Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Union’

Hitler’s Illness

October 26, 2015

Not long ago, I wrote about how Vladimir Lenin‘s poor health and untimely death after a series of strokes drastically effected the course of Soviet, and world, history. This time I want to write a little on how Adolf Hitler’s state of health influence the decisions he made just before and during World War II and whether his judgement was affected by  illness. Hitler clearly was not in very good health towards the end of World War II and it seems likely that even if the Germans had won the war, Hitler would not have lived to enjoy his Third Reich for very long. The precise nature of any illness that Hitler suffered from is unclear since he is not available for a medical examination and his body was not autopsied. There has been much speculation about Hitler’s health in the decades since his death, with theories that Hitler was afflicted with syphilis, suffered from the ministrations of his personal physician; a quack named Theodor Morell, or simply was consumed with the crushing stress of leading a losing war. The most likely theory to explain Hitler’s symptoms is that Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, as related in this article from the Daily Mail that I read recently.

Parkinson’s disease may have played a crucial role in Adolf Hitler’s defeat, according to a controversial new study.

The research claims the neurological disease influenced some of the dictator’s biggest decisions, making him reckless and ultimately losing World War II.

But it also goes a step further to say that Hitler’s horrific and inhumane murders were also influenced by his disease, exaggerating his ‘volatile temperament’.

The study was led by Raghav Gupta and a team at the University of Pittsburgh and recently published in the journal World Neurosurgery.

‘The possibility of Hitler suffering from Parkinson’s has long been the subject of debate,’ writes Gupta.

‘Video evidence depicts that Hitler exhibited progressive motor function deterioration from 1933 to 1945.’

By the end of his life, Hitler had a pronounced tremor in his hands, particularly his left hand, which has caused a number of scientists to question whether he had the disease.

Parkinson’s can also cause a slow gait, bent posture and a dull stare, along with cognitive disorders such as a lack of imagination and a general apathy.

The researchers suggest that Hitler’s condition may have led him to attack Russia prematurely in 1941, according to a report in Discover.

A previous study claimed that Hitler’s decision to invade Russia, before defeating Britain on the western front, was a direct result of his failing health.

The study points to other bad decisions of Hitler’s such the failure to defend Normandy in 1944, alongside keeping his forces in Stalingrad in 1942.

They say this was the result of the dictator’s ‘volatile temperament’ which may have been aggravated by his Parkinson’s.

The study also goes on to suggest that Hitler’s lack of remorse and sympathy can be associated with his Parkinson’s.

Assuming that Hitler did indeed suffer from Parkinson’s disease, how did it affect his judgement and the outcome of the war?

Did he have Parkinson's Disease?

Did he have Parkinson’s Disease?

 Hitler always was something of a gambler and a risk taker, preferring to improvise rather than making elaborate plans. This willingness to risk everything on a single throw of the dice, as it were, helped Hitler immeasurably during his rise to power in Germany and in the early years of his rule, especially since he could also be patient when it was necessary. Up until around 1937 Hitler was largely successful in obtaining his goals both inside Germany and in Germany’s relations with its neighbors. Germany seemed to have largely recovered from the Great Depression and regained its place as one of the leading nations of Germany. Had Hitler stopped then, he would possibly be regarded as a great statesman.  After 1937, Hitler seemed to become more impatient and reckless.

Consider the timeline leading up to the Second World War. In March 1938, Germany invaded and annexed Austria. Almost immediately, Hitler began pressing for the session of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia on the grounds that the majority of the population were ethnic Germans and therefore the region rightly belonged to Germany. After the Munich agreement in September 1938, the Germans occupied and annexed the Sudetenland. Then in March 1939 Germany annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia. Then Hitler demanded that Poland cede the city of Danzig to Germany and when Poland refused, he ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, beginning World War II. Now, each step of Hitler’s path to the war was in itself reasonable and could perhaps be justified in terms of Germany’s national interest. No one in Europe really wanted a war, even Hitler. If he had allowed more time to elapse between his conquests, it is likely that he would have continued to lull France and Great Britain into inactivity. As it was, one move after another in quick succession thoroughly alarmed both Britain and France. They might have gone to war in any case after the invasion of Poland, but if Hitler had waited perhaps longer between conquests, Germany might have been more prepared for the war. As it was, the war really started too early for Germany. The Germans had been rearming almost since the Nazis had gained power but it would have been better if Hitler could have put it off until around 1942 or 1943, especially since Mussolini had advised Hitler that Italy could not be ready for war until at least 1945. Why the hurry?

