01/18/06 - retribution

In today's excerpt - the instinct for retribution. The Allied nations after World War II, just as after World War I, were once again both furious with Germany and afraid that Germany would rise again to lead Europe into a third world war. The wide-spread impulse, therefore, was to extract reparations to keep Germany disarmed, to institute denazification education programs, and to establish a maximum per capita GDP, to insure that the German citizenry would remain subjugated. That same impulse after World War I, however, had led directly to World War II and this time wiser heads prevailed. A crucial part of this was the Marshall plan, whereby the U.S. spent over $200B (in today's dollars) in virtually no-strings-attached support of European economies:

"Nevertheless this self-interest [the Marshall Plan] was distinctly enlightened. After all, as CIA Director Allen Dulles observed [in 1949]: 'The Plan presupposes that we desire to help restore a Europe which can and will compete with us in the world markets and for that very reason will be able to buy substantial amounts of our products.'

"... American critics of the initial U.S. 'hard' line added a further consideration. It was all very well forcibly bringing Germans to a consciousness of their own defeat, but unless they were given some prospect of a better future the outcome might be the same as before: a resentful, humiliated nation vulnerable to demagogy from Right or Left. As former President Herbert Hoover expressed it to Truman himself, in 1946, 'You can have vengeance or peace but you can't have both.' "


Tony Judt


Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945


Penguin Group


Copyright Tony Judt 2005


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