Is Trump Ignorant of US/European History?

There are a number of things the current United States administration is doing that we need to carefully consider.  Many of these things have a potential for long-term adverse consequences that appear to be a result of either an indifference to or misunderstanding of the lessons of the Twentieth Century.

President Trump did not extend his hand to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s in a March 2017 Oval Office photo op. New York Post online photo.

President Trump did not extend his hand to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s in a March 2017 Oval Office photo op. Source: New York Post online photo.

Probably the clearest example of this indifference/misunderstanding is the cavalier way Mr. Trump sticks his fingers in the eyes’ of leaders of European countries.  There was no reason for him to treat the head of Germany like she had a serious communicable disease.  He was in the Oval Office with Chancellor Merkel. Photographers wanted a hand shake shot.  Trump refused.  That was the most obvious, but not the only way he has blown off European leaders.  You have to question whether he understands anything about the century of history he seems intent on just throwing away.

Prior to World War I, the U.S. was pretty isolationist, which is why it was nearly three years after WWI started before American troops became involved.  Europe was 3000 miles away and was not our problem.  Then in 1914 came “The Guns of August”.  The war was started when some anarchists murdered an Austrian Arch Duke in Sarajevo.  Serbia rejected an Austrian demand that the anarchists be turned over to them, Austria decided to invade Serbia to get them, and Europe blew up in a blood bath. Five years later 18,000,000 people had been killed; another 20,000,000 people had been injured; and Russia (which was far and away, the biggest country in Europe) had fallen into the hands of a doctrinaire oligarchy that quickly morphed into a murderous dictatorship.

At the end of the war, in 1919, the victors imposed The Treaty of Versailles on the losers, including Germany.  Also in 1919, English economist, John Maynard Keynes, published his book, “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” in which he argued that the treaty was far too onerous.  Keynes predicted that the German economy would collapse under the burden, the German people would, in desperation turn to a strong dictator, and the war would resume.  Sure enough, by 1939, Hitler had risen to a position of absolute power, invaded Poland, and resumed the war, now called WWII.

Russia formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) prior to WWII, and had taken over several other countries and made them part of the USSR.  As WWII ended, Stalin made a huge land grab so that by the end of the war, Russia had about half of Germany and all of Eastern Europe in its clutches. Fortunately, the Allies learned from their mistakes, and adopted The Marshall Plan to help Western Europe rebuild and recover from the devastation created by the War.

At the same time, Western leaders had come to regard Stalin as the vicious murderer he had become. Reports came out of Moscow of mass executions of Stalin’s perceived political enemies.  Those who were not simply executed were banished to slave labor camps in Siberia.  Then, in 1949, The USSR detonated an atom bomb.

NATO was formed in 1949 as an alliance of the United States and Western European countries specifically to keep Russia in check and prevent it from grabbing and enslaving any more of Europe and its citizens.   Stalin’s regime was brutal.  Millions of perceived political enemies were either murdered or sent to die performing slave labor in Siberia. The KGB was a major administrator of death to the citizens of Russia and the countries seized by Russia.  Vladimir Putin, the current President of Russia, was a fair-haired boy rapidly advancing in the KGB after joining it in 1975.  Since becoming president, Putin has demonstrated a serious intent to expand Russia into the old Soviet Union.  He annexed Crimea from the Ukraine in 2014, and has been indiscriminately bombing civilians in Syria in support of a bloodthirsty dictator there.

One of the primary objectives of the United States in helping to form NATO was to see to it that if any battles had to be fought, they would not be fought on American soil.  Selfish, I know, but all you need to do is look at pictures from the South after the Civil War to see the wisdom of this idea.  And they did not have airplanes with rockets and bombs in the Civil War.  We have spent a lot of money on NATO, but it pales in comparison to what it would cost in blood and treasure to fight a modern war here. Our NATO allies have taken huge risks because they have allowed us to put soldiers and arms on the ground in their countries. If we wind up in a shooting war with Russia, the earliest casualties will be in the parts of the NATO countries where we have been allowed to create Russia controls.