By the end of 1940, Hitler had defeated France and was the master of continental Europe with only Britain still opposing him. Then on June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. This was not an entirely unreasonable course of action for Germany. Hitler had good reason to suspect that Stalin was biding his time waiting for the capitalist powers to exhaust themselves in war before swooping in to bring the revolution to Europe. Moreover, Stalin’s purges had badly weakened the Red Army and Hitler could reasonably consider that it would be better to invade before Russia recovered its strength. Still, why the hurry when Hitler was still at war with Great Britain and it was increasingly obvious that it was only a matter of time before the United States intervened? Surely Hitler could have waited another year. By that time the morale of the British people would likely to have decreased to the point that they would have been extremely receptive to some peace proposal. The Germans had also wasted valuable time in the spring and early summer of 1941 assisting Italy after its disastrous invasion of Yugoslavia. Why couldn’t Hitler have waited until the spring of 1942 to begin his invasion of Russia, giving the Germans plenty of time to conquer as much territory as possible before the cruel Russian winter began.

I suppose the answer is that Hitler knew by 1938 that he was not especially well and that he perhaps did not have much time left. It may be that the best thing Hitler could have done for the Third Reich would have been to retire from the day to day running of the country and appoint a successor. The problem is that Fuehrers really can’t retire, and Hitler was not willing to be known to history as the predecessor to the man who created the thousand year Reich. He did not want to play the role of Phillip the Macedonian to another man’s Alexander the Great.

It is a little strange that Hitler’s increasingly obvious lapses in judgment towards the end of the war did not lead to some sort of coup. There were attempts to assassinate the Fuhrer, most notably the plot by Army officers led by Claus von Stauffenberg, but no attempts to seize power by the members of Hitler’s inner circle who had direct knowledge of his increasing inability to lead the Third Reich. They schemed among themselves for Hitler’s favor right up to the end, but none of them ever seem to have seriously considered replacing him. Perhaps they realized that they were not strong personalities in themselves and their fates were inextricably tied to Hitler’s.

Whatever the precise nature of Hitler’s illness, I think we can all be grateful that Hitler did suffer from ill health that made him more impatient and reckless. A healthier Hitler might have been a more rational Hitler better able to lead his nation in war and peace and perhaps more likely to succeed in his goals. It maybe that Hitler’s illness is the major reason Nazi Germany is not the leading world power to this day.

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The Life and Death of Lenin

August 24, 2015

I am a fan of Isaac Asimov‘s science fiction stories, particularly of his Foundation series. In this series of books, a mathematician named Hari Seldon invents a way to predict the future through the mathematics of probability, which he calls Psychohistory.  It is not possible to predict the future actions of an individual person or even small groups of people. Psychohistory only works which large populations, entire worlds and nations. By using psychohistory Seldon learns  that the Galactic Empire, which has existed for thousands of years, is falling and the galaxy will enter into a dark age lasting for many millennia if nothing is done. It is too late to avert the fall of the Empire, but Seldon hopes to shorten the interregnum between the First and Second Galactic Empires to merely a thousand years by setting up two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy that will preserve the scientific knowledge that would otherwise be lost and to lead the way to the reunification of the galaxy.

Could there really be such a method of calculating the future as Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory? In order for something like that to work, history would have to be determined by great economic and social forces and the choices of individuals, even great generals and kings, would have to be inconsequential. Carlyle’s Great Man Theory would have to give way to Spencer’s theory that even great men are mere products of their environment.

For my part, I do not believe that psychohistory could really be possible. I think that great men, and women, really do alter the course of history. There are just so many ways in which history could have turned out very differently, if the personalities of the persons involved has been different. Imagine the American Revolution without George Washington or Germany after the First World War without a Hitler. Then too, there ware the completely unpredictable workings of nature. Climate change has had a greater effect on the rise and fall of empires than is generally recognized. Diseases like the Black Death can appear due to chance mutations of a virus or bacteria and kill half the population of a continent with little warning.

