November 21, 2011
November 21, 2011
November 21, 2011
The jogger is undeterred by the wet, foggy weather in November. Once again, Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister and eminence grise of the Green Party, has taken to running regularly through the quiet neighborhoods of Berlin’s Grunewald district. It is the kind of exercise, he says, which gives him time to think.
”While I was running,” he says, it occurred to him “how things could work in Europe.”
To stabilize the continent in crisis Fischer, an avid European, wants to see a resolute political body consisting of the leaders of euro-zone countries. They should, he believes, be outfitted with far-reaching authority and granted sufficient power by their parliaments back home.
Fischer is thinking about a rescue plan. Not just a rescue plan for the banks, for Italy or the euro, but for everything. He envisions a fire brigade of European Union government officials, and sees it as an “avant-garde of the United States of Europe.”
It is, in other words, time to stop complaining. Europe can only be saved if it is completely reinvented. The financial crisis is the turning point in the history of European unification.
The old EU is finished. The 27-member bloc has never been as unpopular as it is today. Citizens have taken note that the massive bureaucracy in Brussels clearly lacks the power to master the crisis spreading through the currency union. It has likewise become apparent that the national governments they have elected are in the process of dismantling the historic project of European unification. After all, it isn’t the European Council, the European Commission or the European Parliament that the world is relying on to pull Europe out of crisis. It is Angela Merkel.
Old Europe No Longer Exists
The German chancellor and French President Nicolas Sarkozy more or less singlehandedly implemented the bailout plan for Greece, brought down the government in Athens and placed ailing member state Italy under international supervision. The words “History is being made in Cannes” were emblazoned on posters in the city during the G-20 summit there in early November. But that’s new history. Old Europe, that construct of unity housed in imposing buildings in Brussels, that visionary collection of ideas about peace, freedom and prosperity, the Europe of big words and impenetrable treaties, the Babylonian monster that spits out tons of paper in 23 languages every day, meddles in everything and tries to spoon-feed its citizen. That Europe no longer exists.
Citizens in Athens and Brussels, Madrid and Berlin are taking to the streets of the tottering continent to protest against their politicians. Has Europe turned into a nightmare?
It is time to stop complaining. The new Europe will be a dream, not a nightmare.
Unlike Fischer, not everyone with ambitious plans the future of Europe goes jogging in the November fog. There are many other big thinkers in the most influential nations of the European Union, people who are hard at work developing plans for a European house, one that will be better, more democratic, more unified and more impervious to crises than today’s Europe.
In capitals across the Continent, governments have assembled their experts for brainstorming sessions, while international law experts and political scientists gathered at think tanks are busy developing models and seeking a future for Europe. Influential thinkers like German philosopher Jürgen Habermas have weighed in on the debate as they try to shape a united continent.
‘Opportunity to Do Great Things’
The experts seek to escape the current crisis by taking a significant step forward. For the first time in years, those government officials seeking an end to the crisis have begun thinking about “more Europe,” a new Europe with expanded powers and a real government. The crisis, says Munich sociologist Ulrich Beck, is “an opportunity to do great things.”
“Neither a Frankfurt group nor a troika, and certainly not the G-20, which answers to no one, should have the right to decide what Europe’s citizens should pay for and how much they should save,” says Ulrike Guérot, the fiery Berlin spokeswoman of the European Council on Foreign Relations, the international think tank to which Joschka Fischer also belongs. According to Guérot, such decisions ought to be made by a strong European executive branch, “supported by a parliament for the entire euro zone.”
“We must invent and establish Europe a second time,” says Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of Germany’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD). It’s easy enough to say this from his standpoint as leader of the opposition. But many in Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), tend to agree — they just don’t talk openly about it. Officials at the Chancellery are also looking for concepts for the day when the crisis is over.
It’s an opportunity to change the world. Why, for example, shouldn’t it be possible for “the Europeans” to pull together, just as the 13 new American states did in 1787 for their constitutional convention? Then, too, the states were jostling for power and money. But, after a long struggle, they managed to constitute themselves — under the motto “We the People” — into a powerful, democratic, federal state that has endured to this day.
The Americans enshrined “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. But is that any different than the European dream of peace, freedom and prosperity? Could the words “We the People,” or “We Europeans,” also be chiseled into the constitution of a European federal state one day?
