Such a feat might compel Washington to undo a done deal at frightful cost and hazard. Best of all, from Moscow’s and Beijing’s standpoint, Russo-Chinese forces might do it all without breaching the nuclear threshold. Am I predicting a repeat of September 1939? Not a bit. The Western powers failed to take Hitler seriously for far too long. They afforded Germany time to rearm and launch aggressive moves against the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia, and ultimately Poland. The hour is late—but not that late. So long as we take today’s authoritarians seriously, try to glimpse what they may do, and fashion forces and counterstrategies of our own, we can compete to good effect.
And for that, in part, we will have a murderous Bohemian corporal to thank. There’s historical irony for you.
James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and author of the forthcoming Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy. The views voiced here are his alone. This article first appeared in 2019 and is reprinted here due to reader interest.
Image: U.S. Air Force / Flickr