I could give many examples, but the one that I would like to consider is the life and death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik Party and the first leader of the USSR. Before the Russian Revolutions of 1917, there were many socialist factions seeking reform or revolution in Russia, some Marxist, some not. Among all these parties, Lenin’s party, the Bolsheviks were the most radically Marxist and the most given to violence and terrorism. Lenin and his lieutenants had no use for the kind of parliamentary reforms that more moderate groups wanted to bring to Russia, nor did he care for reforms to improve the conditions of the masses. Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted revolution.When the Czar was overthrown in February, 1917 and a republican Provisional  Government set up, the Bolsheviks played almost no role in the great affairs. Lenin was still in exile and wanted his party to have no part in bourgeoisie elections. The party would seize power in a Communist revolution.

It is important to understand that this decision to seize power was entirely Lenin’s. None of the other leading Bolsheviks thought it was a good idea and properly speaking, as good Marxists, the Bolsheviks ought not to have led a revolution at all. Marx has very definite ideas on how Communism was supposed to come about. He believed that every society moved through stages, from the primitive socialism of savages to the great slave states of the ancient world, to feudalism,  capitalism, socialism, and finally communism. Since Russia was still emerging from feudalism into capitalism, Lenin ought to have waited until capitalism was fully developed in Russia before leading the revolution. Lenin, however, realized that the Bolsheviks would never have a better chance for power than while the Russian government and economy were in a state of collapse.

Lenin

Lenin

Lenin’s rule as the first leader of the Soviet Union was a disaster for the Russian people. All of the totalitarian aspects of the communist regime that are usually attributed to Joseph Stalin’s tyranny had their beginnings with Lenin. Lenin was the one who setup the Checka, the secret police and it was Lenin who established the Gulags and the use of terror to subdue the population. Yet, despotic as Lenin was, Stalin was far worse and it was doubly unfortunate for the Russian people that Lenin’s premature death in 1924 led to the assumption of power by Stalin.

joseph-stalin-and-vladimir-lenin

In the year before his death, Lenin was increasingly uneasy over events in the Soviet Union. The great revolution did not seem to be leading to a communist utopia but had exchanged the tyranny of the Czar with the tyranny of the commissar. Lenin began to consider ways of making the Soviet state more representative of the workers it purported to serve. Lenin was also becoming aware that Stalin, while a good man to have around in a revolution, was wholly unsuited to wielding power after the revolution. Lenin decided that Stalin had to be relieved of his powerful position of Party General Secretary. If Lenin had lived a normal lifespan, it is likely that he would have succeeded in unseating Stalin.  It is less likely that he would have made the Soviet regime in any sense democratic. Lenin’s own autocratic personality prevented him from ever really seeing that the cause of the increasingly oppressive regime was his own reluctance to allow anyone outside the Communist Party from gaining any real independence from the rule of the Party. Still, if Lenin had not died, the rule of the Communist Party, while still despotic, would not have reached the insane level of repression as it did under Stalin. The history of the twentieth century might have been very different, depending on whether Lenin lived or died.

Lenin was only 53 when he died following a series of strokes over the previous year which progressively weakened him. After his death, an autopsy showed that he had advanced arteriosclerosis in his brain with some blood vessels completely calcified. The arteriosclerosis was far worse than might be expected in a man of Lenin’s age, especially as he had none of the risk factors that might be associated with the disease. Lenin did not smoke, was moderate in his diet, and exercised regularly. He was under a considerable amount of stress as leader of a nation in a civil war and which had to be rebuilt almost from the ground up. Still, such an advanced case of arteriosclerosis at Lenin’s age is unusual, particularly considering that the worst buildup of plaque was in the blood vessels of his brain. The blood vessels in the rest of Lenin’s body were no more afflicted by the disease than might be expected by a man of his age and habits. Something strange was going on.

Recently, researchers have discovered that a mutation in a single gene can cause a selective buildup of the plaque that causes arteriosclerosis in the legs. Could Lenin have suffered from a similar genetic disorder that caused such a buildup in the brain? Lenin’s father also suffered from cardiovascular disease, dying of heart disease at the age of 54. While it is not yet confirmed that Lenin himself suffered from a genetic defect that specifically targeted the blood vessels of the brain, it is clear that there was some sort of hereditary predisposition for cardiovascular disease.

