That reminds me, by the way. What the heck is up with this American tradition of ignoring the Russian part of World War II, also known as the European Part?
The Russians lost an estimated 20 million people during that war. Of the approximately 11 million Germans killed, probably 8 million or so fell fighting the Russians. Russia was all but conquered in the first few months of the war; they rallied, in one of the greatest comebacks in history, and defeated a force that time and again showed more skill and tactical expertise.
There are a few reasons that this theater is unrecognized, some good and some bad. A good one is that it was an eminently Soviet- that is, Communist- war. While Stalin did appeal to nationalism pretty quickly (and that, by the way, worked far better than any appeal to their Communist sensibilities), the Commies ran and used the war to extend their power. So we tend to shy away from glorifying the Commies by ignoring their war.
A less good- even bad- reason people tend to ignore the war is that it doesn't follow American notions of heroic conflict. In the American mind, the Good Guys will be massively outnumbered, but well-led and with high morale. When battle comes, the Bad Guys will be outwitted by clever strategems that inevitably result in Good Guy victory. Technological sophistication often lies on the Good Guys' side as well.
The Soviet war wasn't like this. The Soviets had mass, but were poorly led (with the exception of Zhukov, possibly Khruschev, and maybe a few others), poorly trained, with often low morale, and rarely well-equipped. They fought with sometimes moronic tactics, being slaughtered in horrifying numbers. Throughout the war, the Germans had a high kill ratio, even when the Krauts were outnumbered and heavily outgunned, due to their tactical expertise.
However, these aren't good excuses. The war saw men fighting and dying to defend their Motherland (Rodina) against what were, to them, enormous odds. The best (and thus far only) movie I have seen regarding the Soviet war was Enemy at the Gates. That movie showed the kind of courage the common Russian soldier needed to have.
Zhukov would be an excellent subject for a movie, as much for his complex character (similar to Rommel in some ways) as for his heroic fighting of the war. The man never gave up, and where he was, victory followed. Nearly every important Russian victory- stopping the Germans in front of Moscow, the counter-offensive that followed, the Leningrad defense, the Stalingrad offensive, etc.- had Zhukov's fingerprints or even direct leadership.
I am as anti-Communist as the next man- actually, probably way, way, more anti-Communist- but I also think that credit should be given where credit is due. Those Russians who fought and died did it not so much for their ideology, as for their country. And now that Russia is at least semi-friendly (and hopefully will become more so), it is high time we acknowledged that World War II was a Russian and German war, at least in Europe.
¶ 11:53 AM
I've noticed there has been a bit of hubbub over the Republicans comparing Orrin Hatch to Neville the Wimp; the Dems think this means that we're comparing them to Nazis.
Without mentioning the fact that Republicans are compared to Nazis all the time (trust me, I know), we'll analyze this.
See, people like to use World War II as an analogical resource for a few simple reasons, that apply to both sides.
1. World War II was black-and-white (for the most part). The Nazis were the Bad Guys. We were the Good Guys. It gets hazy with the Soviets, but since the American way is to ignore the Russian contribution to the war (they actually fought virtually the entire thing in Europe), that's rarely an issue. See, if I compare a Democrat to, say, a dope-smoking hippie, they might well think it's a compliment. So comparing people to Nazis leaves no room for misinterpretation (please note, I am not defending the tendency to compare anyone and everyone who disagrees with you to Nazis. I'm merely trying to explain why some well-meaning people occasionally make this idiotic and disgusting mistake).
2. Most people know at least a fair amount about World War II, the good guys, the bad guys, the general course of the war- at least, most people who follow politics. So using examples from that era is likelier to hit a receptive and knowledgeable audience. For instance, if I suggest that someone is acting like Hugh O'Neill, the most common response would be a blank look. But if I say Marshall Tito (not suggesting O'Neill was a Communist or anything), then more people would be able to nod and say "Hmmm." thoughtfully.
3. Finally, and I think the most relevant argument to the subject at hand, World War II provided a great many useful archetypes. There was the Evil Dictator (Hitler), the Fearless Leader Against All Odds (Churchill), the Commander-in-Chief Who Arrived in the Nick of Time (Roosevelt), the Good Man Serving the Evil Dictator (Rommel), and, of course, the Soft-hearted Peacenik Who Nearly Lost the War Before It Had Begun (Neville Chamberlain). These archetypes exist in and of themselves- that is, unlike most historical analogies, they are generally understood to transcend their immediate background. When someone thinks of appeasers, they are likely to think of Neville the Wimp, without necessarily assuming that the group being appeased is the Nazis.
I can understand why someone might take exception to the comparison, and perhaps the spot-lighted position of the politicos who rule our fate should make them more careful, but I sincerely doubt anyone was thinking of the Democrats as Nazis when they made that remark.
¶ 11:37 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
I know there are a lot of things one can say about file-sharing- including that recent actions by the RIAA are idiotic and will have a negative effect on their PR, but!
When you download a song, you are in effect gaining benefit from a person without recompensing that person. Now, we do this all the time- but this is in the context of an industry specifically designed to match artists with rewards for their art. Thus, we have laws determining under what sort of situation we can legally make use and distribute songs and such.
