January 26, 2012

Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson

Don’t forget, this is 1945, and we Europeans have seen war, whereas the Americans back home have not. He writes how the Brits and Yanks do not like each other and how the English were the first to refuse to pick up hitchhiking GIs, with the Americans returning the compliment almost immediately. American soldiers tell him how the British are not friendly in the bars because GIs have so much more money than the Brits do. All I can say is, plus ça change….

Edmund Wilson was a far better man than Woodrow Wilson. I write this the day after I watched Birdsong, which is about WWI’s needless butchery. Over a hundred thousand Americans gave their lives so the French would not be speaking German today—definitely not a very good thing. I’d rather have German philosophers speaking on the telly these days than phonies such as Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Nothing can ever explain how Europe committed suicide back in 1914. It was suicide warfare by 19th-century armies equipped with 20th-century weapons. If the Americans hadn’t plunged in, Germany would have won. Yet all leaders—not only Woodrow Wilson, but also Lloyd George, Clemenceau, the Kaiser, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and that arch-criminal Haig—should have been shot in the back as cowards who had sent young men to die for Dulce et Decorum est.

And the statues of these men—because it was men who sent others to die, not a single woman—still stand, commemorating the fact that they ordered young men to advance on an enemy who possessed weapons of mass destruction and commit useless suicide.

Go figure, as Edmund Wilson never said.



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