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Dogs of war
On the architect of victory in WWII, the downfall of the Soviet Union, and the pro-Ukraine dog meme circulating on the Internet
The name George C. Marshall most likely rings with vague familiarity to anyone who paid attention during high school history class and recalls the Marshall Plan. If science were to devise a method of time travel, someone should take a trip back to visit Marshall in person to give him a well-deserved update on 2022.
■ Marshall was the Army Chief of Staff during World War II, and was described by President Harry Truman as the "architect of victory" in that war. Marshall was an extraordinary manager in that war, juggling the skills, interests, and egos of men like Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Hap Arnold, and George Patton.
■ After the war, he became the front person for the campaign to rebuild Europe in the interest of peace. The Marshall Plan rewarded peace and reconstruction in Western Europe, which has remained domestically peaceful -- and allied with the United States -- ever since. The Marshall Plan did not extend to Eastern Europe, nor to the Soviet Union. And it's a fascinating counter-factual to wonder what might have happened if it had.
■ Today, several of the countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain are now candidates for membership in the European Union -- prominently including Ukraine, which got on the list this summer in part as a reaction to its fight to stave off the Russian invasion.
■ Marshall might scarcely believe it if a time-traveler reported not only that Ukraine had to fight with all its national will and might to repel a revanchist Russian aggression -- but that it was doing so in part with donated arms, like drones. And they're using social-media interaction to reach out to Western countries to cultivate further support.
■ They praise European and American support, show off their use of foreign weapons, and thank other former victims of Russian imperialism for sending aid. Ukraine's minister of defense has even adopted the likeness of a dog meme being used by private individuals raising money to help arm the country.
■ It's all an amazing turn of events. History isn't fixed. Events are not inevitable, though they are shaped by decisions. As Keith Joseph, one of Margaret Thatcher's closest allies, once put it: "It is up to us. History is not made by abstract forces, or classes. It is made by people. If we have the moral courage to say what we believe to be true, right and good, the people will be with us."
■ In his time, George Marshall was one of those people who spoke up to shape history. The peace he tried to shape from the ashes of World War II continues to extend its own perimeter yet today, unevenly and imperfectly, but driven by people who today understand that they, like Marshall, may be shaping the next 70 or 80 years to come.