"Nicholson Baker, a supremely talented novelist, has written a surprising book of nonfiction titled "Human Smoke." It is composed primarily of snippets taken from contemporary newspapers in the run-up to World War II and makes the daring argument that the war -- our supposedly "good" war -- was not good at all. We shouldn't have fought it." Richard Cohen - Washington PostDavid Seaton's News Links
"Politicians constantly fondle a small, clean, paperweight version of this war, as if it provides them with moral clarity. We know that it was the most destructive five year period in history. It was destructive of human lives, and also of shelter, sleep, warmth, gentleness, mercy, political refuge, rational discussion, legal process, civil tradition, and public truth. Millions of people were gassed, shot, starved, and worked to death by a paranoid fanatic. The war's victims felt as if they'd come to the end of civilization." Nicholson Baker
Many people's interest in history begins with reading or seeing films about World War Two. My father's generation fought the war and my street was filled with veterans of North Africa, Sicily, Italy Normandy and the Pacific. It was natural for us to be curious and every house had stories to tell: history was a living thing. Most of us that became history buffs got our start there. This has caused many to have a very distorted view of how historical processes work, as if visiting aliens from outer space, intent on capturing a member of our species in order to study our habits and nature, captured and flew off with a schizophrenic they found talking to himself on a street corner. On debriefing this subject, the visitors from outer space might come to some curious conclusions about humanity's thought processes. In my opinion The Second World War is as valid a sample of typical human history as the schizophrenic, encased in his private logic, would be of the general run of our species.
World War Two, its insanity and evil continue to fascinate and the "Good War" has become a political Swiss Army Knife. As Nicholson Baker says in the quote from the box above:
"Politicians constantly fondle a small, clean, paperweight version of this war, as if it provides them with moral clarity."I believe, however, that much of this emphasis on World War Two is misplaced or rather misdirected. The wrong questions are asked. What is the correct question?
First, there is no mystery about Hitler himself. Whether he was "evil" or not we must leave to theologians, what he was for sure was bat shit crazy. There are a lot of criminally insane people running around at any time and anywhere. The fundamental question is... has to be:
How did a totally insane, former corporal, failed watercolorist and recent clochard get supreme power in a country that had produced Meister Eckhart, Martin Luther, Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Bach, Beethoven, Einstein and, and, and... the list goes on forever.Germany was considered by many the most advanced, productive and civilized nation in the world. We are not talking about Idi Amin Dada taking over Uganda.
So, briefly, my idea is not that Hitler destroyed civilization, but that civilization had to be destroyed already for Hitler to have ever left the level of street thug or soapbox agitator. I disagree with Nicholson Baker, by the time Hitler took power war was unavoidable, simply because Hitler would have gotten the atomic bomb and put it on a V-2 rocket.
The war that really has to be studied is World War One. That is the war that could have been avoided and that was the war that could have ended differently. That is where civilization was destroyed. And as horrible a war as it was, it was not the war itself, but how it ended that brought on World War Two.
By 1917, when America entered the war, Germany and the Allies had bled themselves white, essentially they had fought each other to a draw. It was America's entry that "won" the war. If America had stood on the sidelines, the exhausted combatants would have had to make peace on the basis of that exhaustion and have signed a treaty formulating how they would continue to live together. The humiliation of the Versailles Treaty and the ensuing economic ruin and social disorder it brought upon Germany were what broke down Germany's social order to a point where a lowlife like Hitler could seem like an answer to it all.
Therefore, in my revisionist opinion, America' entry into the First World War led directly to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Second World War and all its insanity. Wilson = Holocaust.
If we add all of the "Wilsonian" ideas of "self-determination" that led directly to the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Turkish Empire we can see the germs of the tragedies of the Balkans and the Middle East that are still with us today. All in all, I can think of no other individual in the history of humanity that caused so much death and destruction as Woodrow Wilson.
So, my plea would be when ever you hear Woodrow Wilson and "Wilsonism" invoked in order to invade or to bomb, remember what Wilson and Wilsonian really mean and the harm they have done and are doing at this very moment and the basically Wilsonian attitude of all of the candidates running for President of the United States today. DS