Monday, February 19, 2007

"Fools' Crusade" Chapter Four [5]



Johnstone summarizes the development of German foreign policy towards Eastern Europe (and specifically the Balkans) in this section. She begins in the closing months of World War I, when Prince Max von Baden submitted a paper suggesting that Germany should couch its imperialist ambitions in idealistic language. "Ethical" is the word used.

I did not adequately discuss the end of the previous sections: Johnstone argues that the ideal of the folk-state is incompatible with the modern nation-state, because the folk-state is not only ethnically homogenous but also predicated on the notion that a people fixed into a certain kind of social (and, by implication, political) development. On this point I absolutely agree with her. Apparently, this is bad when Germans believe it, but not when Radovan Karadzic does.

What von Baden was getting at was this--Germany should present its eastern imperialism as an enlightened liberation of small peoples. This would create a new monolithic political entity out of fragmentation, to counter other non-German powers in the region.

Ignoring that she is merely discussing a paper submitted by a member of the nobility in the twilight of the German Empire, Johnstone plunges ahead with her contention that she has exposed a constant--and fundamental--theme in German foreign policy towards the Balkans. Berlin and Vienna were already engaged in such a policy, she avers--ignoring that all the Great Powers were meddling in the Balkans at the time.

The Weimer Republic was committed to continuing this policy after the redrawing of Europe's map at Versailles, according to Johnstone. I am no expert on German history; she might very well be correct, but what of it? Besides the loss of territory, there were large German populations across Eastern Europe, and the the long-term stability and legitimacy of the new nations of Eastern Europe could hardly be considered a settled matter to all German citizens. In light of Nazi aggression and atrocities, it is of course difficult to empathize with German grievances in the inter-war period, but just because Johnstone insists on casting the Nazi shadow over all of German history does not mean the rest of us must follow suit.

Still, it must be conceded that she is correct when she asserts that those estranged German minorities did indeed provide the pretext for Nazi expansion in the period leading up to World War II. It's instructive to note that she even uses the word 'pretext' as I just did, even as she simplistically asserts that this 'pretext' was, in fact, the substance of German foreign policy predating the rise of the Third Reich.

She closes with the observation that the Nazis sought to break up the countries they occupied or conquered by selectively 'liberating' certain aggrieved national minorities. This policy would be most effective in the east, where nationalism had come late and state-building was on shaky ground. While cynical--and utilized for loathsome ends--this policy was certainly rational, from the Nazi point of view. What are the implications of this policy in practice?

Johnstone--remarkably--says absolutely nothing about this. Nothing. This section ends with the above observation; the next section picks up after World War II ended. As always, she implies without elaboration or sustained analysis. She has the reader thinking that the horrors of Nazi policy in the east were actually merely the manifestation of ongoing German policy towards the region; to dwell too long on the point might weaken the vague impression she has managed to create. Time to move on.


Anonymous said...

What Diana Johnstone employs in her writings is historical revisionism / negationism.

Historical revisionism is the attempt to change commonly held facts/ideas about the past. In its legitimate form it is the reexamination of historical facts, with an eye towards updating historical narratives with newly discovered, more accurate, or less biased information, acknowledging that history of an event, as it has been traditionally told, may not be entirely accurate. Historical revisionism" (also but less often in English "negationism", as used in in Johnstone's book, describes the process that attempts to rewrite history by minimizing, denying or simply ignoring essential facts. Perpetrators of such attempts to distort the historical record often use the term because it allows them to cloak their illegitimate activities with a phrase which has a legitimate meaning. In some countries historical revisionism (negationism) of certain historical events is a criminal offense. Examples of historical revisionism (negationism) include Holocaust denial and Soviet history. Negationism relies on a number of techniques such as logical fallacies and appeal to fear. Examples of negationism and its effects can be found described in literature, for example Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and is used by hate groups on the Internet; including pro-Serbian, leftist-apologist, and general Srebrenica genocide denial sources.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget: she is a self-taught 'commentator/historian' (who knows what else she considers herself to be) who publishes articles that deliberately misrepresent and manipulate historical evidence with respect to Srebrenica Genocide. As you pointed out so many times on your blog, she deliberately misrepresent and manipulate historical evidence (she's no different than David Irving, a proponent of Holocaust denial).

It is sometimes hard for a non-historian to distinguish between a book published by a historian doing peer-reviewed academic work, and a bestselling "amateur writer of history". Instead of submitting their work to the challenges of peer review, revisionists rewrite history to support an agenda, often political, using any number of techniques and logical fallacies to obtain their results and they quote ONLY SOURCES that support their conclussion !

Owen said...

Yes, Daniel, the manipulative use of sources is a useful warning sign. However "reasonable" the argument appears to be the dishonesty shows through in the end.