February 9, 2006

More phony intellectualizing from Belmont Club

This Belmont Club guy is smart, but not as smart as he thinks he is. He doesn't test his ideas enough before he publishes them. He takes a few facts and weaves them into a complicated theory, but he falls in love with his beautiful contraptions and doesn't ask basic questions about them before he publishes them.

For example, "Wretchard" claims to be reading William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill's life from 1932-1940 for a second time, but he still gets it all wrong:

Re-reading William Manchester's "Alone"

Although today it is fashionable to think of Appeasement as the political embodiment of cowardice it was coldly calculated to bring the Dictators into conflict and -- so Chamberlain hoped -- into annihilating each other. By selling out Austria in the Anchluss, the Czechs in the Sudetendland and nearly betraying Poland over the Danzig corridor Chamberlain was tempting Hitler ever further east into what he hoped would be an eventual clash with the other monster, Joseph Stalin. He did not reckon that evil, while coarse, is surpassingly cunning. The announcement of the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonagression pact on August 23, 1939, just a week before Poland was finally invaded by both Hitler and Stalin, made plain to Chamberlain that he had been outwitted. If Britain intended to drive Hitler East, Stalin had instead turned Hitler West. Nothing remained to Chamberlain and Britain's enervated armed forces but to gather up the tatters of their strategy and huddle behind the army of France. Having staked everything on diplomatically containing Hitler while neglecting Britain's defense -- not provoking Hitler was a deemed essential for diplomacy to succeed -- Chamberlain had no Plan B.

No, that's just not true. The moment when Neville Chamberlain woke up and realized that appeasing Hitler at Munich in 1938 was a mistake was when Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. On March 31, 1939, Britain gave a heroic but impractical guarantee to Poland that they would go to war with Germany in case of German attack on Poland.

The problem then was that Britain and France were a long way from Poland and had no way to defend Poland in Poland. Neither had much offensive capability yet to take the war to Germany. Britain had started rearming in 1936-37 (the real villain was previous prime minister Stanley Baldwin) and would be in good shape by about 1942-43, while France had invested heavily in defensive warfare (the Maginot line) while not putting much into tanks. the crucial offensive weapon. (Actually, they had a lot of tanks but they distributed them widely rather than concentrating them for an offensive thrust.)

So, the most obvious alliance to defend Poland was the revival of the alliance of 1914 among Britain, France, and Russia. Stalin was open to such an alliance if he could move his troops up into Poland to defend against German attack. The Poles, however, absolutely rejected this, assuming that if they allowed the Russians in, it would take them about 50 years to get the Russians out (which turned out to be right).

There didn't seem to be any solution to this problem, and Chamberlain and the French weren't enthusiastic about bullying the poor Poles into a deal, so Stalin in August 1939 decided to temporarily align with Hitler. He figured that Hitler would, after digesting part of Poland, attack France and that would bog down into another WWI-style conflict. After the two sides were bled dry, Stalin would then re-enter the war and become the big victor.

And then Wretchard uses his fallacious history to draw this analogy:

Yet the cartoon crisis has been cruelest to radical Islam because it has upset the timetable for the slow demographic conquest of Europe. It forced the crisis before the time was ripe to win an outright trial of strength. And it has deranged the carefully crafted plan to hold Europe politically neutral while the Islamists concentrated their force on their most dangerous enemy, the United States. Unless the Islamists can reverse or at least pause the process of confrontation it will find itself engaged on two fronts, against Europe and the United States simultaneously.

Oh, for heaven's sake, what a load of portentous tripe. The Cartoon Crisis will be largely forgotten in a year, just like the Nigerian Muslim beauty contest riots of 2002 are forgotten. (The good news out of the Cartoon Crisis is that a few more people, maybe one or two dozen, will figure out that diversity and free speech are contradictory.) By next summer, everybody will be up in arms over some new example of Muslim obnoxiousness.

And what the heck is this "carefully crafted plan?" Who carefully crafted it? Where is this "Islamist" version of the Imperial German General Staff supposedly headquartered? Who belongs to it it? The Elders of Islam? Where is this Islamist Schlieffen Plan written down? There's a billion-plus Muslims and they can barely organize a Boy Scout troop.

There are two larger points here. The first is that we must learn the correct lessons of how WWII started. For example, we have to stop seeing every tin horn politician in the Middle East as another Hitler. Hitler was something unusual, thank God. Heck, Stalin wasn't even another Hitler when it came to starting wars. Saddam Hussein in 2003 wasn't another Hitler -- he was a worn out old man writing romance novels. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran isn't another Hitler -- he's not even in charge of his own country.

Second, even if they had cloned Hitler and had been secretly raising Hitler 2.0 for 50 years in some Muslim country, he still wouldn't be in charge of Germany. At worst, he'd be in charge of some ramshackle Muslim country full of illiterate, corrupt, and fractious Muslims. It was the bizarre combination of the cold rationality of the German people and the maniacal ambition of Hitler that made World War II.

The second point is that there is a real danger in over-emphasizing the lessons of how WWII started, even the correct ones, at the expense of the lessons of how WWI started. In the 1930s, the good guys over-learned the lessons of 1914, and thus weren't prepared for Hitler, but we have the advantage that we can study the causes of both wars. The obsession in recent years with the 1930s, while ignoring 1914, is not healthy.

In 1914, a whole bunch of fairly reasonable men, none of them a Hitler, were responsible for just about the worst thing that ever happened. Historian David Fromkin's recent re-examination of who started the Great War concluded that the man most responsible for WWI was von Moltke the Younger, the head of the German General Staff. Maybe, maybe not, but the point is that von Moltke, or General von Hotzendorff of Austria, or Colonel Dragutin Dimitrievitch, the leader of both the Black Hand terrorists and military intelligence in Serbia, or Sir Edward Grey, or whomever you want to pin the blame on is a pretty boring villain compared to Hitler.

The most picturesque villains of the time were Kaiser Wilhelm II and Rasputin. But the Kaiser in this case was quite reluctant to go to war and had to be dragged into it by his generals. Rasputin was utterly against war on the grounds that too many Russian peasants would die. But he couldn't work his usual magic on the Czar and Czarina because he was laid up in a Siberian hospital after being stabbed by a young lady he had trifled with.

The point is that WWI came about through all the proper bureaucratic channels, without the impetus of anybody who seemed overtly evil -- except for the fact that they played a role in bringing about four years of slaughter..

One important lesson to be learned from WWI is the dangers of the mood that says, "We must run any risk to be safe," a logic that has had its grips on much of the U.S. since 9/11. The German General Staff in 1914 had calculated that if Russia continued to grow economically faster than Germany for another couple of decades, then by 1935 or 1940, Russia could defeat Germany. Therefore, to be safe, Germany must fight Russia now!

And to conquer Russia, they first had to conquer France. And to conquer France they had to violate Belgium's neutrality, which meant they had to beat Britain. (And, they later figured out, to knock Russia out of the war they had to send Lenin to St. Petersburg, and to starve Britain, they had to sink American ships, which meant they had to beat America, which turned out to be a bridge too far.)

Well, swell ... It was a hell of a plan, and they almost pulled it off, but it ultimately set into motion a chain of events that lost them two World Wars and ended in 1945 with the Russian Army occupying the flattened ruins of Berlin and raping every East German woman under 70.

They had run every risk to be safe.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

No comments: