Sunday, June 15, 2008

L.A. right on the money

There is an excellent thread about Buchanan's "unnecessary war" nonsense, about which I'm not sure I can speak without saying something flaming, at VFR here.

I've run into the "unnecessary war" thesis before, from (where else?) the paleo right. I first got an inkling of how far it might go from the highly uncomfortable discussion of WWII in Thomas Woods's otherwise very good libertarian-flavored Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. He more or less asks the question asked of Auster in the thread, "Just how many Jews did World War II save anyway?" Not in so many words, but by implication. Woods says something to the effect that, hey, most of the Jews of Europe were dead anyway by the time the allies liberated it so...(So what?)

And I've seen the whole spiel in other paleo contexts and in personal conversations. It makes me angry. It also, obviously, makes Auster angry, and he's better than I am at answering it, instead of just (as I'm tempted to do) spluttering in horrified fury and wanting to blast or ban somebody for even toying with the idea that we all should have appeased Hitler more, that what Hitler did was none of our business, and so forth.

But let's not kid ourselves. Of course this all has a contemporary edge to it, doesn't it? One of the best things Auster says in that thread is that we should not talk about Hitler as if he was rational. Yes. Precisely. But isn't this what one runs into the twisty-dovish paleo right with regard to our enemies now? And Israel's enemies, too. The "Palestinians" are to be thought of as rational, rather than (as every bit of evidence coming out of their mouths, official pronouncements, published maps, and TV programing indicates) insanely committed to the destruction of Israel. The Iranians, of course, are to be thought of as rational. Even Osama bin Laden is grist to their mill. (The leftists are in on that one, too.) Why, didn't you know? Saudi Arabia is holy ground to Osama, who is from a Saudi family, and America had (gasp!) troops stationed there. Why, if we would only understand ol' Osama, we could deal with him. He has his goals, and they are at least somewhat understandable. And so forth. So we get to the R.P. theory of 9/11--It was the fault of American foreign policy.

The paleos sometimes get angry when the neocons make 1939 analogies about the rantings of the man Auster calls "Johnnie," old "Israel must disappear," of Iran. Yet they themselves positively invite such comparisons by showing the rest of us that they are prepared to regard anyone, however evil, however committed to genocide and destruction, as merely another rational actor on the foreign policy scene, and to be negotiated with (aka appeased) as such. When they hail a revisionist history that says what a great thing it would have been if the West had treated even Hitler himself in this manner, why should they complain when we connect the dots?

It all makes me ill. I'll have none of it, and nothing to do with it. But I applaud Auster's and his readers' dissection of it.


Thomas Woods said...

Presumably you do not consider George Kennan beyond the pale, but he also believes Britain's phony war guarantee to Poland accomplished less than nothing, and that it would have been better for the West to have drawn a realistic line that it could actually have defended.

That people actually consider the asking of forbidden questions about World War II to show callousness toward Jewish suffering reveals just how lazy our official version of history has rendered our thinking. Buchanan's argument is that as a result of Britain's cynical and strategically disastrous war guarantee, which she had absolutely no ability to carry through on, "by June 1941 Hitler held hostage most of the Jews of Western Europe and the Balkans.” The Jewish populations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Greene, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, and Yugoslavia might otherwise have survived, just as the Jewish populations of Sweden, Switzerland, and the Iberian Peninsula survived.

David Gordon, a (Jewish) scholar Buchanan thanks in his acknowledgments, has likewise wondered, "Was it not a clear moral imperative to avoid the outbreak of war and, if possible, to secure the evacuation of the Jews from parts of Europe likely to fall under German control? Further, once war broke out, was it not imperative to end the war as soon as possible?"

These are morally serious positions, and it is an outrage that so-called paleos would leap to the defense of the Official Version of history, whereby 50 million deaths and the slaughter of 6 million Jews was the best possible outcome. It's hateful to think of ways more lives might have been saved? It's not fun observing the shrillness of p.c., its forbidden questions and its Official Version of How Things Had to Turn Out, taking over the paleo Right.

Lydia McGrew said...

I do not understand why the opening up of Jewish immigration is treated as an _alternative_ to drawing a line against the continuing conquest of Europe by a genocidal madman. There is no reason that I can see--perhaps I'm just missing something--why it could not have been both/and.

And there _is_ a "it's none of our business" attitude in this whole approach to things. I'm not going to ignore it. The idea that "more Jews could have been saved by not declaring war on Germany" is, I can't help feeling, a sop being thrown to people like myself rather than the real central motivation. The real central motivation, in my best judgement (this from personal conversations as well as some reading) is a kind of overriding anti-interventionism that has become an ideology. Indeed, I have had it said to me that it was none of England's business what Hitler did so long as he didn't invade England. That's not only stupidly shortsighted from the perspective of England's later safety but also, yes, rather horrifyingly callous.

