The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

When Are You Guilty for the Crimes of Your Group

One of the most stable political situations in the West is the use of charges of anti-semitism to attack those who criticize Israel.

Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, who championed Palestine in her primary run, was quickly broken by the pro-Israeli lobby, before she was even elected. The UK Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn has been under constant attack for “anti-semitism” because Corbyn is sympathetic to Palestinians. And recently, Representative Ilhan Omar suggested that donation from AIPAC are why Congress supports Israel.

(I don’t think that’s mostly correct. They fear AIPAC for far more than monetary reasons.)

Anyway, Ilhan was forced to apologize.

I tend to avoid the Israel-Palestine issue because it’s so dangerous. It’s the only issue I’ve ever been told to shut my mouth about or else (a donor strike, in that case).

But let’s state this simply: Israel is a religious-ethnic apartheid settler state, where the land and homes of much of the people who lived there were seized by force.

The problem is that criticism if Israel, a particularly evil state, is deliberately conflated with criticism of Jews, because Israel is an explicitly Jewish state.

So, here’s the formula:

Jews: Wonderful.

Israelis: Citizens of an apartheid, colonial state running the world’s largest open air prison. Any Israeli who opposes their government’s Palestinian policies is good in that regard.

Any Israeli who supports the government is evil. It’s not hard.

Let us extend this:

Germans: Wonderful.

Germans who supported the Nazis. Evil.

Germans who opposed the Nazis. Good.


Americans: Wonderful

Americans who supported the Iraq War: Evil.

Americans who opposed the Iraq War: Good.

(We could instead say, oh, Whites, or African Americans, or women, then move to Americans.)

People have responsibility exactly equal to their power. Nonetheless, if you support evil, you are culpable.

Most ethical situations are, in fact, black and white. We like to pretend they aren’t. Let’s take another situation:

Raising the price of Insulin 1000 percent in a few years: Evil.

People who do it? Mass murderers.

Correct punishment? Same as for any other murderers.

None of this is to say redemption is impossible. One of my friends supported the Iraq War. He quickly realized his mistake, reversed his position and has consistently opposed shitty American wars since then.

George Bush wouldn’t get off so easy: He had a lot of power, therefore his responsibility is much greater and as he’s no longer in power, he can no longer “make it up”.

The rule for redemption is as follows:

First stop doing evil. Apologize. Make it up. Those insulin execs: Drop the prices back down. Disgorge all the profits you made, with a priority to the families of those you killed. That’s all it takes.

But if you keep doing it or supporting it you are responsible or complicit.

This isn’t hard. Don’t do evil. Don’t support evil. If you do or support evil, then you are stained by that evil.

As for Israelis: It is not their fault they are Israelis. However, if they support their government’s policies against Palestinians, well, they’re evil.

The same is true of Jews, as it is of individuals belonging to identity-group you wish to name.

With respect to Israel, well, all it has to do is offer all Palestinians full citizenship and give them reparations equal to what was stolen. This will probably mean the end of Israel as an religious-ethnic state, but, umm, are religious ethnic states a good thing?

We all know what is required when we do wrong. Stop doing harm, apologize, and recompense the victim(s) as best one is able. (Yeah, this applies to black descendents of slavery in the US, though not so much as it does to the remaining Native Americans in the US, Canada, and elsewhere.)

While often what we should do as individuals isn’t true of states, for redemption and forgiveness, it is. Stop doing evil. Say sorry. Make it up as best one can.

But first stop doing evil.

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  1. Eric Anderson


  2. Plenue

    My understanding is that at this stage there is virtually no opposition in Israeli politics to the atrocious treatment of the Palestinians (or of Beduin tribesmen, or of Israeli Arabs, or of black Africans, including black Jews, or or or…).There’s just extreme and even more extreme. Such leftist opposition as ever existed has largely left the country altogether. The only just and viable solution, a single state with equal rights and privileges for all its citizens, is utterly dead (not that it was ever particularly alive to begin with).

    I just gave up on the country entirely the last time Netanyahu got reelected. His handling of the economy is abysmal; he ran on little other than fear-mongering about Palestinians and Iran. And it worked. An obvious charlatan and blatant liar, one of the worst in a leadership position on the planet (even judged against the likes of Trump), the personification of every negative stereotype of the power hungry politician. And he won. And if anything he represents a more moderate strain of Zionism.

    Israel as a nation is completely mad at this point.

  3. “But first stop doing evil.”

    It’s so clear… and unstable… a concept. To my shock, as I matured, I slowly came to understand that we (humans) are incredibly adept at saying/ believing/ doing almost anything, if it serves our purposes to do so, and feeling *justified* in it. The big dividing lines are not, in the end, between people on the spectrum of those who reject Evil versus those who embrace it but between competing definitions of Good and Evil. Apartheid-supporting Israelis firmly believe that they are *fighting* Evil… as alien as that belief is to you and me… just as settlers who killed Native Americans during the process of invading/ stealing Native territories firmly believed they were dealing with subhumans who didn’t deserve what God-Fearing Christians righteously coveted. It’s a mindfuck. Where is the Objective Support for the sense of “Good and Evil” that I assume, broadly, you and I share? The terrifying truth is that there is none. The whole “civilization” thing is precarious; by no means a given… a concept the Nazis demonstrated and that America, in its invaded territories, normalizes on more and more real estate every day.

    Whoever is in charge of the megaphone of Mass Media shifts the Overton Window of “Good and Evil” . When I was a teen during the late ‘Nam years, soldiering, in the minds of the chattering classes of the liberal arts-loving bourgeoisie, was anathema; soldiering was Evil (and that was when the Draft was in effect). Decades later, the equivalent classes (and all classes) in America… even when soldiering is as banal a career-choice as working at McDonald’s… are all about “support our troops!” But the troops are doing Evil, no? And willingly so. And admired for it.

    I mean, look no further than the irony of Google’s Orwellian motto.

  4. JohnB

    Here in Ireland it doesn’t seem to be a contentious issue at all, due to our history of partition between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the South – we know all about religious ethnics divides and the nastiness inherent in using that to turn one half of the population, into second-class citizens (and worse).

    The thing that strikes me about the term anti-semite, is that technically you can legitimately deploy it against the Israeli state, as just about everyone – Palestinian’s included – from the area are Semite’s.

    Israel would, in fact, be one of the most actively anti-semitic states in the entire region.

    Hopefully we see the beginnings of anti-apartheid sanctions against Israel, soon. Ireland may end up leading the way in banning settlement goods.

  5. Tom

    Israel is an antisemitic apartheid state. Palestinians are Semites and a far larger group of Semites than Jews.

    As for charges of antisemitism when criticizing Israel, hurl it right back at the accuser and call them an antisemitic apartheid apologist who supports war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Never ever apologize for calling out the Israel Lobby and attack them head on. They try to make your life miserable, make their’s miserable. If they make a database to blacklist you, make your own and blacklist them, and sue them.

  6. Tom

    If ever a man deserved to be on Death Row, Elliot Abrams fits the bill. Now Trump wants him to run Venezuelan Policy under Pompeo’s suggestions.

    Illhan has publically called him out in Congress for aiding and abetting Genocide and got slammed for it.

    Well I guess we truly live in a world where the swords of others set your limits and not, you know, laws.

  7. ponderer

    Ian, I think your intentions are in the right place, but you are ignoring the side effects and complexities of “responsibility” and “support”. The Versailles Treaty of WWI, had it not been extremely punitive, probably wouldn’t have lead to the conditions that the Nazis took advantage of. Consider today you write about the fear and uncertainty that lead to Trump. People take the options that are given. If you were given the choice to feed your family by joining the Republican party under Trump, or going without what would you do? Obvious right. So later on how does someone distinguish between you who joined only to keep their children alive and someone else who abused Gitmo detainees. They can say the US committed war crimes in this hypothetical future, they think that you probably weren’t one of the good ones since you “voluntarily” joined the Republican party.
    A Just outcome is difficult in that situation, and that’s a position some “Nazis” found themselves in. It’s also the spot some of their children found themselves in. Luckily, we decided after WWII that we didn’t want a repeat and aside from east Germany we were relatively lax. It didn’t stop injustice from being committed, but it was relegated to Germans punishing Germans by and large afaik.

    The pharmaceutical companies situation is much easier. Punishing an entire company isn’t exactly a just outcome but those people can at least move on unless you intend to claw back profits from people in the mail room as well as the execs.

    My point is that “culpability” is a meaningless term until we apply some punitive measure to it, some physical, tangible cost. That’s the only way one can say they believe in a just outcome. Outside your condition of “don’t do evil” (which I agree enthusiastically with), any recompense runs the risk of more injustice. I think it better, in every way, to hold those at the top accountable. There probably isn’t a single plot of land on then planet that hasn’t changed from one “owner” to another. To take that land requires people. Reparations, must come from some people, and be transferred to some people. If it belonged to one tribe before another, who do the reparations go to? Considering most people have mixed ancestry except possibly Elizabeth Warren, as much as the younger idealistic me wanted it, I don’t think it could be done in a just manner. I think it more important to treat people fairly in the here and now by lifting all boats.

  8. Willy

    Good and evil are defined, first and foremost, in personal economic terms. Yes slavery is wrong, but my wife is barren and I couldn’t keep the farm without their help, so I’ll make the best of our bad situation by treating my slaves well.

