Hate speech is like mold: Its enemies are bright light and fresh air.
“Science Articles: A Guide” (to the ratio of subject matter complexity to prose complexity)
My apologies if you tried to contact me earlier via the WordPress email form. Your message never reached my inbox.
I’ve been taking some time to think more about a slow-moving article on Wilhelm Groener I’ve been working on. It has received a big boost recently from the GHI’s new focus on the history of knowledge.
A truism holds that generals prepare to fight the last war, not the next one. Unable to peer into the future, they make do with the lessons of the past. Fair enough, perhaps, but this common-sense wisdom presupposes that military leaders will necessarily understand the salient features of the last war without preconceptions about war and officering affecting their discernment. In other words, the truism fails to account for the effects of prior training, experience, and acculturation in the production of knowledge about war. Instead, it implicitly assumes the existence of universal soldierdom, as if officering and soldiering—but for technology—were not culturally and historically contingent.
Wilhelm Groener (1867–1939) offers a case in point. A general staff officer in the German army who rose to prominence quickly in the First World War, Groener became an important spokesman in the interwar period for the so-called Schlieffen school, offering an interpretation of the war seemingly at odds with what actually happened. Instead of deriving new lessons from the stalemate, as his contemporary Erich Ludendorff did in a nightmarish vision of politics serving war instead of vice versa, Groener doubled down on the knowledge he had internalized in peacetime Wilhelmine Germany. Issuing from neither a military outsider nor an original thinker and steeped in antebellum military thoughtways and culture, Groener’s interpretation of the First World War can be analyzed in relation to his prewar training and wartime experiences to show the inner logic of the professional military knowledge and culture in which he was steeped.
Image: Prussian War Academy ca, 1900 via Wikimedia Commons.
Categories on a blog have a way of getting out of control over time. Am trying to reduce their number, make them more useful, and put tags to better use.
A younger historian on Facebook called this picture a “Nice primary source of the late Cold War!” I don’t know what that makes me, the guy in front, but I decided to share here too.
. . . A friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.
American national leaders gain their legitimacy by competing in compliance with not merely the outward forms but the clear values of our Constitution—equal dignity, religious freedom and tolerance, open deliberation, and the rule of law. These values don’t bind Donald Trump; norms of decency do not apply; he shrugs off the very burden of fact itself.