And nobody is suppressing your views, Mr. Woods. You're the author of, inter alia, a popular-level book that has much good to be said for it, and parts of which I have used with pleasure in my home schooling work. I don't want to push on this too much, but there is something a little odd about the whole "persecution complex" feeling one gets from people who take such bizarre positions as Buchanan's--on a number of topics. "Why is it not allowed even to _criticize_ x, or to _ask questions_ about y?" when a) there's a lot more going on than just criticizing or asking questions, when there's in fact a whole thesis that is seriously wrong involved, and b) nobody is stopping the person from criticizing or asking questions.

Fisher Ames said...

Dear Lydia: There is so much wrong with your comments from a conservative perspective that it is almost impossible to know where to begin responding.

First, on the war itself, you should read Thomas Fleming’s book The New Dealers War: The War Within World War 2. It details the outrages committed by FDR and his administration.

Generally, most if not all traditional conservatives have viewed World War 2 as a disaster that should have been avoided. Certainly there was an internal opposition to Hitler, and there were many attempts to remove Hitler from power, most of them being attempts to kill Hitler. You should be able to find a book just on those attempts. Beyond that, if the Western powers, namely England and France, had assured the anti-Hitler forces of cooperation, they may have well gotten rid of Hitler either before or during the war.

Beyond the approach to not avoiding the war, on favorable terms to the West, there is the issue of how the war was conducted. Conservatives such as Henry Regnery and Russell Kirk were appalled at how the war was conducted, especially the wanton destruction in Europe by the Allies including the destruction of places such as Nuremberg, about which Russell Kirk wrote an essay. Kirk even went so far as to suggest that there should be a Congressional investigation of what he considered crimes against our common civilization, by which he meant the destruction of Germany in particular. You can also check out George Nash’s book on the conservative intellectual movement on this issue, but there should be other books on this as well, some of them published by Regnery.

Finally I will note that while Hitler was not a rational person, that doesn’t mean certain actions could be undertaken in order to affect his actions. If we assume, as is obvious, that Hitler was a very mentally disordered person, it is still true that even individuals suffering from extremely dysfunctional mental illness can be bargained with or in some way responded to in an effort to affect their actions.

As a more general antidote to Neocon militarism, you should read Robert Nisbet’s The Present Age (published in 1988). The late Robert Nisbet is an impeccable source of conservative wisdom, much more trust worthy than Auster, who was a fanatical supporter of the Iraq war, until it began to go south.

fisher ames said...


It seems to be a fairly well-kept secret, especially from the self-insulated intelligentsia, but some of the most cogent 20th century critics of political chicanery, martial foolishness and cultural excess have been traditional ( as opposed to "neo" ) conservatives like T.S. Eliot, Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk, whose work is both considered in its reflective power and fiercely independent of what many assume (falsely) are virtual cognate "identifiers" (conservatism = big business + GOP ). The late and widely esteemed social theorist Robert Nisbet (1915-96) was a member of a small but august group, writing many well-received books: one of his last, "THE PRESENT AGE" (1988) is particularly apposite, offering as it does a critique of (in the words of his subtitle) "progress and anarchy in modern America".

Nisbet's analysis begins with that period of America's history that amounted to a sea change in governmental policy: President Woodrow Wilson's administration and America's entry into the hostilities of The Great War ( WW I ). As Nisbet writes in the first chapter:

"...the [ American ] people participated widely in a revolutionary upsurge of patriotism and of consecration to the improvement of the world in the very process of making `the world safe for democracy', as the moralistic President Wilson put it ..."

In the same chapter Nisbet makes a number of provocative comments on what he terms "the prevalence of war":

"...War is a tried and true specific when a people's moral values become stale and flat. It can be a productive crucible for the remaking of key moral meanings and the strengthening of the sinews of society ..."

"...All wars of any appreciable length have a secularizing effect upon engaged societies, a diminution of the authority of old religious and moral values and a parallel elevation of new utilitarian, hedonistic, or pragmatic values. Wars, to be successfully fought, demand a reduction in the taboos regarding life, dignity, property, family, and religion ... there must be nothing of merely moral nature left standing between the fighting forces and victory; not even, or especially, taboos on sexual encounters ... military, or at least war-born, relationships among individuals tend to supercede relationships of family, parish, and ordinary walks of life. Ideas of chastity, modesty, decorum, respectability change quickly in wartime ..."

" sum, in culture, as in politics, economics, social behavior, and the psychological recesses of America, the Great War was the occasion of the birth of modernity in the United States ..."

