I received an e-mail with the article linked below recently, asking for my thoughts/opinions, etc.
You might want to read the post before reading on. I responded via e-mail immediately after reading the article–this was prior to Saddam Hussein’s execution, although I doubt my analysis and opinions will have changed much. I welcome comments, opinions, and dissent (provided you can dissent without ad hominem attacks). Here goes:
Where the hell do I start??? Many of the facts about WWII are wrong (although not the important ones). The segue to the war on terror is clunky, to be polite about it.
Furthermore, as so often happens with pro-WOT and war in Iraq arguments, it collapses very quickly under its own contradictions: specifically, if the WOT and WWII are equivalent in their importance for world civilization, then isn’t it criminally negligent for us to not be pouring in the same resources to the WOT as we did in WWII??? I am referring to the figures of $12T spent in WWII versus $160B so far in Iraq. If Iraq is so important, then why aren’t we doing more? Why isn’t everyone, and I mean everyone, being encouraged to do their part? How the hell (I am trying to avoid bad language here) is WWII-era rationing relevant to Bush’s admonition to keep buying things? Why aren’t we rationing gasoline, steel, iron, nylon, Teflon, rubber, and every other freaking resource in short supply so that our troops in the field can have enough? If this is such an epic battle for our very way of life…well, I can think of dozens more questions, none of which are answered in this article. Do not give me any bullshit (sorry, I’m weak) about how the American people lack the will to fight the war or see it through—a people can really only be as strong as their leaders, and no one is encouraging anyone to sacrifice anything. The very definition of “winning” has changed repeatedly over the past 3½ years.
None of this addresses the historical questions, really. But the argument is just so freaking BAD.
A few historical points:
- Between 1 and 2 million people died in 6 months during the siege of Stalingrad, the single worst battle in human history. Nearly a million Russians died in the siege of Leningrad, which lasted over 2 years. Overall, Russia lost over 20 million people. More people died on the German-Soviet front than in the entire rest of the war combined.
- I don’t know about 1928, but in my opinion WWII was a rematch of WWI, although the war never really ended. Russia fought a civil war from 1917 until at least 1922. Italy fought at least two wars in Ethiopia (and used chemical weapons) in the 20’s and 30’s. Italy turned fascist in 1922, when Mussolini was elected. Germany had to wait 11 more years. The Spanish Civil War was basically a warm-up for the German-Soviet war. You could argue that the war in Asia started in 1905 in the Russo-Japanese War, the first time an Asian nation defeated a European power using modern weaponry.
- He’s right about the U.S. military in 1941—we ranked just behind Portugal in terms of the size of our military. Yes, Portugal had a bigger military.
My real problem with this article is that the conclusions do not actually come from the facts, fabrications, exaggerations, and misstatements contained therein. Also, the most glaring difference between WWII and Iraq is ignored: the issue of the nation-state. Germany and Japan were nation-states. Regardless of national borders, the “German people” and the “Japanese people” have existed as distinct entities for centuries if not millennia. What nation-state are we fighting now? Iraq was cobbled together from three Ottoman provinces with no historical connection to one another. It consists of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, and several other little-known ethnic groups. Kurds exist as a nation if not a state—they are spread between Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. The Arabs of Iraq are divided between Sunni and Shiite—the only analogy even close might be the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland or the Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo. There is no historical “Iraqi people” the way there are Kurds, Turks, Persians, French, Italians, Japanese, etc. The only thing holding Iraq together was Saddam Hussein’s iron fist (to use a cliché). Yes, he was a tyrant and a monster and the world is better off without him in the long run, but much like Yugoslavia after communism, no one ever seems to have wondered what would happen to the “Iraqi people” after he was gone. No one could appeal to their national pride because that was not where the social structure is based. People turned to their sects, tribes, groups, whatever you call them. This is completely different from WWII, where there was really no question that “Germany” and “Japan” would continue to exist after their armies were defeated.
Back to the issue of conclusions and premises, let me paste a few select quotes:
“If the Inquisition wins, then the Wahhabis, the Jihadis, will control the Middle East, the OPEC oil, and the US, European, and Asian economies. The techno-industrial economies will be at the mercy of OPEC — not an OPEC dominated by the educated, rational Saudis of today, but an OPEC dominated by the Jihadis. You want gas in your car? You want heating oil next winter? You want the dollar to be worth anything? You better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition, loses, and the Islamic Reformation wins.”
