When reflecting on the history of the first part of the 20th century, both World War I, the global depression, and the genocidal second World War emerge as the traumatic events that shaped the second part, dominated by the subsequent standoff between the two dominant superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
But possibly the most dramatic aspect of the battle of decency versus unparalleled evil was the proliferation of incomparable leadership on both sides. Easily forgotten was the fact that the “unconditional surrender victory” facilitated against the indescribably heinous Nazi war machine was only made possible by the unification of convenience by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin:
1) The United Kingdom would not have survived, after the fall of France in June 1940, without the charismatic and implacable dominance of Winston Spencer Churchill, standing alone against what appeared to be the unbeatable war machine of a technologically superior Hitlerian force, bent on world domination. Although Italy’s dictatorial Benito Mussolini was more of a comic opera than junior partner to the seemingly unbeatable steamroller, Germany, had an equally murderous ally in Japan. Their military leaders were ready to join up with Germany to roll over the Asiatic half of global superiority headed by the most maniacal leader Hideki Tojo. His clique was equally bent with Adolf Hitler to terrorize tens of millions in his attempt to take over Southeast Asia.
2)U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, struggling to emerge from an almost decade-long global recession, may have been the most opportunistic and shrewd of the unparalleled leadership figures to emerge at that time. With most American industrial factories still sitting idle, FDR made peace with the titans of privilege, such as Henry Ford and Joe Kennedy, whom he detested, and gave them the green light to make America the “arsenal for democracy,” allowing the hated capitalists to make a fortune while arming Britain and then Russia to stop the irrepressible Germans, and subsequently, Japanese forces.
3) Stalin, who almost lost his nerve when the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over most of European Russia, by first using the millions of soldiers at his disposal to slow up the German Wehrmacht, and then reversed German victories into abysmal defeat, as the Soviet industrial war machine, hidden behind the Ural Mountains, separating Europe from Asia, which Stalin has secretly built up in the 1930′s and early 1940′s, went into high gear.
4) Leadership, whether for good or evil, of this magnitude, is nowhere to be found today. The so-called Islamic Jihadists, like the Ayatollah Khameini, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, or the terrorist leadership emerging from the so-called Arab Spring rely on the primitivism of suicidal extremism to win their short-lived victories. But their leadership is one of pure terrorism and contempt for either the Moslem Shia, or Sunnis, as they bring Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to its knees, while coveting the Saudis and United Arab Emirates.
5) Today’s leadership is that of the technological genius ushering in a new age. Whether the geniuses such as Larry Ellison (Oracle), Google’s Eric Schmidt or Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, or Bill Gates and Warren Buffett provide new horizons, these open the doors to a once unthinkable evolution of modern technology, now verging on cyber science and robotics, changing the world practically overnight.
Real humanitarian people leadership, of the FDR or Reagan type, may be great exemplars of past history, but these show no signs of emerging in today’s brave new world.
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