Nisbet goes on to describe ( and excoriate ) what he calls "The Great Myth" of American exceptionalism: the "Can Do", `Know How" and "No Fault" canards which accompanied such follies as Korea, Vietnam and (one can safely add ), Iraq. Consider the following:

"...The single most powerful cause of the present size and the worldwide deployment of the military establishment is the moralization of foreign policy and military ventures that has been deeply ingrained, especially in the minds of presidents, for a long time ... the staying power of the Puritan image of America as a `city on a hill' was considerable throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. American the Redeemer Nation was very much a presence in the minds of a great many Americans. American `exceptionalism' began in the conviction that God had created one truly free and democratic nation on earth and that it was to the best interests of all other nations to study America and learn from her ..."

What may surprise those on the Left with slight knowledge of history (a deficiency certainly endemic in modern America ) is how these debacles were set into motion as a direct consequence of policies carried out by "progressives", figures that are commonly claimed as part of the left-liberal heritage. Nisbet comments:

" .. thus the birth of 20th century moralism in foreign policy and war. From Wilson's day to ours the embedded purpose- sometimes articulated in words, more often not- of American foreign policy, under Democrats and Republicans alike oftentimes, has boiled down to America-on-a-permanent-Mission: a mission to make the rest of the world a little more like America the Beautiful. Plant a little `democracy' here and tomorrow a little `liberalism' there, not hesitating once in a while to add a pinch of American-style social democracy ..."

As Nisbet demonstrates, the *Great Myth* is a form of collective delirium, goading us in both our personal lives and our roles as citizens, to fall prey to hubristic delusions of grandeur, all the while overlooking the ugly and all too real elements of pride and conceit of which this myth is almost wholly comprised. Whether through the uniformly heretical forms of Christian belief ( "Religious Right" ), the nihilistic forms of self-deification and narcissism ( "Revolutionary Left" ) or the cynical strategies employed by amoral Machiavellians manipulating *all* groups, one theme holds as predominant: a sense of self-righteousness allied to political power is a very certain recipe for calamity. No, we are certainly not free from the "present age" Nisbet has so cogently ( if lamentably ) analyzed.

zippy said...

The idea that "more Jews could have been saved by not declaring war on Germany" is, I can't help feeling, a sop being thrown to people like myself rather than the real central motivation.

That is one of the things that simply shuts down my interest in listening further -- and I'm sure I miss a great deal of interest by not listening. But when someone says 'more abortions can be prevented by electing Obama' or 'more Jews could have been saved by appeasing Hitler', I just immediately lose interest in anything else the person has to say. It isn't as though it makes for a good argument even if I suspend reason and grant the point.

Maximos said...

I can certainly understand the umbrage taken at the suggestion that more Jews could have been saved by negotiating with Hitler, though, to my mind, no argument for intervention is ever so straightforward. The following proposition, for example, is hardly self-evident: In 1939 (the date is relevant inasmuch as there existed no concentration camps in 1939), it would have been licit for American authorities to plan a war of liberation, as a contingency to be activated when circumstances changed, in which Americans would be forcibly conscripted and sent to war, their lives in mortal peril, their families and communities horribly disrupted at best, in order to liberate people on another continent. In other words, it isn't at all obvious to the light of natural reason that it is legitimate for a government to compel its citizens to engage in such wars of supererogation, at the risk of their own families and communities. This question, moreover, has nothing whatsoever to do with libertarian fantasies of self-ownership; it concerns the question of whether a government can destroy its own natural communities in order to liberate other natural communities in some other nation. A volunteer army does not raise this dilemma, presumably, though many Iraq war veterans would beg to differ. And this is to lay to one side the prudential questions concerning the effects of war upon the body politic and the aggrandizement of the government, among others.

However, what fascinates me is the antipathy to anti-interventionism per se. Given the lurid excesses of the interventionists in recent decades, let alone over the course of the past eight years, the appeal of anti-interventionism is still mystifying?

Lydia McGrew said...

Maximos, I have no antipathy to anti-interventionism. You should hear me get going sometimes in private about our troops stationed everywhere and so forth. To my mind a lot could be improved if, goldarn it, we'd go back to _declaring war_ instead of waging war without declaring it. Then also, closing war. Saying, "That war has ended." And as I never tired of pointing out, I said that the Iraq war was a bad idea and not justified when all the paleocon or paleo-crunchy-sympathetic friends I know in person (I can think of three right off the top of my head) were in favor of it, which is almost enough to make one laugh. I nearly won the Lew Rockwell medal of honor for a post on the old Right Reason, now no longer available. :-)

My antipathy is to what seems to me a doctrinaire and even almost hysterical anti-interventionism on the paleo right that will embrace almost any sort of appeasement policy and attribute rational motives to the craziest of people in order to justify negotiating with them, even carrying this the length of doing it in hindsight re. past historical wars. The rule appears to be that we must never countenance a war in any case _other than_ a case where someone is actually beating down our own doors and attacking us directly with arms, perhaps even threatening our very existence.