A Well-Thought-Out Vision for Europe’s Future
Just how close this historic idea has already come to real-life politics is reflected in the passion with which German philosopher Hermann Lübbe rejected the notion of a United States of Europe in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a few days ago. If, in the wake of the “common currency,” a similar “common nation” were now to be proclaimed, Lübbe warns, it would only “accelerate the catastrophic outcome” of the crisis. For Lübbe, there is “no prospect” of achieving consensus among “Finland and Greece, Slovenia and Portugal, Austria and France.”
The It-Won’t-Work pragmatists are keeping the Let’s-At-Least-Try-It idealists in check. As a result, only very few politicians are able to develop a well-thought-out vision for Europe’s future anymore. “After all, everyone wants something,” complains Habermas, a passionate proponent of Europe. The ultimate goal, he says, has become obscured.
Peter Altmaier, the influential conservative parliamentarian and an important ally of Merkel’s, says that although an American-style European federalism is not “in our immediate future,” it should be possible “to at least talk about it.”
There is no lack of bold ideas. Charles Grant, founder of the Centre for European Reform, a London think tank, has come up with a vision for a democratically united Europe in which the citizens of the various member states vote directly for European commissioners — replacing the present system whereby they are chosen by national governments behind closed doors. Grant’s model sees the EU president selecting the 10 best of the 27 citizens’ picks, with the remaining 17 becoming deputies. This concept would produce a strong and democratic European government.
The idea of a single, robust Brussels government for all EU countries — or at least for the euro zone — is also shaping plans promoted by certain groups within the European Parliament. And most agree that citizens in any future United States of Europe must have a stronger voice and Brussels have greater powers. Which would in turn mean a transfer of sovereignty from individual countries to the European Union…
November 21, 2011
No trial provides a better basis for understanding the nature and causes of evil than do the Nuremberg trials from 1945 to 1949. Those who come to the trials expecting to find sadistic monsters are generally disappointed. What is shocking about Nuremberg is the ordinariness of the defendants: men who may be good fathers, kind to animals, even unassuming–yet who committed unspeakable crimes. Years later, reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt wrote of “the banality of evil.” Like Eichmann, most Nuremberg defendants never aspired to be villains. Rather, they over-identified with an ideological cause and suffered from a lack of imagination or empathy: they couldn’t fully appreciate the human consequences of their career-motivated decisions.
Twelve trials, involving over a hundred defendants and several different courts, took place in Nuremberg from 1945 to 1949. By far the most attention–not surprisingly, given the figures involved–has focused on the first Nuremberg trial of twenty-one major war criminals. Several of the eleven subsequent Nuremberg trials, however, involved conduct no less troubling–and issues at least as interesting–as the Major War Criminals Trial. For example, the trial of sixteen German judges and officials of the Reich Ministry (The Justice Trial) considered the criminal responsibility of judges who enforce immoral laws. (The Justice Trial became the inspiration for the acclaimed Hollywood movie, Judgment at Nuremberg.) Other subsequent trials, such as the Doctors Trial and the Einsatzgruppen Trial, are especially compelling because of the horrific events described by prosecution witnesses. (These three subsequent trials each receive separate coverage elsewhere in this website.)
In 1944, when eventual victory over the Axis powers seemed likely, President Franklin Roosevelt asked the War Department to devise a plan for bringing war criminals to justice. Before the War Department could come up with a plan, however, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau sent his own ideas on the subject to the President’s desk. Morgenthau’s eye-for-an-eye proposal suggested summarily shooting many prominent Nazi leaders at the time of capture and banishing others to far off corners of the world. Under the Morgenthau plan, German POWs would be forced to rebuild Europe. The Treasury Secretary’s aim was to destroy Germany’s remaining industrial base and turn Germany into a weak, agricultural country.
Secretary of War Henry Stimson saw things differently than Morgenthau. The counter-proposal Stimson endorsed, drafted primarily by Colonel Murray Bernays of the Special Projects Branch, would try responsible Nazi leaders in court. The War Department plan labeled atrocities and waging a war of aggression as war crimes. Moreover, it proposed treating the Nazi regime as a criminal conspiracy.
Roosevelt eventually chose to support the War Department’s plan. Other Allied leaders had their own ideas, however. Churchill reportedly told Stalin that he favored execution of captured Nazi leaders. Stalin answered, “In the Soviet Union, we never execute anyone without a trial.” Churchill agreed saying, “Of course, of course. We should give them a trial first.” All three leaders issued a statement in Yalta in February, 1945 favoring some sort of judicial process for captured enemy leaders.
