Something wicked this way comes

“By 10.30p.m. the first reports were coming in of a number of serious border incidents, including an armed ‘Polish’ assault on the German radio station at Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia. These had been planned for weeks by Heydrich’s office, using SS men dressed in Polish uniforms to carry out the attacks. To increase the semblance of authenticity, a number of concentration-camp inmates killed by lethal injection and carried to the sites provided the bodies required.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

No citations to brickbats

“Self-help may be resorted to, not only to reveal the falsity of the defamatory statement and to vindicate the reputation, but also to punish the defamer and retaliate against him. In earlier times the principal method of this type of self-help was the clan or blood feud. It was supplanted for a time by the challenge to a duel or the horsewhip. One of the primary reasons for developing the tort law of defamation was to induce the defamed person to resort to the courts for relief instead of wreaking his own vengeance.” – Kenneth S. Abraham and Albert Clark Tate, Jr., compilers, A Concise Restatement of Torts

In my profession, we call it ‘extortion by lawsuit’

“Defamation actions have not infrequently been brought—or jury verdicts have been rendered, irrespective of the plaintiff’s motivation in bringing the action—not to compensate for actual pecuniary loss or to vindicate the plaintiff, but instead to cudgel the defendant and to mulct him for substantial damages that may be like a windfall to the plaintiff.” – Kenneth S. Abraham and Albert Clark Tate, Jr., compilers, A Concise Restatement of Torts

Czecho-Slovakia

“Thousands tried to flee. Masses packed the railway stations, trying to get out to Prague. They had the few possessions they could carry with them ransacked by the squads of men with swastika armbands who had assembled at the stations, ‘confiscating’ property at will, entering compartments on the trains and dragging out arbitrarily selected victims for further mishandling and internment. Those who left on the 11.15p.m. night express thought they had escaped. But they were turned back at the Czech border. Their ordeal was only just beginning.” – Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis

Amateur hour in Mesopotamia

“Experience at the end of World War II demonstrated that it is much more difficult to order the affairs of liberated nations than of defeated ones. This is because it is undesirable, if not impossible, to arbitrate their affairs with the same ruthlessness. If Washington’s twenty-first-century neoconservatives had possessed a less muddled understanding of the experience of 1944-45, had studied more closely Allied difficulties managing liberated territories in the Roosevelt-Churchill era, they might have inflicted less grief upon the world in our own times by their blunders in Iraq and Afghanistan.” – Max Hastings, Winston’s War

How to believe the unbelievable, in an endless number of difficult lessons

“British and American intelligence possessed enough information by late 1944, from Ultra and escaped Auschwitz prisoners, to deduce that something uniquely terrible was being done to the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, if the right conclusions had been drawn from the evidence. . . . [G]iven the known limitations of precision bombing even where good target intelligence was available, the case for specific action against the Nazi death machine seemed overborne by the overarching argument for hastening military victory to end the sufferings of all Europe’s oppressed people. The airmen could be sure that any bombing of the camps would kill many prisoners. It is the privilege of posterity to recognize that this would have been a price worth paying. In the full tilt of war, to borrow Churchill’s phrase from a different context, it is possible to understand why the British and Americans failed to act with the energy and commitment which hindsight shows to have been appropriate. Temperate historians of the period recognise a real doubt about whether any plausible air force action would substantially have impeded the operations of the Nazi death machine.” – Max Hastings, Winston’s War

That day in history

“Some illusions persist that the wartime Allies missed opportunities to promote the cause of ‘good Germans’ who opposed Hitler, rejecting approaches from such men as Adam von Trott. Yet the British seemed right, first, to assume that any dalliance of this kind must leak, fuelling Soviet paranoia about a negotiated peace and, second, in believing that the anti-Hitler faction was both weak and flawed. Michael Howard has written: ‘We know that such “right-minded people” did exist; but the remarkable thing is that . . . there should have been so few of them, and that their influence should have been so slight.’ Howard notes that most of the July 1944 bomb plotters were right-wing nationalists, who cherished grotesquely extravagant ambitions for their country’s postwar polity. The principal objective of most of those who joined the conspiracy against Hitler, as the Foreign Office perceived at the time, was to enlist Anglo-American aid against the Russians. It is easy to understand why postwar Germans sought to canonise the July bomb plotters. But it would have represented folly for Churchill’s government to dally with them, and there is no cause for historians to concede them exaggerated respect. A large majority of the July 20 conspirators turned against Hitler not because he was indescribably wicked, but because they perceived that he was leading Germany to defeat.” – Max Hastings, Winston’s War (ellipsis in original)

If it’s the best you can do

“Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style. There are occasions when obscurity serves a literary yearning, if not a literary purpose, and there are writers whose mien is more overcast than clear. But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue. And although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.” – William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style

Good luck, everyone

“Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind? Who knows why certain notes in music are capable of stirring the listener deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent? These are high mysteries . . . . There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door.” – William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style

How shall the will triumph?

“In formal writing, the future tense requires shall for the first person, will for the second and third. The formula to express the speaker’s belief regarding his future action or state is I shall; I will expresses his determination or his consent. A swimmer in distress cries, “I shall drown; no one will save me!” A suicide puts it the other way: “I will drown; no one shall save me!” In relaxed speech, however, the words shall and will are seldom used precisely; our ear guides us or fails to guide us, as the case may be, and we are quite likely to drown when we want to survive and survive when we want to drown.” – William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (emphases in original)

My enemy’s enemy is not my friend, but can be quite useful

“For many years after 1945, the democracies found it gratifying to perceive the Second World War in Europe as a struggle for survival between themselves and Nazi tyranny. Yet the military outcome of the contest was overwhelmingly decided by the forces of Soviet tyranny, rather than by Anglo-American armies.” – Max Hastings, Winston’s War

We’re all queer

“I believe in aristocracy, though—if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.” – E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy