Talk of warfare is all too familiar
President Obama urged Congress Tuesday night to delay its vote to authorize a limited strike on Syria in retaliation for that country’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. His talk to the nation, originally intended to convince the American public and Congress that a strike on Syrian forces is justified and our best course of action, had to be rewritten at the last hour to consider a Russian proposal for a more peaceful solution to the crisis: having Syria surrender its chemical arsenal to international control.
The proposal offered the president a second opportunity to delay action and another chance to sway an increasingly skeptical public. As this week wore on, more and more members of Congress were stating their opposition to military intervention, citing pressure from the majority of their constituents.
We have been here before.
So much of what the president and Congress have said and done rings familiar. And how the public has reacted to the possibility of another war is remindful of the time leading up to the United States’ entry into World War II.
The rise of Hitler and his National Socialist Party in Germany brought fear of war years before the invasion of Poland by the Nazis. In 1935, we saw what was happening as a European problem, which the U.S. had no business involving itself in – just as many believe today that what is happening in Syria is a Mideast problem. In June of that year, an editorial in the Washington Reporter voiced a most popular opinion:
“There must be a determination on the part of every American citizen to see to it that this Country does not in any way become involved in a future war.”
By October 1941, war was raging in Europe and in the Far East. The Germans were closing in on Moscow and the pressure for the U.S. to enter the war great. Yet, public opinion still favored neutrality, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt found it difficult to convince citizens and Congress of the need for America to the fight. A nation still struggling through the Great Depression had other concerns, like labor strife and inflation.
“The increasing seriousness of world conditions means that the tasks assumed by President Roosevelt of making the United States the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ and his intention to vanquish Hitler will impose a greater burden of sacrifices and even hardship in the people of the United States,” an Oct. 20, 1941, editorial in the Washington Observer stated.
The newspaper said nine days later that Roosevelt was “shaping the war policies of the Nation, and Congress has been disregarded as step after step has been taken along the road to war.”
Too much off what we hear and read today harkens back to those fateful days a lifetime ago. We should all hope and pray that what lies ahead is something other than another global calamity.