Withdrawing from NATO would result in simply throwing away all of that blood, sweat and tears.  The “Greatest Generation” defeated Germany, defeated Japan and corralled Russia.  Why Mr. Trump wants to hand such a gift to Putin is a complete mystery.  It is either incompetence, indifference or corruption.  It certainly is not putting America first.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or
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16 Responses

  1. Avatar cheyenne says:

    The first casualties of a shooting war with Russia would include me as I live next to Warren Air Base and their nukes.  A war with Russia will not happen anymore now then during the cold war.  Why, because both countries could destroy each other.  We do need NATO now more than ever.  The western world, and even Russia, are facing threats greater than a shooting war from the Islamic radicals.  While the big three, USA, Russia, and China understand the uselessness of fighting each other in a shooting war the Islamic radicals have no such concern.  Both in Europe and here we are faced with the radicalization of some of our own citizens that have killed hundreds.  We are in a shooting war on our soil and we need to work with NATO to prevent more happening.  Trump obviously does not know how to placate our allies but who then would do better?

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      What shooting war on our soil are you referring to?  The average (over the last 10 years) of less than 10 people per year killed by Islamic terrorists in America? Or the average of almost 12,000 Americans shot and killed by other Americans?

      There’s good reason to fear being shot to death in this country.  There isn’t good reason to fear being shot to death by Islamic terrorists, who annually account for 0.083% of the killings in America.  You are roughly twice as likely to be shot by an armed toddler, three times more likely to be killed by lightening, seven times more likely to be killed by a lawnmower, 26 times more likely to be hit by a bus and killed, and 70 times more likely to die by falling out of bed.  (None of those things are very likely.)

      Trump’s early moves at stopping Islamic terrorism entail making deals with the devils who are spawning most of the terrorists. Doubling down on stupid by holding hands with the House of Saud isn’t going to solve the problem.

      • Avatar cheyenne says:

        Did you read my post?  Legal America residents are being radicalized by Islamic terrorists.  The Fort Hood shooter, Orlando, a couple in southern California.  That doesn’t count the shootings that were stopped before they happened, at many schools, because of informants coming forth.  Doubling down on allowing terrorists to enter and radicalize the youth or other residents is going to create more problems.  This is what Europe is going through after years of open borders and being humane at taking in refugees.  Is that what you want to happen in America?

        47 shot, 8 dead this last weekend in Chicago.  We have enough carnage among our own without bringing in more from outside.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          I wasn’t denying the threat of Islamic terrorism—I was just putting it in context.  The number I posted (0.083%) includes radicalized Americans—it’s mostly radicalized Americans.  That number is roughly the same level of danger to Americans as America’s own right-wing terrorists, and both of those levels of risk are vanishingly small compared with just standard-issue American citizens trying to solve interpersonal conflicts with guns.

          I’ve had guns pointed at me twice in my line of work, and both times it was rednecks doing the pointing, not Islamic terrorists.  If you want to freak out about something, freak out about gun-humpers.  They’re a far bigger threat here in America than Islamic terrorists.

  2. Avatar Virginia says:

    NATO members need to pay their share of the cost of keeping their own military effective. President Trump reminded the members of that. America is in debt. It can no longer afford to take on more of the debt of NATO of the non-paying members. Yes, our president was blunt, yet maybe that is what it takes. Remember, we saved Europe’s hide, twice. They need to come forward to help pay for their own part of the organization they agreed to pay as their own share!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      None of the NATO countries is in arrears on their payments to support NATO—there are no “non-paying members.”  Trump, in his usual manner of butchering both the English language and the truth, was attempting to criticize them for failing to meet a non-binding goal: each NATO member spending 2% of their GDPs on their respective militaries. Most of them haven’t reached that goal.

      Trump is blunt, but being wildly imprecise makes being blunt a waste of hot air.  That seems to be Trump’s highest talent, though.

      • Avatar anon says:

        Maybe they are not in arrears, but few countries are paying the 2% agreed-upon rate – USA, Greece, Poland, UK, and maybe a couple others.  (Greece certainly has a ton of other items that they need to, and would would rather, spend their dwindling Euros on).  Some, like Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, etc. likely cannot afford it.  But countries like France, Canada, Germany and others need to step up and quit shirking on their obligations.

        When push comes to shove, I seriously doubt that even Donald would back out of NATO.  A warning shot across the bow is fine for now.  Hopefully it will cause some of the freeloaders to buck up and pay their fair share towards the common defense.