It is a great irony that so many who take this attitude are, to put it mildly, not very happy with Israel, when in the modern world Israel is one of the only militarily powerful nations that makes much of an effort to follow this rather restrictive prescription for waging war, even going to the extent of _not_ responding to many direct military attacks on border cities that make those cities nearly unlivable.

I also get very creeped out by what seems to me the way that this extreme anti-interventionist attitude creates antipathy to Israel. What's especially bizarre about it is that so many of our (America's) "imperialist" expansions have been *totally unrelated* to Israel. Yet I cannot help hypothesizing extreme anti-interventionism and the strange perception (however come by) that somehow America's imperial over-extension is the _fault_ of our relationship with Israel as a cause for many paleo attitudes to Israel. Indeed, I hypothesize this as somewhat of an alternative to Lawrence Auster's less pleasant hypothesis, which you can see in his thread, and I regard it as a movement of charity on my part to make the hypothesis.

Zippy, I appreciate your comment given how patient you are with wrong-headed commentators. It makes me feel slightly better that someone as patient as you gets that feeling of, "Why should anyone bother with some nut who thinks X?"

More later, folks, in partial response to what I perceive as the misdirections from Mr. Ames.

Lydia McGrew said...

For the record, the statement that there were no concentration camps in 1939 is flat-out false. Please see the timeline here:

(This is the Yad Vashem timeline, with clickable events. I have put it into Tiny URL form so it will fit in the combox.)

Look, for example, at March 22, 1933, September 13, 1937, and June 15, 1938. And of course if you move on to 1939 you will see the establishment of the first Jewish ghetto in Poland. By April 30, 1940, we find the sealing of the Lodz ghetto.

In any event, my understanding of the Buchananite thesis is that supposedly _England_ should not have declared war on Germany, which is hardly a matter of a "war of liberation" out of sheer charity to help people on the other side of the world. As I have said, it would have been inter alia incredibly stupid in terms of England's own self-interest for England to think that all would be well if only they didn't "rock the boat" with Herr Hitler.

Lydia McGrew said...

Mr. Ames throws out a number of big issues, from the allies' conduct of the war to the possible assassination of Hitler to the question of whether it is hubristic to speak of America as a city on a hill.

I haven't time to speak to all of these, nor is it necessary, for they are all misdirections. The matter in question, as I understand it, is whether England should have declared war when it did or *continued to try to avoid war after that point*. Obviously, if Hitler had been assassinated sooner than that, much evil could have been avoided. (Does this mean that the Buchananites now approve of the targeted killings of Hamas leaders, too, now that assassination is being approved of by them as a peaceful tactic in the attempt to avoid war and civilian casualties?) I don't imagine that the most hawkish neocon would be crying had Hitler been assassinated in 1938. But he wasn't. So then what?

Or consider again the argument that more Jews should have been accepted in other parts of the world to save them. Well and good. But this should in any event have taken place well before 1939 and is not incompatible with England's finally saying "enough" to Hitler in 1939. Besides, again, this is obviously to my mind just a sop to Buchanan's critics. Does this mean that the Buchananites, knowing their probable opinions of Zionism, would be happy in hindsight had Britain allowed huge numbers of Jews to pour into British-controlled Palestine in the 1930's to escape Hitler? _I_ think that could have been a very good idea, but I hardly think Buchanan would.

In other words, none of this has anything to do with the central controversial point. More Jewish immigration, cooperation with anti-Hitler movements, and so forth are all being brought up as alternatives to war, which is not either a logical nor a historical necessity (that is, all of these ways of resisting Nazism could and should have been tried), in an attempt to stave off the question of what England should have done about the Nazi takeover of Europe and the inevitable following systematic slaughter of the Jews. But let's be real: In the end, the Buchananite is not going to say, "Oh. So if that didn't work or wouldn't have worked, _then_ it would have been okay for England to go to war." No. The "England must have avoided war" thesis is, I believe, a non-negotiable from that camp.

And _how_ war was carried out is so obviously a separte point from _whether_ the war was necessary that I should hardly need to say so.

Maximos said...

The rule appears to be that we must never countenance a war in any case _other than_ a case where someone is actually beating down our own doors and attacking us directly with arms, perhaps even threatening our very existence.

