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Finlandization of the planet

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 2, 2004

During the Cold War "Finlandization" was a geopolitical term filled with negative connotations, especially for Cold Warriors like me. Finland, having been savaged by the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-1940, sided with Germany in Operation Barbarossa.

Unlike other German allies, however, the Finns were not brutes happy with Nazism. Pointedly, for example, Finland rejected participation in the Holocaust, and went to some lengths to rescue Finnish Jews.

Stalin did not overrun Finland when Nazi Germany collapsed in 1945. He did, however, demand that Finland take no foreign policy or military positions incompatible with Soviet policy. The result was an odd duck: Finland was a fully functioning, open democracy which was on excellent terms with the United States. Finland was prosperous, educated and no threat to anyone.

There was another parallel to Finland in Central Europe - Austria - which was also democratic, open, prosperous, friendly but emphatically neutral. The great fear of American planners was that West Germany, without virile American support in NATO, could become "Finlandized" - that is, remain free and democratic and prosperous, but nonaligned with America.

More likely West Germany would have become "Swedenized" or "Switzerlandized" rather than "Finlandized." Those two neutral democracies were heavily armed, but absolutely unaligned geopolitically. Although the Swedes made a point of tweaking our nose during the Vietnam War, it is hard to see what we gained by our alliance with Britain and France, our SEATO partners, who had the same obligation to defend the Republic of Vietnam as we did.

Both these SEATO "allies" shipped goods into Haiphong Harbor to be used by the Vietnamese communists to resist America. France, which had been the colonial master of all Indochine - Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - had a separate moral duty to prevent totalitarian rule and a horrible holocaust. Yet our "ally" France actually helped the North Vietnamese.

What President Bush has laid out recently is a real plan for peace on earth. He is seeking the "Finlandization" of the rest of the world. Though we are frustrated with France, Germany, Canada, Belgium and other "allies," it is precisely this frustration that should make Finlandization make more sense.

Belgium and Canada are amoral, not immoral, nations. The geriatric welfare states of Europe are not building weapons of mass destruction or planning acts of terrorism against the world. And as functioning democracies, their governments have a visceral dread of war (very unpopular politically to have one's cities bombed and sons slain in battle.)

The amoral democracies also have a serious interest in general prosperity (which is hard to achieve in wartime.) Rather than rely upon the moral impulses of these citizens of these amoral democracies - the same peoples who once raped Nanking, operated Auschwitz, built the Gulag, crushed Tibet and gave us The Terror - we should rely upon the enlightened self-interest of the Japanese, Germans, Russians, Chinese and French.

We should dearly want all nations to be like Belgium, Canada, Germany, France, Japan and the other self-centered, narrow-minded, gutless democracies. These nations threaten no one. They spend tiny amounts on national defense. They allow people to leave or to enter their nations. They do not try to impose communism or Islam upon the people.

We should also dearly want all nations to remain independent nations. When the Second World War ended, it was very good that Finland had remained an independent nation, that Switzerland had remained an independent nation and that Sweden had remained an independent nation. So when the Danes and the Swedes vote against clumping themselves into a "Greater Europe" that is good for peace.

Once Americans proposed collective security. This presumed that Germans would care about the Killing Fields of Cambodia the same way that Americans would or that Japanese would care about Auschwitz the same way as Americans. It presumed the French would care about the Maoist democide and that Chinese would care about the Armenian massacres.

America is the world. It is the best of each part of the world, the parts that want to live in freedom and rubbing elbows and sharing culture with each other. What is the best we should hope for in other nations? Finlandization.

We are the world's policeman because we care, not because others want us to care. We have few true friend - some redoubtable Brits, free Aussies and the noble Poles - beyond that, we should expect that other peoples will be bystanders in the war against real evil. We should want Iran to look like Sweden and Iraq like Austria. We should want a world filled with Finlands.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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