    And then there are those who aren’t nearly as empathetic and enjoy the complete power over others.

    I think the people we’re talking about are the tribalists in between empathy and sociopathy. They have able bodied children who can farm. But they won’t martyr themselves for a just moral cause, to free their slaves, because that would require courage. And the many other townsfolk just like them might feel a threat to their own personal economies. Best to lay low and let the other poor dumb bastard martyr themselves, and maybe… we’ll see how it goes.

  9. gnokgnoh

    Your analysis borders on Obama’s “look forward, don’t look back” justifications for his actions. As Ian states, “People have responsibility exactly equal to their power. Nonetheless if you support evil, you are culpable.” You are searching for anecdotal exceptions to that rule. Culpability is not about punishment, and it is not a meaningless term.

    We have no agency, no culpability, if no one can punish us…fairly?

    Yes, and then we get into Arendt,’s the banality of evil, or the banality of authoritarian followers (from a previous thread).

  10. Willy


    Whether one prefers moralizing or conquering, one must always consider the current condition of the mob they deal with. I didn’t write the rules.

    Preaching to choirs is great, and street preaching will yield unpredictable results. I’d rather learn how to convert to what should be sanest for mobs. Or deprogram. Did Arendt have any advice?

  11. @gnokgnoh

    I used to say that no one who hasn’t lived in Germany for at least five years is qualified to begin to analyze the Holocaust (as an event separable, on some level, from The War itself); I’d revise that to ten years. There are several factors to consider, along with the standard demagogues-inflaming-the-frightened-rabble-for-political-gain aspect. Even deeper within German culture are three parallel forces: A) the reliance on consensus/ group opinion in order to come to decisions on almost any matter (aesthetic/ ethical/ social) B) “Das is deine eigene schuld!” (“That is your own fault!” but closer to “You have no one to blame but yourself!” essentially; a righteous kind of victim-blaming that sometimes gets out of hand) and C) not just simple Anti-Semitism but a very peculiar kind of “anal,” middle class German *revulsion* toward the perceived “untidy-ness”, “fecundity” and “chaos” of the real-or-imagined Jewish Levant… traces of two of which remain palpable today, although C) has been kept under wraps, again, since 9/11.

    B) is of particular interest: one can easily fall afoul of it by merely being unlucky, or making an understandable error… but to step outside the circle of the absolutely Normal is to invite everything from strange looks to denunciations. A stereotype of the culture is one of Efficiency and Science/ Technology… but the culture is also still quite inclined toward The Mystic (the Pharmacies are full of homeopathic, or homeopathy-parallel, “medicines” that can’t possibly work… for very good Scientific Reasons) and sentimental-Mystical notions of… well… Race.

    Anyway, there’s not enough space to go into any of this in detail, here, but the above-cited mechanisms are not generally cited re: the topic of All That. The external machinations (and crucial bank loans) that helped to sucker Germany into the war, along with Nationalist Pride, and Hitler’s insanity (read up on his niece Geli) explain only so much. Martin Luther’s attitude to Jews predated All That by quite a distance. And it wouldn’t have been possible for a few thousand ideologues to kill so many people without general (winking) support from Das Volk, whatever apologists say to the contrary.

    On the “brighter” side… forty-to-fifty years after all that, not a city in North America or the UK was as Progressive as Berlin (which is what drew me here). Which may seem ironic but, in fact, it’s quite logical. They really were on their best behavior. And the Left is still very strong here, and unruly, and not nearly as seduced, as “progressive” Americans too often are, by the pseudo-Therapeutic Hollywood Industrial Complex. The German Left has absolutely no time for Right Wingers or The BMW-driving Bourgeoisie and they would rather chuck paving stones than pretend to empathize with a Fascist’s POV… and good on them, too. They can’t be bought but they aren’t averse to stealing i-phones.

  12. “Did Arendt have any advice?”

    Arendt was a rather unreliable narrator, to put it mildly. If I did a remake of Cavani’s “The Night Porter” I’d do a mash-up between the original script and the “love letters” exchanged by Arendt and that charlatan-swine Heidegger… yecchh. Evil is *never* “banal”… but the top of the pyramid also rarely soils its hands with the real work of genocide; the built-in distance is aristocratic, in the end, not “banal”. No, Eichmann was no form of “everyman”. Neat misdirection there, though.

  13. Willy

    The Spanish had somewhat similar travels. Progressivism can fill the cultural void after a severe mob hit-bottom?

    I was work-friendly with a European Jew and Palestinian who were international job gig buddies. They’d met and worked together in Tel Aviv. Yet where I knew them, in hipster liberal Seattle, they swore me to secrecy about this ‘controversial’ relationship, after I’d foolishly let them know I’d figured them out. There were too many evangelicals around.

  14. Willy

    Well, I found this, in Arendt’s letter to Gerhard Scholem.

    You are quite right, I changed my mind and do no longer speak of “radical evil.” … It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,” that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is “thought-defying,” as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its “banality.” Only the good has depth that can be radical.

    Scholem may not have had a full understanding of genetic temperaments. But maybe Arendt didn’t either. IMHO, Hitler was partly right, but it was only the psychopathic Jews who deserved to go.

  15. nihil obstet

    @steven augustine

    Every culture, every tribe, has its own twist on human emotions. If you can’t analyze the Holocaust without having lived in Germany ten years, then you can’t analyze American racism without having lived in America ten years or Israeli expansionism without having lived in Israel ten years or the cultural revolution without having lived in China ten years. How people feel and what they do is colored by the culture, but that doesn’t render them members of a different species.

    On your factors: A) dependence on group consensus — conformity may be more obvious in Germany, but America isn’t a collection of wild think-for-ourselfers, no matter how much we say we are. Non-Western countries overtly prize group consensus more highly. B) blaming the victim — I’m not sure what you think is the “righteous kind of victim-blaming” but victim-blaming is alive and well in the U.S. See the comments to the previous post on health care. C) racism everywhere includes revulsion at the other group’s perceived infection.

    You can probably explain why German victim-blaming differs from every other country’s victim blaming, as you can explain why my particular sin differs from my aunt Sadie’s same sin. We’re each different, you know? But in the end, we need to adopt a universal standard of good and evil, and a decision rule about when we’re guilty.

  16. ponderer


    “Your analysis borders on Obama’s “look forward, don’t look back” justifications for his actions.”
    No, it does not. I specifically said those in power must be held accountable, well I said it was better in every way than using some arbitrary sliding scale. Obama did the opposite of that. He absolved those with the most culpability and transferred the cost to those who were entirely innocent. If you want to misrepresent me, at least don’t be intellectually lazy about it.

    “We have no agency, no culpability, if no one can punish us…fairly?”
    We seem to have a new string of commenters who refuse to use dictionaries or even wikipedia to look up common words. From wikipedia :

    Culpability, or being culpable, is a measure of the degree to which an agent, such as a person, can be held morally or legally responsible for action and inaction.

    Culpability, a common legal term, as I’ve said is meaningless without some physical or tangible accounting. You may assign all the guilt to Bush for invading Iraq on false pretenses you want. It has no impact on the world, past, present or future while it stays only in your imagination. What meaning does it have then?

    I don’t mind rewriting criticism in my head to be logically rigorous, relevant, and stimulating. I don’t even mind responding to that criticism. You’ve left me with nothing to work with. You insist the dictionary is incorrect and want an explanation for a reality that doesn’t exist. We’ll if you don’t lift most of the comments here and paste them on your blog I guess we’ll be ahead. I’m pretty sure your alter ego’s name starts with @steven augustine. Ian could probably check the server logs and verify that if he wanted. I can’t blame you, tried reading on one of your “literary critiques” slash short novella and I’d much rather read snippets of Ians site too.

  17. Ian Welsh


    certainly there are those times where one must take less than one is owed. Notice that I did not require the insulin execs to give up everything.

    However I don’t think Versailles is a good example, because it is not clear to me that Germany, in WWI, is clearly most in fault. (This is why the “who caused WWI” essays were so popular in history classes.) Also, Germany had already suffered massively (as had everyone else.)

    Maybe I’l do a post on what one should do when one has the upper hand (notice that in none of my examples does the wronged party have the upper hand.) Machiavelli is on point here: destroy them or make them love you.

    As for conquest: when the conquered people are still around and still clearly suffering, they are due reparations. That evil is the way of the world is the problem, and what needs to change.

    This is especially the case for Israel, because there are a lot of Palestinians and Muslims, and Israel’s geopolitical situation is much worse than it looks. They can have a single state solution, they can commit genuine genocide, or the majority of them will likely wind up dead in 50 years. The long term trends don’t favor Israel.

  18. Plenue

    @steven augustine

    ” the Holocaust (as an event separable, on some level, from The War itself)”

    It isn’t separable. The Holocaust existed within the context of Generalplan Ost, the colonization of eastern Europe. It was an integrated part of the war effort, partly justified on the grounds that it was largely self-funded (and might even generate profit) through the assets and wealth seized (all those gold teeth added up).

  19. @nihil obstet

    “If you can’t analyze the Holocaust without having lived in Germany ten years, then you can’t analyze American racism without having lived in America ten years”

    I’ve lived 30 years in the USA and 30 years in Germany (minus a 2-year vacation, and nine months in London). Those are the only two cultures I have internal insights regarding. Other countries/ cultures I can only parse according to affect/ impact.