Well, yes. This should be the prima facie default for the declaration of war. Another country's having a lousy government, or Big, Scary Weapons, is not a sufficient causus belli. Neither, for that matter, is threatening rhetoric; action must be a response to some concrete action, as opposed to ambiguous threats, articulated primarily for consumption in the speaker's domestic audience, to the effect that some nation will be wiped from the map. Even massive suffering, of itself, does not suffice to legitimate intervention; as I've argued, the moral and prudential cases for such wars of supererogation simply are not the slam dunk so many assume them to be. If the unpleasantness in Darfur is ongoing twenty years hence, will it be legitimate for the government to draft my sons to send them to bleed and die over there? Perhaps there is an argument, but it is barely even obscure, let alone patently clear. It would be interesting, therefore, to analyze what circumstances, other than those of a grave and imminent threat, can justify a declaration of war, without implicitly sanctifying preemption.

I really don't feel like rehashing the Israel debate, save to state that too much of the American foreign policy establishment assumes that Likud policies, or de facto Likud policies, are in the interests of both Israel and the United States, when this is far from evident, even in Israel. I believe that this accounts for much of the paleo prickliness on the question, as it is not obvious that such policies are in our interests. For that matter, much of the frustration over the question centers on the status of the West Bank, about which I will be forthright: unless population transfer, aka. ethnic cleansing is openly contemplated, the Israeli policy of expanding settlements and confiscating Palestinian land in order to secure those settlements is counterproductive, to say the minimum. It does nothing to 'lower the regional temperature', and much to exacerbate the conflict. It is only tenable in the case that transfer is the endgame. But it will not happen. And were it to happen, it would be immeasurably destabilizing, which is one of the reasons it will not happen.

There is also the question of proportionality in conflict; for while Israel's actions have often been proportionate, they have not always been proportionate, and the wanton devastation of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, an act of collective punishment, was one such instance. There's nothing unique to the paleo condemnation of this war; paleo critics of the Lebanon war voiced similar criticisms of the bombardment of Serbia in 1999. It is the principle of the matter.

I don't imagine that anything I could write will change the perceptions of some that paleos are sketchy on the Jewish question; all I am capable of suggesting - and this comes from someone raised paleo, by a Christian-Zionist father - is that most paleo perspectives are informed by moral and prudential judgments concerning policies and interests.

For the record, were I a healthy young man cognizant of the wartime atrocities of the Nazi regime, I would likely volunteer; but that is hardly the same circumstance as a compulsory war of supererogation, on the part of Americans generally. Moreover, as regards the timeline - fine, I'll take that as given. I'm still unclear on the degree of cognizance that could be claimed in America in 1939, or 1941, for that matter, not to mention the obligations possibly contingent upon such knowledge.

steve burton said...

Lydia, I'm curious what you think/how feel about the attitudes toward WWII of a couple of English catholics who lived through it: Evelyn Waugh and J.R.R. Tolkien.

In Waugh's *Sword of Honor* trilogy, the hapless, frankly reactionary hero, Guy Crouchback, almost welcomes the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, as a moment of moral clarity:

"News that shook the politicians and young poets of a dozen capital cities brought deep peace to one English, splendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms. Whatever the outcome there was a place for him in that battle."

But in no time at all, he finds himself thoroughly disillusioned - fighting on the same side as Stalin. Fighting for one head of the hydra against the other. And he finds himself asking "why go to war at all? If all we want is prosperity, the hardest bargain Hitler made would be preferable to victory. If we are concerned with justice the Russians are as guilty as the Germans."

I think that's a hard question to answer.

And Tolkien's take on the war is even more depressing:

"If [WWII] had inspired or directed the development of [the War of the Ring], then certainly the Ring [the bomb?] would have been seized and used against Sauron [the axis?]; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dur would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman [the Soviet Union?], failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth [The U.S.?]. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves" [emphasis added].

Lydia McGrew said...

"I really don't feel like rehashing the Israel debate, save to state that too much of the American foreign policy establishment assumes that Likud policies, or de facto Likud policies, are in the interests of both Israel and the United States, when this is far from evident, even in Israel."

Lordy, what a canard. Right. Israel's policies and those we have encouraged have been hawkish Likudnik matters of confiscation and subjugation. Right. My G-d, do you even know what policies Israel and we have pursued? No, never mind, don't answer that. I seem to recall a positively devastating Auster response to this never-endingly-repeated thing about "Likud policies." If I have time, which I may not, I'll find it.

Actually, Steve, Tolkien was not only not much of a moral or political theorist, I'm not sure he was even consistent. I seem to recall a different letter (I have those nearly all memorized, including the one you quote) in which he implies that the Allies' cause was just, regardless of whatever injustices they may have committed in carrying it out.

