vast system of Nazi politics, not only power military politics, but power economic politics, radiating from Berlin.”

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Trust, if Lost Will Take a Generation to Regain: A Lesson from 1938 for President Trump

Friends of Padre Steve’s Word,

Thomas Paine wrote: “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”Those words apply to nations and government as much as they do to individuals.

As you might have noticed I have been spending much time writing about the corrosive effect of what the Trump administration’s strategy of willful deceit, the denial of factual truth, and the creation of so-called alternate facts, truth, and reality, on our life as a nation. I am going to return to that because it appears that the strategy is continuing to be used, and that the administration is now scrambling to hide inconvenient facts from the FBI and Congressional committees investigating the possibility of the collusion of Russian officials with Trump campaign and administration officials.

This effort  spread to Representative Devin Nunes who is the committee chairman of the House committee investigating the allegations and who closed down that investigation claiming that he found no evidence of collusion with Russia despite the testimony of Republican and Democrats on that committee that Nunes had not investigate or interviewed many of the principles involved and who maintained that there indeed was collusion between members of the Trump organization, campaign, and administration with the Russians. This action was followed by the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and a fusillade of attacks on Robert Muller, James Comey, Ron Rosenstein, others involved with the investigation, and even Attorney General Sessions whose head is believed to be on the Trump chopping block.

Every day more evidence is revealed that there is a very good chance that the Russians have compromised the President and some of his closest advisors and family members. That being said there are so many people in the administration that appear to be connected to Russian officials, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, both who have been indicted by Robert Muller; Flynn even taking a plea deal in which he plead guilty to the charges against him. Likewise, others may have received large amounts of money from Russia sources to influence United States policy on the behalf of the Russian government and business oligarchy, particularly in regard to the Ukraine which Russia invaded and seized the Crimean Peninsula. Manafort appears to possibly be connected to Russian actions that led to the death of Ukrainians and quite possibly the shoot down of Malaysian Airline Flight 17.

The President’s attacks on American allies which have culminated in imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum that hurt our allies more than our enemies are weakening the United States. Likewise his refusal to take action against Russian attacks on the American election system and electorate, and the vast number of outright lies and distortions that he tells on a daily basis give anyone with cause to believe that his word is not to be trusted.

Such actions are quite dangerous, and one only has to look to the example of France in 1938 during the Czech crisis where conservative politicians, military officers, and the French right wing media allowed themselves to fall under the spell of Hitler, abandon Czechoslovakia, and with it their only chance of stopping the Nazi advance in Europe. But to them it did not matter. William Shirer recounts those days in his book The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France 1940:

“Nor did the public realize how it was being poisoned and misled, not only by Fascist-minded leaders and newspapers, small in number but growing in influence, who on ideological grounds wished to accommodate Hitler and Mussolini, but also by Frenchmen who were being manipulated by German agents and money. It was at this time that Otto Abertz, the genial “Francophile” Nazi agent in Paris, became most effective. Easily penetrating political, business, social and cultural circles he worked tirelessly at winning their sympathies for Nazi Germany. He engineered trips with all expenses paid, for numerous politicians, intellectuals, industrialists, and leaders of the war veterans’ groups to Germany, where they were wined, dined, and otherwise feted, and fed with Nazi propaganda. He obtained lucrative contracts for French writers to have their books translated and published in Germany. He arranged interviews for French journalists with Hitler so that the Fuehrer could reiterate that he wished only peace and friendly relations with France. He was believed by the French secret police, which constantly shadowed him, to be the chief source of Nazi funds for buying French journals, journalists, and others of influence. Doriot’s openly Fascist daily, La Liberte, was almost entirely subsidized by Berlin. This was probably an exception. As Pierre Comert., chief of the Press Service at the Quai d’Orsay, testified to the Parliamentary Investigating Committee later: “The German agents at the time didn’t buy newspapers. They bought journalists. It was cheaper. And it was more effective.

