17 May 2011
Do assassinations work?

Lets see:

Lincoln. Didn’t make a whole heap of difference that I am aware of.

JFK.  Ditto.

McKinley.  I believe that did change things quite a lot - his replacement, Roosevelt being quite the interventionist.

I ask because I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on Yesterday about Hitler’s bodyguard.  It seems there were an extraordinary number of attempts on his life over the years.  But would it have made any difference?  Well, one way to find out is to see if any other assassinations made a difference.

Sadat.  Not really.

Rabin.  I have no idea.

Alexander III.  Again, I really don’t know.  Although didn’t the Tsarist pogroms against the Jews start soon afterwards?  And wasn’t the faked “Protocols of the Wise men of Zion” part of it?  And wasn’t that one of the main influences on Germany’s Anti-Semites?  So, maybe.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  Well, you’d have to say the assassins got what they wanted.  At a hell of price but they got it.

Getting back to Hitler, intuitively you feel it would have made a huge difference.  Who but Hitler had the charisma to dominate the Nazi movement?  Who but Hitler would have gambled the way he did?

Further thought.  Hitler and the Nazis are a complete outlier in history.  And therefore we can learn nothing useful by studying them and in fact the lessons we do learn are likely to be the wrong ones.

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  1. That further thought is interesting. Eric Raymond points out that the Nazis are proof that democracy is no guarantee against opression (Germany had a constitution not unlike the USA’s when Hitler was voted in). But if we can learn *nothing* from them…

    Posted by Rob Fisher on 18 May 2011 at 08:09pm

  2. Lincoln, major difference. The whole aftermath of the Civil War and reconstruction would have differed. Much more reconciliation and far less revenge and repression.

    Alexander II (not III), major difference. At the time of the assassination he had that day signed a new and far more liberal constitution. As a result of his death this was never implemented.

    Posted by CountingCats on 18 June 2011 at 07:02am

  3. Although, given that Alexander was assassinated by anarchists, and his successor was far more conservative than he, the assassination was, although influential, counterproductive.

    Posted by CountingCats on 18 June 2011 at 07:07am

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