Or perhaps this is not inconsistency, and the bit you quote merely reflects his generally gloomy nature and hatred of the modern world rather than some sort of explicit theory to the effect that neither side was better than the other and that (inter alia) England should have continued to negotiate with Hitler until he had taken over all of Europe. I suppose it's possible Tolkien thought this, but he certainly never said so, and I would be a bit surprised if he did think it.

Again, let's keep our eye on the ball--the extreme nature of the Buchananite thesis.

Maximos said...

Lordy, what a canard.

Oh, bother. It's shorthand - for a constellation of policies aimed at perpetuating the occupation of the West Bank, expanding the settlements, giving Palestinians no control over water resources, & etc. American policymakers assume that such policies are in our interests, as well as those of Israel; in point of fact, Israeli public discourse on the subject is both more robust and more diverse than the corresponding American discourse.

Among other things, even as the Bush administration was advocating the creation of a Palestinian state, and publicly expressing opposition to settlement expansion, an arrangement was reached with the Israeli administration under which precisely that expansion would continue. I'm aware of the policies that have been pursued, though some things undoubtedly have escaped my notice.

Do you mean to suggest that no Palestinian land has been confiscated, or that, if it has, that those affected have all been terrorists?

fisher ames said...

Misdirection’s? Wow.

Lets try some more points then. There is a scholar named Martin Van Creveld who teaches at Hebrew University (that is in Israel, Miss Lydia). Two of his most books are The Decline of the State and the Transformation of War. In short, what Mr. Van Creveld is teaching us is that the power of the state is in decline and that is related to the transformation of war, into what some term in the jargon of the day, “fourth generation” warfare. The point is that non-state actors, such as terrorists, have the power to attack states and states don’t have many options to respond. You see, the terrorists can hide among the civilian population, and even if Miss Lydia would approve of a state attacking even large numbers of those civilians to get at the terrorists, it is easy to replace the lost terrorists, not only because of the response of the civilians to the unjust attack on them, but because the training and investment in each terrorist is low.

You see, as John Lukacs has been pointing out for decades, the “modern age” is passing, and we are moving away from the European system of nation states, and the limitation of warfare to state actors and the attempts to limit the “fall out” of war to combatants instead of civilians.

In fact, Lukacs makes the point that the nation state system began to fail with the “conquest” of Spain by Napoleon, which resulted in guerilla warfare in spite of the defeat of the Spanish state and regular military. This is one of the reasons that we just can’t declare a war “over”, especially as the folk we are fighting might not agree with us that hostilities have come to a conclusion.

So there is no simple solution to Israel’s problem, a problem that is fast becoming one faced by most European states and the USA too, due to open immigration. Samuel Huntington made this point in his Clash of Civilizations, that the USA faces the prospect of being a “fractured state” due to diversity.

Now, Larry Auster has recommended that all Palestinian Arabs be expelled from Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Perhaps that would work, but I don’t view Auster’s position as less of a modest proposal than some of the “paleo” positions that you find so objectionable.

BTW, there really is no “party line” among so-called paleos and you seem to confuse libertarians with paleos and they are not the same thing. Some former paleos have become Catholic fanatics and/or Southerners first, which wasn’t what paleoconism started out as (Sam Francis for example was against the Southernism movement). I am, for example, a Yankee Unionist, whose ancestors fought and died in the Civil War (as well as the American War for Independence and World War 2).

Also, I wasn’t limiting my point about opposition to Hitler to include only attempts to kill him. It is a historical fact that there were people in Germany who wanted to overthrow Hitler, both before and during the war. They attempted to gain assistance and assurances from the West, but were rejected, eventually in favor of “unconditional surrender” and the Morgenthau Plan. These are historical facts, not hypotheticals intended to prove a point about the folly of current Neocon-Neoliberal establishment policies that have created the chaos in Iraq and threaten a wider war of disastrous consequences with Iran. As historical facts they are much more troubling than some “what if” book.

Another heads up: Auster wants to bomb Iran. So, if you don’t agree with the proposed war with Iran, I’d make that clear if I were you.

Yaacov said...

Hi Folks -

Altho I'm an Israeli myself, I'm not going to address the Israeli-related part of this thread. Rather, I'd like to comment as a historian of Nazism.

I haven't read Buchanan's book, and probably won't. life is too short to be wasted on such things. It has however been an eye opener to see the extent to which apparently serious people are willing to wrote off the war against Nazism in the name of what I can only assume must be some present-day political agenda. What has been especially interesting is to note that apparently none of the people in the discussion, here or over at View From The Right, have read the Nazi literature or documentation, certainly not in the German. Which is too bad, because the image of the Nazis that arises from the discussion is not particularly accurate.

