by Bodwyn Wook
The Maginot Line was the great French national defence project of the 1920s and 1930s. It cost perhaps 150 millions which would be the same now as billions. The eponymous line was the child of French parliamentarian and First War sergeant-veteran Andre Maginot. It was eerily science fictional in conception; at least the soldiers asked to serve in the line were being called on to live a troglodyte life that oddly anticpates American fall-out shelter preoccupations of about 1960. Altogether, the Maginot Line is largely deemed by historians of to-day to have been poignantly futile; the range in quality of web sites on-line about this is accordingly wide, largely dismissive:
Unlike the authors of the preceding site, however, I of course note that Goethe was wrong: nationalism, not patriotism, is the downfall of History. Patriotism (or, perhaps, we should say matriotism!) is the well-founded desire in love to protect and defend ones birth-place, ones maternal place. This motive was the emotional undergirding and purpose of the Maginot line, dug deep in French earth and rock. That sort of devotion to home and land is not hysterical projection, the diseased and objectively historically God-damned romp through other people’s places, of extraverted nationalism. Anytime ‘patriotism’ professes to take prophylactic measures abroad, the political class involved doubtlessly is in a psychologically possessed condition. The collective fugue, the loss of any sense of place and tradition and constitution, is the cause always of the national deranged moral condition in these cases, throughout History. Naturally, the French protagogues of a defencive national frontier were possessed by their fears, too, as well as their love, and indeed by fear to a much greater degree; so much so that they did not as did Germans lapse into the compensatory or Nazi, comatose, state of World rage.
Here then follows the link to the most complete site I’ve found thus far on the subject of the Maginot Line:
At the end of the day the Maginot line symbolises for me, unlike for so many Anglo-Americans of a more venturesome and frankly unpleasant, objectively brainless and un-cultured, neo-conservative and accordingly just-stupid, slant, why I find the French so civilised and attractive a people.
The Maginot Line gives ample proof of their national desire after two aggressive wars against them to be just plain left alone by those detestable heinie and hun, kraut, Germans. Alas, it was not to be, the Maginot Line was out-flanked through Belgium by the nazified German tank armies. Not least, though, this happened because ‘certain precautions’ needed in Marshal Petain’s words, in the Ardennes, were not taken. So, what negated the Maginot Line was perhaps what has been the doom so often in History of most military schemes, namely the loss of concentrated attention. Heaven knows this is naturally hard enough to maintain for the mature adult individual.
It follows then that collective ‘attention deficit disorder’ is the great general historical fate of populations; it is probably just irremediable, so no use in laughing now at the French. After all, the ‘Star Wars’ stuff of Old Reagan at most served merely to bluff the Soviet Union into their final rashy over-extension and collapse, in 1989. But, whilst everybody was slapping everybody else busily on the arse during the half-time show, the Cold War’s largely wasted and mis-used end was followed in short order by the Mad Mohametan theft of a bunch of airliners over New York, in 2001.
The Maginot Line, no less than Professor Fukuyama’s first book, was meant to out-stare if not stop the terror of History — Germans, in this case — and that after all is what everyone longs to do.
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[8 October 2009]