Hitler’s Great Public-Relations Victory at the 1936 Olympics

March 2 2018

At this year’s Winter Olympics, much was made of the participation of North Korea, which took the opportunity to score propaganda points. In Berlin, 1936 (recently published in English translation), the historian Oliver Hilmes tells the story of an attempt by another totalitarian regime to use the Olympics to show its best face to the world. Liam Hoare writes in his review:

The Summer Olympics of 1936, [held in Berlin], were a moral disaster and thus a political and diplomatic smash for the Nazi regime. Jesse Owens’s achievements notwithstanding, Germany ranked first in the medals table, far ahead of the United States, reinforcing the myth of German or Aryan racial superiority. For the city of Berlin, the increase in visitors made the games highly profitable. More importantly, “Hitler and his regime were able to present themselves as peace-loving, reliable members of the family of nations,” Hilmes writes, giving many the impression that “Hitler can be trusted to keep his promises.” . . .

In competition, spectators witnessed fencer Helene Mayer, who had left the Third Reich for California in the fall of 1934 due to her status as a “half-Jew,” win silver for Germany. The Nazis allowed her to compete under their flag as a sop to the international community and those who had tried to organize a boycott of the games. Outside the stadium, for the duration of the Olympics, the Nazis suspended the publication of the anti-Semitic rag Der Stürmer and took down the issues that were usually displayed prominently in public spaces.

So successful was their propaganda—and the willingness of the International Olympic Committee to look the other way—that at the same time as the games were taking place, the regime was brazenly constructing a concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, barely 22 miles north of Berlin. The city’s gypsy population, meanwhile, had been removed and deported to a single encampment on Berlin’s eastern outskirts.

Read more at Moment

More about: 1936 Olympics, History & Ideas, Nazi Germany, North Korea, olympics, Sports

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy