July 07, 2003
Books: Alan Furst: Dark Star

Alan Furst (1991), Dark Star (New York: Houghton Mifflin: 0006511317). When I talk to practically any of my undergraduates these days, I have a nearly impossible task to do when I try to convince them that the twentieth century has, after all, ended much better than it might have been. The half-full undergraduates talk of how wonderful and advanced our industrial civilization is, and how human progress to this point was nearly inevitable. The half-empty undergraduates talk about poverty in the developing world, inequality, and injustice, and seem deaf to the idea that the world we live in is much better than the world that we seemed headed for during the second quarter of this century. The Great Depression. Stalin's purges. World War II. Hitler's genocides--they have read about these, but they are not *real*, and the idea that for decades people thought that the forces headed by Stalin or by Hitler were the wave of the future (or the last chance to stop an even greater evil) does not penetrate below the surface. So the next time I teach a course on the entire politico-economic history of the twentieth century, I think I may assign Alan Furst's novel Dark...

Posted by DeLong at 09:49 PM

September 01, 2002
The New German Problem

Project Syndicate: The New German Problem: J. Bradford DeLong : September 2002 As Germany prepares to elect its next Chancellor, the two main candidates, Gerhard Schroeder and Edmund Stoiber, agree on one thing: unemployment must be reduced. Over the past two decades, high unemployment has transformed Europe in general and Germany in particular into a sociological time bomb. What will the unemployed - especially the long-term unemployed with only dim memories of integration into the world of work - do with themselves and their time? What will happen to confidence in governments that can not solve the problem? It is easy to forget that little more than 50 years ago, Europe was the world's most violent continent. Europeans spent the previous forty years slaughtering each other on a scale unprecedented in human history. Against this backdrop, Western Europe after 1950 was remarkably peaceful and stable, even taking into account the fall of the French Fourth Republic and the transitions from dictatorship to democracy in Portugal, Spain, and Greece. The most remarkable transformation of all was that of the Federal Republic of Germany. Anyone familiar with German history since 1800 is still astonished at the enthusiasm with which the nation that...

Posted by DeLong at 04:44 PM

August 29, 2002
A Cautionary Tale

British Admiral Sandy Woodward -- commander of the Falklands naval battle group during Britain's war with Argentina in the 1980s -- tells the story of a pre-Falklands naval exercise in which he, with one British destroyer, three frigates, and four Exocet missiles, 'sank' the US fleet carrier Coral Sea. A cautionary tale: I was clear in my mind what I wanted to practise: the US battle group, with all its escorts and aircraft, was to take up positions well out to sea. Their job was to stop my force from getting through their guard to 'sink' their carrier before they 'sank' us. Admiral Brown was happy enough with that -- if you had been in his position, you would have been too. He could spot an enemy surface ship more than two hundred miles away, track it at his leisure, and strike it at a comfortable range with any six of his missile-launching attack aircraft. And that was only the first layer of his defence. By any modern military standard, he was well-nigh impregnable. I had Glamorgan and three frigates, plus three Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, two of which were tankers and the third, a stores ship. The frigates were...

Posted by DeLong at 01:52 AM

August 14, 2002
Koba and Adolf the Dread

Matthew Yglesias clearly stays up far, far too late and takes the very reasonable position that "Stalin was clearly a very, very, very, very bad man and the USSR was a very, very, very, very bad thing," and announces that he has no interest in debating whether or not Stalin was just as bad as Hitler or not. I think that he misses the point that there is an important historical question that turns on whether Stalin was just #2 or is tied for #1 in the competition for most evil moral monster of the twentieth century. You see, the belief that Stalin was just as bad as Hitler entails the belief that Roosevelt's and Churchill's policies toward the end of World War II were criminally in error. Consider World War II in Europe toward the end of 1943. The Italian government has changed sides. The tide has clearly turned against Nazi Germany. At that point Roosevelt and Churchill could have offered Hitler a deal: the Nazis evacuate the West--Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg, France, Italy--and in return Britain and the U.S. make peace. Hitler would in all likelihood have accepted. What would have been gained by such a deal?...

Posted by DeLong at 08:09 AM

May 16, 2002
The Fall of France, 1940

Josh Marshall writes: "I really, really, really want to recommend a book to you. It's called Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France and it's by Ernest R. May, a highly respected diplomatic historian. There are two reasons why this book is so good. The first is that it is just a marvelously engrossing narrative of one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th Century..."

Posted by DeLong at 02:52 PM

April 08, 2002
Robert Skidelsky

In a bold pre-emptive strike, the American economist Bradford DeLong has posted a rejoinder to my theme on his home Web page...

Posted by DeLong at 04:01 PM