Among the many things it misses are the fact that there was an elaborate and full-blown Weltanschauung of antisemitism hatred of anything democratic, fascination and adulation of violence, and deep greivances over the victimization of the Germans, and all this was solidly in place long before the first WW. Hitler grew into it, he didn't invent any of it. The Versailles agreement of 1919 was admitedly aggravating for the Germans, but for the Volkist-Nationalist-proto-Nazi parts of German society - and that's a sizable chunk - the defeat in 1918 was far worse. 1919 was like adding a kick to a corpse.

The talk about how Jews could have been saved other than by war is peculiar. The simple way would have been to throw open the gates of immigration, which, to put it mildly, was the opposite of what happened. But even then, how many Jews would have emigrated? Hundreds of thousands? A million? Two? The others, like everyone else, was hiding from themselves the full extent of the danger, if it was knowable. Sure, the Nazis were rabid antisemites and said they would destroy the Jews: but the millions of Jews in the USSR didn't realize this was relevant to them as they didn't know Nazi Germany would ever reach them. The same goes for the Jews of all the countries which weren't Germany (and, by the way, only fewer than 3% of the six million murdred Jews were in Germany).

I could go on for another few hundred pages, but I think you get the idea. Explaining Nazi Germany and its actions thru the prism of American (or even British) actions is hardly helpful. The Germans were big enough to decide for themsleves how bad they wanted to be.

Lydia McGrew said...

Yaacov, that is very helpful. Thanks very much for the input. I think your comments are particularly relevant to the claim by Mencius at VFR that Hitler faced all of these "constraints" on his actions, as well as the implication that it wd. have been possible somehow for other countries to use these "constraints" to stop him without war.

Mr. Ames, again, talk about the difficulties of carrying on war in a world full of terrorist groups really tells us nothing about the original points of the post.

fisher ames said...

Miss Lydia: I was in fact responding to one of your own insightful comments (about how we should just declare wars “over”) when I noted the difficulty faced by nation-states in the current post-modern era of the declining power of the state and the difficulty in dealing with “non-state actors”, not just “terrorists.” Your non-response to point after point is nonetheless instructive.

I rather take the original point was your emotional response to Larry Auster’s post claiming that everyone to his right is a Hitler apologist and is pro-Islam. None of Auster’s characterizations on this issue have any factual validity and are in fact typical of Auster’s ego centric “worldview.” One can find plenty of anti-Islamic writing in back issues of Chronicles and plenty of articles advocating on behalf of Islamic movements in Europe (e.g., Kosovo and Chechnya) in the pages of Commentary and the Weekly Standard.

The post by the Jewish Israeli is so divorced from facts that anyone who can read can realize the fraudulent nature of his comments. John Lukacs, a leading historian of that period and a person whose own dislike for Germans takes a back seat to very few (and who famously attacked Buchanan’s book in the American Conservative), asserts that Hitler was unlike any of his predecessors (and that we won’t see his like again). Lukacs makes perfect sense here, as the evidence is that before the Hitler regime, German Jews were more integrated than Jews in any other major European society. In fact, a majority of European Jews sided with the Central Powers in World War One, in large part because they saw Germany and Austria as more friendly to Jews than the Allies (and this explains the attempt by the British to appeal to Jews with the promise of a Jewish state after the war). And if Hitler was so popular, why did 56% of the German electorate vote for someone other than Hitler in 1933?

But keeping our eye on the ball, the issue is the “extreme” Buchanan thesis. Not of course, the extreme nature of Auster’s call for the transfer of all Palestinian Arabs out of Israel and the West Bank. Note that includes Christian Arabs as well as Muslim ones, a very strange position for a Christian to take, but I guess it doesn’t qualify as “extreme.” Then again, the disaster that the Iraq war has been for the Christian community of Iraq hasn’t been much of an issue for the “anti-extremists” either, so at least those opposed to “extremism” are consistent.

Lydia McGrew said...

Auster never said that everybody to his right is a Hitler sympathizer. I was "emotionally" praising his excellent comments *on Buchanan's book and thesis*, and as for Islam apologists, Auster's comments concerning Buchanan there concern Buchanan, not some unspecified writers in back issues of Chronicles. But Mr. Ames cannot keep to the point to save his life.

I would back Yaacov Lozowick's knowledge of the Nazis, the history of WWII, the Holocaust, etc., against yours, Mr. Ames (even to say that is nearly a joke) and also against Lukacs's. Perhaps you should find out who the Jewish Israeli is about whom you are speaking. Indeed, Yaacov's post shows, to my mind, the admirable restraint of the professional historian who has pored over large amounts of original source documentation on a subject in question when speaking to a bunch of relatively ignorant amateurs, among which I include myself and certainly, Mr. Ames, you.

