War etc

Orwell on defeatism

Recent comments from some opponents of the Iraq war can only be described as defeatist. (My dictionary defines defeatism as “acceptance or expectation of or resignation to defeat.”)

George Orwell, writing for The Partisan Review in the winter of 1945, had this to say on the tendency toward defeatism of many on the Left during the Second World War:

Looking back through my diaries and the news commentaries which I wrote for the BBC over a period of two years, I see that I was often right as against the bulk of the left-wing intelligentsia. I was right to the extent that I was not defeatist, and after all the war has not been lost. The majority of left-wing intellectuals, whatever they might say in print, were blackly defeatist in 1940 and again in 1942. In the summer of 1942, the turning-point of the war, most of them held it as an article of faith that Alexandria would fall and Stalingrad would not. I remember a fellow broadcaster, a Communist, saying to me with a kind of passion, ‘I would bet you anything, anything, that Rommel will be in Cairo in a month.’ What this person really meant, as I could see at a glance, was, ‘I hope Rommel will be in Cairo in a month.’ I myself didn’t hope anything of the kind, and therefore I was able to see that the chances of holding on to Egypt were fairly good. You have here an example of the wish-thinking that underlies almost all political predictions at present.

Yes, I know Iraq isn’t World War II. But have attitudes really changed much?

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