malthaussen's Journal - Archives
I always think about this around this date. Since it is a counter-factual question, it can provide endless minutes of amusement.
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on this date 70 years ago, the US immediately declared war on them, having, one might suggest, good and sufficient provocation. Later on that same week, Germany and Italy, adhering to the Axis alliance, followed up with a declaration of war on the USA. And that is the counter-factual: what if they had not?
Historians like to say that invading the USSR was Hitler's greatest mistake. But the invasion of the USSR was a necessary consequence of Nazi ideology, and one might argue that sooner was better than later from Germany's perspective, given the disarray of the Soviet forces, two-front war be damned. But I think Herr Hitler's alliance with Japan and subsequent declaration of war on the US was his biggest "unforced" error.
Hitler wanted the Japanese as allies to threaten the USSR from the East and force Stalin to keep large numbers of the Siberian army out of Europe for fear of Japanese attack. With the advantage of hindsight, we now know that this didn't happen, and that it was Siberian reinforcements that halted the final German offensive of 1941 that might well have taken Moscow (for whatever that might have been worth). The Japanese alliance, in fact, bought Germany nothing but trouble, since it added to her enemies while doing nothing to alleviate the situation on the ground.
True, Germany had a treaty with Japan. But treaties have never been worth more than the paper they're written on, and Hitler could have found reasons not to declare war on the US once the Japanese opened overt hostilities. The very fact that Japan initiated the conflict would have provided sufficient weasel-room, should Hitler have been so inclined.
What would have been the position of Roosevelt and the US government, if that had been the case? Despite the loss of four destroyers on Neutrality Patrol, there was not any especial sentiment in the country in favor of going to war with Germany; rather the reverse, in fact. Had Germany not declared war on the US after Pearl Harbor, how could Roosevelt have justified a war against the Nazis, especially as he had a brand-new war against Japan to deal with? I submit it would have been a delicate situation that would have at least substantially delayed overt US participation in the war against Germany. I imagine we would have found some grounds sooner or later to declare war on Germany, but it is also not impossible to imagine public opinion being very much behind the idea of turning our attention against the country that attacked us -- Japan -- and not fishing around for yet more war on top of that.
Thus Hitler, IMO, really shot himself in the foot with this, and whatever the outcome of the war might have otherwise been, pretty much ensured that he would lose after inviting the US to join in the festivities. A much bigger mistake than attacking the USSR.
Well, that was quick. The Malaysian tribunal already returned a guilty verdict against Mr Bush and Mr Blair for "crimes against peace."
Yeah, I know, big deal. I'm sure they're both crying in their beer.
It's been said that shortly before JFK was assassinated, he told an aide that if he were re-elected, he would pull out of Vietnam no matter how unpopular it made him. "So we had better make damned sure I am re-elected," he is said to have concluded.
It is a serious flaw in a system of government that it would encourage its top executive to delay or even discard moves in the best interest of the country for the political advantage it would provide for a re-election. Here the revered martyr Kennedy is saying outright that he will not do what he believes necessary and right for the country unless and until he is granted a second term of office. Not to knock the late JFK, but whatever that is, it sure ain't statesmanship.
When the CSA was founded, their constitution called for a President to serve a single six-year term without chance of re-election. I'm thinking that is an idea whose time came a long time ago, but it is surely relevant today. Sitting presidents spend at least 25% of their first term trying to get re-elected. I really do not see how the nation derives any advantage from this.
Dear Mr Olsen:
While you may not receive a Heart for this wound,
It has given you a place in all of our hearts.
There seems to be some considerable dispute here at DU over just what exactly constitutes "war."
The classical definition is that of Clausewitz: "War is the continuation of politics by other means."
Or you might consider a more direct definition: "War is the application of force to achieve political aims."
Or you might prefer my own definition: "War is killing people until they do what you want them to do."
Some here on DU seem to think that a military action is not a "war" if no US troops are dying, which seems an odd definition to me. I've also seen the argument that unless congress declares something a war (which has not happened since 1941), then a military action is not a war. This ignores the possibility that a state of war might exist which is not legal.
Both of these definitions beg the simple question: if it ain't war, what do you call it?
I ran across this quote while reading up on an unrelated topic: " The Roosevelt New Deal was no panacea but it was at least evidence of official concern, whereas the so-called National Government's policy of retrenchment was a defiant manifesto of indifference to widespread distress." (The quote is from Classicist Bernard Knox)
"Defiant manifesto of indifference to widespread distress." Hmmm. Sounds familiar.
