Over the course of the world history, people have been trying to search for the most comfortable ways to settle the conflicts between the representatives of different start of society and rule the state so that its population could feel protected and lead decent life. Of all the ways in which life in a state could be organized, democracy has become the most appropriate one in the XX century, and at present, democracy remains the stronghold of justice and the basis for governing a country.
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However, when taking a retrospective into the era of the WWII and WWI, one can notice people’s tendency to doubt the reasonability of the democratic principles, according to Becker. Understanding the basic point which Becker is trying to make is quite easy; indeed, witnessing the horrors of 1914-1918 and 139-1945, some people believed that any form of government that could have produced such a horrible human bloodbath like the World War II had no intrinsic value and, therefore, its principles could not be used in the wartime.
Despite the fact that democracy, however, did not prevent the Nazism from emerging, the former still proved an efficient way not only to defeat the Nazism, but also to restore the society values after the World War II was over, helping the humankind open a new page of its history.
On the one hand, there is a rationale in Becker’s ideas. While the principles of democracy are just and reasonable, they seem to suit rather from the peaceful times than for the era of war. According to what Smith says, the principles of justice and humanity can live side by side with the ideas of ruthlessness and aggression; as Smith explains, switching from the former to the latter is rather natural for people and, therefore, does not need to be replaced with false ideas that can lead the state to losing a war:
Throughout our history, ruthlessness and humane dealing run side by side: it is almost equal degree we have exhibited the temper of conformity and of revolt, the disposition to observe the law and custom when they serve our purposes and to ignore them when they cease to do so.
Hence, it can be concluded that the necessity to switch to more drastic measures of confronting the enemy is not only possible, but essential for the state to take the victory. According to Becker, aggressiveness can be justified when being used for a good cause, such as fighting the Nazi.
Indeed, the given argument seems quite logical, for, when it comes to defending one’s family, beloved one or, for that matter, beliefs and faith, there are practically no limits, and the end justifies the means. Therefore, Becker’s idea deserves a reconsideration of the given issue.
However, when rethinking the possibility to ignore the principles of democracy for the sake of winning the battle, one has to take into account that, in case of victory, there will be no way to claim that the Nazism has ended together with the war; resorting to the same measures which the enemy takes, the winner can be hardly distinguished from the opponent, and the approaches used in the battle will applaud Nazism instead of fighting it.
According to what Hunn, Martin and Rosenwein claim, in case both sides of the conflict use other than democratic ideas to prove their point and win the battle, the war becomes a fight for power instead of battle for moral values. As one can see in the example offered by the authors, Russia and Germany pursued practically the same goals in the WWI, which led to deplorable outcomes for all countries taking part in the war: “The war itself became a lethal testing ground”.
Judging by the evidence offered above, democracy can and will help people even in the time of war. While in Germany, despite the efforts of the government aimed at mobilizing the army and making it stronger, social chaos reigned, the states of the Entente were comparatively able to oppose the Nazis, with all the resources allocated properly and the people inspired by the principles of democracy.
While the states were in considerable debts to the USA, there was still a glimmer of hope and the feeling that they were fighting for the good cause. While domestic terror did bring the USSR to victory in 1945, the triumph was still very bitter.
It can be concluded that there is no reason to blame democracy for the existence of Nazism. It is important to keep in mind that democracy does not support Nazism, which means that it could not have spawned the WWI after all; moreover, democratic states have defeated the Nazi regime, which alone can be considered a merit of the democratic society.
While democracy obviously failed to help people forecast the Nazism tendencies in the countries of the Tripartite Alliance, it still helped the countries of the Entente keep afloat in the course of the WWII and even defeat the Nazis. Hence, Becker’s idea of democracy as a failure in the wartime is inconsistent. Without the belief in the power of democracy, the countries of the Entente would have hardly managed to defeat the plague of Nazism.
“A-notes 11-29-1.” Lecture notes, 1, 2012.
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“B-notes 12-4-1.” Lecture notes, 1-3, 2012.
Becker, Carl. “When democratic virtues disintegrate.” The Yale Reviewer, 4 (1939): 649-666. “C-notes 12-6 & 12-11.” Lecture notes, 1-5, 2012.
Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia & Bonnie G. Smith. “War, revolution and reconstruction.” In The making of the West, people and cultures, 3rd ed., 2012, 789-823.
- . Carl Becker. “When democratic virtues disintegrate,” (The Yale Reviewer, 4 1939): 661.
- . Lynn Hunt, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia & Bonnie G.Smith, “War, revolution and reconstruction,” (in The making of the West, people and cultures, 3rd ed., 2012): 783.
- . “C-notes 12-6 & 12-11,” (Lecture notes, 2012): 1.
- . “A-notes 11-29-1,” (Lecture notes, 2012): 1.
- . “B-notes 12-4-1,” (Lecture notes, 2012): 3.