07 May 2005

Hindsight

These days, everything I read is seen through a lens set at f-stop 9/11. Paul Johnson's history of the 20th Century, Modern Times, contains a quote from Joseph Goebbels in which Neville Chamberlain should have had his face rubbed.

On 5 April 1940, four days before the Nazi invasion of Norway began the European phase of the war in earnest, Goebbels gave a secret briefing to selected German journalists, one of whom made a transcript. The key passage is as follows:

Up to now we have succeeded in leaving the enemy in the dark concerning Germany's real goals, just as before 1932 our domestic foes never saw where we were going or that our oath of legality was just a trick. We wanted to come to power legally, but we did not want to use power legally. ... they could have suppressed us. They could have arrested a couple of us in 1925 and that would have been that, the end. No, they let us go through the danger zone. That's exactly how it was in foreign policy too. ... In 1933 a French premier ought to have said (and if I had been the French premier I would have said it): 'The new Reich Chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!' But they didn't do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone, and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs. And when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they started the war!

H.A. Jacobsen, Der Zweite Weltkrieg: Grundz├╝ge der Politik und Strategie in Dokumenten (Frankfurt 1965),180-1; quoted in Andreas Hillgruber, Germany and the Two World Wars (tr. Harvard 1982), 56-7.
Paul Johnson, Modern Times: the world from the Twenties to the Nineties (HarperCollins revised edition 1991), 341. Published in England under the title A History of the Modern World: From 1917 to the 1980s.

Try reading that with the nouns substituted:
Up to now we have succeeded in leaving the enemy in the dark concerning Islam's real goals. ... they could have suppressed us. They could have arrested a couple of us in 1972 and that would have been that, the end. No, they let us go through the danger zone. That's exactly how it was in foreign policy too. ... In 1993 an American president ought to have said ... : 'This new Islamist movement is informed by Sayid Qutb's book Milestones, which says this and that. This movement cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either it disappears or we march!' But they didn't do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone, and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs. And when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they started the war!