Harvesting History: Farmer Activism is Democracy’s Early Warning System

By Nick Deiuliis

Elites have a long history of looking down on and patronizing the working classes. It’s a sad social truth that extends back to America’s founding. Europe’s history of confrontation between the two classes stretches back centuries.

Today’s elites labeling the working class as Deplorables, Flyover Country, and Bible-and-Gun-Clingers is nothing new. It seems the more things change in America and Europe the more they stay the same.

You see the self-perpetuating dynamic with perhaps the original working-class demographic: farmers.

One of America’s first confrontations between the working class and elites was western Pennsylvania farmers initiating the Whiskey Rebellion during George Washington’s presidency. Indeed, farmers have a proud history of being first within the working class to confront excessive government control and elites looking to disenfranchise citizens.

And true to form, farmers across Europe are once again raising the alarm for the rest of society when it comes to loss of individual rights and constriction of liberty. Because the Left, the radical environmental theocracy, and the bureaucrat just can’t stop messing with society’s doers.

With so much at stake, a refresh of farmers’ movements in the United States and a discussion of the current farmers’ uprising in Europe is warranted.

American Farmers: A History of Political Activism

The latter half of the 1800s saw American farmers achieve a new, higher level of political activism that had national implications lasting to this day.1 It all started with disruptive technology.

The 19th century brought unprecedented economic advancement and groundbreaking technology, combining to drastically affect industry and agriculture. Steamships and railroads were game changers.

Along with new, advanced machinery and growing foreign trade, they disrupted everything across the American economy, from the factory floor to the farm field.

But net-net, manufacturing and urban areas benefited much more from the innovation and economic revolution than agriculture and rural areas. The individual farmer and small town were especially hard hit. Cities got bigger, industry became more profitable, but individual farmers found themselves struggling more.

Despite the innovations, farming still lacked scale. And competition was global when it came to demand and pricing for crops. Farmers were affected by global developments out of their control for revenue but had costs set by an inefficient local or regional market. The worst of both worlds created a financial pinch of low, at-risk revenue and high cost.

Adding to the farmer’s difficulty was a reliance on credit and a run-up in debt. As well as having to carry the risks of crop storage and transportation, lease rents for land, and speculators preying on micro-markets.

Indeed, the American farmer was facing seemingly impenetrable headwinds in the latter half of the 1800s.

Farmers decided it was time to unite and become activists to support their cause. Initially they looked to the labor movement in larger cities as the model to follow. The industrial labor unions were posting some impressive successes, so why not copy the playbook?

But farming is not the same as, say, coal mining or steelmaking. Thus, farmers quickly realized they would need their own brand of activism.

Just after the Civil War, the Patrons of Husbandry, also known as the Grange, appeared in the rural South and West.

It was the first national political movement for farmers—focused on setting rate caps on rail rates, which were a key point of contention and major financial risk for farmers in the South and West. The organization is alive and well today, with a Washington, D.C. headquarters and roughly 1,700 local chapters across America’s farming communities.

I feed you all!” lithograph by American Oleograph Co., Milwaukee, 1875.
(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

After the Grange came the Greenback Party, focusing on addressing the problems of currency and inflation that troubled farmers. The party advocated for a break from the gold standard, fiat money, and a cheaper dollar, reflecting aspects of today’s modern monetary theory, or MMT. It was hoped that such an approach would grow farm revenue while making debt more manageable.2

Although the Greenback Party ran presidential candidates over three national elections (1876, 1880, and 1884), it wasn’t very successful politically. But it was quite successful in calling attention to the shortcomings of the US monetary system.

Around the same time of the Greenback Party, the Farmers Alliances in the Northwest and South were created. The idea was to unite farmers, becoming a force in established party politics and taking on the Gilded Age. The Southern Alliance focused on commandeering the dominant Democratic Party by electing candidates to run for state offices and for Congress. While in the Northwest, the Farmers Alliance started to behave as a separate third party that was populist.

The fourth and most impactful farmers movement was the Populists, centered in the West and also having support in the South. It was known as the People’s Party, the Populists, or the Populist Party. Lack of rainfall got things moving as drought devastated farmers in the Plains in the late 1880s and farms began to fail.

Farmers felt that business interests of railroads and bankers were contributing to, and feeding off, their plight and wanted to do something about it. That started a passionate movement, with followers preaching populism. The People’s Party candidate for president, James Weaver, won 22 Electoral College votes in the 1892 election, winning four Western states outright and winning electoral votes in two others. The party eventually merged into the Democratic Party in the next presidential election of 1896.

Although the People’s Party ultimately died, many of its ideas lived on. Subsequent policies in the coming years affecting conservation, trusts, railroads, and banking trace roots back to the populism of the farmers in the late 1800s. Including the creation of the Federal Reserve and many of President Teddy Roosevelt’s positions and accomplishments.

Europe’s Farmers Rise Up in 2024

The American farmer acting up in the late 1800s shares a lineage to European farmers acting up in 2024. Despite over a century and an ocean between the two, the movements have much in common.

Indeed, history is once again rhyming. Because today’s European farmers find themselves under siege by the arrogant elites.

Farmers are protesting across Europe. Spain, UK, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, and Poland; from Ireland to Romania. It’s become a truly pan-European movement.

Videos populate the internet of tractors and convoys of farming equipment blocking roads. Clips abound of farmers dumping wine and feed in front of government buildings.

And the protestors aren’t just the farmers in these nations, but also organizations that are affiliated with farmers and agriculture. These institutions have joined what was originally a grassroots protest and morphed it into something bigger and better organized. The movements are starting to win elections, from the local to the national, as seen in the Netherlands.

Typical of governments run by elites, the continent’s bureaucracy is making things worse and not listening.

For example, Spain issued thousands of sanctions or violations against citizens under its Orwellian Citizen Security Law (commonly referred to as the Gag Law). Yet Barcelona was still brought to a standstill by the protests. And Spanish farmers dumped wine in front of a municipal water authority to protest water restrictions.

Italy saw 1,600 tractors poised to enter Rome. A Milan protest saw a cow join in the march. Italian farmers were angered by the expiration of an income tax exemption. Italy’s Prime Minister ultimately relented and agreed to not let the exemption expire.

Greece is experiencing protests everywhere, with a major highway to Athens blocked. The Netherlands got things rolling on the continent with the Farmers Citizens Movement.

Germany is an especially interesting case. The government desired to camouflage the cost of climate policies by using pandemic emergency funds to fund its forced energy transition. Nice idea, but the courts deemed it unlawful, reasoning quite correctly that climate change is not Covid. So, the government decided that the climate policies would continue and that the cost would be offset by removing diesel fuel subsidies to German farmers.

Following the increased costs to farmers from all the other climate polices within the German net zero nightmare, the removal of the subsidy was the last straw. It stripped away the pretend veneer of the myth that net zero plans don’t hurt anyone. German farmers reacted; roads were blocked, from Munich to Berlin, and the world viewed images of farm tractors blocking the approach to the iconic Brandenberg Gate in Berlin.

Farmers protest at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Jan. 15, 2024.
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

European politicians are finally paying attention and assuring that they feel for the farmers being victimized by the EU bureaucracy and the elites who run it.

Enter the Spin of the Elites

With the farmer protests undisputedly in plain view for all to see, those looking to divert attention from the root cause jump into spin mode.

Mainstream media and politicians caught off guard by the agrarian working-class protests now blame five root causes for catalyzing these protests: climate policies, inflation, food imports, the urban-rural divide, and economic inequality.

Which is sort of true, but not entirely. Because only the first item, climate change policies, is the true root cause. The remaining four are symptoms of those climate policies. Much like the farmer protestors themselves.

Certainly, the European Green Deal is wreaking havoc on European farmers. One of the primary objectives of climate policies is to make it uneconomic to farm, to provide food, and to eat. At least without government support and approval.

