Thursday, March 12, 2015

Was Hitler rational?

I have taken various courses in history over the years but sitting and listening to someone lecturing on a given historical period is in my view at best merely an introduction to that period.  I like to do what all historians are supposed to do -- go back to the original documents and actually read them.  And by doing that I often come to conclusions which are well outside what is popularly believed.

For instance, I have remarked at times on this blog that both the American Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta are quite different to how they are popularly conceived and that the generally unknown content is in fact very enlightening and gives us a different view of the times.

And the same goes for an understanding of Hitler.  It is quite clear to me that many historians of the period have not read Mein Kampf.  Yet that is where Hitler explains himself at great length.  Is how he himself saw the world of no interest when we want to explain what he did?   Reading Mein Kampf certainly kicks the legs out from under the usual tale about Hitler and the Vienna art school -- and that tale  still seems to be the most usual account of Hitler's motivations.

But my reading in the history of the Nazi period rather pales into insignificance compared with the massive reading that psychohistorian Richard Koenigsberg has undertaken.  I have put up some of his articles here.  And Koenigsberg  comes to some clear conclusions that are well supported in Nazi writings.  Like the earlier American Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th century, Hitler was much seized with the analogy between a nation and a human body.  He saw Germany as a living body that had been infected by a dangerous Jewish parasite that had to be removed for the sake of the nation's health.

Koenigsberg goes further, however.  He says that Hitler had no rational objectives as they would normally be conceived.  I think I need to quote him at some length here:

In spite of Hitler’s nearly psychotic anti-Semitism, historians often write about his decision to go to war as if it grew out of "rational" considerations. Questions are posed regarding Hitler’s strategies and tactics: Why did he attack the Soviet Union in the midst of Germany’s struggle to defeat Great Britain? Why were British forces allowed to escape at Dunkirk? Why did Hitler gratuitously declare war against the United States? Why did Hitler launch the Final Solution in the midst of war—causing massive diversion of human and material resources?

These kinds of questions grow out of the assumption that Hitler more-or-less knew what he was doing. He sought to achieve certain objectives, but made "mistakes" along the way that prevented him from reaching his goals. In my view, the assumption that Hitler understood why he wished to wage war—and knew what he expected to accomplish by doing so—is unfounded.

Hitler’s words and thoughts on warfare bear an eerie resemblance to the words and thoughts of Saddam Hussein. Like Hussein, Hitler rarely spoke of warfare in terms of winning or "victory." Rather, Hitler’s thinking about war revolved around the idea that individuals are obligated to sacrifice their lives for their nation.

Hitler asserted that any man who loves his people proves it solely by the "sacrifices which he is prepared to make for it." To be "national," Hitler said, was to be willing to act with a "boundless and all-embracing love for the people" and if necessary "to die for it." Giving one’s life for one’s country, Hitler believed, constituted the "crown of sacrifice."

Hitler declared war on September 1, 1939. Speaking before the Reichstag as German planes and troops crossed the Polish borders in a devastating Blitzkrieg, he said:

As a National Socialist and a German soldier, I enter upon this fight with a stout heart! My whole life has been but one continuous struggle for my people, and that whole struggle has been inspired by one single conviction: Faith in my people! I ask of every German what I myself am prepared to do at any moment: to be ready to lay down his life for his people and for his country. If anyone thinks that he can evade this national duty directly or indirectly, he will perish.

Hitler does not begin the Second World War by telling the German people that he is embarking on a quest to conquer the world. Rather, insisting that his fight is inspired by "faith in his people," he asks every German to be willing to: "lay down his life" for his people and country. Hitler goes on to say that if anyone tries to evade this national duty (to lay down one’s life), this person would "perish."

In his declaration of war, Hitler tells everyone what he is going to do—what will happen. What he said he was going to do—eventually is what did happen. The Second World War provided the occasion for the German people to sacrifice their lives for Germany. What’s more, Hitler acted to bring about the death of anyone whom he imagined refused to embrace the sacrificial imperative. The essence of Hitler’s ideology was: die for Germany—or we will kill you.

Hitler’s concept of self-sacrifice for Germany does not differ substantially from the Islamic concept of martyrdom for Allah. Willingness to forfeit one’s life—in each instance—is understood as a way of demonstrating the depth of one’s faith in and devotion to a sacred object. The individual gives witness to the sincerity of his belief by virtue of his willingness to make the "supreme sacrifice."

People become attached to ideologies conceived as absolutes. These ideologies or symbolic objects have names such as "Communism," or "Germany," or "Allah." Collective forms of violence— warfare, genocide and terrorism—come into being when a group (inspired by a leader) seeks to demonstrate its devotion to the ideology or symbolic object with which the group identifies. By killing and dying in the name of a sacred ideology, the group "gives witness" to the significance of its ideology.

So all Hitler was trying to do was to assert the rightness of a belief system.  I would put it slightly differently by saying that Hitler was trying to prove that Germany was lovable, or at least respect-worthy.  And as a response to the shame of defeat in WWI that is understandable.  The obvious retort to that, however, is that Hitler sure had a strange way of getting Germany loved and respected!  But, don't forget, Leftists often achieve the opposite of what they appear to want.  So Hitler can be seen as just a typical muddle-headed socialist.