    “It isn’t separable.”

    That’s why I qualified the sentence with “on some level”. On some level, the “Final Solution” was a natural extension of Martin Luther’s prescriptions.

    “Burn down their synagogues. Banish them altogether. Pelt them with sow dung. I would rather be a pig than a Jewish Messiah.”—Martin Luther

  20. @Willy

    I’d like to go in more detail re: Arendt/ Heidegger, if I’m around tomorrow. As it is it’s late here and I have an early morning (Daughter/ breakfast/ school)

  21. ponderer

    I’m fairly ignorant on Palestine-Israeli matters. The USS Liberty incident and the blatant spying biased me against the Israeli state (of course not the general people) well before I heard about the West Bank or Gaza. I’ve heard from sources I consider credible that over the history both sides dishonored themselves (pat lang @ Sic Semper Tyrannis has described this). The current situation is dire I agree. I’m not sure that a single state plan could end without a Rwandan style solution for the minority. The government has reached too far, they got beat in Lebanon handily. They ended up ensuring Syrians got S-300 air defenses that neutralized their one military advantage (air power). They are well on their way to being surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned. Their cozy relationship with the Arab states is coming to light. I think the Palestinians have the advantage in momentum. If they survive the next 10 or 20 years (maybe less), they win.

    The real question is what will a desperate Israel do. I’m afraid they will continue to try to engage a conflict between the US and Russia, or use nukes, or both. They are already pushing for an alliance of Arab states to go against Iran. With American backing. I don’t think their elites perceive Iran as a threat so much as they are desperate to preserve the status quo. The house of cards is teetering. They need a conflict. It could destroy us all. Rebuilding Germany post ww II was the pragmatic thing to do. Punish the Israeli leadership, yes, but not to the point of risking a nuclear winter.

  22. ponderer


    Ahem.. As Ghengis would say, at least get their hands off the nuclear weapon before you put them to the sword.

  23. Ah, I just saw this:

    ” I’m pretty sure your alter ego’s name starts with @steven augustine. Ian could probably check the server logs and verify that if he wanted. I can’t blame you, tried reading on one of your “literary critiques” slash short novella and I’d much rather read snippets of Ians site too.”

    Ponderer, my friend, you have… special qualities.

  24. ponderer

    I’m not that special. It’s just really, really obvious when people show up to the same site looking to do some trolling at the same time. All in order to set up a bit of theater so the tens of people who visit their blog will have something to read. You claim to be interested in intellectual discussion but you aren’t. Reading your site, I’m not sure your capable of genuine interest in what anyone but yourself has to say. At least you could not copy pages of text from this site, and leave blatantly incriminating evidence of one of the most obvious, boring Trollings ever.

    alt right

    It happens not infrequently that I’ll casually pop over to a progressive site, to read an article and express an opinion, and suddenly find myself in an Alt Right hornet’s nest in the comment thread. Now, the progressive sites I prefer to haunt, which tend to be a little more on the bookish side (and the mighty apex of which is POPAGANDA) seem to attract a more furtive, and possibly aspirational, brand of Alt Righter (some of whom appear to sometimes believe they are of The Left). Still, it’s never long before these guys reveal themselves and they snap into Alt Right Talking Points Zombie Mode. All you need to do, as I did, is deploy the word “privilege” and the spittle-flecking Alt Right Talking Points Zombie Mode shower commences. Not that I’m claiming these guys are as Existentially irritating as the much-better-educated, just as delusional (and possibly more dangerous) CLINTONITES of 2016 (shudder). Still. It’s all relative, right?

    Bruce Wilder nailed it when he called your b.s. and juvenile insults was the best you could muster. FUD and those who spread it have been around a long time. I get it, some Trolls manage to make quite a bit of money. David Thorne is one of the best I’ve read ( The difference between him and you besides being funny, publishing real books, and alexis rankings is that he knows when to let it go. He doesn’t stick around pretending to be intellectual just enough so that he can derail the adults conversations and sabotage one of the best places on the internet since the fall of Firedoglake. You get what maybe 4 page reads a day, is really worth the time to annoy us and do all that copy pasting for four measly page views? Go up your game, maybe join one of those Israeli PR outfits. Then come back if you want. At least you’ll keep us entertained.

  25. gnokgnoh

    Only one comment in response to your undeserving nonsense. You used a legal definition of culpability from Wikipedia…? A common dictionary definition of culpability is, “deserving to be blamed or considered responsible for something bad,” (Cambridge English Dictionary) no punishment required. Nothing else you wrote merits a response.

  26. Hugh

    It is the weirdness and degeneracy of our social discourse that speaking simple truths is not only extraordinary but earns loud, chest-pounding, pearl-clutching condemnation. So if you say that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, it is a completely corrupt dictatorship, and Putin is a thug, you catch hell from many progressives. On the other hand, if you point out that Israel’s interference in US elections is of far longer standing and far deeper, that AIPAC is an agent of a foreign power, or that Israel is not a democracy but an apartheid state, you risk being branded as anti-semitic by a lazy and corrupt political Establishment.

  27. ponderer


    I didn’t say punishment. I said accounting. Ian used the world culpability, not you. He used it in the context of Evil and blatant war crimes. Just like you twisted my words to come up with punishment you changed the context of culpability. Equivocate all you want. You still started commenting on Rise of the Strongman.

  28. Plenue

    @steven augustine

    Just seems like you’re recycling Goldhagen’s nonsense. Hitler’s Willing Executioners isn’t particularly well thought of by most historians. Also referencing Martin Luther doesn’t really work for the Catholic component, which was over represented in the SS at least

  29. Z

    The truth has become a radical concept.

    In the social arena, opinion means much more than the truth.


  30. @ponderer

    “I’m not that special. It’s just really, really obvious when people show up to the same site looking to do some trolling at the same time.”

    You’re not “special” except to the extent that your faulty thought processes have you thinking that gnokgnoh and I are the same person, merely because neither of us is leaving Right Wing comments on a Progressive site.

    Though: if a site maintained by a Progressive Essayist is flooded with Right Wing/ Alt Right visitors (who are so comfortable expressing their retrograde opinions thereabouts that they actually consider Progressive commentary to be “trolling”)… can it really be called a Progressive Site?

    I feel for Welsh, who’s stuck on the horns of the dilemma of not being able to choose his audience (while needing the traffic), but, on the other hand: this is clearly the mechanism by which the Alt Right is pushing the “conversation” so far Down and Backward that the Left may not recover meaningful ground for decades. The Trojan Horse is usually anti-Israel discourse (discourse I agree with when it’s minus the Jew hating, btw: fuck Supremacists of Any Stripe)… sadly, that’s where the Left and Alt Right overlap and the sliding begins. I have an old “super-Lefty” friend who said, defending David Duke, “People change,” rewarding Duke the benefit of the doubt solely because of Duke’s vocal opposition to Israel! David Fucking Duke! That’s the clever mechanism. Duke is rotten from the bowels-up but he isn’t stupid.

    And ah yes I love the crypto-Racist Alt Righters hereabouts who scream “that’s why we can’t have nice things!” when the taboo topic of “White Privilege” comes up… because, you see, we could all “unify” if only we’d let the Alt Right tell us what to think/ how to feel in a way that’s not offensive to our wannabe Alt Right overlords. And wouldn’t that be nice? Well, not for this GOC (guy of color). Yes, the Division-and-Conquest of the Serfs proceedeth apace, but appeasing the delicate sensibilities of MGTOWers and Race “Realists” and Hitler apologists will not fix anything but fragile Alt Right egos.

    Amazing shit, really. And not a little bit foreboding. This mixture of Stupidity, Insanity and Utter Humorlessness is just going from strength to strength nowadays.

    Will anything short of a direct meteorite strike save us?

  31. ponderer

    @steven augustine

    You need to call your manager over and ask them how to continue. Seriously, stop going off script. At least when I went to dailykos I knew the CIA backed trolls were well paid professionals who could at least keep me entertained. This Israeli psyop you’ve got going on doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of a professional outfit. It’s not just you, though they may have paid a lot of money to put all those pretty pictures on your website, they skimped on the barely mediocre content. Worse, they made it logically in-congruent. I know you’re thinking an older black man who’s taken up residence in Germany is the perfect cover. You can be authoritative about Jew’s plight without the seeming biased. You can also spread obvious FUD as a leftist. Actually, your right it is the perfect cover until you screwed it up. You’re the most pitiful paid Troll I’ve come across so I’ll give you some advice. I assume this is a shared persona, feel free to share with your coworkers and management.

    Don’t announce that you Troll leftist websites for ALT Right people. Putting “Troll” in peoples head is the last thing you want to do. Not to mention the obvious FUD from having a supposed large population of alt right trolls on “bookish” lefty sites that you just magically “out” every “couple of weeks”.

    Scrub your website. Unless you are going to pay attention to the content there, get rid of it. Your treatment of women isn’t funny, its very creepy, and its not going to appeal to this demographic one bit. Everything, literally, everything there undermines your cover in a creepy sadist way. It’s just embarrassing.

