Friday, 11 November 2016

"It must never happen again" should mean it this time

No matter how often I pause at the war memorial in Cadoxton, I experience a tingle at recognising surnames of local families, like Bowen and Tennant and Hale, enscribed on the face and side. It is a reminder that fathers and mothers lost young men who would doubtless otherwise have gone on to enrich the community.

There are now eerie echoes of the time before the last war in Europe. A charismatic dictator, smarting at the decline in his nation's power feeds on similar feelings among his fellow-countrymen, on racism and xenophobia, eliminates liberal opposition, takes control of the mass media and by military force seizes territory which he claims is rightly part of the Motherland. A pro-business president-elect of the USA seeks to build metaphorical (and in the case of Latin America) physical walls and is passive in the face of that military expansion in Europe. A Conservative administration in Westminster yields to populist opinion and disengages from the continent.

Of course, there are differences. In 1933 a liberal and internationalist president took over in the US from a conservative, rather than the other way round. In the UK, that populist mood led to disarmament under Stanley Baldwin.The UK has not stood down even our conventional forces. But in terms of political readiness, we are as ill-prepared for a creeping takeover as we were then, a slow takeover which could lead to another hot war.

As Benjamin Franklin said, when the fledgling United States were considering freeing themselves from a colonial dictatorship:

If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.

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