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Ruth King

Migration: The Straw That’s Breaking Europe’s Back By Angelo Codevilla

The issue of immigration has become the occasion for deciding the most practical and perennial of issues: who rules? Americans know that Europe’s un-sustainable socio-economic model—bureaucratized economies, social welfare, and demographic decline—is a warning to us.

Increasingly, we have imitated that model, assuming that the decline would be slow and graceful. But Europe’s crisis, and ours, has always been far less socio-economic than civilizational. That is why mass migration into Euro-American civilization—especially people from the Muslim world who neither share in nor sympathize with that civilization—is accelerating the crisis. Confidence in the future is being replaced by the sense that living as before will be impossible.

More and more, people have reacted by voting against the elites responsible for socio-economic management and for migration. But elites on both sides of the Atlantic have not changed course. They justify their resistance to popular sentiment by applying invidious labels to the voters who reject them. Each side’s denial of the other’s legitimacy is collapsing the socio-political legitimacy of modern democracy. This ensures that whatever changes in Euro-American civilization may take hold will include revolutionary political events.

A Snapshot
What follows is a snapshot of Europe’s problems taken from a small city in northern Italy with which I have been intimately familiar all my 74 years. Far from identical, the place is not wholly dissimilar from the rest of Old Europe.

Traditionally a center of agriculture, smokestack industry, and railroading, by the 1950s the city had bounced back from the bombing of World War II. Crowds filled streets lined with cafes. By the 1990s, the few big factories had been replaced by countless small and mid-sized businesses doing high-quality manufacturing in the suburbs. The city had also become something of a bedroom community for metropolitan Milan. Year after year, the supermarkets approached and then surpassed the opulence of those in such places as Palo Alto, California and Weston, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, economic hope was draining away. As the ratio of working-age people to retirees was falling and the government was running out of room to finance its deficits by borrowing, it resorted to raising taxes in myriad ways, and to making sure that every last Euro was paid. This crimped businesses. Many closed.

By the late ’90s, the hiring of young people had slowed to a crawl. Individuals, their lives further complicated, used up family resources to finance their lifestyles. The middle class suffered about a 50 percent loss of accumulated wealth. Fewer new families formed, fewer children were born. Fewer people are in the streets and cafes. For those well established, life is comfortable, but ever more somber.

People had never expected political leaders to raise life’s moral tone. But since the 1960s, political leaders have depressed it—first by their corruption and then by the repudiation of Christianity as European civilization’s core, as well as through the promotion of a vision of the good life that consists largely of obedience to squalid bureaucracy.

John Kelly’s Heroes The White House chief of staff teaches a lesson in grief and sacrifice.

Over the past nine months, Donald Trump’s cage match with the Washington press corps has turned into an unedifying national spectacle. Too often, the serious business of the nation has been pushed aside so that the press and Mr. Trump could go tit for tat, like children on a schoolyard. On Thursday, an adult finally stepped into the room.

John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff and a retired four-star general, addressed White House reporters on this week’s dispute between the press and the President. That is the controversy around Mr. Trump’s call to the mother of a U.S. soldier who was killed during an ambush in Niger recently.

As anyone who follows media reports knows, the President’s call to this mother grew into a personal feud between Mr. Trump and a Democratic Congresswoman who disclosed what the President said. It then produced long newspaper reports examining the President’s relationship with every identifiable Gold Star family during his term.

It took awhile for Mr. Kelly to get around to talking about that phone call. Instead, he spent some time offering what we in journalism—or anyone purporting to be engaged in a serious line of work—would call context. Mr. Kelly described what happens when a U.S. soldier or Marine—“the best 1% this country produces”—gets killed in action. What he described was a military process that is graphic, emotionally intense and, most of all, untouchable.

Untouchable, as Mr. Kelly made clear, in the sense that what has happened is so grave, so personal and so difficult that the reality of pushing through it comes down to an encounter between the fallen soldier’s family, the officer who informs them and, in time, support from those who served alongside their son or daughter.

