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Works and Days

History Down the Danube

May 25th, 2010 - 11:51 pm

(Nuremberg)

Triumph of Will

A German remarked today to some of us that he found it odd that, given all the graffiti one sees, there is never any defacement on the great stone stage at Nuremberg (patterned by Albert Speer after the Pergamon altar) that is immortalized in so many film clips of Hitler screaming to the masses in the 1930s.

The German government has done a wonderful job in creating a museum inside the uncompleted Speer-design coliseum not far away from the parade ground. One leaves Nuremberg with the reminder that the fantastic and impossible are just a blink away when the planets line up.

Had I suggested a year ago that the euro would be in freefall and the entire union on the verge of implosion, one would have suggested I was unhinged. Today such an assessment is mainstream to conservative. I think the European debt crisis is far worse than let on, Iran far more likely to get the bomb than we think, and a North Korea far closer to trying something stupid. If we are not careful, there is going to be a Mideast nuclear arms race that will spill into Europe itself. (I take nothing back from the last posting on a seething Germany, and still insist that should an Iran go nuclear, and after it, an Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and should there be real doubt about the reliability of the United States [and I think there is already], then a great nation like Germany amid a financial meltdown in southern Europe would quite quickly dispense with its utopian UN rhetoric and take measures to defend itself from third-rate thugs with missiles that could hit Berlin.)

Europe and immigration

If we revised immigration policy and predicated legal entry on education and skill, ten million Europeans would arrive tomorrow, replete with degrees, expertise, and capital. There is a great unease over here, mostly in worry that no one knows the extent of aggregate debt, only that it is larger than let on and will result in higher taxes and fewer benefits without resulting in budget surpluses. It is always difficult for a government to ask its citizens to pay more than ever, receive less than ever, and end up nevertheless with greater debt than ever.  We’re next.

Here and there a few Germans seem to wonder what Obama is doing, but they are torn: “We are flattered the U.S. wants to emulate our system” versus “Why would you wish to get yourself into the jam we are in?”

World War II (near Regensburg)

We are heading down the Main-Danube canal to meet the Danube with stops and lectures in Regensburg and Vienna, today and tomorrow. There is much discussion in the group on World War II and especially Operation Barbarossa, a lunatic gambit that ensured a war largely won (by May 1941, Europe from the Atlantic to the Russian border was mostly subdued, allied, or neutral) would be largely lost. But one must not fall into the fallacy of hindsight: to us it seems ridiculous for the Wehrmacht to have sent 190 of its divisions into Russia when Stalin was granting all of Hitler’s requests for strategic materials, when a far easier and smarter route (with implications for hampering the British fleet in the Pacific), would have been to send 100 divisions into Egypt, take Suez, and go into the Middle East — Russia and Turkey remaining quasi-allies eager for a share of the spoils.

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