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The Way We Were - Part II

A correspondent was kind enough to drop me a note calling my attention to a passage in the Forrestal Diaries that I previously glossed over. Upon a close re-read, it illustrates the workings of the universalist, de-racinated mind better than any other example I have found.

The passage is from page 121 of The Forrestal Diaries - the entry for Dec. 27, 1945. It is especially timely because it reflects upon Patrick Buchanan's thesis in his new book to the effect that if the U.S. had remained out of the Good War, Hitler would have attacked Russia and left us alone.

However, the purpose of this posting is not to vindicate a particular historical point of view, but rather to examine the thought process of a middle of the road, moderate pro-business Democrat 50 years ago to see if we can find any clues as to our present dilemma. We are focusing on the vulnerability of the Euro-American mind at a critical crossroads, and attempting to ascertain the degree to which he limits the range of his intellect to socially accepted norms. Because of the way in which socially accepted norms work, we can infer from Forrestal's example the limits of socially acceptable thought and speech internalized by a huge majority of Forrestal's outer part elite contemporaries.

Let's start with the first paragraph:

This passage is fascinating and important for two reasons. First, it suggests something that I have never heard from any other source, namely, that "neither the French nor the British would have made Poland a cause of war if it had not been for the constant needling from Washington." We have become accustomed to thinking that nations make decisions based on their interests, and not the personality quirks or emotions of their leaders. This passage shows clearly that Joe Kennedy had a distinctly non-determinist view of history.

Second, note that the remarks of Kennedy are elicited by a question from Forrestal about "his conversations with Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain from 1938 on." In other words, Forrestal credits this very same non-determinist view of history enough to be curious about the answer. In an oblique sort of way, the question and the answer both credit the view of history held by the other side in the Good War, namely that the course of human events is greatly determined by "the leadership principle," a resolutely anti-marxist view.

In other words, Forrestal was willing to at least ponder the possibility that the personal needling from Roosevelt could inflame the pride of Chamberlain enough to influence his decision about Britain's national interests. It also demonstrates that the calumny directed at Chamberlain to the effect that he was an appeaser and a coward, as opposed to a statesman willing to grant Germany control over its irredent ethnic German populations, was part of a pre-planned campaign of defamation.


Now clearly, the question posed by Forrestal demonstrates that he was far too much of a free thinker for the comfort of the inner party. There is no way they would allow such a person to continue to hold a cabinet position in a presidential administration that they financed and controlled once this degree of free thinking was uncovered.

The next paragraph is even more interesting:

Clarence Dillon was the Forrestal's boss at Dillon Read, and purchaser of the World renowned Chateau Haut Brion in retirement (a much better wine in my view than that produced by the vinyard bearing the best known inner party name in the World. The name of his son, C. Douglas Dillon, Treasurer under Eisenhower, appeared on every dollar bill I earned as a kid at the caddy shack. Only years later would I understand the political and social significance of the battle fought by the old men at that club to keep the caddy shack open and outlaw self propelled golf carts, and only after several bottles of Haut Brion ten years later (clearly vindicating the view of those old men) would I notice that the "Dillon" on all those dollar bills had a connection with Clarence, as in "domaine Clarence Dillon". But I digress!)

This passage is even more revealing than the first, because it shows that Forrestal was indeed a political animal. First, he is very careful to conceal what his investment banking partner, Clarence Dillon really though of the war. Forrestal is clearly more reluctant to document Dillon's views than those of the combative and notorious Kennedy. This passage tells us that he was very well aware that the social boundaries of acceptable opinion were considerably narrower than those expressed by Kennedy and intimated by his boss and partner, Clarence Dillon. The passage also cleverly reveals that this pressure on Chamberlain was indeed part of an extensive campaign, particularly if it reached to Republicans like Dillon.

Now the third paragraph is the most interesting:

After a very promising intro full of free and remarkably perceptive inquiry, we get the cliche; "Would he have been content to stop?" as moral justification for prolonging and intensifying an immensely destructive European war in which over 30 million died. First, up until 1940, all of Germany's aggressive acts were assertions of control over irredent German populations in the multi-ethnic states surrounding it. What if Germany's racial ideology really did inform its actions? If so, then the chance of an unprovoked attack on France or England was nil.

Second, Forrestal was certainly aware that Germany was a short distance from a huge and incredibly aggressive neighbor openly espousing an ideology of World conquest, killing millions upon millions of Christians within its own borders, and decapitating all of the its domestic racial and ethnic groups save the inner party by killing or deporting their most intelligent members. What characteristic might France have shared with this aggressive neighbor that would provoke a similar response from Germany?