Mr. Kelly explained that a personal call from the President is in fact not what families expect or want. But it has become something of a presidential tradition, and Mr. Trump asked Mr. Kelly what he should say.

Mr. Kelly related what his friend and “my casualty officer,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, told him when relating that Mr. Kelly’s own son had been killed in Afghanistan: “He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

That, essentially, is what Mr. Trump said to the Gold Star mother, no doubt less eloquently. Standing in the White House press room, reflecting on a political spat over a dead soldier, Mr. Kelly said, “I thought at least that was sacred.” His remarks are a rebuke to the Congresswoman for politicizing a private phone call, and to the press corps for attempting to turn grief and sacrifice into a hammer against Donald Trump—who, as usual, made things worse by lashing out in response.

John Kelly made a lot of people look small Thursday. The man who led soldiers in combat in Iraq described spending an hour this week walking in Arlington Cemetery, collecting his thoughts and looking at headstones, some with names of Marines who Mr. Kelly said were there because they did what he had told them to do.

Surely there is a sense in which the continuing political life of Washington is possible because of that sacrifice. That was John Kelly’s point. It would be nice to think the rest of the city could get it.

Efficient Markets Need Guys Like Me Activists and index funds are natural allies. There’s no conflict between short- and long-term value. By Paul Singer

The largest proxy battle in U.S. history ended last week in a near tie, leaving Procter & Gamble without the clear support of its shareholders and activist shareholder Nelson Peltz without a board seat.

P&G’s three largest shareholders split their votes: Vanguard sided with P&G, while State Street and BlackRock voted almost all their shares for Mr. Peltz. The stakes held by these giant index funds were so large that had any of them voted differently it would have changed the outcome—either a clear victory for Mr. Peltz or a clear mandate for P&G management.

This power dynamic illustrates the enormous influence that the three largest index-fund firms (together with other passive institutional investors) have acquired over such contests—and helps explain an intensifying debate over where their allegiances should lie. On one side is a small class of legal, banking and public relations professionals who advise underperforming corporations. On the other are the activist investors who seek to hold those corporations accountable.

There is a fair debate to be had about the appropriate balance of power between public corporations and their shareholders. But the debate has been badly skewed by a false narrative. “Anti-activist” advisers have attempted to drive a wedge between activist investors and index funds by suggesting that activists are interested only in short-term gains at the expense of long-term value. This divisive framing is objectively false and has done harm to the goal of generating sustainable returns for all investors.

For starters, all of a company’s shareholders are more aligned with each other than they are, say, with a group paid to defend corporations from shareholder challenges. Index funds and activist investors share the goal of generating returns for their investors, even if they go about it in different ways.

The primary idea behind passive index-fund investing is the efficient-market hypothesis: Markets are said to be efficient because millions of informed investors continuously think about, research and analyze companies, markets and securities. Thus, all possible information and insight is said to be always contained in securities’ prices at all times.

But passive investing is reducing the percentage of active managers to the point where they may actually become the minority in a few years. So who is going to do the work that theoretically creates efficient markets?

Activist investing provides one possible answer. Equity activism means using your voice and voting rights to improve companies in ways that maximize value for all shareholders. Seen in that light, index funds should consider activist investors to be natural allies.

Some index-fund firms have begun to focus on voting, governance and the potential benefits of activism. They’ve deployed teams of smart, honest professionals to promote best practices across their firms’ entire holdings. Certain aspects of corporate governance as a whole have improved—in some cases meaningfully—thanks in part to these initiatives.

On a company-specific level, however, with thousands of companies to be evaluated, it is impossible for these teams to do the kind of comprehensive financial and operational analysis required to identify corporate situations in need of change.

