Monday, January 5, 2015

Nicholas Wapshott's "The Sphinx"

Nicholas Wapshott's books include Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics and Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage. A former senior editor at the London Times and the New York Sun, he is now international editor at Newsweek.

Wapshott applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Sphinx: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists, and the Road to World War II, and reported the following:
By happy chance page 99 records the reaction of the isolationists to Kristellnacht, the first assault upon the Jews by Hitler’s thugs. Rabbis were forced on their hands and knees to scrub paving stones and Jewish women made to climb trees as their homes and businesses were trashed and synagogues set on fire. Nothing could more clearly define the difference between those like FDR who condemned the event as an offense against humanity and isolationists like US ambassador to London Joe Kennedy, ever the businessman, who on page 99 complained that “if you see anything good in dictatorships, you alienate the democracies.” FDR’s close friend and colleague Felix Frankfurter retorted that “It is the traditional function of American functionaries abroad not to see anything good in dictatorships.”

Also on page 99, Charles Lindbergh, the celebrity flier who leveraged his knack dickering with engines into an international celebrity franchise, taking an unusual line when France after the Kristellnacht horrors asked him to arrange the purchase of planes assembled in Canada from American parts (to circumnavigate the Neutrality Acts). “Those who take part in the establishment of factories in Canada for the production of warplanes for France will be considered successful only in case a war is fought,” he wrote in his diary. “Therefore, success would depend upon the destruction of European civilization.” He refused to help the French and France entered the war in September 1939 profoundly ill equipped to counter the German rapid blitzkrieg force which reached Paris in a matter of days. France fell not long after, to be torn in two between the occupied north and the Petain’s puppet regime in Vichy which has left a scar across French society to this day.

And on page 99 is Franklin Roosevelt’s dignified response to Kristellnacht, broadcasting to the American people that the notion of isolationism and keeping aloof from the impending world war was hopeless. “There can be no peace if the reign of law is to be replaced by a recurrent sanctification of sheer force. There can be no peace if national policy adopts as a deliberate instrument the threat of war.” Kennedy was appalled by the broadcast, calling it “a stab in the back.”
Learn more about The Sphinx at the publisher's website and follow Nicholas Wapshott on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Sphinx.

--Marshal Zeringue