Lydia McGrew said...

Maximos, I am not prepared to make so grand a pronouncement as that no Arabs' land has ever been confiscated in all of modern Israel. Undoubtedly at some time even some Jewish Israeli's land has in some sense of the term been confiscated there, and Israeli Jews have certainly been driven from their homes en masse by their own government in the past years, to everyone's detriment. So it's plausible that some Arabs' land has been confiscated at some time in a sense that I would recognize and even, perhaps, in a sense that I would deplore.

But I adamantly deny the implication that whenever there is building in what the media is pleased to call "settlements" or "the West Bank" (which can mean Jewish neighborhoods within the city limits of Jerusalem proper!) there exists some real, specific, Arab whose land has been confiscated for the building of such houses or apartment buildings. The implication that all the (Jewish) "building in settlements" about which the media and Condi Rice scream involves by definition "Palestinian land confiscation" requires either major factual error or ethical confusion and probably some of both.

As it happens, Jews try to buy land from Arabs with suitcases full of money, and sometimes they succeed. But they have trouble getting the resultant land rights recognized, in part because it is a capital offense, according to the Arab pseudo-government in the "West Bank," for Arabs to sell land to Jews, so the Arabs sometimes get murdered by their loving brothers and sometimes, when they haven't yet been murdered, deny that they sold land to Jews. That's worth pondering. See here

and here

So it is so far from true that "Palestinian" lands are being systematically and on-goingly confiscated in Israel that, in fact, even when Israelis pay big bucks for "Palestinian" land they don't get to keep it.

Finally, the supposed agreement you refer to so negatively by President Bush for the continued existence of a few Jewish suburbs and neighborhoods east of the All-Hallowed Green Line was, to my mind, not a bad thing at all but rather a small gleam of common sense and justice in the otherwise insane idea of a two-state settlement, which in any event the "Palestinians" don't want. (They want Israel destroyed.) What is shameful is that the Bush administration did not stick to it. Rather, Condi Rice acted like there was no such understanding and has continued to rampage against all Jewish building in East Jerusalem, obviously envisaging a final agreement in which all present Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are rendered Judenrein and not wanting, God forbid, to prejudice things against any such arrangement by allowing some apartment buildings to be constructed in those neighborhoods for natural growth so that the Jews even in *their own capital* can get on with their lives. Her arrogance and her opinions and actions in relation to Israel are risible and worse, and my opinion on how Israel should have responded to her all along is well expressed by this post, here

and by my own here

William Luse said...

Is the thesis that a racist, genocidal maniac could have been stopped from destroying what was left of Christian Europe if we had simply been better diplomats? Or that we had no moral justification in Christian just war tradition for going to the aid of beseiged allies? I'm sorry to see Jeff Martin referring to the English, et al. as "people on another continent", or as just
another "natural community," as though our own community were not born from longstanding ties of great cultural and religious depth with those very nations. As though we owed them nothing.

Lydia McGrew said...

Here's one (it seems to me) particularly pointed application of what Bill says: I have spoken with a paleo that I know in person who basically says that if Hitler & Co. had taken over the entire Eastern hemisphere we should just have hunkered down in Fortress America and ignored it, because it wasn't our business.

But I think we can all be quite sure that all concourse would not in that case have ceased between the two hemispheres. We would willy nilly have had to do more than just "stay out of it" entirely and forever. We would have had to _accept_ the Nazi and Axis rule over those other countries, because we would _of course_ have been engaged in trade and diplomacy with the new rulers of Britain et. al., treating them as legitimate governments and all of this as the "new normal." We wouldn't really have hunkered down in Fortress America and shunned Hitlerite half-the-world. And I say that we would inevitably then have been corrupted, insofar as we were not already corrupted, by our inevitable psychological as well as de facto foreign policy acceptance of a Fascist-ruled Eastern hemisphere. Would not the Jews in the United States have had something to fear from this situation? I say, yes, they most certainly would.

Maximos said...

Bill, that wasn't my argument. My argument was that, owing to the concentric rings of diminishing obligation, with family at the center, our common cultural heritage with the English, and with Europe generally, for that matter, doesn't do all the work in getting us to the proposition, "these American boys here must be uprooted from family and community, many never to return, in order to accomplish X, Y, and Z." I'm not positing the nonexistence of such an argument or feature of the circumstances, merely that, whatever it is, it must outweigh those ordinarily stronger domestic obligations.

Lydia, I don't believe that this is an ethical question, at least not in the sense suggested. In any event, I might respond, some other time, elsewhere, as I have both leisure and inclination.