A goal of climate policies is empowering the bureaucrat and the state to dictate what one eats and how much. Under the false flag of saving the planet and the pleasant-sounding optical cloak of ‘sustainable farming.’

Farmers understand climate policies will soon eradicate them, just as such policies initially targeted (and are on their way to eradicating) the fossil fuel industry, power grid, and gasoline-powered cars across Europe. But the farmers aren’t taking this lying down; they refuse to make the same mistakes the complacent domestic energy industry, autoworkers unions, and consumer advocates made when allowing the radical environmental movement to roll over their interests.

What about the other cause of the protests identified by the elites: inflation, food imports, the urban-rural divide, and economic inequality?

Of course, the cost of living and inflation are up. Natural gas costs are up and so is fertilizer cost, which requires natural gas as a feedstock. Farming requires carbon-based energy and products like just about everything else in a modern economy. Thus, if you create energy scarcity while inflating energy costs through climate policies, you do the same for the inputs of farming. Farming soon becomes uneconomic.

The European mainstream media point to inflation and pin it on Russia invading Ukraine, which increased energy costs. Or the media blames drought, caused by (you guessed it) climate change, as raising costs.

Climate policies enabled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and catalyzed general inflation. And yes, somewhere in Europe, right now, there will be drought. And somewhere in Europe, right now, there will be floods. It is a large continent, after all. But change in weather isn’t causing the existential plight of farmers or inflation. Despite media and academic experts wanting it to.

Farmers are hurt by food imports, but that is yet another symptom of climate change policies that dictate who makes and uses what on a global scale. Nations and the private sector within national economies ultimately lose autonomy under all variations of climate policies, from domestic energy industries to the domestic providers of food.

Climate policies are designed to make European-grown food too expensive. Which then has the desired effect of creating food scarcity. The food supply shifts from mostly European to mostly foreign providers, with Europeans now having to look to places like North Africa and Ukraine. Not exactly geopolitically stable places to get your dinner from.

Then there’s the popular elite excuse of the rural-urban divide stoking these protests. Which is ironic.

It’s not that urban elites don’t care about rural citizens. The government bureaucrat and the experts care greatly; the problem is they care about placing the rural, or what we call Flyover Country here in America, in economic chains and assigning them to a life of reliance on the state. Is it any wonder that rural Europeans tend to be more Euroskeptic? They are more astute than the urban elites give them credit for.

And when it comes to economic inequality, that fifth and final excuse proffered by the media as a cause of the farmer protests across Europe, one is hard pressed to think of anything that is a more regressive tax and regressive value appropriator than net zero plans and climate change policies.

Net zero plans radically catalyze income inequality. Like these other red-herring issues, the media wants to label economic inequality as a root cause of the farmer protests. Yet economic inequality is a symptom of the singular, true root cause: climate policies and their net zero scams.

Where Do Farmer Protests Go From Here?

One should be quite optimistic regarding the implications of European farmers standing up for themselves. Wider society stands to benefit three ways.

First, the farmer protests secured shorter-term successes when political leaders in nations such as France and Italy backed off planned moves that would’ve hit farmers disproportionately and that would have increased the cost of food. That’s created an incentive for farmers in other European nations to join the movement. Which is why the protests quickly spread across Europe, why they’ve extended into March and will likely continue. What’s good for the farmer is good for the consumer and the overall economy.

Second, the reaction of the farmers to climate change policies created a deterrent for European politicians and bureaucrats—forcing them to think twice before unleashing additional and similar draconian moves on other sectors of the European economy and society.

As they’ve done for centuries, the farmer has provided a great service to a host of others. This time their resistance and advocacy for common sense has stymied the consequences of climate policies for countless businesses and families.

Third, the farmer protest movement is winning elections, from the local to national level, as seen in the Netherlands. Candidates opposed to economy-killing climate policies trounced leftist parties obsessed about climate change, Code Red, and irreversible state control of the individual.

Despite these realities, a complicit media is still trying to cover for the bureaucrat in Europe. The overwhelming political upheaval and protest by farmers is precipitating a disingenuous discussion about who pays for climate change policies and net zero plans.

Which is nonsensical to debate, because everyone pays for climate change policies and net zero plans in a modern economy. It is not a question about who pays. Instead, it comes down to how transparent will the costs that are being borne by all be brought to light, and how soon.

Do people wake up before reaching the point of no return? Or do the policies become so embedded within an economy and society that it doesn’t matter what happens once society awakens?

European farmers have performed a noble duty for all Europeans. Following a rich history of American farmer movements. Let’s hope the current protests serve as both a moral and economic alarm clock to wake up society to the threat of climate change policies. Before it’s too late.

1. In the 1930s, historian John D. Hicks was a leading voice on populism and farmer movements.
2. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
3. Climate change is nothing new; been happening for millions of years.

It’s Time: Five Baseball Greats Deserving Spots in the Cooperstown Lineup

By Nick Deiuliis

Listening yet again to Billy Crystal and the rest of the geriatric New York-centric elite wax on endlessly about how great the 1950s were for baseball is exhausting. If I have to hear about Willie, Mickey, and the Duke one more time, my head is going to explode. We get it: New York City had three teams back in the day and they all had great players.

My generation knows the greatest of eras in baseball history was the 1970s and early 1980s. Epic dynasties, compelling rivalries, and memorable stars. The best time to be a fan, especially a young one, no matter where in America you called home.

Major League Baseball is the stingiest of pro sports when it comes to allowing entry into its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Last year only one individual, manager Jim Leyland, was inducted. And there have been nine years when no players were voted in.

That leaves deserving players on the outside looking in. Most troubling are greats who made their names during the 1970s and early 1980s, and whose window for conventional induction has closed.

Blame those who never played the game but are self-anointed experts at judging those who did: journalists.

Getting into Cooperstown under the standard track requires 75% of the Baseball Writers Association of America to vote to allow it. Media can block any player for any reason. And it does.

There are five players who ruled the 1970s through much of the 1980s that deserve a second look by Cooperstown. Ones that didn’t gamble on the game (by the way, he should be in, too) and that predated the steroids era. They performed at a high level over long careers, with the five resumes ranging between 17 and 20 years.
Consider their cases and ask yourself how Cooperstown is complete without them.

Keith Hernandez (aka The Boyfriend from Seinfeld’s 3rd season)

Hernandez clearly checks more than a few boxes for Cooperstown.

An accomplished winner over his 17-year career. Two World Series titles for two different teams, first the Cardinals and then the Mets. Batting title the same year he was league MVP (1979).

A great contact hitter, finishing just shy of the career 0.300-mark for batting average (he bested the 0.300 threshold in seven seasons). And Hernandez had a great eye in the batter’s box, amassing over 1,000 career walks at a rate of nearly 15% of at-bats. Although he only managed 200+ hits one time, he reached base 250+ times eight different seasons.

Many consider Hernandez the greatest defensive first baseman in history. He won eleven consecutive Gold Gloves at the position. He has 1,682 career assists, third all-time. He single-handedly took away the option of bunting. A player in any sport should be in its Hall of Fame if they were the greatest ever at a key aspect of the game.
Hernandez sports an impressive, Hall of Fame-worthy 60+ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) that reflects his all-around strengths and attributes.

There are two criticisms of Hernandez that contribute to him remaining on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in. First, he lacked power expected for his position, hitting only 162 home runs over 17 seasons. Cooperstown likes first baseman noted for the long ball. Second, he was one of the players caught up in the Pittsburgh drug trials, with his cocaine use catching up to him.

But this is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, not the Clean-Living Hall of Fame. And the game of baseball consists of more than the home run. Get Hernandez in there.