One cannot dispute Koenigsberg's reading.  Hitler did say the things that Koeingsberg says he said. But Koenigsberg is Left-leaning so we also have to look at the other things that Hitler said to get a balanced picture.  And Hitler's Drang nach Osten (push Eastwards) is justified by him quite lucidly -- in a way that every Greenie would understand.  He saw that Germany's population was growing while resources were fairly static so thought that famine loomed for Germany. To this day, Greenies are still screeching about how we are about to run out of various resources.  Hitler was a good Greenie.

So Hitler was in fact quite clear about his war objectives.  He was a shallow thinker but not an irrational one. He wanted to get Lebensraum (Living space, agricultural land, food resources) for Germany by taking it off Poland and Russia.  And it was of course his attack on Poland that caused the reluctant Neville Chamberlain and others to declare war on Germany.

I have shown elsewhere that Hitler was not insane but I think it is clear that he was not particularly irrational either.  Sane people can do irrational things at times and perhaps Hitler did too, but his going to war was not irrational.

I think that Koenigsberg has to a degree been misled by Hitler's propaganda.  Hitler justified his demands in various ways and many of them were emotional appeals rather than anything that stood up to rational analysis.  He pulled every trick out of the hat that he could in order to get Germans to go along with him. He was even a great preacher of "peace", for instance, and antisemitism was popular worldwide at the time. And he succeeded brilliantly, to our everlasting horror. And Leftism IS very emotional and in slight touch with reality.  Remember the ecstasy of Obama's first Presidential campaign?  "We are the ones we have been waiting for".  Very Hitlerite. -- JR


Another Illegal ObamaCare Action - This Time Bailing Out Insurers

While the Supreme Court is considering the King v. Burwell case about the IRS illegally funding a part of ObamaCare (the subsidies), last week it was revealed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has… illegally funded another part of ObamaCare.

At issue is nearly $3 billion in payments made to insurers to help cover losses caused by ObamaCare’s various regulations and insurance mandates – effectively a bailout to prevent insurers from raising prices as much next year. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein writes:

“The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations.”

As Klein also notes, the Obama Administration itself acknowledged that they needed Congressional funding for this bailout money, by including a request for that money in its annual budget. Thus, the Treasury's response to Ryan, which was effectively a middle finger to Congress.

All this is just the latest instance of the Obama Administration blatantly ignoring the law with respect to their signature accomplishment, ObamaCare. As previously mentioned, the IRS chose to literally rewrite the law to allow them to distribute tens of billions of dollars in insurance subsidies to 36 states. And the White House has made over two dozen other unilateral changes to the law since its passage in 2010.

Congress has the clear, unambiguous, and sole legal power to authorize how much and where the federal government may spend our money. This illegal bailout should not even be a partisan issue - it is about whether Congress is any longer relevant in a government increasingly dominated by the executive branch.



Social Security Continuing to Implement Amnesty Actions

It was the logical next step. If illegal immigrants are getting Social Security numbers, then they are going to collect benefits. Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, wrote a letter to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) claiming that by 2017 some 16,000 illegal immigrants amnestied by Barack Obama's executive action would start receiving Social Security benefits.

Furthermore, Goss admitted the agency is ignoring the injunction blocking the implementation of Obama's executive decrees. In the letter, Goss wrote, "Based on the best advice and counsel we have gotten, we're working on the assumption that these [mass amnesty actions] will persist. Most indications we seem to get are that it's likely that this will get back on track, with some delay."



SCOTUS Upholds Religious Liberty in ObamaCare Case

Before the Hobby Lobby case, the court system told the University of Notre Dame it had to comply with ObamaCare’s contraception mandate – even if doing so violated the Catholic university’s collective conscience. But in a ruling by the Supreme Court Monday, the case was sent back to the lower court with instructions that the court must decide the case based on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Mark Rienzi, senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said, “This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS. As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty.”



IG Audit: 6.5 Million People With Active Social Security Numbers Are 112 or Older

Many people are living longer, but not to age 112 or beyond -- except in the records of the Social Security Administration.

The SSA's inspector general has identified 6.5 million number-holders age 112 -- or older -- for whom no death date has been entered in the main electronic file, called Numident.

The audit, dated March 4, 2015, concluded that SSA lacks the controls necessary to annote death information on the records of number-holders who exceed "maximum reasonable life expectancies."

"We obtained Numident data that identified approximately 6.5 million numberholders born before June 16, 1901 who did not have a date of death on their record," the report states.

Some of the numbers assigned to long-dead people were used fraudulently to open bank accounts.

And thousands of those numbers apparently were used by illegal immigrants to apply for work:

"During Calendar Years 2008 through 2011, SSA received 4,024 E-Verify inquiries using the SSNs of 3,873 numberholders born before June 16, 1901," the report said. "These inquiries indicate individuals' attempts to use the SSNs to apply for work."

“It is incredible that the Social Security Administration in 2015 does not have the technical sophistication to ensure that people they know to be deceased are actually noted as dead,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“Tens of thousands of these numbers are currently being used to report wages to the Social Security Administration and to the IRS. People are fraudulently, but successfully, applying for jobs and benefits with these numbers. Making sure Social Security cleans up its death master file to prevent future errors and fraud is a good government reform we can all agree on,” Johnson said.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee's ranking member, called the findings a "major problem" that wastes taxpayers' money, exposes citizens to identity theft and undermines confidence in government:



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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