Activist investors can play this critical role, so long as the governance teams at large passive investing firms are willing and able to evaluate activists’ ideas on their merits. Unfortunately, as soon as an activist shows up at an underperforming company with an idea for creating value, the company’s advisers frequently seek to make the debate about time horizons. Index-fund firms are encouraged to look with suspicion at any idea whose benefits would crystallize in the near term—regardless of whether the idea represents the best possible alternative for shareholders in the long run as well. CONTINUE AT SITE

The Fusion Collusion Democrats are trying to protect the firm’s secrets—so the GOP should keep digging.By Kimberley A. Strassel

Washington is obsessed with the word “collusion” but has little understanding of its true meaning. The confusion might explain why D.C. has missed the big story of collusion between Fusion GPS and the Democratic Party.

To read the headlines, a poor, beleaguered opposition-research firm was humiliated and constitutionally abused this week by partisan Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. Fusion’s lawyers sent a 17-page letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, accusing him of misdeeds, declaring his subpoenas invalid, and invoking a supposed First Amendment right to silence. Yet the firm’s founders, the story went, were hauled in nonetheless and forced to plead the Fifth. “No American should experience the indignity that occurred today,” Fusion’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, declared.

Fusion is known as a ruthless firm that excels in smear jobs, but few have noticed the operation it’s conducting against the lawmakers investigating it. The false accusations against Mr. Nunes—that he’s acting unethically and extralegally, that he’s sabotaging the Russia probe—are classic.

This is a firm that in 2012 was paid to dig through the divorce records of a Mitt Romney donor. It’s a firm that human-rights activist Thor Halvorssen testified was hired to spread malicious rumors about him. It’s a firm that financier Bill Browder testified worked to delegitimize his efforts to get justice for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer beaten to death in a Russian prison.

It’s the firm behind the infamous “dossier” accusing Donald Trump of not just unbecoming behavior but also colluding with Russia. Republicans are investigating whether the Fusion dossier was influenced by Russians, and whether American law enforcement relied on that disinformation for its own probe.

But Fusion’s secret weapon in its latest operation is the Democratic Party, whose most powerful members have made protecting Fusion’s secrets their highest priority. Senate Democrats invoked a parliamentary maneuver in July to block temporarily Mr. Browder’s public testimony. Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, has been engineering flaps to undercut and obstruct Mr. Nunes’s investigation. Democrats on the House Ethics Committee have deep-sixed what was meant to be a brief inquiry to clear Mr. Nunes so as to keep him sidelined.

Then there is the intel committee’s meeting this week. Despite the spin, forcing Fusion to appear was Republicans’ only recourse after months of stonewalling. Fusion’s letter ludicrously claimed that Mr. Nunes’s subpoenas were invalid, which essentially forced the committee to show otherwise. It was a question of authority.

Florida Rep. Tom Rooney put the Fusion attendees through a series of questions not out of spite but to clarify finally just what topics the firm is refusing to talk about. The Fifth Amendment doesn’t provide protection against answering all questions. It only protects against providing self-incriminating evidence. It is therefore revealing that Fusion took the Fifth on every topic—from its relationship with British spook Christopher Steele, to the history of its work, to its role in the dossier.

The untold story is the Democrats’ unprecedented behavior. Mr. Rooney had barely started when committee staffers for Mr. Schiff interrupted, accused him of badgering witnesses, and suggested he was acting unethically. Jaws dropped. Staff do not interrupt congressmen. They do not accuse them of misbehavior. And they certainly do not act as defense attorneys for witnesses. No Democratic lawmakers had bothered to come to the hearing to police this circus, and Mr. Rooney told me that he “won’t be doing any more interviews without a member from the minority present.”

Private-sector lawyers also tend not to accuse congressmen of unethical behavior, as Mr. Levy did in his letter to Mr. Nunes. But Fusion’s legal eagle must feel safe. He’s former general counsel to the Senate’s minority leader, Chuck Schumer. He has also, I’m told by people familiar with the committee’s activities, more than once possessed information that he would have had no earthly means of knowing, since it was secret committee business. Consider that: Democratic members of Congress or their staff providing sensitive details of an investigation to a company to which the committee has given subpoenas. CONTINUE AT SITE

Bill Clinton sought State’s permission to meet with Russian nuclear official during Obama uranium decision By John Solomon and Alison Spann

As he prepared to collect a $500,000 payday in Moscow in 2010, Bill Clinton sought clearance from the State Department to meet with a key board director of the Russian nuclear energy firm Rosatom — which at the time needed the Obama administration’s approval for a controversial uranium deal, government records show.