Dave Parker (aka The Cobra)

During the 1970s, Dave Parker stood above everyone on the field, literally, at a towering 6 feet 5 inches tall. And weighing in at 230 pounds, Parker looming in right field or rounding the bases toward home was an intimidating sight to behold. He would warm up in the batting circle with a sledgehammer (following a practice employed by teammate Willie Stargell).

Add to his physical presence key achievements: two titles with two teams (Pirates and A’s) and a league MVP award.

The Cobra got his nickname from his coiled stance and unleashed strike from the left side of the batter’s box. He was capable of inflicting massive damage with his bat, as his two back-to-back batting titles attest. He could hit for power, amassing over 300 career home runs and nearly 1,500 RBIs, both at impressive at-bat rates. And he could hit for average, finishing with a cumulative 0.290 batting average and over 2,700 hits.

And despite his size, he had impressive speed early in his career. His over 150 stolen bases over 19 years are easily the highest of any of our five induction-worthy players.

Parker won three Gold Gloves, and base runners learned quickly to think twice before testing his arm from right field. Just watch the highlight video of his two legendary throws in the 1979 All Star Game for exemplars; throws that earned him the game’s MVP award. His defensive play tapered off drastically later in his career, but in his prime he was about as electric as it got in right field.

So, what’s keeping a player who passes the eye test out of upstate New York? Parker’s WAR is respectable, at just over 40, albeit not Hall of Fame-caliber. His relatively low walk rate might have detracted from his WAR score (by way of comparison, Hernandez amassed almost 400 more career walks despite having nearly 2,000 fewer at-bats).

Like Hernandez, Parker succumbed to drug issues during his career. He also enjoyed a level of confidence that came across to fans as arrogance, and becoming the first million dollar-a-year athlete in Pittsburgh and then under-achieving at a time when steel mills were being shuttered left and right didn’t help his image.

Fortunately, Parker rebounded from his struggles and today serves as an inspiration for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And anyone who had the pleasure of watching The Cobra knows Cooperstown is not complete until his name is in it.

Steve Garvey (aka Mr. Clean)

If you would ask just about any player or sportswriter circa 1982 if Steve Garvey was destined for the Hall of Fame, they would have answered in the affirmative. He was amassing the necessary stats, he played on great teams in a big market, he accomplished the career milestones, and he had the image.

If you doubt that to be the case, consider a Sporting News poll of National League managers in 1986. Garvey came up fifth in the answer to a question about which players would deserve a Hall of Fame plaque if their careers came to an end right away. The only names in front of Garvey’s: Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, and Nolan Ryan.

Over 19 seasons, Garvey accumulated one hit shy of 2,600 hits and finished with a career batting average of 0.294. Garvey reached the 200-hit mark in six seasons, something achieved by 13 other players in history at the time of Garvey’s retirement. All 13 are in the Hall of Fame, except for Pete Rose. And Garvey had good power, hitting home runs at an impressive per-at bat rate.

Garvey was a very solid fielder, winning four Gold Gloves at first base during an era when Keith Hernandez was stringing eleven Gold Gloves in a row at first base in the same National League.

But what makes Garvey most deserving of the Hall of Fame are his career accomplishments beyond the traditional stats. He won a title with the Dodgers in 1981, beating the hated Yankees. He was a league MVP. His playoff performances earned him National League Championship Series MVP, twice. And he was a perennial all-star, winning the MVP award for that game, twice.

But here is the most impressive accomplishment of Garvey’s that not many appreciate: he is the all-time National League iron man. Garvey sits fourth on the all-time consecutive games list, behind American Leaguers Ripken and Gehrig (and lesser-known Everett Scott), making him the National League iron man, with over 1,200 consecutive games played. That streak, spanning nine seasons, exceeds the next closest National Leaguers and legends: Billy Williams and Stan Musial.

Garvey’s career produced a WAR of only 38, below the Hall of Fame norm. A contributor was his desire as a hitter to swing away instead of taking a base on balls. In fact, Garvey has the lowest walk ratio of any of the five on this list. He placed a premium on RBIs at a time when that was the norm.

And some critics hold Garvey’s personal drama later in his career against him. Probably because it was in stark contrast to his polished image. But consider what gets ignored today: celebrated stars despite allegations of domestic-abuse, excessive philandering, and exhibiting boorish behavior toward fellow humans.

Garvey certainly wasn’t perfect off the field, but his faults were quite mild by today’s standards. His stats get him close, and his accomplishments put him over the top. Time for Cooperstown to call.

Al Oliver (aka Scoops)

This is probably the most surprising name of the five when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration. But Oliver had an incredibly impressive career that was overshadowed by bigger names on his great teams or that unfolded in ignored baseball backwaters.

He won a World Series with the 1971 Pirates. That championship team during the ’71 season would enjoy an outfield of Willie Stargell in left, Oliver in center, and Roberto Clemente in right. Talk about a field of dreams, as well as a pitcher’s nightmare.

But then Oliver was off to the Rangers and Expos. Six seasons in total. Yet moving from great lineups with the Pirates Lumber Company to lesser ones to the south and north didn’t hurt Oliver’s offensive production. It improved.

Scoops was a great contact hitter and is the only player of the five that broke the 0.300 mark for career batting average. Oliver has the most career hits of the bunch, at 2,743. His power was good. He won the league batting title in 1982 with the Expos.

Oliver is an interesting study when it comes to Hall of Fame inclusion. He wasn’t an exemplary fielder, never having won a Gold Glove. He didn’t walk enough, similar to the popular criticism of Garvey. And his WAR of just under 44 is lower than that of most players who landed in the Hall of Fame.

But there is a sadly ironic aspect about Oliver’s story that is crucial when considering his Cooperstown credentials. His career was effectively cut short due to baseball ownership colluding to keep him off a major league roster toward the end of his career (which was legally affirmed and resulted in Oliver being awarded damages). His career ended from boycott, not diminishing on-field performance.

If he was given the chance to play out his career to the extent his abilities allowed (especially as a designated hitter), it is safe to say he would have surpassed the 3,000 hit mark. Which would make him a sure-fire hall-of-famer because those with 3,000 career hits that are not in the Hall of Fame are either not yet eligible, are tainted with steroid abuse, or are named Pete Rose.

Major League Baseball’s restitution to Oliver will not be complete until he is in the Hall of Fame.

Dwight Evans (aka Dewey)

Perhaps we saved the best and most surprising for last with the case for Dwight Evans. He played on great Red Sox teams and was oft overshadowed by stars like Yaz, Rice, and Fisk. Evans spent 19 of his 20 years in the major leagues with the Red Sox; he is second on the all-time games played list for the Red Sox, surpassed only by Carl Yastrzemski.

Three attributes place Evans in the Hall of Fame discussion.

First, he had great power. His home run-per-at bat is easily the best and highest of the five up for consideration. Dave Parker is next best and is a distant second to Evans. Evans didn’t start out as a great hitter; he was viewed more as a defensive specialist who then worked himself into being a great hitter.

Second, he had a great eye as a batter and his career walks tally proves it. He accumulated nearly 1,400 career walks, at a rate rivaled only by Keith Hernandez within the group of five. Evans is an impressive combination of power and eye.

Last, he was excellent with the glove in the field. Eight career Gold Gloves don’t happen by accident or luck. His arm in rightfield was matched only by Dave Parker’s, and Parker could only do so in his prime.

All three attributes contribute to Evans’ excellent WAR of over 67, the highest of the five deserving players. That tally is beyond respectable for Hall of Fame inclusion, better than Duke Snider’s (take that, Billy Crystal!) and just a tad under Ernie Banks’.

Evans’ argument for entry to Cooperstown is simple. His case isn’t the what-if of Oliver, or the eye-test of Parker, or the resume of Garvey, or the greatest-ever at some aspect of Hernandez. He was incredibly consistent with his strengths, and those strengths over twenty years constructed a great career case.