These facts were well known to Kennedy and to Forrestal. Again, the social censor is on the march. Clearly, socially imposed norms will not permit Forrestal to consider the possibility that Hitler might have had much more narrowly circumscribed ambitions.

Finally, while this would have been a bit of a stretch back in 1945 for anyone other than Sir Arthur Keith, when one examines the tribal or mono-ethnic states of Europe, they are the most peaceful. Finland, for example, would fight fiercely to retain its independence, but never attempted to conquer anyone else. The same is true of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and half a dozen others.

Indeed, in the 1500 years during which Scotland fought to maintain its independence from England, it never attacked anyone with the intention of taking their land or subjugating their people. Same is true of Ireland and Wales. Rather, it was the multi-ethnic empire England that was the perennial aggressor, as was France, and Austria-Hungary.

If Forrestal's justification for the war is to be taken literally, one must believe that Germany would have subdued Russia first to eliminate an obvious threat (and to gain access to oil) and then would have attacked France and Britain just because they were there.

A stretch to be sure.

And a stretch that would have been immediately obvious to Forrestal had he allowed himself to think about it and not short circuit his obvious intellectual gifts with a socially acceptable cliche.

Indeed, the third paragraph quoted above is premised upon a truth universally acknowledged - namely, that international stability requires a "balance of power". A "balance of power" must at all times be maintained, for apparently any European nation, if given the opportunity, will inevitably and always conquer its neighbors and incorporate them into a larger nation.

Now it is true, as Sir Arthur Keith has pointed out, that the History of Europe is one of tribal and national amalgamation. Strong kings would subdue weak Kings by force and incorporate the conquered people and land into a larger nation, forcing them to assimilate, to learn the language and to redirect their loyalty and patriotic feelings toward a much broader kinship group - the multi-ethnic empire. What remains notably absent from our history texts is the fact than the Kings and their administrators were betraying their own kinship group in the process while promising benefits to a few, based on enlarged markets, an enlarged tax base, and an enlarged population pool from which to draw infantry for future conquests. Tribes, including one's own, became a universalized commodity to be absorbed, manipulated, lied to and blended.

Ironically, the notion of a "balance of power" became necessary to slow this universalizing process. It was sought by diplomats for two distinct reasons - first and primarily, as a means of protecting one universalizing empire from conquest by another - both sides accepting the premise that small nations were obsolete, and disputing only whether theirs should be the absorber or the absorbee.

Then, second, in order to maintain independence and control over their own genetic destinies, the smaller ethno states would either form alliances with the larger universalizers or declare "neutrality," depending upon their perception of where the least danger lay.

Hitler had no cultural or other connection with the universalizers, and everyone knew it. Rather, he was a street kid, growing up in whatever the equivalent of the American caddy shack might have been in small town Austria. His world view was dominated by his contact with the inner party as a youth, which clearly and obviously formed his racial view of reality. While the aristocrats in the military and the civil service might have been universalists and imperialists, it is quite clear that Hitler was not and never could be. While he would fight fiercely for the Safety and self-determination of Germans everywhere, it was equally clear that he would not sacrifice German lives merely for the commercial gain of a few German aristocrats and industrialists. Recall that most of his political contributions came from ordinary working and middle class people.

Oddly, the standard bromide, "Would he have been content to stop?" could only seriously entertained if Forrestal believed that Hitler adopted his racial theories solely for reasons of political opportunism, and that he really had the same essential world view as Forrestal's classmates at Princeton, all of whom would, if given the power, instantly and reflexively overrun the entire planet and force the races to mix at the point of the bayonet, all in the name of commerce, efficiency, and social justice.

After all, for the true universalist, it is only a small leap from the multi-ethnic European empire of the preceeding five centuries to the multi-racial empire of Twentieth Century.

That is why I reach two very important conclusions from the above three passages.

First, passages one and two show that Forrestal was either unaware of the boundaries of thought and discourse acceptable to the inner party, or he grossly underestimated their power to enforce those boundaries. Hence his later downfall.

Second, his carelessness of boundaries of speech and thought imposed on us by the inner party sets in clear and stark relief a different and obviously much more powerful native social censor that shows its grip over Forrestal very clearly in the third paragraph.

And it is this second social censor that is more interesting. Where does it come from? Why do we carry it around? Is this social censor even more dangerous to our long run survival than the alien version imposed by the inner party?

A second correspondent wrote the following e-mail in response to "The Way We Were - Part I" which broadly hints at the conclusion of this series coming up in "The Way We Were - Part III":

More coming!


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