    To start with you only get 4 page views per day with all of that content. If you were a real person with a real mom or other family, you’d get more than that. It’s obvious at that point its a front. If your management can’t be bothered to spend the dough to get those views up, don’t put a link to it.

    Don’t pretend to be a leftist who hates leftist. Call yourself an independent or old school Democrat. You want to insinuate into the group sure, but you don’t support anything. Your website hobbles you in this regard. Real leftest get inspired and build, they don’t just tear down the left. You could pretend to be a little mentally unstable, but you’d never be able to maintain it without the skill.

    You’re also not capable of an intellectual conversation outside rough talking points (probably provided by script, a poor one at that). You’re the drive by guy, not the intelligent troll that can stick around for awhile and undermine a community. You don’t need a website or cover story to pop in here and there and alienate people. Play to your strengths not your weaknesses.

    Don’t be greedy. Mixing race relations and Hitler meme’s is just a bridge too far. At least use different accounts for that. Just because you see the biggest challenge to AIPAC coming from Leftist in the US, don’t undermine a community with sloppy FUD. You show up on Ian’s posts on certain topics having to do with your Israeli interests. That’s already suspicious.

    You are not a writer much less a novelist, don’t try to pretend to be one. A real person who puts their innermost thoughts and feelings into a work, doesn’t treat it like stuff on my website. They put it in a place far closer to their children than the stack of papers they shuffle in the office. As soon as I insulted your writing you should have defended it. Even if you sold 100 copies, you’d say it was a hundred copies I didn’t sell. Second, novelist don’t give everything away. They have to eat. If your handlers won’t spring for a paywall for some of their mediocre work, I’m guessing they lifted from a failed 70’s novelist, you’re left with being independently wealthy. Wealthy black man who escapes the horrors of the 1990’s USA for the much more race friendly Germany, not that compelling.

    If you had stopped with Rise of the Strongmen, you would have been ok. Even though you were outed there, you managed to derail the conversation. Everything past your second or third post was an embarrassment, but you managed to make it uncomfortable. That’s the problem with a persona, once you have the effort -the sunk cost- into it, its hard to let go. I guess that’s why they call it the sunk cost fallacy.

    Don’t be mad, let’s just all walk away from this one. I’m glad you turned out to be an propaganda stooge, as pitiful a troll as you’ve been if you were a real person living in that persona’s shoes, you’d be the most pitiful person on the internet.

  32. ponderer

    This is only slightly off topic and not at the head of the articles by Ian so I want to note here for those of you still left. Our brief obvious Israeli astroturfing / trolling seems to be over

    A couple of days later, Ian Welsh wrote an essay which seems to have been triggered by the secondary “controversy” I started, in the first thread, by suggesting that although (for example) modern Germans are not responsible in any way for the events of the 1930s and 1940s, “… that doesn’t mean that a modern citizen of any State is entirely free of the ramifications of the national narrative preceding that citizen’s birth.” Which, of course, triggered the Reactionaries. Welsh’s essay is titled “When Are You Guilty for the Crimes of Your Group?” and it is solidly Left-Progressive in its measured assertion that “This isn’t hard. Don’t do evil. Don’t support evil. If you do or support evil, then you are stained by that evil.” Which is not what his (apparently overwhelmingly Fascist-Lite) audience came for; they only care about this (equally true) component of Welsh’s essay: “As for Israelis: it is not their fault they are Israelis. However if they support their government’s policies against Palestinians, well, they’re evil.” They like that bit and ignore the rest, like a madmen buying a chicken sandwich for the parsley. Again: wtf are so many Alt Right commenters doing on a Progressive site?

    I think this shows a deliberate targeting of Ian for his anti Israeli government views. They won’t mention being accused of Israeli astroturfing not when it might get in the way of their next progressive troll. We’re fortunate that it was so poorly run and staffed. I personally archived the site (doubling the page views to 8 probably) for future reference it was that bad.

  33. different clue

    @Ian Welsh,

    As you point out, the long term trends look poor for Israel. They can go Single State or they can commit genuine genocide on the Palestinians or most of them will be dead in fifty years. The two ways they can mostly be dead in fifty years is if they and their Rapturanian Armageddonite allies back them into a War of Armageddon which they won’t survive . . . or if the Palestinians ( and maybe others) commit genuine genocide on them.

    But after that, what would be the even longer range outlook for a victorious Palestine? Since part of the Palestinians’ victory would be due to having more children than the Jewisraelis have, the Palestinians would probably keep right on doing what worked for them . . . which is to keep having more children. Combined with Global Warming turning that whole area into a hyper-arid desert, the State of Palestine would become a second Yemen, without food or water within its borders for its people. They would not be unique in that, of course.

  34. different clue


    ” Scholem may not have had a full understanding of genetic temperaments. But maybe Arendt didn’t either. IMHO, Hitler was partly right, but it was only the psychopathic Jews who deserved to go.”

    IYHO, what per cent of the Jews were psychopathic and deserved to go?

    Also, IYHO, was Hitler partly right to invade Poland?
    Also, IYHO, was Hitler partly right to invade Russia?
    Also, IYHO, was Hitler partly right to declare war on the United States in support of his ally the
    Empire of Japan when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

  35. Willy

    On a far smaller scale, there was once a blog aimed at high school teens regarding bullying. The owner suggested that the Columbine shooting was more complicated than just two psychopathic shooters and lots of victims.

    His evidence suggested that the shooters were not psychopathic, but had been driven to pathological nihilism. He suggested that the bystanders to all the bullying events which purportedly led up to the shooting had been mostly good and decent kids and parents. The bystanders were defined as being neither bullies nor the bullied, but anybody else who’d witnessed bullying events and done nothing.

    He claimed that that the shooters had targeted bystanders because the shooters had lost faith in the system. They’d been driven pathological by witnessing the refusal of the bystanders to work together in defense of a more civilized school culture. There were many other variables, but those few were critical.

    Personally and on a much larger scale, I’d suggest that the progressive political idealism we see in most young adults in whatever generation, is rooted in fear, and not in any laziness, entitlement, or lack of life wisdom. They fear living in a society which they’re sensing, is controlled by adult versions the same kind of ruthless bullies and bystanders they’d witnessed and endured at school, except far more clever and sophisticated.

  36. Willy

    IYHO, what per cent of the Jews were psychopathic and deserved to go?

    1-3% of all Jews, Germans and any from any other nationality where psychopathy could be absolutely proven.

    That comment wasn’t meant to be taken entirely seriously, but I’m completely serious about normals taking psychopathy seriously.

    There are too many internet threads out there with people trying to rationalize the tolerating of psychopaths in general society because “they make good surgeons or FBI detectives because they’re so fearlessness and emotionally objective”.

    When anybody has no ability to feel empathy or guilt, the survival power drives inherent in all humans becomes far more unrestricted. Where mischievous normals might amuse themselves with banter and pranks, psychopaths amuse themselves with duping delight and the ruining of others. IMHO, even the most disciplined of psychopaths will eventually intentionally, perform the wrong surgery or arrest the wrong people, if they can get away with it, for their own amusement.

    Also, IYHO, was Hitler partly right to invade Poland? no

    Also, IYHO, was Hitler partly right to invade Russia? no

    Also, IYHO, was Hitler partly right to declare war on the United States in support of his ally the Empire of Japan when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? no

    Hopefully you get my point already. But they’re only half the problem.

  37. different clue


    Thank you for your reply. Your clarifications leave me feeling relieved.

  38. Guest

    Wow, Ilhan grasped the real 3rd rail of American politics, and now I’m actually seeing a blogger I sometimes read give it a bear hug. Maybe not significant, but still remarkable for how rare it that is.
    Maymbe half the secular Jews (religious ones are monolithic in support) that I know just shake their heads and say nothing when Israel and its more controversial policies come up. The other half reflexively spout some nonsense about how Israel is a beacon of light blah blah blah. It’s always the same spiel almost verbatim.
    I’m with the head shakers whose eyes seem to say it all without words. Israel is doomed, possibly sooner, more likely later, maybe even much later, but it’s inevitable. Only question is how far they compromise their alleged values on the way there. And nobody is ever going to get thru to its supporters, Jewish or christian, so I save my breath and also spare myself from the kind of lecturing about repeating anti Semitic tropes Ilhan is getting.

  39. bruce wilder

    This essay on CounterPunch seemed to me to be especially on point:

    Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies

  40. StewartM


    The Versailles Treaty of WWI, had it not been extremely punitive, probably wouldn’t have lead to the conditions that the Nazis took advantage of.

    Versailles wasn’t ‘extremely punitive’, it was mild compared to what the Germans had in mind if they’d won (just look at Brest-Litovsk). The borders that were drawn were probably Europe’s fairest to date, in terms of ethnicity and nationality. The biggest failure was with reparations but then again Germany had created that issue with the huge reparations it had imposed upon France in 1871.

  41. StewartM

    Just a couple of points about the Palestinian ‘terorrists’–

    1) One, they tried peaceful means–economic boycotts. Then the US took that option off-the-table with their antiboycott laws, which on face reading makes it a crime for not only US companies but even *US citizens* to organize a boycott of Israel (so the same tactics used against apartheid South Africa were taken away). If you don’t want violence, give people peaceable means to bring about change;

    2) At the current body-count, it will take the Palestinians about 4 million years to kill as many Israelis as Israelis have killed Palestinians.

    My former college landlady, who was visibly Native American in ancestry, say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just a reply of Europeans/Native Americans. The Israelis kill far more people the socially accepted way (i.e., by people where the same color garments) while the Palestinian counter-violence is less organized and “not fair or right” the same way Native Americans killing a single frontier family was a “massacre” while European/American soldiers retaliating and killing thousands of Native men, women and children was ‘justifiable’. Though there’s also violence by the non-soldier settlers in both cases against the ‘natives’.

    But ultimately, it’s about the Israelis and US/Europeans wanting the land, and wanting the natives to just ‘disappear’, a la Final Solution ‘disappear’.

  42. ponderer


    Equivocation at this point? By extremely punitive I mean by the measures that one can bear, likely to lead to unrest and eventually revolt. That is what happened after all. Just because the Germans had worse plans is not an argument, it has no bearing on my observation at all.

  43. StewartM

    By extremely punitive I mean by the measures that one can bear, likely to lead to unrest and eventually revolt.

    The only facet of “Versailles” that could be said to have led to WWII were the reparations, along with the US insisting that the French and British pay *them* back for their WWI debts. This payment system led to the German economy being kept afloat by US investments, revenue which in turn was paid to the British and French, who in turn paid on their debts to the US. When the crash came in 1929, the US spigot of money into Germany dried up, and that house of cards collapsed.

    This is why after WWII, the creditor US said, in essence, “Just forget about paying us back”, which was a wise decision.

    Other than that, the biggest failure of the WWI peace was not that it was too harsh, but it was too lenient. Pershing was right, the war should have been prosecuted to Germany’s unconditional surrender. You must recall that what really happened in Germany after WWI was that Hitler and the Right in Germany spread the “Stab in the back” myth, that Germany had been really doing quite well on the battlefield, even winning, when the Germany army was “stabbed in the back” by liberals/socialists/Jews/peaceniks etc at home (sound familiar? The US had a similar myth arise and spread by the Right after Vietnam).

    The Allies in WWII correctly made the decision that this time, Germans would see Soviet, American, and British tanks driving up and down their streets and soldiers on the road and suffer no illusion that they *REALLY DID LOSE* the war. That too was a wise decision.

    Moreover, the resulting Allied occupation of Germany allowed the Allies to do something that the Wiemar Republic was never able to do—to cleanse out all the monarchists, fascist sympathizers, and other rightists out of the army, the civil service, and the judiciary. Wiemar democracy had to rely on these to restore order and run the government, but these institutions were filled with people who hated the very notion of republican or democratic rule. Recall that the old Second Reich judiciary, who regularly imposed death sentences on leftists and Communists seeking to overthrow the government during the early Wiemar years, let Hitler’s putsch off with a mere two years in prison (you know, ‘because his heart was in the right place’, according to them). This was the focus of the de-Nazification effort after the war.

    (And, it was also the cause for Patton’s dismissal, because Patton–who liked to hobnob with fascists and their liked–dragged his feet in the US Third Army sector).

  44. ponderer

    The only facet of “Versailles” that could be said to have led to WWII were the reparations

    I agree, that was actually the only aspect of Versailles I was interested in, those that could be said to have led to WWII. Since most of the rest of your text is my stance, I see no reason to belabor the point. You do have a logical error here though:

    Other than that, the biggest failure of the WWI peace was not that it was too harsh, but it was too lenient.

    So other than the causes that led to WW II, we should have been more harsh. If we weren’t talking about the horrors of war, I’d think it funny in contradiction. I should remind you that collective punishment is considered a war crime. I’m not sure how that can be apart of left thinking, unless it’s the Nazi left..

  45. StewartM

    So other than the causes that led to WW II, we should have been more harsh. If we weren’t talking about the horrors of war, I’d think it funny in contradiction.

    The German public had to face the fact that they lost WWI; that fact was both obscured to the German public because the armistice had been signed when German armies were still on foreign soil, and later lied about by the right (including generals like Ludendorff who had admitted German defeat at the time of the armistice). Also, Germany democracy could not take root as long as powerful and bemonied anti-democratic elements retained power in the military, the civil service, and the army. (Google the ‘Kapp Putsch’ of 1921, and how the army, while agreeing to defend the new Republic against leftist enemies, stood down and refused to protect the new republic when a group of right-wingers marched on the capital).

    The single biggest mistake of WWI that led to WWII was probably not fighting to unconditional surrender. The relatively easy peace (yes, reparations were a mistake, but Versailles was a relatively easy peace by most comparisons) bought only 20 years of peace. Being tougher on Germany in WWII has resulted in almost 75 years of peace in Europe.

  46. Ian Welsh


    No, Versailles was not a mild peace treaty. It was excessively punitive and recognized as such at the time, because Germany was not particularly a villain in the war. The war should have been ended no later than after the first year, with a conditional peace and current borders, but all the powers fighting it were insane.

    The rules for nations dealing with nations, are, in any case, somewhat different than the rules for states dealing with individuals. And the rule is you either destroy their ability to ever retaliate, or you are nice to them. You do not piss them the fuck off, and leave them able to fight. WWII is the fault of the Allied powers in WWI almost as much as the Germans, because what happened was predictable and predicted (by Keynes, in particular, immediately.)

    After WWII Germany and Japan were OCCUPIED. They were occupied states for decades afterwards, and that Americans refuse to admit that is irrelevant. You wrote their constitutions, your troops garrisoned their countries and you wanted them (especially Germany) back on their feet and not fighting a guerilla war against you because you were scared of the USSR.

    Note that making an enemy into a friend is the ultimate form of destroy an enemy, as Lincoln pointed out.

  47. ponderer

    After WW II we also claimed victory for the good guys when Russia did far more of the killing and dying. Fighting to unconditional surrender is easy when its generations away and thousands of miles. If you are on the winning side a Nagasaki or two isn’t a big deal. At least until the other guy gets the same weapons, or better weapons. It’s a strange age where we can decry the outrages of slavery but mass murder hardly makes one shrug. From a Machiavellian perspective, when one says that you can’t befriend the conquered, that you must crush a large population center there are only two options: mass graves or chains. Otherwise you have to look over your shoulder (figuratively speaking) for eternity. I guess Genghis had a third way, but it seems like more of a pragmatic version of mass graves with some possibilities of “friendship”.

  48. StewartM

    No, Versailles was not a mild peace treaty. It was excessively punitive and recognized as such at the time, because Germany was not particularly a villain in the war. The war should have been ended no later than after the first year, with a conditional peace and current borders, but all the powers fighting it were insane.

    Ian, I feel that your opinion is the result of dated historiography. The “the poor Germans got a lousy deal at Versailles”-attitude was an attitude popularized shortly after WWI, by people like Keynes but also by the fact that the Bolsheviks published all the Russian correspondence, which seemed to indicate imperial Russia’s guilt.

    After WWII, we got a look at the German end of the diplomatic correspondence, and the internal documents of the German government, and these tell a vastly different story. These show the Germans egging on the Austrians to punish Serbia and push Europe into war if need be, and they show the absolute refusal to consider any compromise peace that returned to the 1914 borders because of internal reasons–the aristocrats/generals like Ludendorff (who is almost a dictator by 1917) believe that if there is any such compromise, it will lead to the abolition of the three-class voting system in Prussia that guaranteed the aristocrats power, and the hated Social Democrats would take over. Germany fought to the bitter end for all-out victory or defeat less so of fear of bad treatment by the allies and more so because of internal politics.

    Versailles is harsh compared to what? Brest-Litovsk? Germany had plans for a similar “Brest-Litovsk” in the West, annexing Belgium and large swaths of Northern France, regions that were no in no way ethnically or historically German in any modern sense of the word, and reducing its neighbors to “vassal states”. It was the German historian Fritz Fischer who upended the view of “poor Germany and Versailles” in the 1960s who, by going through the German documentation, showed how similar the German aims in WWI and WWII were. Fischer challenged the idea that Hitler was an aberration, but showed to a significant degree how Hitler’s policies were an extension of what was conceived before. By contrast, Germany after Versailles lost no territory that was ethnically Germany save for Alsace, which was non-German by allegiance; its modest territorial losses were non-German in ethnicity. Moreover, the reparations imposed upon Germany were less than what Germany had planned to impose upon France (mind you; while as I have said the reparations were a bad idea, but it was understandable why France had insisted on reparations, they were to pay for the damage done by the war; Germany had by contrast suffered no such damage and in fact had planned to impose a bigger sum on France in 1914, before the war even got underway!).

    The “poor Germany and Versailles” misconception had a big consequence. Its propagation meant that the reaction to Hitler’s aggression was slow, particularly among the British (the French, who weren’t lucky enough to have a channel of water between them and Germany, were less affected but lacked the strength to stand up to Germany alone). Germany’s aggression in WWII predated Versailles, it wasn’t the result of some supposed “harsh treaty” but was internally generated by powerful political and economic power centers. Peace was not to be had until these powers were neutered.

    The Allies belatedly learned from the WWI experience to both fight Germany until unconditional surrender, to occupy German and remove all the rightist power centers that Wiemar was never able to free itself from (you want a ‘deep state’? Germany had it in spades) and the wisdom to let the whole issue of war debts and reparations to drop. And the smarts to realize that we really, really, needed the Russians from a strictly military point of view and not to let the anti-communists in the US State department stand in the way of victory.

    One last point, Ian–you mentioned Lincoln. I think that’s an odd comparison because I think Lincoln’s handling of the South during the war at least was more in-step with the way FDR fought WWII. Southerners first had to feel the pain of defeat, and suffer no illusions that they lost. After emancipation, Lincoln too fought the notion of any compromise peace that would return to the status quo; it was essentially “unconditional surrender” just like FDR (Lincoln did attend a peace conference in late 1864, and did not budge on his insistence that the South lay down its arms and abandon its quest for independence). Another similar point is that the South’s aggressiveness leading up to 1861 was in no way a result of the South being treated unfairly or harshly, just like Hitler’s Germany was not the result of a “harsh Versailles”. The aggressiveness was internally generated in both cases.

    Lincoln was assassinated before Reconstruction could even began, let alone finished, so it’s hard to say how things would have gone. His successor, Andrew Johnson, erred in encouraging white southerners that they could somehow escape many of the consequences of the war, and Congress’s so-called “Radical” Reconstruction had no sticking power. We still live with the failure of Reconstruction today, because the South was insufficient “de-nazified” (which no, it doesn’t mean hanging or shooting people, but it does involve removing them from centers of power).

    FDR, by contrast, did make friends with Germany, there were always pro-democratic and liberal elements there. By removing the rightists from power in de-nazification, representative government could take hold and grow.

  49. ponderer


    There are two weak points to your argument. One is correctness, do you have any sources for this version of history for the contents of your second paragraph? The second is that you rely on oracle-like prior knowledge of the events of one side of WW I, to determine the proper “just” outcome or punishment. Oh wait, three, collective punishment of all people in Germany is wrong. It is a war crime.

    Another similar point is that the South’s aggressiveness leading up to 1861 was in no way a result of the South being treated unfairly or harshly, just like Hitler’s Germany was not the result of a “harsh Versailles”. The aggressiveness was internally generated in both cases.

    Um, what? I dispute any aggressiveness. No one was killed by the battle of fort Sumter (2 died during an accidental explosion afterwards), it was a false flag operation and meant to incite a war. That was the pretext used by Lincoln to conscript 75,000 troops to lay waste to the South. 4 states were so outraged by the action they left the union.

  50. StewartM


    Fighting to unconditional surrender is easy when its generations away and thousands of miles.

    Lincoln fought the US Civil War to essentially unconditional surrender, as did FDR. While I do not advocate this nor regime change as a universal, always applicable solution (it’s actually much more the exception, not the norm) the argument that ”war never solves problems” is patently false. Today’s world is most likely a better place because FDR fought WWII to a conclusion. I would have favored executing fewer people than were executed (not Jodl or Keitel, they were tools, not originators; and Yamashita got a raw deal in the Japan trials…if we were not hypocrites, then Westmoreland and higher-ups should have been hanged for My Lai, based on the prosecution’s case against Yamashita; but hell, we didn’t even really punish Calley for that).

    The Western Allies did commit some crimes in WWII I will readily admit–Dresden, the two A-bombs, and the night firebombing of Japan (no, it wasn’t necessary, and in fact I think counterproductive). But I’ll ask you–what other major war, involving as many deaths (proportionally) and involving such an effort and fought to a knock-down, drag-out, conclusion, was milder than Versailles? Maybe the treaty of Paris (1815, ending the Napoleonic Wars) but even that had large reparations imposed upon France, and foreign occupation, and regime change.

  51. StewartM


    I dispute any aggressiveness.

    The South had been the single most powerful force in the Federal government until 1861, with friendly “doughface” Presidents (northern Democrats who allied with Southerners), and enough defections in Congress from the West to offset the North.

    Yet the South grew increasingly strident and hysteric about the defense and yes, the extension of slavery (by 1860, with Dred Scott, the Southern contention was in essence ‘there are no free states’) opening the possibility of slavery spreading not only to the territories, but also to states where it was prohibited, As for “aggressiveness”, what other term could you use for Southern legislatures starting back in the 1830s putting up *cash bounties* out for anyone who would go up North and *murder* prominent abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison? This was despite the South’s preeminent role in the Federal government and despite the fact that no prominent Northern politician or party called for slavery’s abolition where it already existed.

    Then, in 1861, the South had something happen to them that happens in democratic countries. Their side lost an election. Then the South went batshit crazy, for lack of a better term.

    The more sane southerners, like Alexander Stephens, tried to mitigate the hysteria, trying to remind Southerners that they still had plenty of power in Washington to block unfriendly actions, but to no avail. We could go into reasons why the South went ‘batshit crazy’ but I believe a big part was that the South was already not a free society–for whites as well as blacks. Opposition newspapers were not allowed to circulate in the South, and so when Southern newspapers wrote that Abraham Lincoln was running on a platform of freeing all the slaves and then them marrying white women, or such, it was believed. It was fake news before there was the digital edition.

    Oh, and Lincoln not getting a single vote in like seven Southern states–you have to remember that there was essentially no “Australian” secret ballot back then. You had to *ask* for a Republican ballot before you could vote for Lincoln, and so everyone would know, opening up your or your family to retribution (there was a similar threat of violence implied against whites who broke the color line in the Civil Rights and pre-Civil Rights years). I say this despite all those Confederate states being supposedly 100 % against Lincoln, all save South Carolina sent troops into the Union Army to fight for the same President Lincoln; the Confederates called these “home-grown Yankees”. As I said, the South wasn’t a free society, for pretty much everyone, except maybe the planter class (and even they weren’t allowed to teach their slaves to read and write, even though there were obvious economic advantages for them to do so).

    As for the Fischer hypothesis, here are some overviews:

    And guess what? Lebensraum didn’t start with Hitler. There was a previous WWI version too!

    In September 1914, when the German victory in the First World War appeared feasible, the government of Imperial Germany introduced the Septemberprogramm as an official war aim (Kriegs‌ziel), which was secretly endorsed by Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1909–17), whereby, upon achieving battlefield victory, Germany would annex territories from western Poland to form the Polish Border Strip (Polnischer Grenzstreifen, c. 30,000 km2). Lebensraum would be realised by way of ethnic cleansing, the forcible removal of the native Slavic and Jewish populations, and the subsequent repopulation of the border strip with ethnic-German colonists; likewise, the colonisations of Lithuania and Ukraine…

    The consensus today is not complete agreement with Fischer (historians don’t completely agree with everything, AJP Taylor famously didn’t think Hitler caused WWII, for instance), but that Fischer did get a lot of it right and most say that Germany’s leadership acted aggressively and does bear a disproportionate part of the blame for the war. In 1914, Austria-Hungary was not strong enough to act without German support, Russia had allowed itself to be backed into a diplomatic corner, Britain refused to openly acknowledge how tightly she had become tied to the Entente, and France was disengaged at that moment. Germany by contrast had options–like not pushing Vienna on to punish Serbia despite the threat of a general war, accepting (and forced Austria-Hungary) to accept Britain’s offer of mediation, and the German military could have offered the Kaiser some alternative to the Schlieffen plan (ok, in response to the threat of possible war with Russia, the German military told the Kaiser that their only plan involved an attack against a heretofore uninvolved party (France) plus an invasion through a neutral country (Belgium), the latter which would bring the British into the war against you. Really?)

  52. ponderer

    @ StewartM

    As for “aggressiveness”, what other term could you use for Southern legislatures starting back in the 1830s putting up *cash bounties* out for anyone who would go up North and *murder* prominent abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison?

    Again, evidence. Aggressiveness has a particular meaning when one is discussing States. It generally means either someone (many someones) dies, or is about to. Violating territorial bounties with ones military complies, hurting ones feelings doesn’t. When Russia rushed troops to Germany’s border pre WW I, that would be aggressiveness. The murder of prominent Northerners would only count if it was orchestrated by the south and proper procedures had been followed such as indicting them for a crime and the south refusing. There is only one sentence in the first part of your comment that backs up your aggressiveness assertion. It’s not very compelling, and I find no evidence for it. Mountains of text is no barrier for a trained mind, but I see no reason if you can’t back up your assertions.

    The consensus today is not complete agreement with Fischer…

    But you seemed so sure before? I guess its because your sources show just how much disagreement there was and for good reason. That the victors in a war, who got there committing war crimes such as the first use of nuclear weapons or fire bombing Dresden, suddenly found evidence of not only the evil of their enemy, but the historical evil of the enemy people is not that surprising. The German plans didn’t include starting an aggressive war, judging by your sources. The government ruled out starting a war before their enemies were too strong to beat them. As to these plans, Militarys plan for everything, its what they do when they’re not killing people. Our military was willing to kill Americans to get us into a war with Cuba, but JFK stopped it. He was assassinated about one year later.

    If you have further assertions with no evidence, made up evidence, or gross misrepresentations I’ll ignore them entirely. It will save us both the trouble.

  53. bruce wilder

    I both admire Ian’s “guilty for the crimes of your group” thesis and am troubled by it.

    I admire the reminder that the moral calculus regarding a reasonable standard of behavior is not all that complex or mysterious; it can be plain and obvious, if you are not trying to avoid it.