Arkady Dvorkovich, a top aide to then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and one of the highest-ranking government officials to serve on Rosatom’s board of supervisors, was listed on a May 14, 2010, email as one of 15 Russians the former president wanted to meet during a late June 2010 trip, the documents show.
“In the context of a possible trip to Russia at the end of June, WJC is being asked to see the business/government folks below. Would State have concerns about WJC seeing any of these folks,” Clinton Foundation foreign policy adviser Amitabh Desai wrote the State Department on May 14, 2010, using the former president’s initials and forwarding the list of names to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team.

The email went to two of Hillary Clinton’s most senior advisers, Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills.

The approval question, however, sat inside State for nearly two weeks without an answer, prompting Desai to make multiple pleas for a decision.

“Dear Jake, we urgently need feedback on this. Thanks, Ami,” the former president’s aide wrote in early June.

Sullivan finally responded on June 7, 2010, asking a fellow State official “What’s the deal w this?”

The documents don’t indicate what decision the State Department finally made. But current and former aides to both Clintons told The Hill on Thursday the request to meet the various Russians came from other people, and the ex-president’s aides and State decided in the end not to hold any of the meetings with the Russians on the list.

Bill Clinton instead got together with Vladimir Putin at the Russian leader’s private homestead.

“Requests of this type were run by the State Department as a matter of course. This was yet another one of those instances. Ultimately, President Clinton did not meet with these people,” Angel Urena, the official spokesperson for the former president, told The Hill.

Trump’s immigration priorities bring common sense to a flawed system By Brian Lonergan,

The Trump administration’s recent announcement of its comprehensive immigration policy objectives was met with the predictable championing by its advocates and denunciation by its opponents. Lost in the news cycle and punditry analysis, however, is this undeniable fact: the Trump proposals, if enacted, would represent a sea change from immigration policy direction over the last several decades. That change would result in clear benefits for our country and its lawful citizens.

Border security

The proposals were broken down into three general categories: border security, interior enforcement and a merit-based immigration system. Despite emotional pleas from open borders advocates that a border wall is mean-spirited and against the principles of America, there is an abundance of evidence from around the world that border walls are highly effective. America would greatly benefit from a significant reduction in illegal aliens, drugs and guns that routinely pass through our southern border.
Another popular talking point by wall opponents is that its price tag would be excessive. Estimates on the actual cost of the wall vary. While the Trump administration has suggested that the cost would be in the $12-15 billion range, higher-end estimates are above $20 billion. To the average American living on a budget, that sounds like an astronomical amount of money, especially considering the many problems in our society in need of remedy. Even considering the higher estimate, and assuming the cost will go up once construction begins — as large, federally-funded projects inevitably do — that amount needs to be put into perspective. The newest aircraft carrier in the Navy fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford, cost $12.8 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that The Affordable Care Act will cost $1.34 trillion over the next decade, and in 2016 cost $110 billion. That’s one year.

Now consider the cost of illegal immigration, which is generally calculated at $116 billion annually. When put into that context, the price tag for a wall doesn’t seem that excessive after all, especially considering the long-term benefits that a permanent barrier would provide.

Interior enforcement

While porous borders is a big part of the problem, so too are lax, conflicting and ineffective policies with regard to interior enforcement. Chief among these are local and state sanctuary policies. In defiance of the supremacy clause of the Constitution’s Article VI, these jurisdictions are harboring illegal aliens and the results in some cases have been tragic. While the story of Kate Steinle was widely reported, there have been too many other innocent lives lost because illegal aliens took advantage of sanctuary cities despite multiple deportations. This needs to end.

