Friday, June 25, 2010

Colonel revives Nazi myth to bash Rolling Stone reporter

I can't believe Ken Allard, a retired colonel, wrote this, as one of the lessons the "professional military should take away from President Obama's relief of Gen. Stanley McChrystal":
4. Never, ever trust the press. If you think I’m kidding, just enter the words “Dolchstoss” into your browser and see what comes up. Call it a myth, but betrayal-by-media has a long and checkered history going back at least to the post-World War I German army.
If you don't know what the Dolchstoss Myth was, here's a concise rundown from Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment, by John F. Williams.
The November 1918 spectacle of returning divisions of comparatively well turned out German troops, marching proudly through the towns and villages of the Reich, was an illusory one. It provided, however, admirable fodder for the Dolchstoss myth. It was easy to believe this was no defeated army, rather an army betrayed, whereby the German soldier had been forced--with victory in sight to lay down his arms, not because of enemy superiority, but through an act of treachery by political traitors on the home front. This was nonsense. Although it was far from obvious in the comportment of the returning troops, the sorely tried, demoralized, outnumbered, ill-fed and materially inferior army could not have survived into 1919 without being overrun, and with that opening the way for an Allied invasion of the Reich itself. Knowing this, the all-powerful military duumvirate of Hindenburg and Ludendorff had demanded the Kaiser seek an armistice; a fact left unreported by the media of the day.

On every count the Dolchstoss was a myth. Yet a convenient and comforting myth will always win out, in the short term, over an unpalatable truth. Although the Dolchstoss was regarded by liberal-democratic elements within Germany as a dangerous lie, there were more than enough festering support for the idea as a historical fact that it became a causal factor, 14 years after the Armistice, in the ascent to power of Adolf Hitler. It was still pressed into service, as a revanche-driven motivational device for German soldiers in 1939, by which time it was no longer necessary to utilize the idea as a means of achieving the political changes that would make Germany great again. Hitler and his National Socialists had seen to these, suppressing Germany's fragile democracy and bringing in its train measures repressing or even eliminating Jews, Socialists, Marxists and others deemed to be undesirable or opponents of the Hitlerian new order. Nevertheless, with revenge for the betrayal of 1918 still treated as an article of faith, the Dolchstoss had an important role to play. (Emphasis mine.)
The fact that Colonel Ken Allard (ret.)--who taught Information Warfare at the National Defense University and should, therefore, know the meaning of propaganda--doesn't understand the Dolchstoss was a myth is bad. That he tries to revive, to modernize and, backhandedly, to smear Michael Hastings with the myth is insane.


Austrian right-wing caricature of a Jew stabbing the German Army in the back with a dagger. The capitulation was blamed upon the unpatriotic populace, the Socialists, Bolsheviks, the Weimar Republic, and especially the Jews. (1919) Found at Wikipedia.

P.S. As Scott Horton and Kevin Baker have pointed out, the right has been working on this revival for a few years.

P.P.S. A nitpick: The Orwell quote he uses is also false.

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