Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dolchstoßlegende

There is one thing to consider with respect to the Dolchstoßlegende (German for "Stab in the back") narrative.

It's most famous example is the rise, after WWI, of the Nazi party in Germany. The Nazis lived-and-breathed the "Stab in the back" narrative. It's arguable what gave them the boost they needed to take power. But consider what happened in Germany after WWII. Germany was defeated just as badly, if not more so, after the second world war. Yet did a "Stab in the back" narrative ever re-appear in Germany after Hitler was expunged?

Not that I know of.

The possible lesson: "Stab in the back" can work as a narrative after one national experience of defeat. But that does not mean it will work after a second one. Perhaps, after losing twice, the Germans were more open to self-examination on this question instead of looking for someone else to blame.

Similarly, after Vietnam, there has been a persistent debate in this country over whether we would have won if the "Dirty Fucking Hippies" hadn't undermined the war effort at home. This debate arguably sank Kerry's presidential campaign.

But will the same thing happen after a "defeat" in Iraq? Or will Americans be more open to the argument that maybe both Vietnam and Iraq were failures because of something America did wrong.

Hmmm...

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