Lincoln. Didn’t make a whole heap of difference that I am aware of.
McKinley. I believe that did change things quite a lot - his replacement, Roosevelt being quite the interventionist.
I ask because I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on Yesterday about Hitler’s bodyguard. It seems there were an extraordinary number of attempts on his life over the years. But would it have made any difference? Well, one way to find out is to see if any other assassinations made a difference.
Sadat. Not really.
Rabin. I have no idea.
Alexander III. Again, I really don’t know. Although didn’t the Tsarist pogroms against the Jews start soon afterwards? And wasn’t the faked “Protocols of the Wise men of Zion” part of it? And wasn’t that one of the main influences on Germany’s Anti-Semites? So, maybe.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Well, you’d have to say the assassins got what they wanted. At a hell of price but they got it.
Getting back to Hitler, intuitively you feel it would have made a huge difference. Who but Hitler had the charisma to dominate the Nazi movement? Who but Hitler would have gambled the way he did?
Further thought. Hitler and the Nazis are a complete outlier in history. And therefore we can learn nothing useful by studying them and in fact the lessons we do learn are likely to be the wrong ones.
Niall Ferguson (or as close as I can recall) on Civilisation: Is the West History?:
“What you have to remember that in those days racism was cutting edge and was bought into just as readily as some people today buy into the theory of man-made climate change.”
This line appeared in a recent round-robin email from Sean Gabb Co-Director of the Libertarian Alliance.
There’s a grain of truth in it. From what I know Hitler very much wanted to avoid war with Britain. His aim was to create a German empire in Eastern Europe. But does anyone seriously think that having achieved his aim he wouldn’t have ended up turning his attentions to Britain? He was the head of a national socialist regime. Socialism doesn’t work. Eventually, this becomes apparent and the regime gets into trouble. And when regimes get into trouble they start wars.
I’ve always been rather disappointed by 50-years-ago, 100-years-ago-type columns. They always seem to be compiled by someone who just doesn’t like history. Or just doesn’t get it and so can’t put it into context. Or, maybe, does get it but can’t put it into context because in point of fact that particular day’s edition didn’t have anything particularly poignant.
So, I’ve always tended to think of it as a pointless exercise. Until, that is, a bored few moments a few days ago when I thought it might be fun to look at the world of a century ago through the pages of the Times. Even if it was the silly season. A worthwhile exercise as it turned out.
In the silly season of 1910 there was none sillier than the Kaiser. Here he is inspecting the German colonies in Poland. The what!? Colonies. Sounds awfully like an early version of Lebensraum.
And here (warning: you may need to hit zoom to read it) he is appearing to proclaim the divine right of kings. In NINETEEN TEN FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE! Remind you of anything, like the Führerprinzip, for instance?
And here is a by-election in Germany in which the socialists defeat the anti-semites. Yes, that’s electable anti-semites. Long before Hitler got going.
Which makes me think you may not be able to see the seeds of the First World War in August 1910 but you can certainly see the seeds of the Second.
To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good…
Alexander Solyhenitsyn whose death was announced today.
I haven’t quite finished Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy but I think it is worth posting an interim review of this monumental3 economic history of the Third Reich while the stuff at the beginning of the book is still fresh in my mind.
The thing that most struck me - and rather unsettled me - was Tooze’s description of Hitler’s underlying philosophy. The rabid anti-semitism is as well known as it is bizarre - how exactly you convince yourself that Jews run capitalism as well as communism is beyond me. But it’s the stuff about empire and economics that is was surprising.
Hitler’s Weltanschauung goes like this:
- I want Germany to be rich
- I look around the world to find examples of rich countries
- I find Britain, France and the United States.
- They all have empires1.
- That’s why they’re rich - certainly not this liberal economics nonsense which is just there to pull the wool over the eyes of the workers
- Therefore if Germany is to be rich she must have an empire
- We can’t go North, West or South.
- Therefore, we must go East.
- Sure, there are people in the way but we will treat them just the same way as the Americans treated the Indians or the British treated the, er, Indians.