The Spanish Civil War is a terrible period in the history of armed conflicts, which is already very rich in terms of human tragedies. It is not well-remembered because World War II and its incredible string of atrocities came just after, mostly erasing the vivid memories of the Spanish War in-between 1936 and 1939.
Spain was the theater of emerging regimes in Europe in-between the two World Wars. Benito Mussolini had been in power since 1921 and his regime did not feel very threatened, but they wanted a better position in the international arena. At that time, a unified Italy under Mussolini wanted colonies and a better army. But the real threat was Nazi Germany, where Hitler really wanted to establish a "lebensraum," meaning a continental empire for the Germans. His army was being only structured; the navy was, according to his words, "Prussian," the land forces - the Wehrmacht - was "German" and his newly established and structured air forces, the Luftwaffe, was "National Socialist." He badly wanted to provoke once again the Western democracies he despised but on neutral ground. That was Spain during its civil war.
Very much like in Syria today, to fighting camps in Spain were much divided among themselves, especially on the Republican Front. The fascist insurgency of the four generals had divided the army, the police forces and the administration, but most of the armed forces chose to side with the insurgency rather than remain loyal to the elected government. Generalissimo Franco, who would lead the insurrection, ordered the assassination of his own nephew, a major in Tetouan, Morocco, because he remained loyal to the government.
Both fascist Italy and Nazi Germany chose to support Franco, the least graded of the four revolting generals. The League of Nations remained powerless and divided, and decided that no external intervention should be made. France sent some obsolete aircraft to join the Republican Air Force, while Great Britain banned weapons sales to Spain. At the same time, Italian and German planes were transporting insurgent troops from Morocco to mainland Spain. The Spanish Civil War was a great opportunity for the Luftwaffe to test its abilities and new weapons. For the first time, "open cities" like Madrid, Barcelona or Bilbao were heavily bombarded by the Luftwaffe. The famous Junker JU 87 (Stuka) was used for the first time in Spain via the Condor Legion sent in by Germany to fight the Republicans. The success of the new airplane enabled the Blitzkrieg in France, Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium, among other places.
I know that the situation in Syria in 2016 and Spain back in 1939 are not perfect analogies, but they share very striking resemblances. The very blatant similarity is the total passivity of democratic countries and the ever increasing aggressiveness and atrocities committed on the part of the totalitarian regimes.
Two totalitarian regimes, the Russian federation and Iran, are putting all their weight behind saving a totally moribund and criminal regime. The democratic countries are basically watching the crime happening. Only a very robust threat and show of force on the part of NATO could somehow stop the massacre in Syria. For the time being, it is not even wishful thinking. Tens of thousands of new refugees are at the Turkish frontier, once again. What we will do is prepare new refugee camps and receive some support from European Union countries who do not want to see these refugees on their soil. This is pathetic.I am extremely preoccupied by the fact that we, as citizens of democratic countries, will have to pay very dearly for our governments' present passivity vis-á-vis the new fascisms of the 21st century. This will not pave the way to World War III, certainly not; however, there is a global terror conflict going on, and human lives are lost not only in global wars but also in targeted, small attacks. It is time to think about really stopping the war in Syria and repelling both Russian and Iranian interventions. The human tragedy of the Middle East will not remain confined to the Middle East - that we know it now for sure, unfortunately.