Hmmm, no music forum here. This looks like the best place to go.
I see a lot of discussion in a lot of places about who the greatest guitarists are. It's actually not a discussion I care to enter: de gustibus non est disputandum. I'll just make one suggestion.
Go to Youtube. Queue up any video of the late Rory Gallagher. Any one of them, it doesn't matter.
If you like hard rockin' blues guitar, and haven't heard Rory, you ain't heard nothin' yet.
I've been thinking of Magnitogorsk lately. Now, those of you who know what a Magnitogorsk is (yes, both of you!) may think it's a silly-ass thing to be thinking of. Those of you who don't probably wonder what one is. Presumably also, if you clicked this entry, you're interested in knowing what I'm thinking about it.
Magnitogorsk is a city. It is a city in Siberia. It lies next to a huge mountain that was once composed almost entirely of iron. In the 1930's, as part of the first Five Year Plan, Comrade Stalin decided to convert what was at the time a sleepy old Imperial village into a monumental city that was to be one of the showpieces of the new order and a vibrant expression of the power of the Party, and also incidentally the largest iron and steel producing center in the world (at the time).
Why does it capture my attention? Because it became a focus of attention for young idealistic children from all over the world, who voluntarily left their homes and travelled thousands of miles to sleep in the mud, struggle with unfamiliar tools, demanding environmental conditions (heat, cold, dust), poor sanitation, poor housing, poor food, impossible work quotas, lack of safety regulations, planning that was outmoded from the get-go, and in general just impossible conditions, to ultimately build something tremendously big, incredibly ugly, and environmentally disastrous. And also magnificent, terrible, and symbolic... which is now, barely a lifetime later, pretty much unknown except to its citizens and environmentalists. Capitalism run riot, except that this was the USSR.
When the job was finished, those children who came from everywhere to give their all were cast aside, forced to leave, and Magnitogorsk was declared a closed city in 1937.
The story of the building of this city would make a novel worthy of treatment by a Michener, an oral history worthy of a Terkel. Alas, the children who built it are now dust, and their voices are silent. Because it happened in the USSR, it is a little-known episode in the US, and perhaps fittingly so. You can pick up John Scott's and Stephen Kotkin's books about it at Amazon (as it happens, I haven't read either), and that is about it. It should probably go without saying that neither is a best-seller. I've read a few memoirs and bits and pieces here and there over the course of a mis-spent life, and it has always struck me as one of the great unknown epics of the 20th century.
Why is that, Mal? Because it was a channel for youthful idealism, quite blatantly exploited, abused, and used up, idealism cynically and greedily manipulated by political powers to achieve economic and political ends... and the children who built the city almost literally from nothing cared nothing about this, and gloriously and selflessly spent themselves and their idealism and enthusiasm in the pursuit of something they thought had value. Or, as Herbert Morrison would say, "Oh, the humanity."
Consider how we so often lose sight of the humanity. Consider what might be some of the typical reactions to the story of Magnitogorsk, and my thoughts about it: the many who would dismiss or ridicule it simply because it occurred in the USSR and involved Communists, the many who would point to the cynical exploitation and mock the idealists who allowed themselves to be used (shouldn't they have known better? I mean, really), not to mention the people who would mock or ignore it because it happened before their lifetimes and is thus now safely within the environs of that useless thing called "history," which is of interest only to people who haven't got a life in the here-and-now. Or those who would dismiss me and this post as a piece of romanticism and/or propaganda, either out of touch with the real world or created for ulterior, manipulative motives. Oh, the humanity.
So I'm thinking of Magnitogorsk. And I'm thinking of OWS. And I'm thinking of Camelot -- the musical -- and the line from the title song: "For one brief shining moment..." For a brief shining moment today -- brief in the course of history -- the children (and we are all someone's child) are focussing their idealism. They are spending themselves, gloriously, selflessly, pouring themselves out in the name of something greater than themselves. They are not Communists, not hippies, not even fat and complacent white middle-class spoiled brats: they are part of something that has always existed, is ever-renewing, and is the source of all hope and history. They are human beings. And, yes, Virgina, the fly is in the ointment: today's Stalins are ready to seize that energy, that idealism, that glorious willingness to give and give, with joy and without fear, without counting the cost; these modern-day manipulators wait in the wings to exploit what they cannot suppress.
The children who built Magnitogorsk are largely forgotten now. What will be the fate of the children of today's Magnitogorsk?
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