In April, 1945, two weeks after the sudden death of President Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson received Samuel Rosenman at his Washington home. Rosenman asked Jackson, on behalf of President Truman, to become the chief prosecutor for the United States at a war-crimes trial to be held in Europe soon after the war ended. Truman wanted a respected figure, a man of unquestioned integrity, and a first-rate public speaker, to represent the United States. Justice Jackson, Rosenman said, was that person. Three days later, Jackson accepted. On May 2, Harry Truman formally appointed him chief prosecutor. But prosecutor of whom, and under what authority? Many questions remained unanswered.
Several Nazi leaders would escape trial and punishment. Two days before Jackson’s appointment, in a bunker twenty feet below the Berlin sewer system, Adolf Hitler shot himself. Soon thereafter, Heinrich Himmler–perhaps the most terrifying figure in the Nazi regime–took a cyanide crystal while being examined by a British doctor and died within minutes. Also unavailable for trial were Joseph Goebbels (dead) and Martin Bormann (missing).
Still, many important Axis leaders had fell into Allied hands, either through surrender or capture. Deputy Fuhrer Rudolph Hess had been held in England since 1941, when he had parachuted into the English sky in a solo effort to convince British leaders to make peace with the Nazi government. Reischsmarschall Hermann Goering surrendered to Americans on May 6, 1945. He spent his first evening in captivity happily drinking and singing with American officers–officers who later were reprimanded by General Eisenhower for the special treatment they conferred. Hans Frank, “the Jew Butcher of Cracow,” received less hospitable treatment from American soldiers in Bavaria, who forced him to run through a seventy-foot line of soldiers, getting kicked and punched the whole way. Other suspected war criminals were rounded up on May 23 by British forces in Flensburg, site of the last Nazi government. The Flensburg group included Karl Doenitz (Hitler’s successor as fuhrer), Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, Nazi Party philosopher Alfred Rosenberg, General Alfred Jodl, and Armaments Minister Albert Speer. Eventually, twenty-two of these captured major Nazi figures would be indicted.
On June 26, Robert Jackson flew to London to meet with delegates from the other three Allied powers for a discussion of what to do with the captured Nazi leaders. Every nation had its own criminal statutes and its own views as to how the trials should proceed. Jackson devoting considerable time to explaining why the criminal statutes relating to wars of aggression and crimes against humanity that he proposed drafting would not be ex post facto laws. Jackson told negotiators from the other nations, “What we propose is to punish acts which have been regarded as criminal since the time of Cain and have been so written in every civilized code.” The delegates also debated whether to proceed using the Anglo-American adversarial system with defense lawyers for the defendants, or whether instead to use the judge-centered inquisitive system favored by the French and Soviets.
After ten days of discussion, the shape of the proceedings to come became clearer. The trying court would be called the International Military Tribunal, and it would consist of one primary and one alternate judge from each country. The adversarial system preferred by the Americans and British would be used. The indictments against the defendants would prohibit defenses based on superior orders, as well as tu quoque (the “so-did-you” defense). Delegates were determined not to let the defendants and their German lawyers turn the trial into one that would expose questionable war conduct by Allied forces.
Jackson believed that the war crimes trials should be held in Germany. Few German cities in 1945, however, had a standing courthouse in which a major trial could be held. One of the few cities that did was Nuremberg, site of Zeppelin Field and some of Hitler’s most spectacular rallies. It was also in Nuremberg that Nazi leaders proclaimed the infamous Nuremberg Laws, stripping Jews of their property and basic rights. Jackson liked that connection. The city was 91% destroyed, but in addition to the Palace of Justice, the best hotel in town–the Grand Hotel–was miraculously spared and would serve as an operating base for court officers and the world press. Over the objection of the Soviets (who preferred Berlin), Allied representatives decided to conduct the trial in Nuremberg.
On August 6, the representatives signed the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, establishing the laws and procedures that would govern the Nuremberg trials. Six days later, a cargo plane carrying most of major war trial defendants landed in Nuremberg. Allied military personnel loaded the prisoners into ambulances and took them to a secure cell block of the Palace of Justice, where they spent the next fourteen months.
Judges for the IMT met for the first time on October 13. The American judge was Francis Biddle, who was appointed to the job by Harry Truman–perhaps out of a feeling of guilt after the President dismissed him as Attorney General. Robert Jackson pressured Biddle, who desperately wanted the position of chief judge, to support instead the British judge, Sir Geoffrey Lawrence. Jackson thought the selection of a British as president of the IMT would ease criticism that the Americans were playing too large a role in the trials. Votes from the Americans, British, and French elected Lawrence chief judge.
