A year after taking power, in June 1934, Adolf Hitler made his first visit abroad -- to his idol Benito Mussolini in Venice.
Babbling on incessantly about "Mein Kampf "and the Negroid strain in Mediterranean peoples, the Fuhrer made a dismal impression.
"What a clown this Hitler is," Mussolini told an aide.
Two weeks later, Hitler executed the Roehm purge and murdered scores of old Stormtrooper comrades. In late July, Austrian Nazis, attempting a coup, assassinated Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, a friend of Mussolini whose wife and child were then his guests.
Il Duce ordered four divisions to the Brenner Pass and flew to Vienna to vent his rage and disgust with Hitler. He called a summit at Stresa with Britain and France to agree on military action should Hitler make any new move in violation of Versailles.
At the time, however, Il Duce was also plotting revenge on Abyssinia for a bloody border clash with Italian Somaliland.
Mussolini thought his Allies would understand if he invaded the Ogaden to add an African colony to his new Roman Empire, just as the British and French had so often done in previous decades.
Mussolini miscalculated. Morally outraged, Britain and France went before the League of Nations and had sanctions imposed on Italy that were too weak to defeat her but punitive enough to insult her.
Friendless, isolated and condemned as an aggressor by Europe, Italy and Mussolini had nowhere to turn now but Hitler's Germany.
Thus, over the fate of an Abyssinian slave empire, Britain drove her faithful World War I ally into the arms of a Nazi dictator Mussolini loathed and had wished to confront beside Britain. And Abyssinia was overrun.
Are we making the same mistake in the Caucasus?
Mikheil Saakashvili started this war with his barrage attack and occupation of South Ossetia. Russia's war of retribution was far less violent or excessive than the U.S. bombing of Serbia for 78 days over Kosovo, or our unprovoked war on Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which has brought death to scores of thousands, or Israel's 35 days of bombing of Lebanon for a border skirmish with Hezbollah.
Yet, declared John McCain of Russia, "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations." Even Dick Cheney must have guffawed.
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