Column: What is it about August?

CareyColumnOn the first day of this month in 1914, Germany declared war on Russia, which had sided with Serbia after the assassination by a Serb on June 28 of the heir-presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. On the third of August, Germany declared war on France. Eventually 32 nations were involved in World War I. We had heard that German naval officers would drink toasts to “Der Tag,” referring to the day when they would take on the British fleet.

My stepfather, who married my mother after the death of my father, went straight from high school into the British Army in 1914 and served four years in the trenches. He was horrified to have to conclude during the 1930s that we were probably going to have to fight Germany all over again so soon after the “War to End All Wars,” as World War I was sometimes hopefully called.

And so it turned out, beginning in the month of August 1939. On the 23rd of the month, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed with the parties agreeing not to fight each other and Stalin being given a free hand in much of Eastern Europe. On the first day of September, the German Army marched into Poland. On the 17th, the Red Army also entered Poland, which, by the 20th was mostly under foreign control.

I remember hearing on the radio how Britain and France gave Hitler an ultimatum to leave Poland by a certain time or face war with them. That let Hitler decide when those two countries would fight, not generally a good idea. When the time was up, World War II was on in earnest, though full-scale fighting did not begin until Germany swept through the Low Countries into France in May 1940. Then began five long years of enemy occupation.

We need to ask ourselves what dangers the present month of August in the year 2013 might hold for us in America. Apart from attacks directly against our shores or cities, with what are we threatened? Could we be dragged into widespread conflict comparable to either of the World Wars? At a vast cost in lives and treasure we have fought limited wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And we are flirting with involvement in the struggle for Syria. Fortunately, our involvement in Egypt has, so far, been limited to money, although very large amounts of it.

Would we be likely to take active sides in any war between Israel and her enemies? This question is not likely to be presented to us any time soon because of the disparity in firepower between the two sides. Israel can take care of itself without American boots on the ground.

This August has seen unspeakable atrocities in Egypt. But as long as the Suez Canal remains open, we have no reason to become involved, no matter how shocked we may be by the sights and sounds coming from there.