While illegal immigration is regarded by many as a matter of national sovereignty and the rule of law, it also is detrimental to those who are unemployed and seeking work. Companies that hire illegal aliens usually pay them below minimum wage or a wage that is exploitative for the work being done. This serves to drive down wages for people who have been struggling for years without raises while seeing their cost of living rise. It also decreases job opportunities for millions of people who have been unemployed or underemployed. Contrary to popular talking points, Americans are certainly willing to do a wide range for work if it is available and at a reasonable wage. Policies that promote illegal immigration deny opportunities to Americans and lower their paychecks. The administration supports the use of E-Verify to protect American workers as well as other measures to stop employment discrimination against legal workers.

Merit-based immigration

For too long, the American immigration system has prioritized the needs of immigrants over what is best for the country. The administration proposals seek to reverse that order. Entry into the United States — and all the freedom and opportunities that come with it — is a privilege, not a right. America should exercise its right to select immigrants based on the value they bring to the country, not just family connections. In that pursuit, the proposals call for limiting family-based green cards to include spouses and minor children.

Germans Debate Muslim Public Holidays “We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one.” by Soeren Kern

“Germany’s Christian heritage is not negotiable. The introduction of Muslim holidays is out of the question for us.” — Alexander Dobrindt, a senior member of the CSU party.

“We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one. Therefore, I do not understand why we are even having this debate. Instead, we should discuss something else: When will Christians in all Islamic countries have the same religious freedom as Muslims have here?” — Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of the CDU party.

“CDU wants Muslim holiday. This is the difference: AfD says NO! NO! NO!” — Beatrix von Storch, Deputy Chair of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

An off-the-cuff proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to introduce Muslim public holidays has sparked another furious debate over the role of Islam in Germany.

Speaking at a campaign rally on October 9 for state elections in Lower Saxony, de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that federal states with large Muslim populations should be allowed to celebrate Muslim public holidays:

“I am prepared to discuss the possibility of introducing Islamic holidays. In areas where a lot of Catholics live, we celebrate All Saint’s Day, and in areas where not a lot of Catholics live we don’t celebrate All Saint’s Day. So why can’t we think about Islamic holidays as well?”De Maizière’s statement, apparently aimed at enticing Muslim voters, prompted a furious backlash from his own party and political allies, who are still reeling from the CDU’s poor results in the general election on September 24. Although Merkel won a fourth term in office, the CDU, together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), suffered its worst electoral result in more than half a century.

Party insiders blame the election debacle on Merkel, who they say has moved the CDU too far away from its conservative roots, especially on immigration. More than a million traditional CDU/CSU voters defected to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), an upstart party that harnessed widespread anger over Merkel’s decision to allow into the country more than a million mostly Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The Big New Palestinian Lie by Bassam Tawil

It is precisely the inflammatory speech of Abbas and his senior officials, expressed at every possible podium, which has been trying to turn the conflict into a religious one.

If any side has turned the conflict into a religious one, it is the Palestinian side, which has long depicted Jews as sons of monkeys and pigs, enemies of Allah, and killers of prophets. When Abbas and other Palestinians accuse Jews on a daily basis of “storming” and “desecrating” the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are firing the first shots in their religious war against Israel and the Jews.

By turning the conflict into a religious one, the Palestinians are hoping to avoid any discussion about important issues such as security, borders, the status of Jerusalem, anti-Israel incitement and assaults on public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Palestinian leaders do not feel comfortable discussing any of these issues; that is why they prefer to make the debate appear as if it is about religious issues.

Despite vocal and self-righteous claims to the contrary, Palestinian leaders continue to incite their people and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world against Israel and Jews. For the past two and a half years, these leaders have been accusing Israel and Jews of seeking to turn the Israeli-Arab conflict into a religious one. The accusation refers specifically to visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The truth, however, is just the opposite: it is the Palestinians that have been aiming at every turn to transform the political and territorial conflict into a religious one.

By turning the conflict into a religious one, the Palestinians are hoping to avoid any discussion about important issues such as security, borders, the status of Jerusalem, anti-Israel incitement and assaults on public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. Palestinian leaders do not feel comfortable discussing any of these issues; that is why they prefer to make the debate appear as if it is about religious issues.

