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Strong opinions, weakly held

Links for March 24

  • Emily Yoffe: Forget Juno. Out-of-wedlock births are a national catastrophe. Seeming fact-based defense of marriage. I don’t have strong opinions on this either way, but it certainly seems like marriage is to be encouraged for people who would be parents. The number that stands out to me is that only 4% of mothers who are college graduates are unwed.
  • 10 Zen Monkeys: Can America Handle a Little Truth? Great essay on the Jeremiah Wright controversy.
  • FP Passport: McCain’s wars. John McCain’s transformation into a neocon on foreign policy issues.
  • New York Times review of Nicholson Baker’s pacifist argument against World War II, Human Smoke.

1 Comment

  1. Human Smoke is a fascinating read. I think it’s particularly so because it makes just about the best possible case for pacifism in the face of the Nazis and, if you ask me, it still falls short of being convincing. But it makes you consider it in very great detail first. And of course it takes the shine off of the great hero leaders of WWII. It makes your understanding of WWII as “the good war” rather deeper.

    I’m a pacifist to a very great extent. I really believe the thing about “What if you had a war and nobody showed up?” I think most wars are over nothing worth fighting for and that nobody wins. I respect those who are completely pacifistic. But…

    The Nazis were hellbent on conquering all of Europe, at the very least, and as much of Russia as they could hold, and anywhere else in the vicinity that they thought they needed (i.e. probably the Middle Eastern oil states, Africa, India & the rest of the British Empire if they invaded Britain). There was no deal that could have been struck to keep them from trying this, in my opinion. Russia provides an instructive example. Russia made a deal to keep from fighting Germany. Germany attacked them anyway, suicidally. They were not people you could make a permanent peace with.

    The program of killing as many Jews as possible was begun as soon as they thought they were able. I see no evidence that it was particularly prompted by the war except that the war provided proof – for a while – that the rest of the world couldn’t intervene, and therefore gave them license to begin killing en masse.

    Pacifism in the face of the Nazis would have taken decades to have an effect. In the meantime they would have continued their slaughter of the undesirables. I think the pain and suffering of the war was a great deal less than an acquiescence to the Nazis would have produced.

    Further, I think that despite Britain’s empire and so on, the Allies were at least not determined to conquer and subjugate the rest of Europe. German aggression was real, and obviously enjoyed widespread support in the population, not just in Nazi officials. Containing it was worth the casualties and horror of the war.

    But I also think that the bombing of cities was criminal, especially once there was good evidence that it wasn’t even having an effect on morale. And the rhetoric surrounding it was dishonest and sometimes as dehumanizing as what the Nazis were saying. Nonetheless, the Germans were not wiped out or sterilized by the Allies, in the end. We really were better than them, despite our failings.

    I think the book also illustrates the enthusiasm for war that was much more common at the time than it is now. People thought war was a jolly good time with a lot of excitement and romance, even after the miserable trenches of WWI had shown the reality to a wide slice of the population. It’s good to understand that viewpoint. And maybe it’s not any rarer now; after all, it was pretty easy to convince most Americans that invading Iraq was a good idea, but just try that with nationalized healthcare.

    In any case, it’s worth reading.

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