Aside from the cheapening of moral values which followed inevitably from the abandoning of Czechoslovakia, the Munich settlement further deepened and complicated the already calamitous divisions among the French…”

When a nation abandons its allies. When its leaders give every impression of siding with an age old hostile power while insulting and demeaning its closest allies. When it reneges on deals made in good faith with other countries on issues that are important to the whole world, such as global warming, when it abandons economic pacts that worked to balance power and maintain peace, it harms more than its physical, military, and economic power: it damages its credibility. As one newspaper wrote of France after the Munich agreement that destroyed Czechoslovakia:

“Who will again believe the word of France? Who will remain her ally? Why would the French government, which has just annulled “of her own accord” her pact with Czechoslovakia, respect the Franco-Soviet Pact?”

What will be said of the United States if its leaders betray its ideals, and its promises? That trust, if lost, will take a generation or more to regain, but the cost of that loss of trust will harm us all in ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The High Cost of Lies and Broken Trust: The Trump Administration and a Lesson from 1938

Friends of Padre Steve’s Word,

Thomas Paine wrote: “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” Those words apply to nations and government as much as they do to individuals.

As you might have noticed I have been spending much time writing about the corrosive effect of what the Trump administration’s strategy of willful deceit, the denial of factual truth, and the creation of so-called alternate facts, truth, and reality, on our life as a nation. I am going to return to that again because it appears that the strategy is continuing to be used, and that the administration is now scrambling to hide inconvenient facts from the FBI and Congressional committees investigating the possibility of the collusion of Russian officials with Trump campaign and administration officials. This effort appears to have possibly spread to Representative Devin Nunes who is the committee chairman of the House committee investigating the allegations.

Admittedly at this point none of us know what transpired, if anything between the Russians, the President, and his closest advisors. That being said there are so many people in the administration that appear to be connected to Russian officials, those like former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and others may have received large amounts of money from Russia sources to influence United States policy on the behalf of the Russian government and business oligarchy, particularly in regard to the Ukraine which Russia invaded and seized the Crimean Peninsula. Manafort appears to possibly be connected to Russian actions that led to the death of Ukrainians.

Such actions are quite dangerous, and one only has to look to the example of France in 1938 during the Czech crisis where conservative politicians, military officers, and the French right wing media allowed themselves to fall under the spell of Hitler, abandon Czechoslovakia, and with it their only chance of stopping the Nazi advance in Europe. But to them it did not matter. William Shirer recounts those days in his book The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France 1940:

“Nor did the public realize how it was being poisoned and misled, not only by Fascist-minded leaders and newspapers, small in number but growing in influence, who on ideological grounds wished to accommodate Hitler and Mussolini, but also by Frenchmen who were being manipulated by German agents and money. It was at this time that Otto Abertz, the genial “Francophile” Nazi agent in Paris, became most effective. Easily penetrating political, business, social and cultural circles he worked tirelessly at winning their sympathies for Nazi Germany. He engineered trips with all expenses paid, for numerous politicians, intellectuals, industrialists, and leaders of the war veterans’ groups to Germany, where they were wined, dined, and otherwise feted, and fed with Nazi propaganda. He obtained lucrative contracts for French writers to have their books translated and published in Germany. He arranged interviews for French journalists with Hitler so that the Fuehrer could reiterate that he wished only peace and friendly relations with France. He was believed by the French secret police, which constantly shadowed him, to be the chief source of Nazi funds for buying French journals, journalists, and others of influence. Doriot’s openly Fascist daily, La Liberte, was almost entirely subsidized by Berlin. This was probably an exception. As Pierre Comert., chief of the Press Service at the Quai d’Orsay, testified to the Parliamentary Investigating Committee later: “The German agents at the time didn’t buy newspapers. They bought journalists. It was cheaper. And it was more effective.

Aside from the cheapening of moral values which followed inevitably from the abandoning of Czechoslovakia, the Munich settlement further deepened and complicated the already calamitous divisions among the French…”

When a nation abandons its allies. When its leaders give every impression of siding with an age old hostile power while insulting and demeaning its closest allies. When it reneges on deals made in good faith with other countries on issues that are important to the whole world, such as global warming, when it abandons economic pacts that worked to balance power and maintain peace, it harms more than its physical, military, and economic power: it damages its credibility. As one newspaper wrote of France after the Munich agreement that destroyed Czechoslovakia:

“Who will again believe the word of France? Who will remain her ally? Why would the French government, which has just annulled “of her own accord” her pact with Czechoslovakia, respect the Franco-Soviet Pact?”

