Ted Byfield: Old political maxim: If a problem’s impossible let it cease to exist
It seems a rule for all governments, both of the Left and Right, that when they are confronted with a problem they conclude to be insurmountable, their solution is to pretend it isn’t there. But most of the time it is there, and the consequence of their refusal to face reality can be altogether disastrous.
I can think of two examples, one of which happened about 85 years ago. The other is happening right now, and was stated with a clarity rare for these times in the Wall Street Journal last month.
In the first instance, my mind went back to the British Conservative administration headed in the latter 1930s first by Stanley Baldwin, then by Neville Chamberlain. Both were Conservatives. The crisis they faced was directly caused when Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933.
The First World War had come to an end 15 years before that date. Civilian and military deaths in it had numbered 18 million with 23 million wounded. It was the most deadly armed conflict in history. As nations and individual families seriously weighed that cost, the rationale behind the war became less and less coherent. So the conviction took deep root, particularly among the western democracies, that such a war must never happen again.
As that conviction intensified, science further strengthened it. Poison gas, barely used in the First War, was much more efficient now; whole populations could be wiped. Air power, hardly in evidence, could now inflict inconceivable horror. So no! no! no! There must never be another. Such was the near universal cry.
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