US presidential candidates like music and some candidates pick bands and singers that don’t appreciate this attention. Neil Young was less than enthusiastic when Donald Trump used his song Rockin in the Free world, reportedly because Trump had not asked for permission. Furthermore, Young supports Bernie Sanders whose politics has a greater potential for creating a free world. If I as an outsider were to choose a song for the whole field of donkeys and elephants slugging it out, I wouldn’t go for the usual rock or hip hop, but The Long and Winding Road by Beatles. It feels like they have been campaigning for ages already, but the beginning of the primaries is still almost four months away, and the presidential election is a whole year away.
The politicians have to make a lot of speeches and give a lot of interviews where they have ample opportunity to make a mess of things. I seem to remember that George Bush appeared somewhat lost occasionally and his brother seems to grow slowly into his new role too. Jeb Bush talked to a journalist from Huffington Post on his campaign bus in New Hamsphire earlier this week. Scott Conroy of the Huffington Post asked him about the funniest or most bizarre e-mail he had received. He could have chosen anything, but this is what he chose:
If you could go back in time and kill baby Hitler, would you?
This is the answer he gave:
Hell, yeah, I would. Look, you gotta step up man … The problem with going back in history and doing that is, as we know from the series, what was the name of the Michael Fox movies? «Back to the Future» – It could have a dangerous effect on everything else, but I’ll do it – I mean, Hitler.
It’s hard to tell whether Bush meant this seriously, but this opens up an interesting thought experiment. Some conspiracy theorists believe that Hitler didn’t die, but escaped to South America. That would not be completely without interest because we want history to be accurate of course, but Hitler was very ill and wouldn’t have lived for much longer anyway.
It could be interesting to investigate what happened to the wealth and ideology, however. I don’t pay attention to conspiracies, but it’s not inconceivable that many of the Nazis that escaped managed to hide away gold and other valuables. That is why some seem to think that Nazi money and to some extent the ideology is still playing a role. This can never be more than speculations, but it’s a more interesting one than stating that Hitler got away.
It may not help a man who wants to become the next president to express a desire to kill babies, but what if it had been possible to travel back in time? It might have been a better strategy to give Hitler a better upbringing and expose him to positive influences. I’m not convinced this would have stopped Nazism, but it could have created a counterpoint. I don’t think the Nazi ideology needed the individual Hitler, but there were probably strong forces in the background cultivating this leader who evolved into a monster no one could control. If it had not been Hitler another charismatic, but healthier and more intelligent man could have emerged.
I am far from being an expert on Hitler and World War 2, but it seems to me that Hitler was a disaster as commander in chief. Germany appeared to have had a huge technological advantage in all branches of the military and I think they could have won with someone else in charge. It’s easy to imagine that we could have stopped the war before it started if we killed Hitler as a baby. The problem is that this action wouldn’t have done anything to change the political and social conditions that made Hitler’s rise to power possible. There would still be influential people, and not just in Germany, who believed that the world needed Nazism. With another charismatic speaker who was more competent as a political and military leader, we could actually have ended up with something worse. That is, if this thought experiment failed.
Hitler’s skills as a public speaker could have been a powerful weapon against the Nazis. The incumbent president, Paul von Hindenburg, was well over 80 years old and more than ready to retire in 1932. He only ran again to keep Hitler out of office. It was doomed to fail, but imagine an alternative version of history where Hindenburg picked a totally different Hitler to run for his party.
We tend to think that Hitler was alone, but Nazism really isn’t much different from eugenics, which had strong support from influential people in Europe and the USA. If we are being completely honest, the allies and especially the German people, had opportunities to stop Hitler before the war even started. Hitler published his manifesto in 1925, so what happened later wasn’t entirely surprising.
These are just speculations of course, but more interesting ones than wondering what we could have accomplished by killing a baby, unless we believe that people are born evil. In the future a similar thought experiment might focus on ISIS. What would you do to stop ISIS? What did you do? It’s basically the same ideology because ISIS is no more the representative of Islam than Hitler was (or Ku Klux Klan today) of Christianity. It’s equally important to stop ISIS as it was to stop Hitler. You’d think the so-called international community would be able to work together in 2015, but I’m not sure we are doing a better job than in 1940. Most countries would have ignored Hitler in the 1940’s if he had not posed a threat to them, and one of our neighbours did just that.
One wonders if the commitment has grown stronger the past 75 years, because how can ISIS control vast areas of pretty large countries if the world was really trying to use their superior military forces and weapons against them?