Getting back to psychohistory, I do not see how any method of predicting the future could account for the life and death of Lenin. It would not be difficult to predict the fall of the Czar many years before it happened. It may not have been too difficult to predict that the most radical faction of the revolutionaries seeking the overthrow of the Czar would end up in control. Other revolutions have seen similar outcomes. But how could anyone predict that a small splinter faction would end up seizing power in a coup? Remember that Lenin was the only Bolshevik who thought such a coup had any chance of success. If Lenin had still been in exile, the October Revolution wouldn’t have happened and either some other Marxist faction would have gained power, or the Provisional Government would have had time to get things settled down enough to establish a more permanent government. Even if it were possible to account for the rise of the Bolsheviks, how could anyone predict in advance that their leader suffered from a genetic defect that would kill him prematurely and pave the way for a psychopath like Stalin to gain power?

I think that it is clear that it is individuals who make history, either by the decisions of the great ones, or the actions of millions of lesser people. The social and economic forces that historians like Spencer believe that drive the course of history are nothing more than the trillions of actions made by billions of people over time with considerable influence brought on by unpredictable natural events. Psychohistory will probably have to stay in the realm of fiction.

Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov

August 26, 2013
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov (biologist)

Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov (biologist) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A favorite character trope of science fiction and low budget horror movies is the mad scientist. The mad scientist is a scientist who is, well, mad, or at least eccentric. He works in his laboratory alone, or with a trusted minion. His researches are often considered beyond the bounds of respected science and he is either indifferent or oblivious of the moral and ethical implications of his discoveries. He could be evil, good, or amoral. The mad scientist is not always found in science fiction, however. There have actually been real mad scientists. Perhaps the maddest of these mad scientists was Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov. He was not mad in the psychiatric sense, but he was certainly willing to push the boundaries of scientific ethics. He is most famous for his attempts to create a human-ape hybrid. He was never successful, thank goodness, but that was not for lack of effort on his part.

Ivanov was born in 1870 in the town of Shchigry in Russia. He attended the University of Kharkov and graduated in 1896. He became a professor of biology at that institution in 1907. Ivanov was an associate of Ivan Pavlov. He also worked as a research veterinarian and his primary contribution to that science was the development of methods of artificial insemination which he could use on animals, especially horses. Ivanov was able to use the semen of a single stallion to impregnate 500 mares, far more that any stallion could manage naturally. Horse breeders from around the world studied his methods and he was put to work breeding fancy horses for the ruling Romanov dynasty. Ivanov was fascinated by the idea of creating animal hybrids from species that would never even consider mating with each other in the wild. He was able to create hybrids of antelopes and cows, guinea pigs and rabbits, and zebras and donkeys. The Czar and his court were fascinated by these hybrids and while the Russian Orthodox Church frowned on artificial insemination, at least in humans, Ivanov’s future seemed assured.

Unfortunately the Romanovs were overthrown in 1917 and the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia. The Bolsheviks did not have any use for fancy animals of any sort and Ivanov was out of a job. His troubles with the Orthodox Church seemed a recommendation to the militantly atheist Communists so he was able to find work at the State Experimental Veterinary Institute. At some point he had begun considering the possibility of making a human-chimpanzee hybrid. Chimpanzees were believed to be the animal most closely related to humans and he had managed to create hybrids from species farther apart, so the experiment seemed worth trying. He needed funding from the newly created Soviet government. Since the Soviet Union was just recovering from a devastating civil war, right after a disastrous experience in World War I, it might seem that the possibility of his getting the needed funds was remote. He somehow managed to persuade the Communists that a human-chimpanzee hybrid would show that man was nothing more than just another animal and its existence would serve to discredit religion and promote Communism and atheism. The Soviet government bought his line. The rising political leader Joseph Stalin was especially enthusiastic and in 1925, he got his funding.

There are no apes native to any part of Russia, so Ivanov had to go abroad to begin his work. By 1926 he had made arrangements to conduct his experiments at a primate research facility in French Guinea. The conditions there were not ideal. The chimpanzees had been captured by poachers  and half had already died of neglect. None of the females were sexually mature, so Ivanov had to wait, while trying to gather more chimps. By February the following year, two females had become mature and Ivanov could begin at last. The two female chimps did not appreciate being sexually assaulted by a man with a syringe and his first attempts were not successful. He tried again the following spring with a sedated chimp. This attempt was also a failure.