        (Great info from Dugan – precise information on subject matter that few care to understand, or even read, these days…)


  3. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    NATO paying their fair share is a myth. What ‘rent’ does the US pay to Euro NATO nations for being on their soil ? Nothing. If any NATO nation was on US soil, do you think we’d ask for rent, you bet.  POTUS is on an immature rampage when he asks for this so-called fair share thing, he knows that European, or Korean, lives would be the first to be annihilated should he tap the Red Button of destruction.  Does he have that in mind ? We can only hope he does, but so far most of his decisions have been beyond scary.   How dare he not shake the hand of Ms. Merkel, that is the ultimate rudeness to an ally. And the US is not in debt, nor is CA, the two most healthy and wealthy top 10 nations on the planet.

    • Avatar Virginia says:

      My understanding is the just 3 other Countries besides  the USA pays thier 20% of GDP dues.  We pay 31%.  That more than covers us being on their soil!   Heavens more than our fair share for heavens sake!  AND most sadly is that our USA is broke by Obama Administration doubling the National Debt during the 8 years.

      USA also pays for the cemeteries that AMERICAN men lost their life fighting the Euro wars are buried in on European soil on the Continent.

      So Fair Share, I believe we have more than paid our fair share for the European War I & II with blood and treasure.

      For heavens sake, Mr. Trump is our elected president.  He won by our Constitution.   Give the Country a break that went along with all the past elections.  Maybe he doesn’t suit many, but nevertheless, he won……..

      • Avatar Common Sense says:

        “Virginia….he won because he lied… know….the Wall….I won’t cut Medicaid/SS/Drain the Swamp…. etc….Yes, he is “Currently” is the sitting President for now…..That will be changing soon ( 6-9 months) …..I am wondering when the #45 Lovers will realize….we have a Pig with makeup on?.. that you have been Trumped? When your Insurance goes up 5x….when your Medicare/Medicaid gets cut?…..Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn that he won the Swing States by the Russian Hacking?….He won each of those states by 1%…..the odds of that alone are probably 1 in a Billion….. plus or minus…. 1%? mmmmm

    • Avatar JeffG says:

      $20 trillion in debt with another ~$110 trillion in unfunded Social Security & Medicare liabilities — and you think the US is not in debt?!  HA

      That’s $375,000 for every man, woman, & child in the US, or over ~$1.1 million for every tax payer!

  4. Avatar K. Beck says:

    Thanks Mr. Barr. Those who are ignorant of history are bound to repeat it.

  5. Avatar Richard Christoph says:


    In addition to dissing Ms. Merkel, he subsequently leaned forward in apparent eagerness to shake the hands of both General Sisi, President of  Egypt, and Turkish President Erdogan.

    Willful ignorance combined with unbridled arrogance ( “I know more about ISIS than the generals”) is potentially catastrophic.

  6. Avatar anon says:

    It was somewhat disconcerting – the comments from Donald and his Administration early on in the Qatar debacle.  From some of the statements, and the flip-flop of a position(s), it was obvious that at least a few may not have been aware of the LARGEST air base in the region, near Doha.  Qatar spent a billion building it in anticipation of us moving in there.  I could be a bit off, but I think there are over 10,000 people there, and a couple hundred aircraft.  My cousin was stationed there, and she said they run most of the A-stan and Iraq operations out of there.  I think that the RAF (British) also has personnel/aircraft there, maybe…

    It is a pretty big joint to have inside of a terrorism-sponsor country, and would likely be very difficult, if impossible to just pack up and relocate to another area.

  7. Avatar Common Sense says:

    To understand Why #45 Does and acts the way he does…..we have to understand his Pathology…..he is acting exactly like his Pathology dictates!…..In HIS Mind….he doesn’t lie…..In half of the American Publics mind, that have any Critical Thinking Skills….they know better…..

    Is he Ignorant of US/European History…..without a Doubt!….That is just the tip of the Iceberg!

    You can’t think you know it all….without knowing it all….and NOT be ignorant!

    The Bar has been lowered so far…..a Hollywood Action Star might be the next President!…. Got Rock?

  8. Avatar Steve Murray says:

    Nice writing Mr. Barr. Tough subject to cover well so briefly.  The depth of Trumps ignorance of world history (and really every other subject as near as I can tell) is shocking, really shocking. He is dangerous and malignant, and I am fearful of the future. There is a reason no New York banker or real estate person will have anything to do with anything called Trump. If we had a democratic president as ignorant and pathological as Trump I know I would feel the same. We are just in for some very tough times.