Palestinian leaders are also hoping that the entire Islamic world will rally against Israel once they are told that Islamic holy sites are allegedly being targeted and desecrated by Jews.

The Palestinian Authority is toe-to-toe with Hamas in this unceasing incitement. The two rival Palestinian parties may disagree about almost everything, but when it comes to libeling Israel and Jews, they have no differences.

Jewish tours of the Temple Mount in the past two and a half years, contrary to Palestinian claims, have not affected the “status quo” or existing state of affairs at the holy site whatsoever. The Islamic holy sites, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, have not been “defiled” or “destroyed” as the result of the presence of Jews at the Temple Mount. More significantly, Muslims’ access to their holy sites on the Temple Mount remains unchanged. Every day, thousands of Muslim worshippers converge on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock to perform prayers. On Fridays, the number of Muslim worshippers is sometimes estimated at tens of thousands.

Jewish visits to the Temple Mount are restricted to the early hours of the morning. Jewish visitors, in fact, are even banned from praying at the Temple Mount. The current regulations on the Temple Mount explicitly forbids praying by Jews, and the police have banned Jews from carrying any articles that might lead a Jew to pray. Jews who visited the Temple Mount during the recent autumn harvest holiday of Sukkot were forbidden from bringing the “Four Species” — the citrus, myrtle, willow and palm frond — that are mandated by the Torah to be used as part of the services on each of the seven days of the holiday.

These restrictions, however, have not stopped the Palestinians from pursuing their campaign of incitement against Israel and Jews. At the core of this campaign is the false and libelous claim that Israel is seeking to destroy the Islamic holy sites and rebuild the Third Temple on their ruins. They supplement this fabricated and malicious charge with the unholy statement that the Jews are “defiling with their filthy feet” the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Notably, it is the same excuse that Osama bin Laden used against the United States when he said that Americans were “defiling” Saudi Arabia simply by walking on the ground there.

Biden Is Right and Kasich Is Wrong on Campus Free Speech Who wants to live in a country where the government gets to decide what kind of speech is and is not okay? By Katherine Timpf

During a “Bridging the Divides” forum at the University of Delaware on Tuesday, former vice president Joe Biden and Ohio governor John Kasich were asked about free speech on college campuses — and Biden had the far better answer.

“Liberals have a short memory . . . we hurt ourselves badly when we don’t allow speech to take place,” Biden said, according to a tweet from former CNN reporter Peter Hamby. “You should be able to listen to another point of view, as virulent as it may be, and reject it or expose it.”

Kasich’s answer? That he wouldn’t “let one of these hate speech speakers come.”

That was the wrong answer. Sure, Kasich may have been trying to come off as Sensitive Moderate Republican Guy, but he really came off as someone who doesn’t understand the responsibility that we all have as people who live in a country where our speech is free.

On the one hand, Kasich just may not understand how many people college students have tried to silence because they considered their views to be “hate speech” for a whole host of reasons. For example: Just last month, students at Berkeley tried to silence conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, claiming that he’s a “white supremacist.” (Note: Ben Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew.)

On the other hand, though, is this: It doesn’t f&*%$#@ matter what a speaker says. As Biden said, students should be able to handle hearing all speech — even “virulent” speech — and know how to “reject it or expose it” if necessary. After all, that’s how it works in the real world.

Yep. Believe it or not, there actually are people out there in the real world who say hateful things. What’s more, they actually do have a constitutional right to say them, which means that anyone who gets offended cannot choose to deal with that offense by silencing it. They have to know how to deal with it in other ways, and we should be allowing students to practice and develop these skills while in school rather than forcing them to live in a bubble that stunts that kind of growth.

The truth is, we live in a place where hate speech is protected speech — and we’re very, very lucky that’s the case.

The alternative, after all, is living in a country where the government gets to decide what kind of speech is and is not okay . . . and you don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to see how that would be a bad thing.