With his chimps dying faster than they could be replaced, Ivanov decided he needed to change his procedures. He decided to return to the Soviet Union. Earlier, Ivanov had helped to establish a primate research facility in Georgia, the southernmost part of the USSR and the only territory with a climate that apes could flourish. He also decided that since it would be easier to keep one male than several females, that he would use chimpanzee semen to impregnate a human woman. He tried to make arrangements to acquire a male chimpanzee from a Cuban woman who kept a private reserve for apes, but the Ku Klux Klan learned of their plans and threatened her into withdrawing her support.

Back in Georgia, most of the remaining apes fell ill and died. The only remaining ape was an elderly orangutan. Ivanov sought for volunteers to be fertilized with the old apes semen. They had to be volunteers since the Soviet authorities decided that it would be too capitalist or bourgeois to offer money. As amazing as it may sound, Ivanov actually managed to find a woman willing to undergo the procedure. Ivanov now had only to collect the semen from the orangutan. Unfortunately, he died before Ivanov could get a sample. He would have to get more apes.

Before he had a chance to continue, however, Ivanov was arrested by the NKVD. According to stories that may or may not be true, Joseph Stalin had had visions of invincible armies of apemen working in factories and farms and advancing the Socialist cause in the Red Army. Stalin was growing impatient with Ivanov’s lack of progress and he reacted in his usual way, arresting people and shipping them off to concentration camps. Ivanov was comparatively lucky. He was only exiled to Kazakhstan. He was old and his health had become fragile, so Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov died of a stroke just before he was due to be released.

His death was considered a great loss to science in some quarters and his old colleague Ivan Pavlov wrote his obituary. No one has ever tried to produce human-ape hybrids since his death and it is unlikely anyone ever will, at least I hope.

If you want to know more about Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, as well as many other DNA related matters, I cannot recommend highly enough Sam Kean’s The Violinist’s Thumb.

  • Oliver the Humanzee (weird.answers.com) He wasn’t really, but a lot of people thought he was.

Shakedown Socialism

August 25, 2012

I was a little wary of reading Oleg Atbashian’s Shakedown Socialism when I saw that there were only three one-starred reviews, one of which seemed to be written by a person who had actually read the book. I thought that surely a book that had attracted so little animosity from Liberals who post one-starred reviews of books they don’t read couldn’t be very good. I am pleased to admit that I was wrong. Shakedown Socialism is very, very good.

This slim volume, it is only about 130 pages, was written by Oleg Atbashian, a propagandist from the former Soviet Union. Despite his job, he became disillusioned by life under Communism and still more by the chaos that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. He immigrated to the United States, expecting to find a land of freedom and prosperity. His expectations were largely met, but he also discovered, to his surprise, the same sorts of ideas in the heads of many Americans that had led to such disaster in his homeland. To a great extent, Shakedown Socialism is his response, along with his satirical website the People’s Cube.

 

As I said, this is a short book and very readable, yet Atbashian is able to demolish the pretensions of Socialism, Unions, and the quest for economic equality and justice far better than many weightier tomes.   He demonstrates that any equality, except equality before the law cannot be achieved by raising everyone up but  only by pushing everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Unions provide higher wages to their members only at the expense of non-unionized workers. Government control of the economy, even in the name of fairness empowers the crooks and parasites to seek unearned wealth and power while discouraging the hard work and initiative that creates wealth. This is not idle theorizing on the part of Mr. Atbashian. He has seen the dire effects of this kind of thinking on two continents.

 

I highly recommend giving this book out to any acquaintances who still follow the Pied Piper of class envy and economic “justice”, and particularly to any young person going off to college. Reading Shakedown Socialism might just immunize them from the Left-wing indoctrination they will face.

 

Bury Lenin

July 11, 2012

As incredible as it might sound, twenty years after the fall of Communism in Russia, the body of Vladimir Lenin is still on display in Red Square. There has been talk of finally burying him since the collapse of the Soviet Union but the unreconstructed Communists have resisted any such move and nothing has been done. Recently, however, Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has suggested that it is time to bury the former leader. Here is the story in the Washington Times.

Russians soon may come not to praise Lenin, but to bury him.

The embalmed body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin has lain in a glass coffin in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square since his death in 1924.

But recent comments by Russia’s new culture minister have brought closer the possibility that the father of the Bolshevik Revolution could finally be laid to rest, signaling an end to the cult of Lenin.

