“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

John F. Kennedy – Inauguration Speech

Eighty-eight years ago today, Hitler ordered German troops into the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  The Europeans powers did nothing.

In 1938, the Wehrmacht crossed into Austria and Germany formally incorporated it into the Reich, the Anschluss.  Europeans did nothing while an American Congress doubled-down on its isolationist agenda.

Just Six months later, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, arguing a majority of its population were ‘ethnically’ German … think about Russia’s excuse for invading the Ukraine.  While the Czechoslovaks were ready to fight, they could not win without military assistance.  Hoping to avoid war, British Prime Minister Chamberlain proposed a four-power conference to settle the dispute.  In September, Chamberlain, his French counterpart Daladier, Hitler, and Mussolini met in Munich, resulting in the Munich Agreement effectively forcing reluctant Czechs to ceded its Sudetenland territory to Germany.

A euphoric but naive Chamberlain returned to London waiving a copy of the pact claiming, “Peace in our time!”  Much of America breathed a sigh of relief although President Roosevelt prophetically warned, “There can be no peace … if another nation makes the threat of war its national policy.”

While Europeans were being seduced and cowed by Hitler’s promises and threats, across the Atlantic, an isolationist “America First” movement argued America should avoid entanglements in European wars, drowning out the voices of those who felt the United States could not remain aloof from Europe and should aid countries threatened with aggression.

Unchallenged, Hitler next annexed the territory of Memel from Lithuania without incident.

On September 1st, 1939, the reality that appeasement and isolationism were illusionary goals became apparent when a German blitzkrieg overwhelmed Poland in just 35 days, propelling Europe into World War II; resulting in an estimated 38 million military and civilian deaths and a fertile environment for the Holocaust.

Today, there are voices across the country encouraging isolationism, America First agendas, threats to abandon NATO allies and absurd claims the war in Ukraine could be ended in 24-hours.  Lacking a realistic understanding of Putin’s ruthless ambitions and a grasp of 20th century history, focusing inward, building a wall, gutting our democratic institutions and a willingness to compromise our Constitution will not preserve our democracy, protect our liberties or keep us safe … neither will it return America to a fanciful utopian greatness which never existed.