Max Boot ponders the parallels between the Blitz and the Bombing:
The London bombings have occasioned many comparisons with the 1940 Blitz. This is usually cited as evidence of British fortitude — the attitude exemplified by cockneys in the heavily bombed East End who told Winston Churchill, “We can take it, but give it ’em back.” That is indeed the dominant British (and American) attitude, then and now, but it is important not to ignore a streak of timidity there (and here) that may get stronger in the years ahead and that was present even when civilization faced an existential threat from Nazism.
The last sentence segues into a litany of appeasement stances. I imagine that in their day these appeals against involvement in the war were far louder than history has allowed their echoes to be. Take one delicious morsel of an example:
Even in January 1942, when German armies were at the gates of Moscow, George Orwell wrote in Partisan Review that “the greater part of the very young intelligentsia are anti-war … don’t believe in any ‘defense of democracy,’ are inclined to prefer Germany to Britain, and don’t feel the horror of Fascism that we who are somewhat older feel.”
As if to illustrate Orwell’s point, a pacifist poet named D.S. Savage wrote a reply in which he explained why he “would never fight and kill for such a phantasm” as “Britain’s ‘democracy.’ ” Savage saw no difference between Britain and its enemies because under the demands of war both were imposing totalitarianism: “Germans call it National Socialism. We call it democracy. The result is the same.”
Savage naively wondered, “Who is to say that a British victory will be less disastrous than a German one?” Savage thought the real problem was that Britain had lost “her meaning, her soul,” but “the unloading of a billion tons of bombs on Germany won’t help this forward an inch.” “Personally,” he added, with hilarious understatement, “I do not care for Hitler.” But he thought the way to resist Hitler was by not resisting him: “Whereas the rest of the nation is content with calling down obloquy on Hitler’s head, we regard this as superficial. Hitler requires, not condemnation, but understanding.”
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]