At Cal, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand that I was being taught the Marxist version of history. All I knew is that my love for history was predicated on the power of personalities, while the history they taught at Cal ignored individuals and focused on mass movements that were described in terms of a Marxist economic narrative.
Would England have had a schism from the Catholic Church without Henry VIII’s lust for Anne Boleyn and his belief that she would give him a son? I doubt it. Anne Boleyn’s personality played a part in it too. Things would have turned out differently if she’d just yielded, as her sister had, and become his mistress.
And how about Elizabeth I’s refusal to marry? Whether she just didn’t want to share power or had a deeper psychological fear of marriage (death by beheading or childbirth), the fact remains that her single status made for an interesting balance of power during her reign — and handed the monarchy over to the Stuart line. The Stuart line, of course, led to a stubborn Charles I who refused to yield on his royal prerogatives, triggering a revolution — which could be said to have paved the way for our own Revolution.
My examples are from the era of absolute monarchs. Modern times are no different, though. Germany was not a totalitarian dictatorship when Hitler entered politics. His personality and beliefs transformed it into one, and his paranoia and sheer evil made it one of the worst places on earth.
Speaking of paranoia and evil, would a tyrant other than Stalin have murdered 20 million of his own people? Do mass movements and Marxist economics create killers (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot), or is there a horrible alchemy that brings such individuals to the fore? I don’t know. But I do know that different tyrants would have resulted in different tyrannies, with different targets, and different MOs.
I mention all of this because of the Petraeus affair. Up until six weeks ago, most of the nation, Left and Right, viewed him as a military visionary and a strong, noble hand at the helm of the CIA. Now, it turns out that his personal failings, his libido and his arrogance, may have contributed to a web of deceit, as well as systemic corruption and antagonism. Had he been less egotistical, events before, during, and after the Benghazi affair might have played out quite differently. That is, if he hadn’t had a Sword of Damocles hanging over his head — one he placed there himself through his unethical conduct — and if he’d had better relations with his own people, he might have had more flexibility in dealing with Benghazi, and more incentive to be honest.