Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Buchanan and Hitler, Part MMMCLVII

Michael Tomasky comments on one article in Pat Buchanan's endless series of Hitler apologia (he even wrote a book on the subject!), and it's worth a look. But I must take issue with this:

Buchanan does know his history, in many particulars. There's lots of information in the piece that I didn't know. But it seems rather insane. At one point in the piece, he asks a series of questions that start If Hitler wanted war, then why ... and lists a series of military errors or secret diplomatic overtures.

Well, maybe it's just that Hitler was clinically insane, addicted to drugs, a pretty lousy diplomat and an absolutely terrible military strategist, whose decisions (fight to the last man in Stalingrad, and for that matter pretty much everywhere) lost him his best general (Rommel) and sent hundreds of thousands more German soldiers to their deaths than was, as it were, necessary.

Hitler wasn't actually a terrible military strategist. I'd say that he was average/above average in terms of his strategic vision. For someone who never went to war college and who never rose above the enlisted ranks in the army, he managed a number of invasions quite well (and, as we all know, he was something of a micromanager). He did make some clearly boneheaded tactical moves that proved disastrous--letting the British Army escape at Dunkirk, letting the RAF off the hook during the Battle of Britain, breaking his truce with the Russians and plunging himself into a two-front war (okay, that one was admittedly strategic), as well as the ones that Mike names. But Hitler's problem was that he wasn't an expert, while Montgomery, Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton were. Since Hitler didn't trust his generals (and with very good reason, since most of them either wanted to kill him or were aware of the assassination plots and didn't bother to tell Hitler or do anything about them), he was pitting his above-average intellect against real geniuses in the field, and even some of his more well-planned maneuvers (like the Ardennes offensive, which led to the Battle of the Bulge) were simply ground to dust. Ardennes was actually a huge boon to the Allies, as fighting an attacking army on unfriendly soil is generally easier than fighting an entrenched, defending army on hostile soil, and Ike readily preferred fighting Hitler in France instead of Germany for that reason. This was basically Hitler's predicament in a nutshell--he was bright enough to grasp the fundamentals and plot ingenious offensives, but he wasn't brilliant enough to know how to win a war. The difference between genius and talent, no doubt. But this is different from being a terrible strategist. And I actually think you can make the case that he was a reasonably effective diplomat--he kept America and Britain out of the fighting for quite a long time, even though he was invading countries and persecuting Jews and generally showing himself malicious and untrustworthy. In a way, Hitler makes for a perverse example of how diplomacy should work, as he deftly manipulated his enemies without compromising his objectives (which, contra Buchanan, always included war). Of course, he was a completely vile human being in every way, but he didn't rise to the top without having some serious intellectual mettle.

Now, I have no problem with people airing alternative views on history and politics, even those who fall outside the mainstream (especially those who fall outside the mainstream). But I do find it baffling that, for all the talk about the "Jew-run liberal media", a man who has for decades complained about how Hitler was misunderstood and did a great job of lifting Germany out of the recession, that he didn't want war, etc., etc., should routinely find himself a perch on cable news as a talking head. I don't even know why. The guy was a Spiro Agnew speechwriter and Nixon aide--these two being two of the most disgraced politicians of modern times--and a guy who failed abysmally at running for president both times he tried. I don't consider him a political success. I guess he still has a folllowing, but he's decidedly not mainstream these days. I find it genuinely puzzling why he's still considered a part of polite D.C. society--he's little different from the editor of Stormfront in my opinion, and whoever that is probably doesn't get to chat with Wolf Blitzer.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.