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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Who's to Blame?

I continue to be annoyed and perplexed that anyone takes seriously writers like Michael Moynihan at Reason who insist that "the blame" for some event is an exclusive property of a single agent. Moynihan, in critiquing Pat Buchanan's Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, writes:

"Beyond the absurdity of implicitly blaming Churchill for the Holocaust—because that is what he is really saying when he writes 'no war, no Holocaust'..."

I declare that what Moynihan "is really saying" when he writes this is that, if Buchanan holds Churchill responsible to any degree for the Holocaust, that he is saying Hitler had nothing to do with it. And that is utter rubbish.

Any professional in science or ancient (i.e., politically uncontentious) history who took the view that "pundits" such as Moynihan do of "blame" (i.e., cause) would be laughed out of court for such simple-mindedness. That Caesar was "to blame" for the downfall of the Roman Republic does not mean that the Gracchi brothers, and Marius, and Sulla, and Pompey, and Cato, and even "social factors," were not also to blame. That a hot spell in the Caribbean is "to blame" for a hurricane does not mean that a low pressure system sweeping in from Africa is not also "to blame." This single-source concept of blame is, I suggest, a sure sign one is dealing with a political ideologue rather than a genuine historian. It is entirely coherent to hold that Churchill had some responsibility for the Holocaust -- at the least, he could have fought to get more Jews asylum in Britain! -- while still holding that Hitler is far more to blame than Churchill.

What gross, partisan stupidity these people are willing to embrace!

3 comments:

  1. For stuff like this, Gene, I don't think some people are even capable of seeing the other person's point of view. E.g. take this paragraph:

    But what is really mystifying is Buchanan’s contention that if Hitler had been left alone in the East to gobble up Poland and fight an annihilation war against Stalin, the Holocaust never would have come to pass. In a March 1942 diary entry, Goebbels described “A rather barbaric procedure, which I won’t describe in more detail,” noting that “the prophecy [of] the Fuehrer…is now being realized in a more frightful manner. One cannot allow any sentimentality in these matters.” He then explained that it was only under the cover of war against Russia that Germany could achieve its genocidal goals: “Thank God that now, during wartime, we have a whole series of opportunities that would be closed off to us in peacetime. Hence we need to use them.” Buchanan quotes this passage in his book (though in slightly different translation), but doesn’t explain how this supports his case. Indeed, it greatly undercuts it.

    Right, quoting Goebbels saying that they could only massacre Jews under cover of war, really doesn't support Buchanan's thesis that the Nazis couldn't have exterminated Jews without the cover of the war.

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