With a November 20 opening trial date approaching, Nuremberg began to fill with visitors. A prosecutorial staff of over 600 Americans plus additional hundreds from the other three powers assembled and began interviewing potential witnesses and identifying documents from among the 100,000 captured for the prosecution case. German lawyers, some of whom were themselves Nazis, arrived to interview their clients and began trial preparation. Members of the world press moved into the Grand Hotel and whatever other quarters they could find and began writing background features on the upcoming trial. Nearly a thousand workers rushed to complete restoration of the Palace of Justice…
November 21, 2011
The MSNBC host champions bureaucratic power at the expense of regular people and their rights.
Progressives today say people should come before profits. Now in a privilege-ridden corporate state, that’s a worthy goal, though progressives have no clue how to achieve it. How nice it would be if they were equally committed to putting people before bureaucracy. Here they fall down rather badly because their signature ideas would subordinate regular people to the dictates of the power structure.
Take MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Maddow is intelligent, serious, and well-meaning—which makes her vision all the more unsettling: It has ominous implications not only for individual liberty, but also for its concomitant: authentic spontaneous social cooperation.
Maddow might say that if she had her way, the bureaucracy would reflect the people’s interests, perhaps even consult them from time to time. But the naiveté of that vision is apparent from even a brief reading of political-economic history. When has bureaucracy actually represented—or cared about—plain people rather than being a tool of the power elite she claims to abhor (at least when Republicans hold some branch of government)?
Her commercials on MSNBC (said to be shot by Spike Lee) well articulate her bureaucracy-first vision. I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing her words:
When people tell us, “No, no, no. We’re not going to build it. No, No, No. America doesn’t have any greatness in its future. America has small things in its future. Other countries have great things in their future. China can afford it. We can’t”—you’re wrong! And it doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t sound right to us because that’s not what America is.
Note the nationalistic “we” and the equation of national greatness with big government projects. (Neoconservative empire-builders have no monopoly on this.) The things unencumbered peoplewould build in a freed market are too small and insignificant for Maddow. The state bureaucracy knows better. (Why are progressives enamored with China?)
She amplifies the point in another spot:
Not every idea that’s good for the country is a profit-making idea for some company somewhere. It’s never going to be a profitable venture for some company to come up with this idea [pointing to a railroad bridge] and build it on spec. That’s not gonna happen! It needs some government leadership frankly to get something done in common that’s gonna benefit the country as a whole.
The Social Problem
In disparaging profit as impotent to produce big things for the general good (with no evidence proffered), she moves bureaucracy—by nature self-serving, inflexible, conservative—center stage. She shows her unfamiliarity with how competition and entrepreneurship would function in a freed market (as opposed to the corporatist economy she conflates it with). Entrepreneurial profit, as both a motive and a reward, helps human beings cope with pervasive ignorance about how best to use scarce resources in addressing our endless wants. Rhapsodizing about the wisdom and efficiency of bureaucracy shows an obliviousness to the most basic social problem: How can a multitude of people with different values, preferences, and tastes, as well as diverse and incomplete information about the world around them, coordinate their activities for maximum mutual benefit?
Two basic approaches to the problem are available: 1) Let individuals, guided by the price system, strive for what they want by cooperating freely (no privileges, no restraints on peaceful action) under rules that respect all persons as equals, or 2) let bureaucracy—that is, the coercive state—decide for them, perhaps periodically administering the opium of democracy to lessen the pain of their essential powerlessness. Big things must crowd out small things. The latter approach assumes (or pretends) that politicians and bureaucrats possess the knowledge and commitment to the public weal to make the optimal tradeoffs. The freed market would provide a check on waste while respecting free choice. Bureaucracy does neither.
Maddow doesn’t simply favor stopgap Keynesian spending to restore economic vitality. She disturbingly equates pervasive bureaucracy with national greatness:
This . . . whole fight about whether or not the government should be doing anything right now . . . that’s a fundamental fight about what kind of country we’re going to be and whether or not we take recovery from this economic disaster seriously. You have to build your way out of it. You have to be a stronger country when you come out the other side of this recession than when you went in. You have to or you will be left behind.
“You” equals bureaucracy. If the state does great things, the country will be great. The people must be shown the way…
November 21, 2011