Tell Me What They're Reading and I'll Tell You Who Will Win
There's an interesting point about pre-World War One Europe that applies very well to today's international situation as well. In The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman pointed out the difference between what the British and Germans were reading on the eve of the war.
In 1909, Norman Angell, a British member of parliament, wrote a pamphlet, "The Great Illusion," that became a best-seller. It argued that since war had become so terrible and governments were rational and would understand this, another major international war was impossible.
But in Germany they were reading Friedrich von Bernhardi's Germany and the Next War, where he argues that "war is a biological necessity" based on the law of nature, the struggle for existence.
Germany was preparing for war; Britain was pacifist. The same process repeated itself before World War Two. And the same process was again repeated in the brief time before the end of World War Two and the Cold War.
Each time, though, the "less prepared" but more democratic side won in the end. Still, the "fat, materialistic, having a good time" democracies took too long to realize what was going on and the resulting conflict took longer and cost more lives as a result.
In 1940, John F. Kennedy published Why England Slept, a book about how British appeasement helped create an atmosphere where Nazi aggression prospered. Of course, his own father had favored and encouraged those policies. Of course, the war he was "warning" about had already begun the previous year. But the surprise attack that killed about 2400 Americans and brought the United States into the war took place more than a year later.
Twenty years later, Kennedy was elected president.
In 2006, Bruce Bawer published While Europe Slept. It was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. One panel member described the book as "racist," while the group's president lamented, "I have never been more embarrassed by a choice" and called it an example of "Islamophobia." Needless to say, he didn't win the award.
For anyone to have read the book and made such statements is a measure of the intellectual insanity that has seized hegemony in the West. Bawer's book was published not one but five years after the conflict he described had already visibly emerged in the form of 3000 Americans killed in a surprise terrorist attack on New York and Washington. As of today, the United States is engaged in three different wars relating to the issues he discussed.
We can call this state of being, post-September 11 snoring.
So far nobody's been talking about electing Bawer president.
We're in the grip of a new version of Angell's "The Great Illusion," a double-edged title if there ever was one. Surely, nobody could want a radical Islamist state! Certainly, nobody would be willing to sacrifice their life for such a thing! Nor would anyone conceivably prefer martyrdom and murder to having a nice toaster and a hybrid car!