    I am troubled by the function of the unstructured, amorphous “group”. Group behavior — meaning organized, coordinated, cooperative behavior — is not individual behavior.

    Even individual behavior is not all that autonomous; we are a social species with elaborate cultural and political-economic institutions shaping and regulating our behavior. “Ethics” and law — as opposed to the general principles of morality applied in Ian’s argument — are controlling, meaning that the rules attached to institutions formally or informally govern behavior. Ethical behavior in a marriage or a family; ethical or legal behavior driving in traffic; ethical or legal behavior in economic transactions — all these things are mediated by institutions.

    At a higher level, of “policy” for lack of a better term, the moral question is not how will institutions govern? — though that question is important for the health of society, it is almost technical in its particulars — but the meta-level, how will institutions be governed?

    “redemption and forgiveness” matter, I suppose, to the individual soul, but they also matter to the reform and health of the society and its institutions. Waiting for the individual to spontaneously recognize the error of their ways is not a winning formula for political reform. It helps if the society can manage some measure of righteous idealism in common, a demand from public opinion for justice, if you will and a willingness to sacrifice a bit to impose altruistic punishment.

    That most people apparently do not see what has been at stake, over and over again, in critical leadership decisions — precedents we used to call them: Gore v Bush; the Iraq War; Obama immunizing the banksters; the refusal to take global warming and on-going ecological collapse seriously — these are just the most salient examples, examples that positively scream moral and practical consequences. And, yet, . . . and, yet, George W. Bush is not in jail; Obama is still widely admired.

  54. StewartM


    Again, evidence. Aggressiveness has a particular meaning when one is discussing States.

    What, assaulting members of Congress for giving a speech on the floor doesn’t count? The South started the Civil War, and also rejected compromises to avoid the war (like the original 13th amendment, which would have ironically have forbidden the US government from ever interfering with slavery). The South’s rejection of the proposed 13th amendment could only mean that the South harbored territorial expansion as well into the territories (remember, the New Mexico campaign to win the West?). By 1861 merely constitutionally guaranteeing the continuation of slavery was no longer good enough for the South, it had be be ‘expand it or bust’.

    As for the Fisscher hypothesis, no historian ever agrees completely with another. AJP Taylor’s book The Origins of the Second World War disputes that *Hitler* planned to start WWII! I would argue what your’e doing is akin to climate change denial, picking out bits and pieces of arguments made against Fischer (like, I don’t believe the charge there was a conscious decision for war back in 1912) but ignoring the fact that Fischer based his research all on the archives not available to those who had concluded Versailles was some “harsh treaty imposed on poor Germany” and that yes, most historians grant Fischer got a lot of it right. Germany *was* the aggressor, other countries made mistakes too, but the Germans had the most options and they consistently eschewed the less-aggressive option during the August 1914 crises. They could have, for instance, accepted the British offer to mediate the dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia rather than telling the Austrians not to back down even if it meant war.

    he German plans didn’t include starting an aggressive war, judging by your sources….As to these plans, Militarys plan for everything, its what they do when they’re not killing people

    You are the one who is confused. GERMANY HAD NO DEFENSIVE WAR MILITARY OPTION in 1914!! <– read it again! When it looked like war between Austria-Hungary and Russia might become inevitable, which had been in turn because Germany had insisted Vienna not back down, von Moltke (the younger) told Kaiser Wilhelm that the Schlieffen Plan–an attack against France and Beligum–had to be enacted. Kaiser Wilhelm asked "Is there not a plan ready for just a defensive war with Russia?" (in other words, to limit the scope of such a war) to which Von Moltke replied no, there wasn't. The Kaiser supposedly then agreed but replied "Your uncle (von Moltke the elder) would have had a different answer".

    Yes, militaries ought to make plans for all conceivable contingencies. Yet the German military *had no plan for any defensive war, period*, in 1914. It had to be offensive, and also it had to be offensive against countries heretofore not directly involved in the 1914 Balkan dispute, i.e., France and Britain. The fact that the Germans had no plans for a limited and/or defensive stance in 1914 either was a colossal military blunder committed by a general staff that's widely credited with a high degree of competence, or it's consistent with the Fischer hypothesis. Personally, I think it's a combination of both, but also illuminating that the Germans knew that they had the preeminent army in Europe, did not feel threatened in the short term, and were thus very happy to see it used.

    Our original disagreement was over Versailles being "harsh". Again I challenge you to find a peace treaty, ending a war fought on a comparable scale with a comparable expenditure of blood and treasure as WWI, fought not to a draw but to the complete victory by one side, that was more lenient and more easy on the loser than Versailles. I am not sure you can find one. The peace after WWII was far more harsh on Germany than Versailles–Germany loses no ethnically German territory at Versailles, but loses Silesia and Pomerania, with the German populations there being *forcibly evicted* from their homes by the victors (as well as the Germans in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia). All of Germany is occupied after WWII, as compared to only the Rhineland (by the French) after WWI; the German government is replaced by de-Nazification and much of its leadership tried for war crimes after WWII, none of this happened after WWI. There were reparations after WWI and not WWII, but given the lack of physical destruction suffered by Germany in WWI compared to it being essentially flattened in WWII I'm not sure anyone could say economically that trade-off was desirable.

    Yet, the harsh treatment of Germany after WWII as led to 75 years of relative peace in Europe and counting. The lenient peace of Versailles only prevented another war for 20 years. All this is consistent with the fact it wasn't the supposed 'harsh Versailles peace treaty' that led to WWII, but the intrinsic aggressive nature of Germany's leadership class (its 'deep state', if you will) that welcomed someone like Hitler because it largely agreed with his agenda–in essence, the Fischer hypothesis. Moreover, while all nations have elements who dream of conquest and regional or world hegemony, this aggressiveness is more true of Germany than any other European power of the time, just like all countries (including the US) had their fascist movements in the 1920s and 30s, but in some countries the movements were weak and fringe while in other countries they were strong enough to take power. But even here, only in Germany were the fascists strong enough to not only take power but have to share it with conservatives (like in Italy, Romania, Spain, Hungary, etc) but take *sole power*.

  55. bruce wilder

    StewartM did a very good job with the history of the causes of the Civil War and World War I.

    One of the most important uses of history is that it gives a person the chance to wrestle with the concrete details of the working of institutions and political struggles over how institutions are to be governed. Both the American Civil War and the First World War — and their historiography — open up the consequences of political struggle over institutions to examination.

    I disagree with Ian about the First World War. The Germans were much “more guilty” than anyone else. The historical details of the mechanisms by which the war was produced at the outset (and continued) make this clear. The anger with German behavior and its consequences played a large part in shaping Versailles as punitive. The French had suffered terribly in a war not of their choosing and they were not just pissed off, but had real grievances and damages to cope with. You can say the punitiveness of the terms of Versailles caused WWII, but you can also argue that the pivot of the British toward legitimizing sympathy with the Germans and an unwillingness to fully back the French in enforcing the Treaty’s terms, would nurture and then feed with appeasement the rise of fascism. (Ian acknowledges aspects of this kind of argument, by noting that if your policy is to destroy your enemy, best make sure your enemy is really and thoroughly destroyed.)

    You can say, why confuse ourselves with details? Why, indeed? But, if ignoring the details leaves you blaming all sides equally, as if world war was a playground spat among kindergartners, and with no understanding of how institutions and their governance shape inevitable conflict into unnecessary and enormously destructive war, what opportunity can there be for the reform of policy and institutions.

    World War I was “caused” by the breakdown of Empire as a principle and model of political organization. The end of the Napoleonic Wars had left Europe with a system of sorts for managing Great Power conflict, where the Great Powers were empires run mostly by reactionary aristocrats. That system — the Concert of Europe — evolved over time, but for a century it contained Great Power conflict and channeled it into few, and those relatively small wars, while keeping the Empires going. As that “system” — and make no mistake, the “system” governed the overt behavior of “groups” i.e. the Empires — eventually broke down into the conflagration of the First World War. Elites failed to govern the “systems” that governed the Empires internally — or at least some did, rather conspicuously.

    The details of eruptions from below and how they were handled or mishandled matter, I think, because this is how human behavior is governed and shaped as the organized behavior of large “groups”. When Emile Zola wrote his 1898 open letter with the headline, J’Accuse…! attacking the antisemitism of the stupid and reactionary right in France sending l’affaire Dreyfus into overdrive, that was France dealing with its legacy of aristocratic incompetence. The rather more cynical and groundless way accusations of antisemitism are wielded today are grounded in the all-but-forgotten success against the odds of Zola.

    Wrestling with the history, if nothing else, teaches humility about the details. It is inescapably complex this moral governance of conflicted, organized societies.

    What worries me about our own historical moment is that we are not much embroiled in eruptions from below. We are witnessing the breakdown of governance. As I noted in my previous comment, big decisions — Bush v Gore, Iraq, Bankster immunity, global warming — have gone the unmistakeably wrong way and the eruptions from below are Brexit and electing Trump and mouvement des gilets jaunes with still no real consequences for misbehaving elites so far. No awareness even among the chattering classes in American politics, where Russia,Russia,Russia is taken seriously as if it isn’t a completely foolish, concocted “scandal”.

