Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the coalition of the Un-willing

On the afternoon of September 2st 1939, it seemed as if the global coalition of those nations willing to face down Hitler numbered exactly "zero".

(Poland had no moral choice to make - it was simply invaded.)

But Britain and France still had sizable numbers of their elite willing to listen to Italy's plea for a conference to settle this dispute between neighbours 'honorably' - as was done at earlier Munich.

So World War II was by no means a certainty that afternoon.

Only at 1130 pm that night, during a tremendous thunderstorm, when the British Cabinet voted to go to war with Germany next morning, unless it ceased its war against Poland, did the 'world war' portion of the localized German-Polish war really begin.

As the 'Greatest Generation ever' basks in the glow of praise for doing its bit in 'the Best War ever'/ 'the last Good war' , it is worth recalling the long,long timeline of just when (or even if) each nation on earth decided to join the coalition of the willing against Hitler  - and whether or not they followed these bold words up, by actually sending their citizens into combat.

Some waited the full twelve years from 1933 to 1945 to oppose Herr Hitler (and only verbally at that) and some never did.

The very first combatant nation was Germany , on August 31 1939. The last new combatant was the USSR, going to war against Japan on August 8th 1945.

In between those six years, the world's nations shifted their feet from side to side to side, going from neutrality to supporting one side but remaining neutral, to joining them formally as an ally to changing sides or back again to neutrality and just about everything in between.

Many only joined the war against Hitler in the Spring of 1945, with Germany defeated and in fear they would be denied a seat in the proposed postwar United Nations organization, unless they at least declared war on Hitler before Berlin surrendered.

At any one time, a nation's formal decision about wartime status and its more informal 'leanings' to one side or other (or the intensity of its commitment to its allies) were usually opposed by a good sum of its citizens as 'going too far' or 'not far enough'.

Really 'the coalition of those willing to oppose Hitler' was in the end made of of individuals, not nations.

They joined it one at a time and varied day by day in the intensity of their commitment against Hitler's ideals.

Looking for the opponents to Hitlerism at the level of 'the nation' reveals that all nations on earth were immorally slow to take him on and is a crude measure of the long road to defeating the ideas of Hitler as well as just his military forces.

Individuals both did much,much better than the various nations - and much,much worse...

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