The Duel


The Duel Essay, Research Paper

In reviewing John Lukacs, The Duel, I noticed that the author has other intentionsin mind besides the facts. Lukacs gives a very precise account of the actualy eventsduring those eighty days but in my opinion he wants the reader to grab the biggerconcepts. One of these concepts is that Lukacs wants the reader to honestly consider justhow close the Allies came to losing the war. Another of these notions is the idea that themain difference between Churchill and Hitler concerned nationalism versus patriotismand a third idea is just how greatly history can be effected by the courageous decisions ofa few people. Lukacs makes strong mention of how close Hitler came to victory. Hitler goteverything he wanted for so long, without even having to resort to force. Lukacsdescribes Hitler as being an amateur at generalship, but he posessed the greatprofessional talent applicable to all human affairs: an understanding of human nature andthe understanding of the weaknesses of his opponents. That was enough to carry himvery far (3). Lukacs wants to make that a point in all of his readers minds; that Hitlercould 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 hecould scare his enemies enough that they would not want to engage in combat. Onceactually forced to fight, Hitler still dominated and he could have very possibly won thewar if not for that one fatal mistake he made by hesitating in his plans against theEnglish. I think it is important that Lukacs makes sure to get this message across becausesome people choose to ignore this truth due to the devastating outcomes that would haveresulted if Hitler succeeded. The major point presented by Lukacs concerning the difference between Hitlerand Churchill has to do with nationalim versus patriotism. Lukacs describes Hitler as anationalist and Churchill as a patriot. He describes Hitler as a man of ideas and Churchillas a of man principles, because Churchill s ideas changed throughout the war whileHitler tended to think that his ideas were principles. In a footnote there lies a a brilliantexplanation of this idea. Dr. Johnson states Nationalism is the last refuge of ascoundrel. Patriotism is defensive, while nationalism is aggressive. Patriotism is not asubstitute for a religious faith, whereas nationalism often is; filling the spiritual andemotional needs of uprooted men. It is often the result of hatred. (50) This explanationis a very powerful and precise one. We can all understand this, especially when lookingback at the horror of WWII. Hitler abused the idea of nationalism and thet is why theauthor made sure not to leave this footnote out of his book. Hitler got the german peopleto follow him under this demented idea that Germany should be considered better thaneverybody 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 sothey can see how unique this entire situation was. The idea that the entire course of history is changed by the decisions of a fewpeople is a very important notion in the book. The hesitance of Hitler in early July isespecially important and vital to the outcome of the war. Lukacs depicts the two mendifferently then one would expect. In this evaluation, Hitler does not want to attackBritain. He wants them to simply make peace, of course on his terms. He was not sure ifEngland would go for this, and if they did not, he knew that the time had come to forcethem to do so. He could not shake Churchill, no matter how many other leaderscrumbled. Hitler s generals wanted to use force, but Hitler remained reluctant. Theauthor effectively exhibits Hitler s hesitance. He makes the evil man seem human sayingthat 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 theattack. He received news from Goebbels that morale in London was low, the Englishwere divided and they would be defeated in four weeks. Hitler still would not attack. Onthe other hand, Lukacs describes Churchill as a virtual dictator of England; he ruled thegovernment, the chiefs of the armed services and Parliament. He could dismiss orelevate virtually anyone from or to almost any position (164). The stage was set for animportant part of this duel. Hitler signed Directive #16 on July, 16. It stated that sinceEngland, in spite of being in a poor military state, showed no signs of being ready to lookfor peace, so Germany would prepare a landing operation against England and, ifnecessary carry it out. Hitler s hesitation is still evident in this directive when it says ifnecessary. Hitler delivered his speech for a last attempt at peace on July 19, but it did notwork. One of his main goals for the speech was to disconnect the people of Englandfrom Churchill but this failed because of the manner in which he spoke about Churchill. The next day, Hitler said that the English response meant that the German attack wouldcommenec on Britain in a few days. Looking back at how these events unfolded,everyone should be glad that Hitler made such a mistake. I, for one couldn t believe thatHitler made this mistake. Throughout reading this entire book Hitler usually makesswift, decisive actions that get results and that is why Lukacs stresses this string of eventsin the book. Overall, this book is wonderfully written on a very interesting topic. The readeris put in the middle of a war of nerves and will between two men, one of which we havegrown up to learn to hate. This only makes us even more emotional about the topic athand. For a history book, it was surprisingly understandable and hard to put down. Itenlightened me to the complex problems that existed in the most memorable threemonths this century.

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