June 15, 2004


Professor Sir Stuart Hampshire (Daily Telegraph, 15/06/2004)

Sir Stuart Hampshire, the philosopher who died on Sunday aged 89, was one of the anti-rationalist Oxford thinkers, others being Isaiah Berlin and Bernard Williams, who gave a new direction to moral and political thought in the post-war era. [...]

Hampshire had a horror of the moral certainties of Left and Right from his time in British intelligence during the Second World War. He valued freedom over equality and rejected the classical philosophical tradition that set up reason as an absolute arbiter of disputes. Nor did he believe that liberal or socialist values had any special moral or historical significance, regarding all claims to moral universality as bogus. [...]

Stuart Newton Hampshire was born on October 1 1914 and was educated at Repton and at Balliol College, Oxford, from which he graduated with a First in Greats in 1936. Elected to a fellowship at All Soul's the same year, he became a lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford before serving in Army Intelligence during the Second World War.

In late 1942, working in the Radio Security Service which monitored the radio links of Nazi spies, Hampshire was said to be one of the authors of a study suggesting a growing rift between the German General Staff and the Nazi regime. Its central premise was that the war in Europe could be ended if the British government gave the German General Staff an incentive to launch a coup.

The report, endorsed by all the junior officials who read it, including Hugh Trevor-Roper (the historian Lord Dacre), was submitted for security clearance to Section-5 Deputy Chief Kim Philby who forbade its circulation, insisting that it was "mere speculation". Trevor-Roper later recalled that he and his colleagues were baffled by Philby's intransigence, though in retrospect he surmised that it was not in the Russian interest for the Western Allies to support the German opposition to Hitler while the Red Army was still too far away to gain a foothold.

FDR and his cronies were less influenced by direct communist intervention and more blinded by a hatred of the Germans, but the failure to recognize that the military was prepared to take out Hitler and the unprecedented and counterproductive insistence on unconditional surrender were disastrous. We might have won WWII and avoided the Cold War had wiser heads prevailed.

-ARCHIVES: Srtuart Hampshire (NY Review of Books)

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 15, 2004 2:15 PM

Everything happens for a reason.

Posted by: Scof at June 15, 2004 2:29 PM

There is an interesting intersection between this post and your post below about the lack of justificatoin for the EU.

The original justification for the common steel market, and all that has been added on to it, was to weld West Germany to western Europe and thus prevent another Franco-German war from spreading to engulf the world.

Now, a Franco-German war (and don't be led astray by how nice that sounds) is unthinkable whether the EU exists or not. But if Germany had not been beaten into submission, bifurcated, pacified and then reunified, we would not know be in a position where that war is unthinkable.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 2:33 PM

Why is that good? The triumph of their shared ideology has destroyed Europe.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 2:42 PM

Europe's not my problem.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 3:17 PM

We always get sucked in when it all goes bung though, don't we? When the Germans and Turks start killing each other and the French and the North Africans, we'll be the ones who have to stop it.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 3:23 PM

Part of the fight of the last 50 years was to bring Europe to the point where we don't have to care about it anymore. We have won a stunning success.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 3:57 PM

I have always been more than a little dubious about claims that the German military would have toppled Hitler if only the French & British had stood up to Hitler in the later 30s, or the Allies had given some sign that they would make a deal, or whenever...It reeks of post-war blame-shifting. If they weren't willing to stand up and stop Hitler from driving Germany into the ground and killing millions of her citizens (to say nothing of the non-Germans), why would some external sign have changed things?

Posted by: brian at June 15, 2004 4:02 PM

They wouldn't have stopped him in the 30s--he was revitalizing their nation. They would have in the 40s when he was destroying it.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 4:05 PM

And yet in Manchester's Churchill bio the claim is made over and over. I agree with you that it's nonsense. It's also nonsense to believe they would have overthrown Hitler if only the Allies had not called for unconditional surrender. That's merely a ploy to blame us.