An Avoidable Great War Far from being inevitable, World War II resulted from the Allies’ failure to muster their combined resources and power in the service of deterring Hitler. By Victor Davis Hanson

Editor’s Note: The following is the fourth and final installment in a series of excerpts adapted from Victor Davis Hanson’s new book The Second World Wars. It appears here with permission.

Throughout history, conflict had always broken out between enemies when the appearance of deterrence — the material and spiritual likelihood of using greater military power successfully against an aggressive enemy — vanished. From Carthage to the Confederacy, weaker bellicose states could convince themselves of the impossible because their fantasies were not checked earlier by cold reality. A stronger appearance of power, and of the willingness to employ it, might have stopped more conflicts before they began. Put another way, deterrence in the famous formulation of the 17th-century British statesman George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, meant that “men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.”

But once thieves were not hanged and more horses were indeed stolen, who is strong and who weak became confusing, and the proper recalibration that pruned rhetoric and posturing from knowledge of real strength returned only at the tremendous cost of a world war. Hitler’s Mein Kampf — “the new Koran of faith and war,” according to Winston Churchill — was in truth a puerile rant that gained credence only through German rearmament and aggressiveness, at least before Stalingrad. After that battle, Hitler was no longer read widely and was only rarely heard by Germans, as the ambitions of the Third Reich waned and Nazi Germany was exposed as far weaker than its enemies and led by an incompetent strategist. The prewar reality was that Russian armor was superior to German. Inexplicably, the Soviets had not been able to communicate that fact, and in consequence lost deterrence. Hitler later remarked that had he just been made aware of the nature of Russian tank production, and specifically about the T-34 tank, against which standard German anti-tank weapons were ineffective, he would never have invaded the Soviet Union. Maybe. But it took a theater war in the East that killed over 30 million people to reveal the Soviets’ real power. Accordingly, leaders and their followers are forced to make the necessary readjustments, although often at a terrible price of correcting flawed prewar impressions. In the case of the timidity of the Western democracies in 1938–1939, General Walter Warlimont explained Hitler’s confidence about powers that easily could have deterred Germany: “(1) he felt their [the Allies’] Far Eastern interests were more important than their European interests, and (2) they did not appear to be armed sufficiently.” What a terrible cost ensued to prove Hitler wrong.

Only after the disastrous battles of Leipzig (1813) and Waterloo (1815) did Napoleon finally concede that his armies had never been a match for the combined strength of Russia, Prussia, Austria, Sweden, and England. Had all those states combined in a firm coalition a decade earlier, Napoleon might well have been deterred. Churchill without much exaggeration said of Hitler’s military agenda, “up till 1934 at least, German rearmament could have been prevented without the loss of a single life. It was not time that was lacking.”

By any fair measure, Germany in 1939 — in terms of the number and quality of planes, armor, manpower reserves, and industrial output — was not stronger than the combined French and British militaries — or at least not so strong as to be able to defeat and occupy both powers. The later German–Italian–Japanese axis was far less impressive than the alliance that would soon emerge of Great Britain, America, and Russia — having only little over a third of the three Allies’ combined populations, not to speak of their productive capacity. After all, the United States by war’s end in 1945 would achieve a wartime gross national product nearly greater than that of all of the other Allied and Axis powers combined. In sum, 60 million dead, 20th-century totalitarian ideologies, the singular evil of Adolf Hitler, the appearance of V-2 rockets, the dropping of two atomic bombs, the Holocaust, napalm, kamikazes, and the slaughter of millions in Russia and China seemed to redefine World War II as unlike any conflict of the past — even as predictable humans with unchanging characteristics, fighting amid age-old geography and weather patterns, continued to follow the ancient canons of war and replayed roles well known from the ages.

Why the Western world — which was aware of the classical lessons and geography of war, and was still suffering from the immediate trauma of the First World War — chose to tear itself apart in 1939 is a story not so much of accidents, miscalculations, and overreactions (although there were plenty of those, to be sure) as of the carefully considered decisions to ignore, appease, or collaborate with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany by nations that had the resources and knowledge, but not yet the willpower, to do otherwise.