  56. ponderer


    Could you please include links that buttress your arguments, just to make it sporting? The war started when the Union put troops in Sumter knowing that SC had to respond. In overtaking the fort, miraculously not one was killed, but then it was never about dead soldiers, no war is. I attached a link to that history to prove my point. Then Lincoln called for the militia to put down the South. Have you been so deluded by propaganda you don’t know that the winners write the history and in the US we always go through some period where we knowingly lie and that we pay people to write lies? Do you really think that in the long history of War that the Civil War was some kind of aberration where the good guys managed to make things right? You haven’t read, heard, or seen any condemnation about racism in the North, to this day that would make you question that narrative from hundreds of years ago.?

    As for WW I anyone who’s passed a college history class should find your non-evidence for a defensive war plan very, very suspicious. Militaries plan for *everything*. The US was churning out propaganda before during and after the war. Perhaps that’s why historians “mostly” think Fisher got it right. When was the CIA program to bring media icons into the fold started again, before or after Fischer, oh 10 years earlier. No chance fisher was a mockingbird?

    You’re analysis of historical events is fraudulent and repeated. You continue to advocate for war crimes. At the same time your internal contradictions are quite amusing.

    All this is consistent with the fact it wasn’t the supposed ‘harsh Versailles peace treaty’ that led to WWII, but the intrinsic aggressive nature of Germany’s leadership class (its ‘deep state’, if you will) that welcomed someone like Hitler because it largely agreed with his agenda–in essence, the Fischer hypothesis

    Ow Ow, my sides! So it wasn’t the austerity (which Germany itself is imposing right now) and depression that caused all those people to vote for the socialist party. The intrinsic aggressive nature of the leadership was to blame? Interesting. I guess all that money rolling in from US bankers had no part in letting them take control, or that the party was started as counter to communism providing incentive for foreign help to a foreign born person in Hitler who had contact with the US interests before he even started in politics. Thanks for that explanation I needed a good laugh.

  57. StewartM

    As for WW I anyone who’s passed a college history class should find your non-evidence for a defensive war plan very, very suspicious.

    Hmm, I’ve not only ‘taken a college history class, I have a *degree* in history, including grad school work, with a specialization in modern Central Europe. My professors included John Morrow, who has written books about WWI and who also specialized in military history and the interactions between military organizations and their civilian counterparts:

    There were several other professors who influenced my education, Arthur Haas (who was a Metternich scholar and 19th century Austrian history) plus Gary Weir, who has written in German WWI naval power:

    It is you, who repeat the obsolete history/teevee history of the “horrible cruel mean Versailles” myth, who need an update of your education. I have challenged you or anyone else to find a peace treaty ending a war which had been so destructive and which had cause so much loss of life, which ended with the loser suing for peace, that was more lenient than Versailles. You cannot do so because there is none. The relatively lenient peace of Versailles did not prevent another holocaust a mere 20 years later, but the much harsher peace after WWII did do it. That’s because WWII did not arise because Versailles was too harsh, but because its leniency did not remove the cause of WWII–the aggressive German ‘deep state’, so to speak.

    One of Morrow’s (and other historians’) points was that in Germany, the relationship between the civilian government and the military was inverted, so to speak–the German military had a long history of considering itself to ‘know what’s best’ for the country and it was often the military that de facto made political and foreign policy decisions rather than the civilian government officials nominally in charge. Heck, there’s an entire classic devoted to this thesis by Gordan Craig:

    You doubted my telling you that it was the German military that told Kaiser Wilhelm that “we have to do the Schleiffen Plan and attack France, and by proxy, Britain” in a dispute that had only to date involved Austria-Hungary and Russia. I remembered Morrow telling us that conversation; well, here it is:

    Germany’s mobilization was tied to its war plan created by the brilliant former chief of the General Staff, the late Alfred von Schlieffen. The plan entailed throwing seven of the eight initially mobilized armies at France, and then after their victory turning everything against Russia. The essence of the Schlieffen Plan was to swing the weight of Germany’s armies through Belgium to sweep around the left flank of the French armies and crush them against their own country’s borders.

    The violation of Belgium’s neutrality was seen as a necessity, though Germany was a guarantor of that country’s independence. The problem, which German planners failed to take seriously, was that the British were also guarantors of Belgium, and the German invasion would pose a direct threat to British security. The Germans believed that the British could not intervene in time to affect the fate of France.

    The plan became an article of almost mystical belief simply referred to as Der Tag (The Day). The man the Kaiser chose to execute the plan if war came was General Helmuth von Moltke, the nephew and namesake of the legendary field marshal whose mid-19th century victories had created the German Empire. Wilhelm appointed the younger Moltke chief of the General Staff despite the man’s repeated and prescient protestations that he was simply not up to the task. The decision would come to haunt Wilhelm.

    As Der Tag neared, the Kaiser was having serious second thoughts, concerned about the consequences of Britain entering the war. On August 1, 1914, the German ambassador to London wired that British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey had stated that Britain would guarantee France’s neutrality. Grey had said no such thing, but his vague words had been misinterpreted.

    The Kaiser, however, relieved at the thought of only a one-front war, recalled Moltke, who was carrying the signed mobilization order. Overjoyed, he exclaimed to Moltke: “Now we can go to war against Russia only. We simply march the whole of our army to the east!” Although presented in his typically bombastic, overbearing manner, Wilhelm was essentially asking Moltke one of history’s most fateful questions: Was it possible to confine the fighting to a one-front war against Russia?

    Moltke was shaken to the core. Everything he had devoted his life to for years would be erased. Instead of opportunity, he saw only chaos, replying: “Your Majesty, it cannot be done. The deployment of millions cannot be improvised. If Your Majesty insists on leading the whole army to the east it will not be an army ready for battle but a disorganized mob of armed men with no arrangements for supply. Those arrangements took a whole year of intricate labor to complete and once settled, it cannot be altered.”

    Stunned, Kaiser Wilhelm could only say after a strained silence, “Your uncle would have given me a different answer.”

    This article says something I had not known–that there was a plan for just that. But von Moltke did not share it with Kaiser Wilhelm. And note, unlike Truman and MacArthur, the Kaiser did not feel empowered to either demand that von Moltke come up with such a plan pronto, or get fired. In fact, by 1916 the Kaiser is just a figurehead, Ludendorff and Hindenburg, two generals, are essentially running Germany.

    Ow Ow, my sides! So it wasn’t the austerity (which Germany itself is imposing right now) and depression that caused all those people to vote for the socialist party.

    Germany wasn’t under austerity by the late 1920s. The German economy was as sound as any other (which meant it had underlying problems, yes, but so did that of the US). Nor was the Nazi party powerful–it had a mere 2.6 % of the electorate in 1928. And while the 1920s and 1930s were the ‘era of fascism’, it didn’t correlate to either winning or losing WWI–the WWI winners Italy and Japan go fascist (caveat about Japan, though, in applying that term) as does WWI winner Romania, there is Action Francaise that grew powerful in France, it’s the heyday of the KKK in the US, and even states like Franco’s Spain and China’s Chiang Kai-shek not involved in WWI at all are fascist to varying degrees.

    During the Depression, and the non-response of the government (sound familiar?) to do anything meaningful, Nazi power grew in the Reichstag. But guess what? Hitler never won more than 36.8 % of the vote in anything like a free and fair election. In fact, Hitler only managed 43.8 % of the vote in 1933 with the Communist party banned after the Reichstag fire and *with Stormtrooper running the polls*!! Hitler never could have won any election, period; in modern political parlance, his “negatives’ were too high. At least 60 % or more of Germans were always against Hitler.

    So how did Hitler take power? Hitler never did get power by winning any election, he was **invited** to be Chancellor in 1933 by German conservatives. There was an article in the Wiemar Constitution, Article 48, which allowed the government to stay in power via “emergency” (sound familiar?) even if it had no electoral support, which the conservative government was invoking. They invited Hitler in to get his support; although they were dismissive of the ‘little corporal’s” talents and savvy (“Within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far in the corner that he’ll squeak” boasted Franz von Papen) they invited him in because although they didn’t share his obsession with Jews, they otherwise largely agreed with his agenda. They too were for rearming Germany, they too were for an aggressive, expansionary Germany.

    I do not mean to sound anti-German. Most Germans were against Hitler, just as the reason Ludendorff felt that Germany had to win nothing less than complete victory in WWI was because if that didn’t happen, Germany’s Social Democrats (the SPD) would win the elections. But “most Germans” didn’t have the power to change things. There was a “deep state” apparatus in Germany that was fixated on aggressive, territorial expansion (and to varying degrees, “Lebensraum”) and only its removal was going to change Germany. The Social Democrats in Wiemar after WWI inherited this deep state, they were unable to remove or change the judiciary, the military, or the civil service by themselves, but after WWII the Allies did it through deNazification.

    One last thing–with Hitler, the “deep state” met its match. They thought they could control Hitler, but Hitler had more cunning and was less inhibited in his brutality than they. By the late 30s they were fearful, subservient lapdogs to a degree they never had been under any of the Kaisers. There are a lot of analogies here for current-day America, and they’re not encouraging ones. Trump may be waging a war today against America’s deep state, and while the US deep state, like Germany’s, is evil, Trump winning probably isn’t going to be an improvement any more than Hitler’s was.

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