Take all the names, videos, and awards away. Leave only the numbers. An objective baseball afficionado will look at Evans’ career stats and wonder how such a player is not in the Hall of Fame. The answer remains elusive.

The Illusion of “The End of History?”: Unraveling Fukuyama’s Miscalculations

By Nick Deiuliis

Today the world is trembling with international strife. Russia continuing its brutal grind in Ukraine, Iran funding terror and disrupting Mideast shipping, Israel facing down dual terror threats of Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and the Golan, Venezuela massing along its border with Guyana to invade for oil, North Korea opening another nuclear reactor and firing ballistic missiles, and China signaling to everyone that an invasion of Taiwan is imminent.

The geopolitical gameboard is blinking red, with a new Axis of China-Russia-Iran plotting and building hegemony to counter and ultimately destroy the West.

Meanwhile, Western leaders dither and blabber with hollow phraseology that lacks tangible action. Worse yet, those Western elites insist on focusing more on the abstract fear of future climate instead of the tangible danger of present actors. The West fights with itself, where its once-proud institutions and values are systemically overturned and uprooted by our supposed leaders.

A 1989 Root Cause to What Ails the West in 2024

How did our elites and experts arrive at such a state of ineptitude? How did they not see this coming? And why do they continue to behave as paralyzed ninnies as troubling events unfold, one after another?

Thank a person few outside of elite foreign policy and political science circles have heard of: Francis Fukuyama. He is a noted geopolitical analyst, who has done it all in his field, from serving as an advisor to Muammar Gaddafi to being a thought leader for the US neoconservative movement.

In 1989, Fukuyama published his now famous essay, whose title was in the form of a question: “The End of History?” Fukuyama posited that the geopolitical fight between freedom and totalitarianism was over, that right prevailed over wrong, and that classic liberalism reigned supreme and unchallenged.

“The End of History?” influenced many a policy and leader through the years; it was fundamental to the thinking of everyone from Bush the Second to Obama to Kerry to whoever is running foreign policy in today’s White House.1 It was widely accepted as sage and the authority on how one should view geopolitics.

And that was quite unfortunate. Because the core premise of “The End of History?” has proven to be hogwash.

Contrasting the Expert Prediction and the Current Reality

Consider key excerpts from the influential 1989 paper and then contrast them with reality in early 2024. Doing so exposes the danger of Western elite arrogance, smugness, and overconfidence and their bad consequences.

The paper’s opening paragraph starts with a key sentence: “The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that ‘peace’ seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world.”

What is breaking out across the world today? Iran developing nukes, Hamas manufacturing terror, North Korea firing missiles into international waters, Russia annihilating Ukraine, state-sponsored terrorists disrupting global shipping lanes, and China prowling Taiwan. Is that peace breaking out? Or more like the late 1930s when the Axis Powers were aligning and gearing up?

Fukuyama wrote of “ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an ‘end of ideology’ or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.”

Do you feel that classic liberalism is alive, well, and winning—in Putin’s Russia or the Ayatollah’s Iran? Is the free market running on all cylinders in Xi’s China? To posit such today is laughable.

Fukuyama saw much of history and conflict stemming from a war between ideologies. Which is true. Then and now. But here’s what Fukuyama misjudged: he argued that the rival ideologies to republican democracy, the West, and capitalism were dead. Vanquished. Beaten.

Fascism and communism were supposedly wrecked and ruined. The first, fascism, was literally ruined by World War II bombs, both conventional and nuclear. And the latter, communism, was assumed to be destroyed by, for lack of a better term, Westernization and liberalization of places like China and Russia.

Fukuyama was dead wrong about communism and socialism being slain.

Once you assume the alternatives are gone, then it’s not a big leap to declare what Fukuyama proposed: that it’s the end of history, as we knew it. In his words: “That is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

That assessment was tragically mistaken. The Left might have been on the ropes in the late 1980s and 1990s, but it was far from the point of surrender. And now the Left and its ideologies have Western civilization on the brink and on the ropes.

If you seek perfect examples of how bold statements that might feel good to say then, or enjoy popularity then, can age incredibly poorly, consider these snippets from “The End of History?”:

“…the appeal of communism in the developed Western world, it is safe to say, is lower today than any time since the end of the First World War.”

It was not, and is not, safe to say that.

And: “…those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.”

Fukuyama should visit an Ivy League campus these days and see what ideological vibe he picks up from students.

There is an interesting pair of sentences on China sitting in proximity in the essay: “…the past fifteen years have seen an almost total discrediting of Marxism-Leninism as an economic system.” And “But anyone familiar with the outlook and behavior of the new technocratic elite now governing China knows that Marxism and ideological principle have become virtually irrelevant as guides to policy, and that bourgeois consumerism has a real meaning in that country for the first time since the revolution.”

Fukuyama should’ve checked with Chairman Xi first. Marxism and the Left are the things that matter most in China today. By cold, calculating design of the elite there.

Epic Miscalculations of China and Russia

Fukuyama was all-in when it came to the once-popular Western elite view that China would simply Westernize itself once it saw how great of a system we had. That China would become a ‘responsible stakeholder’ among enlightened nations.

He wrote, “…the pull of the liberal idea continues to be very strong as economic power devolves and the economy becomes more open to the outside world. There are currently over 20,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. and other Western countries, almost all of them the children of the Chinese elite. It is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend.”

Too bad it was hard for Fukuyama to believe that. Or for Wall Street and DC. Or for Republican and Democratic presidents. They all believed it. And every one of them got it decisively wrong. It wasn’t until Trump, that threat-to-democracy despot, that the West started to wake up. Yes, the crude-angry-narcissist-megalomaniac of social media got right what all the experts got wrong, at least when it came to China.

It gets worse for the aging of China musings from “The End of History?”

Consider: “The central issue is the fact that the People’s Republic of China can no longer act as a beacon for illiberal forces around the world, whether they be guerrillas in some Asian jungle or middle class students in Paris. Maoism, rather than being the pattern for Asia’s future, became an anachronism, and it was the mainland Chinese who in fact were decisively influenced by the prosperity and dynamism of their overseas co-ethnics – the ironic ultimate victory of Taiwan.”

It is painful to read that in 2024, to where one feels embarrassed for Fukuyama. The CCP, the Left, and communism are beacons today for nations with the Belt and Road Initiative; they run the curriculum across Western higher education and elite academia; and they fund chaos when it benefits them, from Ukraine to Israel.

And Taiwan victory? It doesn’t even officially exist in corporate brochures and on foreign office maps. And it may not actually exist by year end, or whenever China decides to move on it.

On Russia, Fukuyama was just as bad with his predictions. He wrote that Russia was reforming and that it was moving toward a society where “…people should be truly responsible for their own affairs, that higher political bodies should be answerable to lower ones,…that the rule of law should prevail over arbitrary police actions…that there should be legal protection for property rights, the need for open discussion of public issues and the right of public dissent…and of a political culture that is more tolerant…”

Did Putin smile to himself or outright laugh when he read that? And be certain that Putin has read Fukuyama. As has Xi. The Left studies its enemies and is always probing for weakness.

Fukuyama took to task those who said the fall of the communist state USSR would lead to a more nationalistic Russia led by a strongman. He wrote: “The automatic assumption that Russia shorn of its expansionist communist ideology should pick up where the czars left off just prior to the Bolshevik Revolution is therefore a curious one.”

Not so curious now, just ask Ukraine and eastern Europe.

He had the same view with China not going aggressive. He proclaimed, “Chinese competitiveness and expansionism on the world scene have virtually disappeared: Beijing no longer sponsors Maoist insurgencies or tries to cultivate influence in distant African countries as it did in the 1960s.”

Proof positive that Deng Xiaoping’s mantra of ‘hide your strength and bide your time’ was effective in lulling Western elites like Fukuyama into a foreign policy coma.

