Building our strength

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Building our strength

I saw on the BBC that Great Britain has launched a very special project for the centennial anniversary of World War I on May 20. Two students representing every middle school across the UK visited battle sites of World War I in Belgium and France. In the first round of field trips, students toured Ypres, where Germany used poison gas, and paid a visit to a cemetery in Belgium where 11,000 war dead are buried. War historians provided explanations to the students. The generation will be aware how foolish it is to resolve international conflicts with force.

The young Brits will learn some of the lessons of World War I and understand the problems and limits of alliances as well as the foolishness of relying on force. The United Kingdom, France and Russia were on one side, and Germany, Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria were on the other. Many scholars think the countries engaged in a war that they didn’t want or need and one that brought scant benefit because of alliances that fell together. Perhaps the lesson of history is that alliances can be an obstacle. 75 years ago in 1939, Western powers betrayed Poland, which was part of their alliance. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Great Britain and France declared war against Germany but delayed substantial military intervention. Their moves were on paper only. The Soviet Union, which Poland considered “an enemy of the enemy,” helped Nazi Germany make Poland disappear from the map. History has taught us the painful lesson that there are no eternal allies or enemies.

Based on the solid Korea-U.S. alliance, Korea is reinforcing its security with the power of its ally. Many were relieved and hoped for a delay in the scheduled transfer of wartime operation control when President Barack Obama visited Korea last month. However, others are skeptical about alliances and the power of the almighty U.S. as they watched the Ukraine crisis. They doubt whether Obama and the U.S. actually have the diplomatic or military means to put an end to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions over Ukraine, which happens to want to be closer to the West. What will happen to Ukraine, which counted on the United States when it stood up to its own government and, by extension, to Russia? We also
need to watch how the three Baltic nations and Eastern European countries, now parts of the Western world, will respond to the situation.

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