For those who, at one time in their life or another, committed themselves to a certain depth of study regarding World War II, a few prevalent themes about pre-Nazi Germany usually get explored. One is the extraordinary economic humiliation suffered by German citizens after their country came out on the losing end of the struggle between imperial powers that occurred in World War I. With severe reparation penalties exacted on Germany from that brutal war’s victors and the massive devaluation of the nation’s currency even within its own domestic economy, the deprivation and hunger experienced by regular citizens was very real.
The other piece of that humiliation was cultural. Before the first World War, Germany had been a respected Western imperial nation, boasting a powerful place in the rapidly industrializing world: with plenty of subjugated non-white colonial subjects to take resources from, a class of strong and shrewd aristocratic leaders, a robust economy, a fearsome military, a vibrant arts culture, a high-quality education system, etc. After the war, most of this was ripped away from Germany, and the everyday person on the street felt that humiliation bitterly, along with the gnawing despondency of bare cupboards and growling stomach.
Finally, there is the oft-explored socio-political piece of the Nazis rise to power, in which the fecklessness of the ruling mainstream party and elite distaste for more radical solutions from the left led the business class—and their increasingly large industrial corporations—to throw in with the Nazis in the mistaken belief they could control Hitler’s worst instincts.
In Understanding World War III, her rather extraordinary piece of geopolitical pattern recognition from 2016, independent journalist and activist Suzie Dawson picks up the story after the explosion of these humiliations and vanities, when the Nazis had taken power and Hitler began his crushing of internal dissent and an outward push towards violent conquest.
Dawson looks at the process of Nazi expansion, pointing out that World War II, for all intents and purposes, began during Hitler’s first provocations in 1933, and with the major European powers policy of appeasement being a position of willful blindness to that new war (until they finally opened their eyes after Hitler’s invasion and slaughter of Poland in 1939).
What’s truly novel about her piece is the side-by-side comparison she offers of the Nazi’s “pre-war” march to war and the foreign policy trajectory of the United States (and its empire vassals) since 9/11. Noting some remarkable similarities between the two countries in terms of their domestic devolution, suppression of dissent, claiming of victim status, and murderous activity abroad, she makes the case that the U.S. actually kicked off World War III immediately after 9/11.
If you don’t have time to read the lengthy piece, you can give it a listen through the Words of Others podcast:
After reading or listening to Dawson’s article, it’s also helpful to consider some of the differences between Germany in the 1920s and 30s and the U.S. in the years before and after 9/11.
One of those differences is that the feelings of desperation and humiliation felt by the American public have not been imposed on them largely from without, as it was for Germany after World War I, but rather from within—by corporations, policymakers, police, judges and, as Chris Hedges details in his recent book America: The Farewell Tour, a social and economic life in which important communal bonds have virtually disintegrated.
Additionally, while many of Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters are white supremacists who have been susceptible to the blaming of various “Others” for the national situation—just as many German citizens were susceptible to Hitler’s blaming of “the Jews” and other countries for a coterie of national humiliations—a growing number of U.S. citizens have proven resistant to dissent-suppressing media narratives and propaganda (initiated not so much by Trump as an individual strongman, but by the MIC and the corporate state) that’s been geared towards enforcing or engineering their acquiescence to a state of permanent conquest.
And if you look at the U.S.’s ridiculously over-funded and technologically vicious but often malfunctioning and soldier-starved military, as well as its use of mercenaries, proxy forces, sanctions and financial institutions to bludgeon other nations into submission, stories of successful conquest (as Hitler enjoyed in the early stages of WWII) have been near nonexistent since 9/11. Only violence and death have succeeded—but not imperial control.
The destruction of Libya could be dubiously claimed as “a win” for the empire, but, honestly, what control exists there for the U.S. in the current state of anarchy that rules what used to be that country? If you take a closer look at the last 18 years, here’s what can be seen: The subjugation of Iraq has proven to be little more than creative destruction, the aftermath of which the U.S. has nearly no control over. Afghanistan has been a slow-moving and unceasing debacle. No control to be found there.
Meanwhile, China, Russia, and a dedicated domestic Chavista population have stepped in to protect Venezuela’s sovereignty from an ongoing U.S. coup attempt. Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian Army have done the same for Syria. Ukraine is at a stalemate amidst an ongoing civil war and Russia/U.S. proxy fight. North Korea and Iran, despite sanctions, both remain defiant and independent. As U.S. Special Forces rampage uselessly around the African continent, China cuts their legs out from under them through diplomacy and investment. Meanwhile, multiple countries have been patiently building alternative financial systems that are already undercutting the supremacy of the dollar on which a huge portion of the U.S. imperial project rests.
These humiliations belong to U.S. elites. But where these somewhat contrary observations converge with Dawson’s analysis is exactly at this point of humiliation. With their grip on the world beginning to noticeably slip, how far will the criminal corporate, military and intelligence rulers of the United States be willing to go—driven by their imperial frustration—towards a full-blown and direct World War III against countries that can really fight back?
Just as important, how far will the U.S. domestic population be willing to go in the opposite direction? These are but some of the questions to ponder after absorbing Dawson’s thought-provoking work.
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