Posted by: brian at June 15, 2004 6:32 PM

Like the Iraqis overthrew Saddam after 45 years?

Posted by: h-man at June 15, 2004 6:34 PM


No, there's considerable evidence for the latter, including things like the Stauffenberg plot, which we failed to publicize even after its failure because FDR couldn't accept the idea of anti-Hitler Germans.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 6:39 PM


Yes, we stabbed them in the back in 1991.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 6:40 PM

It wasn't a stab in the back, OJ, we merely decided not to do their job for them. (after consulting with our oil supplier.. I mean allies)

13 years later we decide to do the job for them and they stab us in the back. (although it's not fatal)

Posted by: h-man at June 15, 2004 7:01 PM

oj: Right, some German leaders were willing to take a stand and do something. The fact that others were not reflects poorly on them, not us.

Posted by: brian at June 15, 2004 7:05 PM


Certainly, but we didn't live in a totalitarian society and fear for our lives, did we? Helping them would have helped our own cause greatly. Failure to cost us the war.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 7:32 PM


We told them to rise up and then helped Saddam crush them.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 7:33 PM

Then why didn't they? They outnumbered him about 12 million to one.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 15, 2004 7:42 PM

Harry, the reason is called tanks and helicopters. The Shi'a actually did a good job, but once it was obvious they would have no help, then Saddam sent in his surviving armor and rolled over them.

Our call to revolt and then no help was a horrible action on our part.

Per German generals, evidence says that if France and Britain threatened war over the Sudentenland, the generals would have diposed Hitler. They needed an excuse because Hitler was too popular with the people and had ensnared the common soldier with his order for them to swear loyalty to Hitler and not the country itself (and Hitler only managed that by skillfully exploiting a scandal with the former head of the OKW).

I have always supported the policy of unconditional surrender. It prevented any recidivism of the "stab in the back" excuse that told them they hadn't lost the first war.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at June 15, 2004 8:33 PM

So, if Hitler had failed, the High Command would have abandoned him, but since he won, well . . .

Posted by: David Cohen at June 15, 2004 9:25 PM

They were willing to abandon him because he was chewing up their military in Russia.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2004 11:29 PM

Chris, my question 'why didn't they?' was referring to the German army.

If you're running what you think is the most powerful military machine in the world, you can do what you want. What more could you possibly need?

Orrin's fantasies about how Arab Muslims are embracing democracy at least have the possibility of coming true. Fantasies about bold German anti-Hitlerite generals do run up against the fact that what he describes as inevitable did not, in fact, ever happen.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 16, 2004 3:30 AM


Demanding unconditional surrender ended the likelihood of a large scale conspiracy. Smaller ones continued and came quite close to killing Hitler and led to a genuine rising, but it's hard to be a patriot and collaborate with folks who won't even guarantee the continued existence of your nation.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2004 8:34 AM

Unless you're a nutjob like bin Laden, you don't demand Unconditional Surrender unless you can impose it.

Under the circumstances, then, the German generals had nothing to lose by following their hearts and offing Hitler, did they?

Maybe something to gain, since instead of coming before the all-victorious Allies as totally defeated acolytes of a murderous regime, they could have presented themselves as chastened converts.

They had the example of Italy before them, too.

Face it. The Germans loved Hitlerism even after they began to doubt if Hitler was the man to run it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 16, 2004 8:17 PM

Patriotic German conservatives, like those in the military, backed Hitler in the first place because they hated the Communists and wanted Germany's position in the world restored. The unprecedented demand of uncondotional surrender meant that they weren't guaranteed so much as nationhood. Hitler was obviously preferable to Stalin and to Versailles.

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2004 8:46 PM

They didn't hate only Communists, Orrin.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 17, 2004 6:55 PM

The Communists were the only ones who mattered. Jews, gypsies, and gays weren't going to take over Germany and the Nazis were preferable to the Communists.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2004 8:18 PM

Reagan's point, I believe.

You said it, not me.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 2:41 PM