Tuesday, January 25, 2005
With respect to the Nazis, Hannah Arendt noted that they were as frank as they were mendacious -- that no-one should have been surprised by the Holocaust because the Nazis had been talking about such things for years. Western liberals dismissed it all as rhetorical. The same was said about the things the radical Islamists have been writing about for decades. And have you looked at some of the stuff coming from other fringe groups? There is a lot of hate in the world, and it behooves the people who seek to defend civilization to keep an eye on it. Those who would be convinced by reading bin Laden's writings are already lost causes -- and anyway they are widely available on the web to those who want to find them.
I'm reluctant to hammer on Robbins because I agree with his broader point, but he does not do his argument justice -- that we should believe our enemies -- by stitching together a straw man to rip apart. It simply isn't the case that "Western liberals" dismissed Hitler's ravings as "all rhetorical," at least if by "liberals" we mean the center-left as we do today. The center-left of that era was romantically internationalist. They volunteered on the republican side against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War and they believed that there was something noble in the Soviet Union. The isolationists of the 1930s who campaigned against entering the war against Hitler were more often Republicans than not, and they weren't the least bit liberal.
If by "liberals" Robbins meant "appeasers," I would agree with him. Unfortunately, Robbins could not have meant to write "appeasers." It is purely by accident that today's liberals happen to be appeasers. Seventy years ago, when believing or disbelieving Hitler was relevant, it was the Republicans who would not authorize American intervention to oppose him.
CWCID: Er, Atrios.