The opening paragraph of the essay’s conclusion does a great job of summarizing the failure that is “The End of History?” and its apostles with China and Russia policy:

“The passing of Marxism-Leninism first from China and then from the Soviet Union will mean its death as a living ideology of world historical significance. For while there may be some isolated true believers left in places like Managua, Pyongyang, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, the fact that there is not a single large state in which it is a going concern undermines completely its pretensions to being in the vanguard of human history. And the death of this ideology means the growing ‘Common Marketization’ of international relations, and the diminution of the likelihood of large-scale conflict between states.”

Today’s darkening world serves as a decisive rebuke of Fukuyama.

What Filled the Supposed Vacuum in the West?

If the United States was truly a unipolar power and it was indeed the ‘end of history’, then something had to replace the old way in the West.

How we should behave in the end of history era was a big question. A vacuum needed to be filled. Ironically, the very ideology Fukuyama said was eradicated: communism, socialism, the Left, was what filled that vacuum of values in the West.

The Left superimposed its value system on the West once experts and elites like Fukuyama assured and convinced everyone that communism and socialism were dead. That China and Russia would surely start behaving like us.

What did the Left fill our culture and values with? Well, it is rigidly secular. To the point where it becomes not just ideology, but a new religion. Strangely, secular purity morphs into a religion. With true, ardent believers.

Some call it postmodernism. Its foundational pillars are evident with the big ideas and movements of today. Three stand out.

First, it manifests in the expert class demanding that the global/universal issue takes primacy over national/local issues. There is an ethical duty and responsibility to put yourself, your community, and your country behind and secondary to what is best for the public good or the planet or humankind. The select few decide what best serves the global/universal, of course.

This leads to things like unbalanced globalization and open borders. Consider the open border issue these days. Texas, of course. But also, Italy. And even, of all places, Finland, on its border with Russia. The Left use open borders as an effective divisive tool.

A second notable manifestation of the value system of the Left is a religious fervor on Code Red and climate change. Where the planet is in peril and we all must take a back seat with our interests and place in life to tackle climate change. Climate alarmism looms so large these days, touching everything, that it deserves to be placed as its own foundational pillar of the Left’s new ‘end of history’ toolkit.

The third manifestation is a cleansing. Not an ethnic cleansing, but a values cleansing. Orwellian in many ways. Wiping away, erasing, vilifying, and, yes, canceling the prior values of the West, of capitalism, of the individual and their rights, and of America. Ignoring science to the benefit of ideology. Replacing factual history with subjective fiction. There are many current examples; you know them well.


The epic transformation that Fukuyama predicted was a complete misread. A historic blunder that influenced more historic blunders by those in power who believed it and set policy from it.

The good news is certain thought leaders are calling for a tipping point, where the skewed values that the Left injected into the vacuum created by the “End of History?” crowd are exposed and the West turns against them.2

Carry healthy skepticism about such predictions. Today the Left hasn’t just injected the new values into this ‘end of history’ time, the Left is also running all the wheels of power and influence in the West necessary to keep such ideology in place, fed, and protected.

Academia indoctrinates on behalf of the Left. Indoctrinated minions leave the campus quad and enter the halls of government and corporate America where they end up leading both and setting policy for the former. And many of those minions end up in what has become the ministry of propaganda for the Left: mainstream media.

Yes, have doubts about the tide turning now for the better. It may get worse for America before improving. And let’s hope that prediction ends up being as wrong as Fukuyama’s in 1989.

[1] One example of many: President Obama in 2013 while on a trip to Russia proclaiming an end to the Great Game and how nations now realize no one “benefits from that kind of great-power conflict.” Russia invaded Ukraine six months later.
[2] Gerard Baker of the WSJ is an exceptional thought-leader in this arena.

Notes from the Underground: Libertarianism Hiding in Classic Lit

By Nick Deiuliis

Fyodor Dostoyevsky is widely recognized as one of the giants of literature.

Of his most noted works, the first and shortest is the novella Notes from the Underground, published in 1864. It’s also his most underrated and most insightful, particularly for modern times.

Some consider Notes from the Underground classic literature.1 Others say it is more political commentary. Social scientists point to it as a study in psychology.

All correct. Yet Notes is first and foremost something else: a basis for philosophy and policy rooted in the freedom of the individual to choose and the individual’s protection from control by the state and wider culture.

I interpret Notes as advocating for triumph of the ‘I’ over the ‘we,’ the ‘self’ over the ‘collective,’ and the ‘individual’ over the ‘public good.’

I read Dostoyevsky’s classic and contemplate a warning of how the Left (whether manifesting through communism, nihilism, or utopianism) presents a danger to the individual; and how the Left cuts against the grain of human nature. In many ways, Notes from the Underground was serving as a foundation for American libertarianism before the movement took root. And it is a decisive refutation of the modern-day nanny state.

A closer look at (or revisit of) Notes from the Underground is worthwhile to anyone who considers himself or herself a classic liberal and defender of the individual.

The Story

The first lines of the novella read, “I am a sick man…I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man.”

Notes from the Underground is not a story for the meek of heart. No sunshine and happy endings. The book is humorous at times, but it is certainly a dark humor.

The main character narrating the story is the anti-hero Underground Man, a miserable bureaucrat who spent his career abusing his position to make life difficult for other people.2 His directional perspective of being ‘underground’ serves as a metaphor for being separate from, an outcast to, society. He falls into some money, quits his job, and writes the notes as a form of confession.

That’s the focus of the first half of the book, titled “Underground”. The narrator observes that utopian society attempts to remove suffering and pain, but that humans desire both and need both to be happy. The narrator confesses his realization that attempting to remove pain and suffering in society takes away an individual’s freedom.

Underground Man realizes human beings are cursed with consciousness; it is what causes us to suffer. But it also allows for our free will and individuality.

He argues that despite humanity’s attempts throughout history to create a utopia where everyone lives in harmony, anyone can decide to act in a way that might not be in their own self-interest as defined by society or government. Some do so simply to validate their existence as an individual and to protest. And no one knows for sure whether the individual will choose a rational or irrational path.

The second half of the book, “Apropos of the Wet Snow”, consists of a series of adventures and events that occurred in the narrator’s life.

One of those stories is central to the book. The narrator tries to help a prostitute by promising to save her. She finds herself enthralled by the Underground Man’s lectures, his confidence, and ends up looking to join him. He then revokes everything he said to her, telling her he was laughing at her all along, and ridicules her miserable life and reality.

Then he breaks down and admits he was only seeking power over her and desired to humiliate her. He starts to self-loathe and focuses on his own poverty and embarrassing life. He doesn’t save her, she leaves and is never seen again.

The concluding sentences of Notes recall themes explored by the narrator in the first part, and he tells the reader directly, “…I have merely carried to an extreme in my life what you have not dared to carry even halfway…”

The Learnings from Notes

In the arenas of policy and classic liberalism, Notes contains a plethora of key passages that resonate more than ever.

Start with perhaps the underlying key premise of the book:

“What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead.”

Dostoyevsky is making a subtle but crucial point here: human nature yearns for the ability to self-select for oneself and to not be chained to the decisions of others (whether ‘others’ are controlling individuals, religion, or the state). Arguing that the state or a third party is better informed to make decisions for the individual than the individual himself or herself misses a key point (and is a dubious assumption when considering the track record of anything run by bureaucrat): the individual’s innate desire to decide for themself cannot be quelled.

Underground Man uses the analogy of humans serving as glorified organ-stops in oppressive societies to illustrate how the individual instinctively longs to decide their own destiny:3

“For who would want to choose by rule? Besides, he will at once be transformed from a human being into an organ-stop or something of the sort; for what is a man without desires, without free will and without choice, if not a stop in an organ?”