“I have always believed that a body should be entrusted to the earth,” said Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky late last month. “And Lenin’s relatives begged the authorities not to place him in the mausoleum.”

“Many things in our life would symbolically change for the better after this [burial],” Mr. Medinsky said, adding that he thinks Lenin should be buried with full state honors and his Red Square mausoleum turned into a museum of the Soviet era.

I wish they would bury him. I can’t help but think that it is more than a little ghastly to have a man’s body on public display, and it was not what Lenin wanted. The Russian people seem to agree.

An online poll held by United Russia on the anniversary of Lenin’s January 1924 death found that 70 percent of the 270,000 Russians surveyed favored burying his remains.

“I guess we should wait for a while so as not to upset the old folk,” said Alexander Kashin, 25, an office manager walking on Red Square. “But I’m totally in favor of burying him at some point. After all, this isn’t ancient Egypt.”

Which brings up the question of why Lenin’s body was preserved, since as I said he had expressed no such wish while he was alive. I had thought that the cult of Lenin was set up by Stalin to enhance his own power and prestige, but it seems there was more to it. Unbelievably, the early Bolsheviks actually thought that Lenin would rise from the dead. Not by a miracle, of course, but through science.

Russians of all ages are familiar with the rallying cry “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!” But very few are aware that it was no mere slogan: Certain Soviet officials believed Lenin would rise from the grave to inspire the world’s proletariat once more.

The construction of Lenin’s tomb was overseen by Soviet Foreign Trade Minister Leonid Krasin, a follower of the ideas of 19th-century Moscow-based ascetic-philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, who was convinced that science eventually would conquer death.

Krasin successfully argued for Lenin to be embalmed to preserve his body for future science. A subsequent statement in the state-run Izvestia newspaper said workers of the world “would not be reconciled” with Lenin’s death and would not rest until he was resurrected by Soviet scientists.

Maybe this was ancient Egypt.

Just bury him.

It is a little depressing to note that Lenin still holds a prominent place in the hearts and minds of the Russian people, even those who are not Communists.

More than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lenin remains very much an everyday presence in modern Russia.

The country’s biggest library and a nearby subway station in Moscow are both named after the founder of the Soviet state. And though the city of Leningrad reverted to its czarist-era name of St. Petersburg in 1991, the region that surrounds it still bears Lenin’s name — as does Leningrad, one of the country’s biggest rock bands.

Dozens of Lenin statues still stand across Russia, with more than 80 in Moscow alone. A newly restored Lenin statue was unveiled in the Urals city of Ufa late last year, and the ceremony was attended by senior Communist Party officials.

Lenin was an evil, cruel tyrant. His crimes and atrocities have been overshadowed by the much greater crimes and atrocities of his successor Joseph Stalin, but Lenin paved the way for Stalin. All the gulags, secret police, oppression and mass murders of Stalin were begun by Lenin and it was only through Lenin that Stalin was able to rise to power.

But, then, who else to the Russians have to venerate? It is Russia’s misfortune that all their great leaders have been evil, cruel tyrants. We got George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They got Ivan the Terrible, Peter the “Great”, and Lenin.

Peace Prize for Lugar

May 12, 2012

I have been hard on Senator Richard Lugar this week. To some extent, he didn’t really deserve the ignominy of losing the primary. He has been a good Senator. His career is a perfect example of why no one should spend too much time in Washington.

He has been responsible for one accomplishment, which may well have saved many lives. In 1992, the year after the Soviet Union collapsed, it occurred to Senators Lugar and Sam Nunn that in the chaos that followed the fall of the Communist government, no one was watching over the Russian nuclear arsenal. There were nuclear missiles, chemical weapons, and radioactive material effectively unguarded and waiting to fall into the hands of terrorists. So, the two Senators sponsored the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which was designed to aid Russia in decommissioning unneeded weapons of mass destruction and secure Russian bases and stockpiles. If it were not for this legislation the two Senators sponsored, it is quite possible that al-Qaeda might have been able to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, either by stealing it, or bribing unpaid security guards. The attack on 9/11 might well have involved a nuclear or chemical weapon with a death toll in the millions.

For this work, I think that Senators Nunn and Lugar should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike most other recent recipients, they really have worked to promote peace. They won’t get it though. Nowadays the only people considered for the Peace Prize are people who hate America.

