Germany

What Maisky Knew

250x330-85cec9540aa87f851da69eeedaf64f06

In the November 21 issue of The Weekly Standard, I have reviewed The Maisky Diaries, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. This fine volume covers the personal writings of Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to the United Kingdom during the critical period of 1932 to 1943. Here’s a bit of my judgment of the man:

In the 1930s, British foreign policy was still a matter of balancing the continental powers, particularly France and Germany; and if we avoid the arrogance that hindsight can bring, we should also remember that Neville Chamberlain genuinely thought he was securing a course for peace in Europe. Britain knew how weak its armed forces were—its army, especially—and this knowledge, as Lloyd George told Maisky, was doubtless a factor in Chamberlain’s “deal” with Hitler at Munich.

Maisky, however, had nothing but contempt for such calculations, coming across at certain times here as a kind of thirties neoconservative. Indeed, it’s hard at times to discern that Maisky was a Communist at all, or that he represented a brutal, totalitarian government. His comportment in these pages is measured; his language free of cant. Even his looks—the well-fed, portly body, the kindly eyes, the authentic smile—will strike the reader as very different from the dour, self-defensive faces of that era’s most prominent Soviets.

Read the whole thing here.

Brief Thoughts on Guns and the Holocaust

One of this week’s outbreaks of mass psychosis concerned Ben Carson’s claim that Jews could have “greatly diminished” the Holocaust if they had been armed en masse. At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke has written the perfect response to the controversy, fairly critiquing Carson’s position while also going after his preening critics. Here’s a snippet:

Before getting into the details of this claim, I must confess to being unsure as to why the mere mention of this era offends people as keenly as it does. In his comments, Carson was presenting a counterfactual hypothesis. Maybe it’s a bad one and he’s wrong. Maybe it’s a good one and he’s right. But why the anger? If you don’t like his case — or you think it’s stupid — then explain why he’s incorrect. Don’t freak out just because he said the word “Nazi.” Godwin’s law exists to mock those who refer to the Third Reich when it doesn’t apply. It’s not a general prohibition on the discussion of Nazism.

My own brief thoughts are as follows. Carson likely has no idea what he’s talking about with regard to the history of the Third Reich. But it seems to me he was aiming for a general point, namely that if you are a member of an ethnic group targeted for extermination you are better off with guns than without. The unhinged response to his comments shows that his critics wish to repudiate not just his historical judgment but the broader moral point he was making.

(more…)

The Other War on Terror

In The Weekly Standard, I review Adam Zamoyski’s Phantom Terror, a study of European monarchs’ paranoia regarding the threat of subversion and terrorism after the French Revolution:

Time and again, rulers construed uprisings not as expressions of discontent—the stimulus for action was more likely to be a bad grain harvest than a radical pamphlet—but as grand conspiracies hatched by shadowy maestros. The locus of Europe’s subversion was thought to be a body called the comité directeur. From its perch in Paris, this imagined group was the alleged central committee of European discontent, the heirs of Robespierre and Saint-Just.

Like all fantastical masterminds, the comité was everywhere and nowhere. Utterly convinced of its existence, European authorities whiffed its influence in every protest and every disturbance.

Read the whole thing here.

Would You Use A Time Machine To Kill Hitler?

At PJ Media, I discuss using time travel to kill Adolf Hitler:

Of course there are logistical problems with this, as in any hypothetical time-travel scenario. Would this time machine drop you off armed with a suppressed pistol in Hitler’s bedroom while he slept, or would you simply be dumped onto Unter den Linden in broad daylight with nothing but a cheap folding knife? It says “kill a young Adolf Hitler,” but what fun would that be?