Dostoyevsky freely admits that humans enjoying freedom will often choose paths that are irrational, against their self-interests, and that may lead to misery for society. But that doesn’t mean oppressive forms of government that cripple the individual spirit won’t lead to the same or worse (think of Stalin and Mao and how we measure their ‘transformation’ of society to ‘paradise’ in the tens of millions of murdered innocents).

“In short, one may say anything about the history of the world – anything that might enter the most disordered imagination. The only thing one can’t say is that it’s rational. The very word sticks in one’s throat.”

Place those words from 1860s Russia into the context of today; with the war in Ukraine, Hamas terrorism, and Uighur genocide. Or with the breakdown of law in our cities and the epidemic of opioid death in our rural communities. There is no guarantee of rational order in the world, and there never was. Whether it be with democracy, colonialism, communism, socialism, or free will. Truer than ever.

Underground Man provides his thoughts on those who argue moral superiority and wish to superimpose their views or ways onto others. Read the following and try to not be instantly reminded of today’s elite and expert classes:

“There is the odd thing that is continually happening: there are continually turning up in life moral and rational persons, sages, and lovers of humanity who make it their object to live all their lives as morally and rationally as possible, to be, so to speak, a light to their neighbors simply in order to show them that it is possible to live morally and rationally in this world. And yet we all know that those very people sooner or later have been false to themselves, playing some queer trick, often a most unseemly one. Now I ask you: what can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with such strange qualities?”

Most experts in the field point to this passage as Dostoyevsky’s criticism of utopianism and, ultimately, communism. The idea that if you eliminate private property and make everyone equal, it not only makes people happy, but it makes the world neatly rational. Nonsense, of course, as shown by the epic misery brought to humanity by the Left.

And today there is a special refinement to the way of the Left. Leaders of the Left no longer bother to live their lives consistent with their preaching to everyone else as to how to live life in a moral and just way. Hypocrisy is paraded in the open, for all to see. That’s why a Hollywood star who is a self-proclaimed climate activist sails around the world on carbon-spewing yachts. And why a self-anointed Climate Czar who looks to impose travel restrictions on society flies private charter jets at will.

If you wish to think of Notes from the Underground as simply great literature and not policy thought-provoking, consider Dostoyevsky’s analysis of human nature:

“Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, so that nothing but bubbles of bliss can be seen on the surface; give him economic prosperity, such that he should have nothing else to do but sleep, eat cakes and busy himself with the continuation of his species, and even then out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. It is just his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he will desire to retain, simply in order to prove to himself–as though that were so necessary–that men still are men and not the keys of a piano, which the laws of nature threaten to control so completely that soon one will be able to desire nothing but by the calendar.”

Dostoyevsky concisely summarizes why large government, bureaucratic control, and nanny states ultimately fail to improve the standing of people the state policies were specifically designed to help.

I wonder if Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, or Barack Obama read Notes from the Underground. If so, did any of them underline that passage? Because it made an impression on them, they agreed with it, or they disagreed with it?

The narrator then addresses head-on what has become an all-too-common rebuttal of the Left, with:

“You will scream at me (that is, if you condescend to do so) that no one is touching my free will, that all they are concerned with is that my will should of itself, of its own free will, coincide with my own normal interests, with the laws of nature and arithmetic. Good heavens, gentlemen, what sort of free will is left when we come to tabulation and arithmetic, when it will all be a case of twice two make four? Twice two makes four without my will. As if free will meant that!”

Save that passage for every time one hears the bureaucrat’s defense of onerous control of the individual by the state with the position that government knows what is best on the topic(s) and that the individual remains largely free. Hogwash, as Dostoyevsky’s narrator articulated.

In the first part of the book, “Underground,” the narrator marks the supremacy of the individual to choose whichever path desired, even if the path is illogical or irrational when compared to the norms of society. Check out:

“You, for instance, want to cure men of their old habits and reform their will in accordance with science and good sense. But how do you know, not only that it is possible, but also that it is desirable to reform man in that way? And what leads you to the conclusion that man’s inclinations need reforming? In short, how do you know that such a reformation will be a benefit to man?”

Humans are inherently driven, albeit to different levels. Being truly satisfied is a state many never reach. What makes one think that providing economic security at the cost of surrendering freedom is desirable? We are not sheep.

Consider this sentence from the book:

“Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately in love with suffering: that is a fact.”

Society cannot be organized in a way that guarantees the happiness of citizens.

And one may argue that being in love with suffering is nothing more than human nature associated with achievement. Someone earns a million dollars, and they immediately desire two million dollars. Someone wins a championship in sports and immediately desires another title. Someone climbs Mount Everest, and they want to start planning to summit K2. The drive to achieve cannot be extinguished by a forced contentment injected by policy.

Concluding Thoughts

Notes is a short book, but an incredibly dense one, packed with passages that speak to so many contemporary policy and current events issues. Invest in a highlighter to mark key sentences, and then place Notes from the Underground close by for easy access in the future. It’s something you will pull off the shelf and reference more than you think.

This is one of those books that every college student should read before graduating (I would argue every high school student should read it, but that might be stretching things in this day and age of failing public education). Notes warrants a place on the syllabuses for English Lit, Civics, Psychology, and Philosophy.

There is something for everyone to take away from Dostoyevsky’s first classic. Now more than ever.

[1] And a bleak one at that!
[2] Dostoyevsky often portrays his protagonists as unattractive and the characters opposing them as more likable. Perhaps he felt doing so made his messages more impactful.
[3] Organ stops are buttons that are manipulated (pulled out or pushed in) by the organ player to send compressed air through a specific organ pipe.

The Battle of Hurtgen Forest: Costly Failure and Lessons Learned

By Nick Deiuliis

Those with a keen interest in World War II are familiar with the European Theater’s famous Allied campaigns: Italy, D-Day and Normandy, Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge, and the final thrust over the Rhine River and into the heart of Germany. Movies, books, and series have been dedicated to them.

Yet there is a battle nestled in the middle of that chronology that gets little attention.  It was the worst performance and drubbing the US Army suffered in World War II.  A famous infantry division with Pennsylvania lineage played a central role and paid an epic price in the debacle.

The late 1944 campaign was the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.

Revisiting and analyzing the battle provides insights on leadership, strategy, and tactics that remain relevant both on battlefields and in board rooms.


The Allies were pushing up against the German border in September 1944.  In sight were the gateway to the industrial Ruhr and the heart of Germany, and possibly the end of the war.

Farther to the south on the frontline sat a heavy forest just inside western Germany, the Hurtgenwald, occupied by German forces and cut by a stream, the Kall. The region is enclosed by a triangle, with corners of the cities of Aachen and Duren, and the town of Monschau.

The Hurtgen Forest area was part of the Siegfried Line and had been prepped by German engineers for prolonged battle. Trees were carefully cultivated for decades into neat, straight rows providing clear fields of fire.  Mines were densely laid on trails, paths, and breaks. Pillboxes were built and set up to create kill zones.

39th Inf. passes through the dragon`s teeth north of Roetgen.

American leadership believed that for the advance to the Roer and Rhine Rivers and deep into Germany to continue, the forest had to be entered and the far high ground, the town of Schmidt, had to be seized.

The Allies quickly learned that wasn’t going to be easy.

Leadership Woes

American leadership was inept during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.  Much of the blame can be attributed to 1st Army commander, Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges.

HIRTEEN COMMANDERS OF THE WESTERN FRONT photographed in Belgium, 10 October 1944. Front row, left to right: General Patton, General Bradley, General Eisenhower, General Hodges, Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson. Second row: Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, Maj. Gen. Charles E. Corlett, Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, Maj. Gen. Leonard P. Gerow, Maj. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada. Third row: Maj. Gen. Leven C. Allen, Brig. Gen. Charles C. Hart, Brig. Gen. Truman C. Thorson. Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Hodges’ career up to the Hurtgen was out of a Hollywood script. A southerner who didn’t make it through West Point (geometry class flummoxed him), he rose through the Army ranks the hard way, starting his soldiering career in 1905 as a private.

He earned two Purple Hearts in World War I but discarded them and considered them “sissy.”1  Hodges’ boss during the Hurtgen ordeal was the legendary Omar Bradley, who prior to the war was Hodges’ subordinate, and who still addressed Hodges as ‘sir’ despite the reversal in who reported to whom.

Although Hodges competently led the 1st Army through France after D-Day, he was by late 1944 mentally exhausted and spent. The scale of duties overwhelmed him; he made decisions slowly and micromanaged.  Worse, he would not visit the front line and tended to command from the rear, with little information (or worse, misinformation).

Hodges would brutally demote subordinate officers, sacking them at the first sign of setback.  That made those reporting to him extremely cautious in decision-making, to the point of being paralyzed. It didn’t help that his staff and other direct reports were constantly infighting.

He was archaic in tactics, favoring a mentality more representative of World War I than the current conflict.  Hodges favored the tactics of “straight on” and “smashing ahead” over flanking.2  Hodges and his staff believed the Germans were close to collapse, convincing him more of the need for blunt and direct frontal tactics.

Hodges saw the Hurtgen Forest as a threat to his flank in his drive east toward the Roer River and, ultimately, the Rhine River.  Yet the density of the forest made it highly unlikely that the Germans could amass enough armor and infantry to serve as a credible threat to the Allied advance.

Historian Russell Weigley summed it up best: “The most likely way to make the Hurtgen a menace to the American Army was to send American troops attacking into its depths.”3

That’s exactly what Hodges did.  And no one under him had the confidence or courage to question him.4

Early Phase of Battle

Thus, in late September 1944, the US 9th Division entered the Hurtgen, hoping to outflank the city of Aachen to the northwest. After a few weeks, little ground was gained at enormous cost; 4,500 causalities were suffered to advance 3,000 yards.  That’s a casualty for every two feet of gained ground, an attrition rate that soon depleted the fighting strength of frontline battalions.

Although the German defenders also paid a heavy price, the German high command in mid-October was confident the Americans would not be foolish enough to attempt another assault through the Hurtgen Forest. Field Marshal Model understood how the forest neutralized Allied advantages in mobility, armor, and airpower.

But the Germans misread the extent of ineptitude and stubbornness of American leadership.

The 28th Division Enters the Forest

The US 28th Infantry Division was originally a Pennsylvania National Guard organization.  Its original nickname, the Keystone Division, was derived from its keystone insignia on uniforms (the keystone is the emblem of Pennsylvania).5

The 28th had done it all in Europe leading up to the Hurtgen Forest: fighting and dying through the impenetrable hedgerows of France following D-Day, marching through Paris triumphantly, and breaking through the famous fortified defenses of the Siegfried Line.  The 28th crossed from France onto German soil in September 1944, having learned valuable lessons from prior campaigns but paying a high price in casualties.  A rest was badly needed.

So, in late September, the 28th was moved into reserve in Belgium.  Major General Dutch Cota, who enjoyed a stellar reputation till the Hurtgen, rested the 28th while rebuilding the ranks with inexperienced replacements and preparing for the next fight.

General Eisenhower and Major General Cota at the 28th Div. C.P. Rott.

But the 28th Division was the only corps in reserve after the failed attempt of the 9th Division to give the Hurtgen a go.  Thus, in late October it was hastily brought forward and ordered back into action.

Ironically, the 28th Division’s motto was “Fire and Movement.”6 The Battle of Hurtgen Forest presented a situation where the former was challenging while the latter was often impossible.

The assault into the Hurtgen commenced on November 2 after a few days of delay due to cold, cloudy, and wet inclement weather; conditions that would be the norm for the duration of the campaign. Cota deployed three infantry regiments, the 109th, 110th, and 112th, in the attack.  Tanks were attached to each regiment but were often useless in the terrain and weather.

American plans were for the 109th to aim for the village of Hurtgen to the northeast, the 110th targeted Raffelsbrand/Simonskall to the southeast, while the 112th was to head east to Kommerscheidt and then to the key objective of Schmidt.

That’s three separate lines of attack.  And due to delays in launching attacks at other points across the wide front, the 28th in the Hurtgen would be the only attack occurring those first few days of November, meaning the Germans could dedicate full attention to the battle.

The first day of attack on November 2 devastated the 110th; as they attempted to advance to the southeast they were mowed down by machine guns and artillery.  Zero progress was made and by the end of the week the 110th had lost effectiveness as a fighting force.

The 109th made limited progress until it encountered a dense minefield, stopping short of Hurtgen village and suffering heavy casualties.

The best American progress on November 2 was by the 112th in the middle, having reached the village of Vossenack on the way to the ultimate objective of Schmidt.  By the next day, the Americans in the 112th traveled down the ravine to the Kall stream, traversed the stream, and climbed the opposite bank toward Schmidt.  Germans in the town were taken by surprise, and the Americans surprisingly held Schmidt by late afternoon on November 3.

But snipers made movement in and around Schmidt impossible. And it was tough to reinforce the position with 30-ton Sherman tanks due to the muddy, narrow, and steep Kall trail.

Field Marshal Model and the Germans were initially surprised by the attack, thinking the Americans would be too smart to try an assault into the impenetrable forest. Ironically, at commencement of the 28th’s attack, Model and his staff were conducting map war game exercises to play out a hypothetical American campaign in the area.

Model responded quickly. He sent some officers to the front and kept others back at his headquarters to monitor and manage the battle.  Cloudy weather negated Allied air power and the Germans were able to quickly move troops and tanks to the outskirts of Schmidt and Hurtgen village.

The Americans in Schmidt were too few to handle the coming counterattack.  They were oblivious to the threat, felt the Germans lacked enough remaining armor to mount an attack, and were short of anti-tank equipment and mines. General Cota remained far from the front lines, out of touch with developments and thinking the battle was already won.

The morning of November 4 delivered a strong dose of reality.  German artillery opened on Schmidt, tanks blew apart the town, and screaming German infantry surged toward the undermanned Americans.  The Americans, routed and in disarray, fled.  Schmidt was back in German hands by noon.

Some of the routed American forces regrouped at Kommerscheidt (between the Kall stream and Schmidt) and a few Shermans arrived up from the nearly impassable Kall trail.  The Kall trail was the only avenue for reinforcement and supply, but it was a muddy, narrow mess.  Engineers worked continuously to make it barely passable for tanks and antitank equipment.  A tank broke down on the trail and impeded progress for days until it was shoved over the ravine. The pace to traverse the trail was excruciatingly slow, and the route was lightly defended and vulnerable to continuous German attack.

At the time when the desperate Americans needed leadership the most, they didn’t get it.  General Cota remained far from the front and was confused.  General Hodges showed up at Cota’s command post and went on a tirade.  An intimidated Cota was sending orders to the front line for Schmidt to be retaken at once and to “roll on.”7 Obviously, the detached American generals had no clue as to the critical state of their troops or the battle.

By November 7, Kommerscheidt had fallen. The Kall trail was under heavy attack, making an attempted night retreat deadly and difficult.

It wasn’t until the next day that Generals Eisenhower and Bradley became worried enough to show up at Dutch Cota’s headquarters.  Eisenhower commented, “Well, Dutch, it looks like you got a bloody nose.”8

The first winter storm hit on November 9. A truce allowed US wounded to be evacuated across the Kall stream and up the trail.  Finally, the decimated 112th was off the front line.  The 110th was possibly in worse condition, reduced to less than sixty infantry, including reinforcements.

Sherman tanks mounted with 105mm. howitzers open fire in a muddy field amid the Hurtgen Forest on November 17, 1944.

Of the over two thousand Americans who set foot east of the Kall stream during the battle, only three hundred managed to make it back to the western bank.  In about a week of battle, the Americans suffered over 6,000 casualties, to the Germans 3,000.

