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Friday, July 11, 2008

Blank checks and entangling alliances

Pat Buchanan points out the obvious:

After the assassination of the archduke in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Austria got from Kaiser Wilhelm a "blank cheque" to punish Serbia. Germany would follow whatever course its ally chose to take. Austria chose war on Serbia. And World War I resulted.

On March 31, 1939, Britain gave a blank check to Poland in its dispute with Germany over Danzig, a town of 350,000 Germans. Should war come, Britain would fight on Poland's side. Poland refused to negotiate, Adolf Hitler attacked, and Britain declared war. After six years, the British Empire collapsed. Germany was burnt to ashes. Poland entered the slave quarters of Joseph Stalin's empire.

Lesson: No great power should ever give to a small ally or client state a blank check to drag it into war.

I'm sure there's a few historical examples that ended better than the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and British empires, but it's a sobering reminder of the fragility of empire. Republican "National Greatness" advocates are foolish to so easily dismiss the wisdom of George Washington's advice to avoid "entangling alliances". What's thought to be good by the little dog is seldom good for the big one it recruits to fight on its behalf... and it seldom ends well for the little dog either.

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