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Woodrow Wilson, Neville Chamberlain, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

The hall of shame composing my title this week may be responsible for as much chaos and death as any other four people in the history of the world. This may come as a surprise to you; you may think such a list would be Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

Think of a situation as something akin to the Mafia. While the Mafia goons do the dirty work, it is the bosses who are responsible for unleashing the goons. Same thing here. For without the actions of these four title characters, the world of the last 103 years may have been a very different place.

The pompous Dr. Wilson tromped off to Paris in 1919 and presided over the most foolish “peace conference” ever convened in history. This coterie of “chaps with maps” as some have called it, literally got on their hands and knees in the halls of Versailles, carving up Europe on their stupid maps with little regard for ethnicity of the peoples placed within their naïve new boundaries. No, diversity is not always good.

At the end of their silly confab, they called in Germany, who was not invited to the proceedings, and said, “Sign here.” All the while, they were ignoring Lenin’s nefarious activities in Russia. And Hitler became a pot of crazed, boiling rage.

Chamberlain’s silly attempts to appease Hitler would have only earned him frequent flyer miles, had they been available. While, his intent, like Wilson’s may have been sincere, they were both hopelessly naïve.

Bill Clinton told Ukraine in 1994, in Budapest, to “Don’t worry, be happy, we’ll protect you (speaking primarily for NATO).” Hence, Ukraine gave up the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world at that time. Bet they wish they had that back now. Might have kept Putin at bay.

And then there is Joe Biden. He seems to have taken his play book from Chamberlain, except he hasn’t had the nerve to physically go confront Putin as Chamberlain did Hitler. Instead, he sent Kamila Harris on her first European trip to Germany, not even Moscow.

Second round, she went to Poland. I’ve been to Warsaw, and I have been to St. Petersburg (and its predecessor, Leningrad), and no, I can assure you Warsaw is nothing like Russia.

Honestly, I didn’t know diplomacy could get worse than Chamberlain’s feckless efforts. All of this reminds me of Mao Zedong’s strategy with Chiang Kai-shek in 1945. He called it “fight, fight, talk, talk.” These were two actions Mao was willing to take alternatively and in perpetuity until he achieved his objectives.

Now, we will get to see if Putin is a student of history. He has the “Fight, Fight” part working in his favor. He has done some talking. Expect a cease-fire and more talking, perhaps even before you read this column. But don’t expect round one to sate his appetite. He has the same resentment for the breakup of the old Soviet Union as Hitler had for the 1919 Paris “Peace Treaty.” Hitler waited 20 years to satisfy his rage, Putin has waited 30 – so far.

This will not be over with a cease-fire in Ukraine.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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