The Wall Street Journal is often more supportive of Donald Trump than most publications, but on Friday their editorial board was sharply critical of his lack of knowledge about history. Here are some quotes:
“President Trump’s remarks on Afghanistan at the Cabinet meeting Wednesday were a notable event. They will be criticized heavily, and deservedly so.
“… Mr. Trump ridiculed other nations’ commitment of troops to fight alongside America’s in Afghanistan. He said, they tell me a hundred times, ‘Oh, we sent you soldiers. We sent you soldiers’.”
“This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died. The United Kingdom has had more than 450 killed fighting in Afghanistan.
“As reprehensible was Mr. Trump’s utterly false narrative of the Soviet Union’s involvement there in the 1980s. He said, ‘The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there’.”
“Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of the history by an American president. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government.
“The invasion was condemned throughout the non-communist world. The Soviets justified the invasion as an extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserting their right to prevent countries from leaving the communist sphere. They stayed until 1989.
“The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat. Mr. Trump’s cracked history can’t alter that reality.”
We know that the president doesn’t like to read, so we hope Ivanka might offer him this second history lesson.
In the 1930s, Life magazine and other publications published excellent, detailed stories about France’s magnificent Maginot Line.
It was a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapon installations built in that decade to deter invasion by Germany and force them to move around the fortifications.
Constructed on the French side of its borders with Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg, the line did not extend to the English Channel due to French strategy that envisioned a move into Belgium to counter a German assault.
Based on France’s experience with trench warfare during World War I, the massive Maginot Line was built in the run-up to World War II.
French military experts extolled the Line as a work of genius that would deter German aggression, because it would slow an invasion force long enough for French forces to mobilize and counterattack.
The Line was impervious to most forms of attack, including aerial bombings and tank fire, and had underground railways as a backup; it also had state-of-the-art living conditions for garrisoned troops, supplying air conditioning and eating areas for their comfort.
When Americans who were worried about Germany launching a second world war read about the Maginot Line, they were relieved that it would protect France and there would be no need for the United States to get involved a second time in a European war.
But as the war got under way, the Germans invaded through the Low Countries, bypassing the Line to the north. French and British officers had anticipated this: when Germany invaded the Netherlands and Belgium, they carried out plans to form an aggressive front that cut across Belgium and connected to the Maginot Line. However, the French line was weak near the Ardennes forest. The French believed this region, with its rough terrain, should be an unlikely invasion route of German forces; if it was traversed, it would be done at a slow rate that would allow the French time to bring up reserves and counterattack.
A rapid advance through the forest and across the River Meuse encircled much of the Allied forces, resulting in a sizeable number of troops being evacuated at Dunkirk, leaving the forces to the south unable to mount an effective resistance to the German invasion of France.
The message to Trump is that even if he builds a high concrete barrier north of the entire Mexico border, someone will be able to dynamite several holes and destroy the whole purpose of the wall.
The Maginot Line has become a metaphor for expensive efforts that offer a false sense of security.