Comments: roundup of weekend reading

Would it be churlish of me to point out that a preventive war in 1936 - fought for the express purpose of breaking German power when it was still vulnerable and for no other high-minded cause; fought before Hitler's Germany had revealed its truly malignant nature - might have been historically preferable to the disaster visited upon the world three years later? Those three years made a great deal of difference. For if another man had been in the White House - or if the Japanese had been more patient regarding the European power vacuum in the Pacific - Germany would have won WWII. As it was, Germany almost won the war in the actual course of historical events.

OK, so the revocation of the Versailles Treaty wasn't as clear a cause as the invasion of Poland (as opposed to the invasion of Chechoslovakia, I guess.) But isn't it better to defeat the enemy before he is ready to fight? Wait too long, and you might lose. That is a high price to pay for principle. Had it not been for the United States, Europe would have paid that price.

In the real world, leaders are forced all the time to choose between accepting risks and mitigating risks on the basis of incomplete information. The leaders in 1936 of course didn't have the luxury of hindsight to know what they would have prevented. They simply accepted the risk because they thought their countries wouldn't support war, and that Hitler could be bought. As it turned out, that was a dreadfully bad decision. And as a consequence, a war more severe by seventy times seven was visited upon them. But such a decision certainly does seem to fit well with progressive attitudes now seventy years removed.

Posted by carl at Saturday, 14 January 2006 at 9:04pm GMT

I wouldn't call presenting a straw-man argument a churlish act, exactly... perhaps "insulting" is adequate.

Your keen insight -- nearly seventy years after the fact -- into Hitler's intentions and the optimal time to have stopped him if we had only had the courage to act boldly (merely knowing his intentions in 1936 would have also been a good start!), hardly justifies a doctrine of unilateral and pre-emptive warfare against sovereign governments whom we would prefer to keep exploitable to our own ends.

Posted by Jay at Sunday, 15 January 2006 at 11:01pm GMT
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