To put it more simply: artists go into the business expecting to be recompensed for their time and effort (whether you personally agree that they should be is your business; the proper way to express your approval or disapproval is through buying or not buying their product). And I believe that they have a right to the proceeds from their products. When you download a song, you are in effect depriving the artists of their proper recompense. Perhaps they are charging too much for it; that is irrelevant. If they are charging too much, then don't buy their product.
I really don't think that most downloaders are against the idea of intellectual property- but as they begin rationalizing their behavior, they will likely move toward a contempt of this idea. The result could bleed over into various other intellectual property issues. This includes copyright (of books, for instance), academic work, even the most important area of patents. How much innovation will occur when one's ideas for a machine aren't sacrosanct? Suppose when you patent a design, anyone could download the design and begin producing it? There would be no real incentive for new designs.
Anyway, the music industry is especially vulnerable right now (because it's hard to think that, say, Britney Spears has a right to all that money and such that she has). But the bleed-over effects could be important, and much further reaching.
¶ 1:29 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
THINGS I HAVE BEEN WRONG ABOUT THUS FAR-
-Saddam Hussein was not dead; nor is he now dead. Instead, it is being currently decided as to whether the Iraqi people will hang him, shoot him, or shoot him while he is hanging.
-Anton Chekhov is a superb writer. He is very close to being my favorite; turns out that all the elements that make Russian authors great are there, but that he uses a somewhat more subtle format than, say, Dostoyevsky. Not that Fyodor isn't any good, quite the opposite.
If you note any more, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
¶ 1:22 PM
A word on Texas A&M, re: last semester.
I was fortunate enough to have a Marxist for a history professor. Why fortunate? Because I knew exactly what he was looking for on the tests. I simply asked myself- how would a Marxist answer this question? It worked especially well because this guy was as close-minded as they come. His way was right- if you disagreed, you were either a) misguided, b) stupid, c) evil, or d) some combination of the previous.
Now, I've had Commies or at least extremely far-left profs before; but they all exemplified the academic spirit. They had opinions, and expressed them (oh, how they expressed them) but they also respected me and viewed me as someone who thought through his opinions. This prof (for my history class) merely stated what he viewed as Truth, and expected the class to fall in with his political opinions. It reminded me more of a political commissar berating the troops than a professor lecturing a class.
Bottom line- I learned virtually nothing in that class, except what the professor thought about various issues and events. By contrast, in my political science and other classes with left-leaning professors, I learned a great deal- including the professors' opinions. In the history class, I had nothing but contempt for the professor, as he exhibited nothing but contempt for me and my opinions. In the others, I respected and liked the professors, because they respected my opinions.
We on the right tend to think of the left as uniformly arrogant, convinced that they know better than others. And we are right in many cases. But we should always be sure that we are respectful of other opinions, and never resort to berating our opponents (Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Michael Moore) or simply ignoring that other views exist (Howard Dean, Bill O'Reilly- at least, I think so).
¶ 12:41 PM
So, the good doctor came in 3rd in Iowa. Well, that's as might be expected. After all, when the primary locution of the candidate is "Bush bad!" there's going to be some point at which that wears thin.
I am somewhat surprised that Jean Kerry (accent on the second syllable of "Kerry") was the guy who made first showing. I rather expected Edwards (who is actually well-respected even by many Republicans) to be a front-runner, but I counted on Gephardt to do much better. Oh, well.
Republicans are, on the whole, disappointed- they knew that Dean was eminently beatable (can you say 39-state victory?). But that's kind of the point of primaries- the only way Dean would win is if the whole of the Democratic electorate were as nuts as he is. It's not. Only the far (or farther, at least) left believes Bush is some sort of evil anti-genius. But they believe it fervently, and the fervency is what made Dean's campaign so noticeable. Which is more likely to be noticed- fifteen guys shooting AK-47s in the air in Times Square, or fifteen thousand guys discussing the virtues of their candidate around the water cooler?
I'll admit, Dean had me going for awhile. I really thought that he was doing pretty well- but I'm not surprised that he failed to come out on top. After all, Dennis Kucinich is remarkably high-profile considering the fact that the only person who would vote for him is his mother and maybe Osama bin Laden (think the Department of Peace would be effective at tracking down terrorists?)
¶ 12:27 PM
Wow. What a semester.
For the quick-witted among you, the fact that there were no posts for the last, uh, four months or so may have tipped you off that blogging wasn't a top priority. However, I assure you that now it will be up there on the old list, right below Keeping A Good GPR and Learning to Skewer Opponents (Also Known as Fencing).
Last semester, I was living off-campus, and I was also cut off from the Internet, unless I walked or rode to campus and fought the crowds at the SCC. However, the good news is that I now live on campus, and thus have access to REALLY, REALLY FAST Internet. That's right. I rock.
In fact, the Internet is so fast that I can almost overlook the other minor problems with my dorm. For instance, the heater here defies the concept of the term "heater". Despite my turning the little knob from "colder" to "warmer", it continues to emit air that is slightly cooler than the current temperature. What the point of this is, I can hardly guess. However, all is well now that I've started a fire in the middle of the room, feeding it with junk mail requesting that I buy a condo instead of renting a dorm, for only 500% of what I am currently paying. I estimate that I have enough to last me through the next three winters, though I may not need it at all if I turn off the heater.
¶ 12:17 PM
Philosophical, political, and random thoughts on issues and events