Populism and isolationism are on the rise around the world. A New York Times best-selling author and historian visited Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies explain the value of international alliances in 21st Century foreign policy and politics.
Sunday commemorated the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland marking the beginning of World War II. Confronting the Axis powers, 30 countries formed the Western Alliance.
“That’s ancient history to most people, 80 years is a long time for most people. Most people certainly weren’t around during World War II and so they don’t really think, many people don’t think it really applies to them or what happened afterwards. But, I think it does.”
Lynne Olson is a historian, journalist, and the author of several New York Times best-sellers.
“I think it’s important that those alliances that helped win the war, and certainly helped keep the peace after World War II, it’s important to keep them going because without them I don’t think we would have had this long period of peace and prosperity that most of the world did have, or much of the world did have after World War II. We certainly did, the United States certainly did, Britain did, the rest of Western Europe did, and that wasn’t just happenstance. It was because a lot of people worked very, very hard to work together to make sure it did happen and I think we’re losing sight of the fact that we need to keep doing that.”
With the passage of time, Olson says there’s a renewed rise in global nationalism and populism and it’s creating a vacuum within the world order.
“That’s how Hitler was able to get as far as he did because of these populist movements, not only the populist movements, but also the reluctance of people and countries to stop him. Yes, it does create a vacuum and it creates a vacuum today for countries that don’t share the same ideals or the same traditions or the same commitment to democracy that we do and that other countries do, it leaves them a big hole and they are taking advantage of it. Putin (Russian President Vladimir Putin) and Russia’s obviously the most prominent, but it creates the possibility of really, really severe difficulties.”
Patrick Center, WGVU News.