In the past few years, I have been reading pretty regularly about certain great historical figures who have long fascinated me, notably Julius Cæsar, Charlemagne, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Earlier today, I started John Lukacs‘s The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler, having previously enjoyed the author’s Five Days in London: May 1940 about how that great Briton came to become Prime Minister in the early days of World War II.
In the second chapter where the historian contrasts the “decisive turning point” in the life of the Nazi leader to a similar transformation in that of Charles de Gaulle — how each man found the resolve to lead his nation, Lukacs notes:
In de Gaulle’s prose there is the essence of a bitter love of his nation, a love that was stronger than his hate of his enemies. With Hitler the opposite was true. No one can gainsay Hitler’s love for Germany; but that love was only implicit, subordinated as it was to his hatreds of what he saw as his enemies, external and internal ones.
In the margin, I wrote, “sounds a lot like Al Qaeda.” Instead of harkening back to the great days of Islamic civilization, Baghdad at the turn of the second millennium of the Common Era, its leaders dwell on their hatred of Western civilization in general and the United States in particular. No wonder they devote themselves to destruction and cheer at the murder of civilians.