Pat Buchannan is an Idiot

September 6, 2011

Actually, I could think of worse things to call him, but since this is a family friendly blog, I will refrain. I say that he is an idiot because of this column in which he discusses, approvingly a new book called 1939: Countdown to War by a British historian named Richard Overy. The premise of Overy’s book and Buchannan’s column is that Europe and Britain would have been better off not fighting Hitler. They both contend that World War II was unnecessary and could have been avoided, except for Britain’s stubbornness.

“Few historians now accept that Hitler had any plan or blueprint for world conquest. … (R)ecent research has suggested that there were almost no plans for what to do with a conquered Poland and that the vision of a new German empire … had to be improvised almost from scratch.”

But if Hitler had no “plan or blueprint for world conquest,” this raises perhaps the great question of the 20th century.

What was Britain’s stake in a Polish-German territorial quarrel to justify a war from which the British nation and empire might never recover?

How the war came about is the subject of Overy’s book.

By August 1939, Hitler had come to believe that Polish intransigence over the city of Danzig meant Germany would have to resolve the issue by force. But he desperately did not want a war with Britain like the one in which he had fought from 1914-18.

To prevent a German-Polish clash from bringing on a European war, however, Hitler had to sever the British-Polish alliance formed the previous spring.

To split that alliance, Hitler negotiated his own pact with Stalin, a coup that meant any British declaration of war to save Poland would be an utterly futile gesture. But when the Hitler-Stalin pact was announced, spelling Poland’s doom, Britain publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Poland.

Hitler instantly called off an invasion set for Aug. 26.

In the last analysis, says Overy, British “honour,” Chamberlain’s honoring of his war guarantee to the Poles, caused Britain to go to war.

When and why was this commitment given?

On March 31, 1939, Chamberlain, humiliated by the collapse of his Munich agreement and Hitler’s occupation of Prague, handed, unsolicited, a war guarantee to a Poland then led by a junta of colonels.

To understand the rashness, the sheer irrationality of this decision, one must understand the issue involved and Britain’s situation in 1939.

First, the issue: The Polish-German quarrel was over a city, Danzig, most British leaders believed had been unjustly taken from Germany at the end of World War I and ought to be returned.

The German claim to Danzig was regarded as among the most just claims Germany had from what most agreed by then had been an unjust and vindictive Treaty of Versailles.

What did the people of Danzig themselves want? Writes Overy:

“In May 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Danzig’s National Socialist Party won 38 out of the city’s 72 assembly seats and formed the city government. … By 1936 there was a virtual one-party system. … The strongly nationalist German population agitated in 1939 to come … back home to Germany.”

In short, the Germans wanted their city back, and the Danzigers wanted to go home to Germany. And most British had no objection.

Yet Britain backed up Poland’s refusal even to negotiate, and when that led to war, Britain declared war on Poland’s behalf.

This has been an idea of Pat Buchannan’s since he wrote his book The Unnecessary War.

I think it might be helpful to put things in context by making out a timeline of the events leading up to the declaration of war.

January 30, 1933-Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

March 23, 1933-after the Reichstag fire, the Enabling Act is passed making Hitler dictator

January 26, 1934-Germany and Poland sign non-aggression pact. Germany violates it six years later

July 24, 1934-Austrian anti-Nazi dictator Engelbert Dolfuss assassinated by Austrian Nazis

August 2,1934 Hitler named Fuhrer of Germany

March 16, 1935 Germany begins to rearm in violation of the Versailles Treaty

March 7, 1936 Germany occupies the Rheinland in violation of the Versailles Treaty

Now, one could argue that certain provisions of the Versailles Treaty were unjust but that is not the point here. The point is that Hitler did not feel himself bound by any agreement made either by himself or any previous German ruler. He also did not feel obliged to follow any law or constitution in effect before or during his rule. To continue;

September 1938 Hitler demands that the Sudetenland be given to Germany, secretly prepares for war with Czechoslovokia

September 30, 1938 Munich Agreement signed, Germany occupies the Sudetenland

March 15, 1939 Germany invades Czechoslovakia

March 21, 1939 Hitler demands the city of Danzig be returned to Germany

April 3, 1939 Hitler begins planning the invasion of Poland for the autumn of 1939

August 23, 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union signed.

September 1, 1939 Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II

Going over this timeline, one fact emerges. By the summer of 1939 it had become obvious that Adolf Hitler could not be trusted to keep his word under any circumstances. He broke nearly every agreement  he had ever signed. Neither Neville Chamberlain nor the leaders of France could believe anything he promised.

