An Impressive but Deficient New Attempt to Explain the Holocaust

In Black Earth, Timothy Snyder puts forth a new account of the Holocaust, from its ideological origins to its completion. David A. Bell writes in his review:

[Snyder] brings to the subject the same passion that infused [his previous book], Bloodlands, along with his impressive expertise in the history and languages of Eastern and Central Europe. The book effortlessly sifts through sources in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and German. . . . Unfortunately, . . . [while] his account displays flashes of brilliant insight, the different sections fit together poorly, and too much has been left out for the rest to be convincing. . . .

Snyder begins with a rapid summary of Hitler’s worldview. Drawing from Mein Kampf, later writings, speeches, and the work of the Nazi “crown jurist” Carl Schmitt, Snyder claims, plausibly enough—although without actually demonstrating the point—that there was a fundamental, career-long consistency to Hitler’s thought. . . . According to Snyder, Hitler conflated science and politics, seeing the world in radically social-Darwinist terms as a death struggle between races for scarce resources, especially food. . . . It was the destiny of the stronger German race to subjugate, and ultimately exterminate, the weaker Slavs, and to expropriate their rich farmlands—the “black earth” of Snyder’s title. Standing in the way were the Jews, whom Hitler viewed as loathsome parasites who sought to subvert the natural victors through treachery.

Yet Snyder says little about why or how such a manifestly insane ideology could come to appeal to a modern, civilized nation, and still less about how it could help turn so many members of that nation into witting mass murderers. Was it just Hitler’s perverse political genius, his ability to turn what he gleaned from the cranks and fanatics he read into a compelling political message? Were there reasons more deeply rooted in German society, whether from far back in its history or from its recent experiences of defeat and depression? Snyder doesn’t say, and indeed does almost nothing to situate Hitler’s ideology within the broader histories of anti-Semitism or Western political thought.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Eastern Europe, History & Ideas, Holocaust

 

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy