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How to persuade a nation to enter a war?

Hermann Goering, one of Hitler’s top commanders and chief of the German Luftwaffe, speaks on the ease with which people can be induced to enter into war. Interviewed in his cell during the Nuremburg trials by Gustave Gilbert, an intelligence officer and psychologist, Goering was quite candid.

Gilbert kept a journal of his observations of the proceedings and his conversations with the prisoners, which he published in his book Nuremberg Diary. He relates part of a conversation with Goering in his cell on the evening of April 18, 1946:

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy of a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the county to danger. It works the same way in any country.