Suppose that Chamberlain had flown to Berlin to appease Hitler once again by offering to allow Germany to occupy Danizig, do Buchannan or Overy seriously believe the war would have been averted? Hitler would simply have come up with another excuse to invade Poland.

It may be true that Hitler had no serious plans to rule the entire world, but he did plan to conquer the Soviet Union to provide “lebensraum” for the German people. After conquering Poland, he probably would have gone ahead with his plans to invade Russia. Since Hitler was not foolish enough to want to fight a two-front war, and he could not guarantee that Britain and France would not attack his rear while he was involved in Russia, he likely would have decided to neutralize them first. In other words, by the summer of 1939, war was inevitable. Hitler had made it clear that he could not be trusted and could not be appeased. He wanted the war.

I don’t really know why this strange revisionist history appeals to Pat Buchannan. I don’t want to think that he is a Nazi, although he has been suspected of being an anti-semite. I think that he has considered the aftermath of World War II, especially the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and has decided that matters would have been better of Hitler had remained in power. Since Stalin was every bit as evil and vicious as Hitler, maybe he has a point. It couldn’t have made much difference to the hapless people of Poland or Hungary which dictator ruled over them.

But, this is hindsight. No one in 1939 could possibly have known how things would turn out. No could would have guessed that the Soviets would end up occupying half of Europe. Given that Stalin had just finished killing half the officers in the Red Army, any observer in 1939 would have concluded that a war between Germany and the Soviet Union could only end with a swift German victory. To Britain and France, the greatest threat seemed to be a Germany made invincible by the conquest of Russia.

This site has a number of very strange articles. If you think that Pat Buchanna and Noam Chomsky are on opposite sides take a look. They seem to have a lot more in  common than you might think, besides the fact that both are idiots.

Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century

August 20, 2011

In the last century, science has made great strides in understanding the world. For the first time in human history, scientists seem to have uncovered the basic laws that the universe runs on. There are however many mysteries not yet understood by science and perhaps they never will be. These include; how salmon can return to the stream they were spawned in, what lies in the middle of a black hole, and how can seemingly intelligent and progressive people be duped into supporting the most evil regimes in history.

 

Paul Kengor does not attempt to answer that question in his book Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

Instead, he reveals the history of those dupes who often unwittingly contributed to the Communists efforts against their own country, and often against their stated ideals. We see the strange story of men and women who have fought tirelessly for civil rights in the U. S. justify the most horrendous human rights abuses done in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries.

 

Kengor is no mere red-baiter. He carefully distinguishes between actual members of the Communist Party of the USA, sympathizers who never actually joined the party, and well meaning dupes who helped the Communists without realizing it. His facts are backed up with careful research, including from the Soviet Communist archives, which were briefly opened for study after the fall of the Soviet Union.

 

 

Some of the dupes came to realize they had been fooled and tried to repair the damaged they had caused. John Dewey wrote a glowing book on the educational progress made in Russia after the Revolution, only to turn against Communism when he saw that he had been lied to during his visit to the Soviet Union.  William C Bullitt was a radical who learned the truth while ambassador the Soviet Union and tried to warn President Roosevelt, who was a dupe, that “Uncle Joe” Stalin simply could not be trusted under any circumstance.  Another dupe was a young actor named Ronald Reagan who joined a front organization. His experience with Communist deceit eventually served him well as president.

 

Unfortunately, all too many dupes never realized that the Communists were using them in the most cynical fashion.

 

One might think that this history might be interesting but irrelevant to the present day. After all, Russia is no longer Communist, and although a Communist Party rules in China, they do not seem to be following the teachings of Marx any more. However, as Kengor points out, too many of these dupes remain dupes and continue to give aid to America’s enemies, providing excuses support for Islamic radicals.

 

Also, there is a certain politician who has connections with left-wing radicals like William Ayers and Hawaii Communist Frank Marshall Davis, who just happens to be president. Is Barak Obama a radical, a sympathizer, a dupe? Who knows, but it is certain that many dupes and worse think of him as one of their own.

 

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Cold War, and especially to liberals.  If there is any lesson the liberal or progressive needs to learn from Dupes, it is that the Communists were never the progressives’ friends, only their useful idiots.


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