What will be said of the United States if its leaders betray its ideals, and its promises? That trust, if lost, will take a generation or more to regain, but the cost of that loss of trust will harm us all in ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, History, leadership, News and current events, Political Commentary

“To Remain Oneself” A Review of “Prague Winter” by Madeline Albright

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“The main thing is to remain oneself,under any circumstances; that was and is our common purpose.” From an unpublished novel by Josef Korbel, the father of Madeline Albright

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Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War 1937-1948, Harper Collins Books New York, 2012.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s book Prague Spring provides an important look at the history of Czechoslovakia during the period between 1937 and 1948. It also provides the reader a succinct history of the Czech people and nation throughout the history of Europe going back to Charles IV (1316-1378) King Wenceslas, the pre-reformation martyr John Hus and revolutionary leader Jan Zizka.

Albright is the daughter of one of Czechoslovakia’s most distinguished diplomats and advocates for Czech independence, democracy, religious and ethnic pluralism. Her father, Josef Korbel was raised during the latter years of Bohemia and Moravia’s subjugation under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He would become a diplomat in the years just prior to the dismemberment and occupation of his homeland by Nazi Germany. Serving as a press-attache at the Czech embassy in Belgrade Yugoslavia he and his family, including his young daughter, the future Secretary of State were forced into exile in Britain.

The book is a history written from the very personal perspective of a woman who when most of the events transpired was a child who experienced her first memories of life as an exile. She would not be able to return to her country of origin until after the fall of Soviet Union and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

The book fills a void for many Americans whose understanding of European history is limited to the popular coverage of British monarchy or the barbarity of the Hitler regime. The book provides a look at the relationships of the men who made Czechoslovakia beginning with Tomas Masaryk, the founder of the newly independent republic in 1918. Masaryk stressed that “love of nation does not imply hatred toward another.” In an age where xenophobic nationalism and race hatred was a staple of politics in much of Europe Masaryk emphasized tolerance, good relations between religions, peoples, and the equality of religion. Albright notes that the solution of Masaryk to the ways that the settled order of civilization, political order, religious convictions and economic status were under attack was “to embrace religion without the straightjacket of the Church, social revolution without the excesses of Bolshevism, and national pride without bigotry.”

Masaryk would die shortly before the deal cut by the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and Germany at Munich to dismember Czechoslovakia in 1938. His successor, Edvard Benes would be left to deal with a situation where despite the strengths of his nation would be abandoned by the leaders of nations that he, and many of his countrymen felt abandoned by the world. That was the world that Madeline Albright came to age in.

Albright would grow up to see her father working on behalf of Benes and the exiled Czech government during the war, and the post war struggles in the nation between Democrats of various parties against the Communist Party led by Klement Gottwald supported by the occupying Soviet Red Army.

Her narrative provides a very effective and history of the period meshed with the experiences of her family, both in exile and those who remained. Her family, of Jewish origin, though largely secular and Czech in outlook faced deportation to the Theresienstadt Concentration camp and extermination camps and many died. While in England her parents converted to Catholicism and she was baptized into the Catholic Church. Her own story is fascinating, though remaining a Christian in the Episcopal Church she honors her family who died as Jews at the hand of the Nazis and her own countrymen.

The book provides a badly needed narrative of a small but critical country which for much of the 20th Century was ground zero of the struggle between Democracy and Totalitarianism. It does not seek to make heroes of those that were not, but it does seek to understand the dilemmas faced by people whose existence is threatened by larger neighbors and how the experience of victimhood can lead to retribution and revenge. It points out the dangers of ideologues who have no other agenda but their own and the crushing of any opposition. Albright’s father, Josef would again have to go into exile following the Communist takeover of his country. His daughter, raised in that exile would go on to become an American citizen and rise to the pinnacle of the diplomatic world, as Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State, the first woman to become Secretary of State.