The reputation of General Dutch Cota went from hero prior to the Hurtgen to inept leader after.  The most likely explanation as to why he was not relieved of command was that prior purges by Hodges and the recent Hurtgen combat losses drained the depth of officers.  There was no one able enough to replace Cota.

Costly Third Attempt

But the American generals, including Hodges, did not learn, and for months continued to throw troops into the meatgrinder of the Hurtgen Forest.  Next up was the 22nd Infantry Regiment.

The regiment was commanded by Colonel Charles Lanham.  Lanham led from the front to the point of recklessness.  Many considered him brilliant but crazy.  No one questioned his courage.

He expected much of his officers and told them, “As officers, I expect you to lead your men. Men will follow a leader, and I expect my platoon leaders to be right up front. Losses could be very high. Use every skill you possess. If you survive your first battle, I’ll promote you. Good luck.”9

A German bunker in the Hurtgen Forest (2018).

The 22nd started eighteen days of hell in the Hurtgen on November 18.  After three days, the regiment lost its three battalion commanders, and the attrition rate among rifle company leaders was over three hundred percent. By the end of the sixth day, the regiment suffered fifty percent casualties.

Yet the regiment fought on, suffering more than 2,800 casualties to advance just over 300 yards a day. One soldier fell for every two yards gained. The casualty rate was a staggering eighty-six percent of normal regiment strength.

The Damned Dams

American leadership spent years after the battle defending the decision to enter the forest.  One of the more popular explanations was the need to secure two forest dams that controlled the water level of the Roer River flowing northward, which sat to the east and between the Allies and the Rhine River. The Allies believed they could not attack eastward to the Rhine as long as the Germans held the dams and could threaten to flood the Roer River Valley.

Yet General Hodges made no plans prior to battle to capture the dams on the Roer, just inside the Hurtgen Forest. The dams were apparently the key to the river, but it would take prolonged battles in the forest by several divisions before Hodges ordered an attack against them.

Hodges did not press for air attacks on the Roer River dams until late November, but they failed. Direct hits were made, but the concrete structures were so massive that damage was negligible.

In mid-December, months after the Americans entered the Hurtgen, a ground assault on the dams was launched. It would not be until February 1945 that the Allies controlled the dams and could land on the eastern bank of the Roer River.

American leadership blundered by not proposing an easier avenue of approach southeast of the Hurtgen Forest, allowing Hodges to seize the dams and then clear the terrain downriver.  The Battle of Hurtgen Forest didn’t have to be.

The Hurtgen’s Bloody Tally

The slaughter and misery dragged into December 1944, when the Americans finally pulled out of the forest.  By that time, Allied attention was fixed on German Field Marshal von Rundstedt’s breakthrough in the Ardennes; what came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

American soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division in defensive positions in the Hurtgen Forest, December 1944.

All said, 120,000 American troops were deployed in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, suffering 33,000 casualties.

Combat fatigue, pneumonia, and trench foot claimed 9,000 of that gruesome toll.  Soldiers lacked sufficient boots and winter clothing.  Hot food and dry cover were almost nonexistent.  Men spent long nights frozen in foxholes.  American domination of logistics and supply enjoyed throughout the war failed in the Hurtgen.

Making Coffee in the Hurtgen Forest, December 1944. By Tony Vaccaro.

The campaign absorbed enormous resources and destroyed morale. It weakened the American front and set the stage for the initial German success in the Battle of the Bulge.  The worst American setback in the European Theater prolonged the war.

Historian Carlo D’Este saw the American performance in the Hurtgen Forest as “the most ineptly fought series of battles of the war in the West.”10  Hemingway referenced World War I by describing the Hurtgen Forest as “Passchendaele with tree bursts.”11  Colonel David H. Hackworth, a battalion commander in the Vietnam War, called the Hurtgen battle “one of the most costly blunders of World War II.”12

Six Lessons

Because it was disastrous, and because we tend to best remember victories, the Battle of Hurtgen Forest has been virtually forgotten.  It is only briefly mentioned in the memoirs of Generals Eisenhower and Bradley and has been overlooked by many historians.

The battle should have been avoided.  Its lessons must be remembered if we are to honor those who paid the ultimate price.

The Battle of Hurtgen Forest provides six key lessons:

  • Leadership matters, and poor leadership negates inherent advantage. Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, Collins, and Cota failed to understand the strategic irrelevance of the forest and the ability to reduce it and avoid it by flanking to the southeast.  Hodges applied obsolete tactics and lost composure at the worst times. Hodges and Cota both led from the rear, failing to grasp the frontline situation as events unfolded, compounding mistakes with more mistakes.
  • Preparation and homework are prerequisites to success. The Allied command went into the Hurtgen unprepared and with no clear agreement on why they were there to begin with. A simple reconnaissance of the Kall trail would’ve warned of its challenges.  Much was made of the need to capture the dams on the Roer to the southeast of the Hurtgen as justifying the battles.  Yet there was a lack of clarity, before and during the battle, on intended timing of dam capture, the impact the dams could have on flooding of the Roer River, and on alternatives to address the dams (including flanking or bombing them).
  • Avoid terrain and environment that neutralizes your strengths. Since Sun Tzu, strategists understood the importance of picking the proper field of battle.  Yet the Allies chose the worst place for battle.  The Hurtgen’s thick woods, ravines, steep ridges, lack of roads, mud, and weather eliminated Allied superiority in mobility armor, and airpower.  Tanks were largely useless until late in the battle and airpower was hampered by cloud cover.
  • Supply chain weakness will hamper success in modern warfare and economy. The Kall trail was the primary lifeline for Americans on the frontline for much of the battle. Yet the trail was too steep, too narrow, too muddy, and too prone to German attack.  This crucial artery of movement was far too fragile to feed a victory.
  • Success demands teams have the proper tools and equipment. One of the Allies’ greatest strengths during the war, logistics, failed miserably during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. Soldiers were deprived of the basics: hot food, winter gear, and boots to protect from trench foot.  The failure to equip troops with the essentials resulted in thousands of avoidable casualties.
  • Underestimate your adversary’s capacity and will at your own peril. The Allies in late 1944 were too overconfident. They ripped across France, were now inside Germany, the industrial Ruhr was within reach, and the fighting spirit of the German army was thought to be poor. A blunt and direct assault into the Hurtgen would be easy and unresisted.  The Germans benefitted from such ignorance and foolishness, which carried on beyond the Hurtgen and bled into the Battle of the Bulge.

History is written by the victors. But if the victors desire to remain on top, analyzing and learning from the failures is essential.


[1] Atkinson, Rick, The Guns at Last Light, p. 310.
[2] Atkinson, Rick, The Guns at Last Light, p. 311.
[3] See historynet.com; The Hurtgen Forest, 1944: The Worst Place of Any.
[4] That held true even after the war. Loyal Hodges subordinate General Joe Collins stated post-war, “We had to go into that forest to secure our right flank.” And, “What was the alternative?”  (Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light, p. 314.) How about a flanking maneuver around it?
[5] The Germans in World War II gave the 28th Division another nickname, the Bloody Bucket Division, because of the blood-red color of the keystone insignia and the vicious fighting tactics used by the 28th through Normandy.
[6] https://history.army.mil/documents/eto-ob/28id-eto.htm
[7] Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light, p. 321.
[8] Pereira and Wilson, All Souls Day: The World War II Battle and the Search for a Lost U.S. Battalion, p. 146.
[9] See warfarehistorynetwork.com; The Battle of Hürtgen Forest: A Tactical Nightmare for Allied Forces.
[10] D’Este, Carlo, Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life, p. 627.
[11 Hemingway, Ernest, Across the River and Into the Trees, p. 218.
[12] warfarehistorynetwork.com; The Battle of Hürtgen Forest: A Tactical Nightmare for Allied Forces.