The Duel

Anonymous

In reviewing John Lukacs, The Duel, I noticed that the author has other intentions in mind besides the facts. Lukacs gives a very precise account of the actualy events during those eighty days but in my opinion he wants the reader to grab the bigger concepts. One of these concepts is that Lukacs wants the reader to honestly consider just how close the Allies came to losing the war. Another of these notions is the idea that the main difference between Churchill and Hitler concerned nationalism versus patriotism and a third idea is just how greatly history can be effected by the courageous decisions of a few people.

Lukacs makes strong mention of how close Hitler came to victory. Hitler got everything he wanted for so long, without even having to resort to force. Lukacs describes Hitler as ''being an amateur at generalship, but he posessed the great professional talent applicable to all human affairs: an understanding of human nature and the understanding of the weaknesses of his opponents. That was enough to carry him very far''(3). Lukacs wants to make that a point in all of his readers' minds; that Hitler could manipulate people so he could get what he wanted without resorting to violence. Of course, the threat of violence was always present but Hitler was smart enough that he could scare his enemies enough that they would not want to engage in combat. Once actually forced to fight, Hitler still dominated and he could have very possibly won the war if not for that one fatal mistake he made by hesitating in his plans against the English. I think it is important that Lukacs makes sure to get this message across because some people choose to ignore this truth due to the devastating outcomes that would have resulted if Hitler succeeded.

The major point presented by Lukacs concerning the difference between Hitler and Churchill has to do with nationalim versus patriotism. Lukacs describes Hitler as a nationalist and Churchill as a patriot. He describes Hitler as a man of ideas and Churchill as a of man principles, because Churchill's ideas changed throughout the war while Hitler tended to think that his ideas were principles. In a footnote there lies a a brilliant explanation of this idea. Dr. Johnson states ''Nationalism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Patriotism is defensive, while nationalism is aggressive. Patriotism is not a substitute for a religious faith, whereas nationalism often is; filling the spiritual and emotional needs of uprooted men. It is often the result of hatred.''(50) This explanation is a very powerful and precise one. We can all understand this, especially when looking back at the horror of WWII. Hitler abused the idea of nationalism and thet is why the author made sure not to leave this footnote out of his book. Hitler got the german people to follow him under this demented idea that Germany should be considered better than everybody else, and yet it is astonishing that nobody seemed to noticed that Hitler was not even a German. Lukacs wants the reader to raise these questions to themselves so they can see how unique this entire situation was.

The idea that the entire course of history is changed by the decisions of a few people is a very important notion in the book. The hesitance of Hitler in early July is especially important and vital to the outcome of the war. Lukacs depicts the two men differently then one would expect. In this evaluation, Hitler does not want to attack Britain. He wants them to simply make peace, of course on his terms. He was not sure if England would go for this, and if they did not, he knew that the time had come to force them to do so. He could not shake Churchill, no matter how many other leaders crumbled. Hitler's generals wanted to use force, but Hitler remained reluctant. The author effectively exhibits Hitler's hesitance. He makes the evil man seem human saying that Hitler ''wanted to make a peace proposal on a great and generous scale.''(159). However, it is a little difficult to understand why Hitler did not go through with the attack. He received news from Goebbels that morale in London was low, the English were divided and they would be defeated in four weeks. Hitler