She touches on her own connections to her family’s Holocaust experiences in this book, though they are secondary to the history of Czechoslovakia before, during and after the Second World War and the work of her father in that critical period.

I have always admired Secretary Albright and has the honor of meeting her and conversing with her on a flight between Madrid and London in March of 2005. I was traveling in connection with a trip to visit my Marines in Spain, Bahrain and Scotland and she, accompanied by former Senator Gary Hart were traveling between Madrid and London for a security conference on the anniversary of the March 11th 2004 Islamic terrorist bombings in Madrid. She was a most gracious woman and interested in what I was doing. I will not forget that trip.

In reading it I felt that I began to feel that I was beginning to know and understand men who were instrumental in history but always have been regulated to bit parts by American and British histories of the period. It is hard to imagine what those men placed in such and unenviable position had to endure, particularly the tragic story of Jan Masaryk, the son of Tomas Masaryk who would serve as foreign minister under Benes before and after the war and be murdered by the Communists shortly after the takeover.

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I think that the message that I took away from the book was the message penned by Secretary Albright’s father Josef in his unpublished novel: “The main thing is to remain oneself,under any circumstances…” I believe that in an age where political, racial and religious ideologues of various persuasions seek to divide the peoples of nations against each other it is an important work. What the Nazi leaders of the German minority in the country led by Konrad Henlein did was to divide and destroy a people who had lived in peaceful co-existence for centuries. Their actions led to the Nazi seizure and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Following the war 9/10ths of the pre-war German population of the country would be forced out by the Czechs and Slovaks now under the control of Soviet agents, something that occurred throughout Eastern Europe following the war.

To remain oneself, under any circumstances.

I highly recommend this book. Secretary Albright has written a fitting companion to the other histories of the period that fills a critical gap for American readers about the history of Czechoslovakia.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Uncomfortable Legacy of Colonel General Ludwig Beck

“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.” Ludwig Beck

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-C13564,_Ludwig_BeckLudwig Beck  Bundesarchiv Foto

This is one of those uncomfortable posts to write partially because I know that some people will take it completely wrong or ascribe meaning to it that I do not intend. I by training am a military historian, probably better at that than I am theology.  One thing that fascinates me in the study of military history is the actions of men in the face of evil and the meetings of such people at the intersections of where military and government policy intersect.  It is a timeless theme. The bulk of my study until the past few years was the German Army, particularly that of the Weimar Republic and the Wehrmacht to include policies, leaders, political attitudes and behavior in war and peace. Thus it makes sense for me to look at Colonel General Ludwig Beck who held the post of Chief of the German General Staff during the early part of the Nazi era.

Ludwig Beck is one of those characters in military history that makes professional military officers uncomfortable.  Beck is not the perfect example of righteousness nor was he always correct in things that he supported.  As an artillery regiment commander he defended the rights of soldiers and officers to be Nazi Party members though he himself was not one.  He, like many military officers was a conservative military officer by nature and became Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht in 1935 two years after Hitler’s ascension to power.  Taking office Beck was troubled by some Nazi policies but not by the need for Germany to expand to areas that it had once controlled, he opposed the plan to attack Czechoslovakia not because of any love for the Czech state which he desired to be eliminated, but rather it being a war that Germany could not win. He resigned from his position a Chief of Staff in 1938 when he could not persuade the rest of the General Staff to resign in protest over Hitler’s plan which he felt would be disastrous for Germany.  Had the western powers led by Neville Chamberlain not caved at Munich it is likely that the Germans would have suffered badly against the Czech army and fortifications and with the entry of France into the war would have suffered a defeat that would have ended the Hitler regime.  In fact German officers who saw the extent of Czech preparations on the frontier following the Munich deal were greatly relieved that they did not have to fight their way into the Czech state.

After his resignation Beck played a key role in the resistance movement. He was involved in the planning for a number of attempts on Hitler’s life. Yet it was his leadership in the July 20th 1944 attempt on the life of Hitler that ensured his place in history.  With Colonel Klaus Von Stauffenberg and others in the General Staff at the Front and in Germany he acted to avert further destruction in Europe and the certain destruction of Germany.  The plot, Operation Valkyrie was marred by poor execution and failed to kill Hitler of seize power but for a few hours. The planners had left too much to chance and once Hitler had restored communications the coup attempted ended swiftly.  Had the attempt succeeded Beck was in line to become either the leader of Germany or the Head of the Army.  Instead while being interrogated after his capture he took his own life depriving Nazi leaders of the ability to put him up for a public trial at which he would have been humiliated and then executed.  The Kasserne in Sonthofen where the Bundeswehr MP School and Staff School as well as NATO and EU military schools are located is named for him.  It is there, ironically a former Adolf Hitler School that his memory and sacrifice is honored by the nation which emerged from the rubble of World War Two.  He is honored in a small museum and with a plaque recognizing his sacrifice.

492Ludwig Beck Kasserne Sonthofen

The reason that General Beck makes many of us in uniform uncomfortable (and I do include myself) is that he recognized that senior officers, especially those in high command who help set and execute policy cannot isolate themselves in the purely military aspects of the operations.  Instead he believed that officers have a higher duty to the constitution and people and not just the military mission that they have been assigned.  When he realized that he could not stop Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia he resigned and worked in the obscurity of a small and often divided resistance movement against Hitler.  The bulk of the German high command, including many officers idolized in the United States did not recognize the higher duty. Many of these men were consummate professionals who did not support the evil of the Nazi regime and who conducted themselves honorably. Yet they effectively abetted its crimes by not opposing actions of their government that were against international law and morality as well as dangerous from purely a pragmatic military standpoint.

The problem is that military officers in any nation, including ours can face situations such as Beck faced.  A military’s character is demonstrated in how leaders deal with such situations.  Beck recognized the situation early, the bulk of his fellow officers did not recognize a problem until Germany was embroiled in a war that it could no longer win.  Even then most could not mount an opposition to Hitler because they did not want to be considered to be mutineers and violate their oath.  The potential to abet evil when military professionals bury their heads by planning and executing purely military aspects of a campaign is great.  If they ignore questionable policy or even policies that they know that have been judged by the international community to be illegal or immoral, such as torture of prisoners or waging wars of aggression against countries that have not attacked their nation they become complicit in their nations crimes.  This was the case with German Officers who may not have committed any personal crime and even tried to mitigate the evils of the Nazi regime were morally complicit in that evil.

In the United States the military shows its fidelity by remembering our oath to the Constitution and being faithful to it and the people that we serve.  As officers we represent all Americans and not just those of our political party, religious faith or social or economic interests, nor any political leader, faction or interest group within the nation. The Constitution, our military regulations, traditions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice are the standard by which we operate and by which we conduct ourselves and tools that protect us when policies or actions taken by the government or people within it violate those codes or international law.  The UCMJ makes it clear those officers who take part in, plan or a complicit in illegal actions in war are committing crimes.

When a nation become involved in wars which are non-traditional, revolutionary wars or insurgencies that barriers to professional conduct can be broken down. The Mai Lai massacre committed by 2LT William Calley’s platoon with the certain knowledge and maybe even approval of individuals in the chain of command is one example as were the uncontrolled chaos of prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib.

Times are difficult and we do not know what the future brings.  Stress in societies caused by economic conditions, natural disasters, lawlessness on the streets and divided and ineffective governments sometimes remove the moral restraints of the society and even affect the military.  One sees this in Weimar Germany as well as the 4th Republic in France which had to deal with post World War II economic difficulties, exacerbated by recriminations of political opponents for actions the others did during the war while France was occupied by Germany as well as the wars in Indo-China and Algeria which further divided the nation and the military.

It is in stressful and uncertain times that officers have to be men and women of principle who always uphold the highest traditions of their military as well as be the voice of conscience when governments, political parties, special interests or leaders begin to violate international norms in the conduct of war. Beck was not a perfect officer. He supported some of Hitler’s policies until after his resignation but like much of the resistance believed that the Nazi regime could only end up destroying Germany.  It is important to remember that like Ludwig Beck that officers do not need to sacrifice their honor to be faithful to their oath.

Peace, Steve+

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