My anthology deal critically with Hoover Institute fellow and frequent contributor to the American Greatness website Victor Davis Hanson. A Fox-news superstar in addition to his other claims to fame, Hanson specializes in totally unexamined assertions about modern history that as a professor I would never have tolerated even in a college freshman. Hanson has done well expressing these half-truths and fictions because they obviously please his neoconservative benefactors who have raised him to media prominence.
Contrary to Hanson’s telling, Germany (which didn’t exist as a unified country until 1871) did not unilaterally start a war against France in 1870. When I last checked, it was the French who declared war on Prussia in 1870 and did as much to provoke that conflict as the other side. According to Hanson, the evil Germans launched two world wars in the twentieth century, neither of which the other side supposedly did anything noteworthy to incite. Indeed, the unleashing of the First World War was entirely the work of the German government, which was then making a mad dash to swallow up Europe.
A vast, multilingual literature is available that shows that both sides contributed about equally to greasing the skids for the conflagration that came in August 1914. Hanson considers as “the lesson of World War One” that the US should not only have clobbered the Germans in World War One. The best course would then have been to occupy the defeated country and make its inhabitants pay unlimited reparations in accordance with the punitive Treaty of Versailles. (The US might have done best to stay out of the war, since no vital American interests were at stake. By the end of 1917, the French and Germans had begun to negotiate a peace that might have been concluded if the US had not entered the fray.) Hanson also tells us that the provisional war aims drawn up by the German chancellor in September, 1914 were uniquely outrageous. But the annexationist aims framed by the French simultaneously (which Hanson may be blithely unaware of) were even more horrific.
Hanson’s latest syndicated column illustrates perfectly his anti-German fixation. Thus he opines:
Germany started and lost two world wars — and was defeated due in part to the late entrance of the United States. The unification of Germany brought millions of East Germans into the west, many of them raised under a communist system that blamed the U.S. for the world’s ills.
Allow me to offer some corrections here. The US did not enter the Second World War “late” but came in somewhere well before the middle. Although Germany lost two world wars, the German Empire did no more to create the conditions for the first of these disasters than the French, Russians, Serbs– and various members of the British cabinet who were conspiring before the war against the Germans and Austrians. There is, furthermore, no evidence that East Germans are blaming the world’s ills on the US because they were “raised under a communist system.” In terms of voting trends, those areas that were under Communist rule are the most nationalist parts of Germany. Parties of the Right like the AfD and even the ultra-Right National Democrats have done much better in onetime Soviet-occupied German regions than in the more pro-American and less nationalist Western parts of Germany. The reason for this difference is the same as the one that explains why Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are more conservative than, say, France and Spain. They were less influenced by American and Western ideas, including feminism, LGBT-rights, and antifascism.
Merkel is buying gas from the Russians (and thereby supposedly weakening NATO), not because she resents the US as a hindrance to German expansion. The daughter of devoutly anti-nationalist, very far leftist parents, the German chancellor has never said anything that would suggest however remotely that she’s any kind of German nationalist. Certainly Merkel didn’t flood her country with over a million Muslim migrants and provide them with generous social allowances because she’s planning to conquer Europe.
Even more relevant, the deal to buy natural gas from the distributor Nord Stream in Vyborg, Russia goes back to Merkel’s Socialist predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who was a good friend of President Obama and a firm internationalist. Merkel has honored this agreement, because the Russians are selling Germany badly needed gas at a cheap price and because the gas is coming through a relatively short pipeline of 800 miles via the Baltic Sea. The fact that the German government has not repudiated Schröder’s agreement does not testify, pace Hanson, to its anti-Americanism. Germans and other Europeans need cheap abundant energy, which the Russians are now willing to supply. Other European countries have not condemned Germany for this supposed misstep but not for the reason that Hanson gives, because “they are used to being dominated” by Hanson’s whipping boy. They may be considering the possibility of upping their own shipments of Russian gas.
Kelley: I have an article on Franco-German peace negotiation during World War One in Independent Review 23.2 (Fall 2018), 7-11. Unfortunately it’s not yet online.
Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, The Strange Death of Marxism, and Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right. His latest books are Fascism: The Career of a Concept and Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers.