Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest we forget

Ninety years ago today the armistice ending World War I was declared (on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918). It's Veteran's Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in Canada, as well as a holiday in France.

So today, The Racquetball Blog honours those who have served their countries in military service.

One way to honour the military is to read about war to help understand what is involved and how decisions on going to war get made. Human Smoke is a recent book by Nicholson Baker that we recommend to TRB readers. Its subtitle is The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.

Baker's taken clips from many primary sources, often the New York Times, and laid them out in chronological order leading up to the outbreak of World War II showing what the mood was in many parts of the world and how that led to the war.

Rarely more than a page in length each, the clips are so compelling in relating the events of the time that few, if any, are aware of now. Baker rarely editorializes, as the clips speak for themselves. Some examples include the reports that the German generals were not in favour of going to war. It was Hitler who forced them down that path. Such was the generals' opposition that there was a plot to remove Hitler from power in 1939, prior to any military action.

That plot fell through, of course, but the mind boggles at the thought of it succeeding, given the hindsight of what actually happened.

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