A fair point, but he confuses goals with abilities. There will always be someone who wants to re-impose the caliphate, destroy American, or whatever. Al Qaeda has nothing on Nazi Germany in terms of its ability to do lasting damage to the global economy or Western culture.
“We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda and the Islamic terrorist movements. We have to do it somewhere. And we can’t do it everywhere at once. We have created a focal point for the battle at a time and place of our choosing……..in Iraq.”
What was wrong with Afghanistan? The “Jihadists” weren’t in Iraq until we left the door open.
“Whether Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11 or not, it is undisputed that Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades.”
No it’s not.
“We created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point, with Islamic terrorism in Iraq. We have focused the battle. We are killing bad people, and the ones we get there we won’t have to get here.”
This assumes that there is a finite number of “Jihadists,” and if we just kill enough of them, they will fade away. He himself acknowledges, though, that this is an ideology we are fighting. Al Qaeda has no national boundaries and no particular ethnic component. Nazism was a distinctly German ideology, and Japanese imperialism was entirely focused on Japan. Once their armies had surrendered, they really were extinguished as a force anyone needed to worry about. Not so with al Qaeda—anyone, anywhere can be a member. “Killing bad guys” isn’t enough. We didn’t win the Cold War by killing communists; we won it by discrediting the ideology and offering people living under communism a preferable alternative.
“We also have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq, which will be a catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East, and an outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for as long as it is needed.”
How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How? How?
I will keep asking until one of these jackasses at least attempts an answer. It is not enough to say it. We will not achieve democracy in Iraq with the Power of Intention. I don’t know how much clearer I can make that point. Fuck!
“The Iraq war has, so far, cost the US about $160 billion,which is roughly what 9/11 cost New York. It has also cost about 2,200 American lives, which is roughly 2/3 of the 3,000 lives that the Jihad snuffed on 9/11. But the cost of not fighting and winning W.W.II would have been unimaginably greater — a world dominated by German and Japanese Nazism.”
I refer the reader to my above comments about the complete lack of sacrifice asked of us in the WOT. Now shut up and go shopping.
“This is not 60 minute TV shows, and 2 hour movies in which everything comes out okay. The real world is not like that. It is messy, uncertain, and sometimes bloody and ugly. Always has been, and probably always will be.”
So they won’t be greeting us as liberators after all? Why did the administration say they would, if the world is really so bloody and messy? Everybody knows this, really, but they also tend to believe their leaders—why else would people willingly go to war throughout history? Is this writer admitting the administration lied through their teeth?
“Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy.”
Horseshit. Bullshit. Crap. I’m referring to this sentence—nothing ad hominem here, as I don’t know who the writer is. “Opposing the liberation of Iraq” really means opposing letting Bush do whatever he wants. Perhaps it was a bad idea to go into Iraq in the first place, but that milk is spilt. No one who supports the war has any actual counterarguments to criticisms of the war plan, so they accuse critics of wanting to retreat, or “cut and run” as the case may be. It is of course legitimate to wonder if the current plan of attack (to the extent that it exists) is wise or sound. He makes the comparison to Normandy on D-Day. Yes, more Americans died in a single day than have died in the whole Iraq war (I’m not actually sure if it’s true, but let’s go with it). Is he saying D-Day was a bad idea, or that we should quit whining about Iraq because it could be worse? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is this: D-Day was an elaborately crafted plan requiring the cooperation of multiple countries and multiple generals, with a whole hell of a lot of luck thrown in. It could have been a disaster, but it was necessary in order to win the war—meaning drive across Europe to Berlin and stop Germany’s war machine. Every life lost was part of a larger goal, with some of the best military minds working around the clock to plan and adapt.
How is D-Day similar to Iraq? I can’t think of a single way. Sure, we drove into Iraq and took out Iraq’s war machine, much the same way that Nazi Germany took out Belgium’s (sorry, Belgium). Now what? Where is the equivalent of the Marshall Plan for Iraq?
Finally, notice how his argument eventually comes down to criticism of Americans who oppose the war? Didn’t the article start as a brief dissertation on the lesser-known features of American history, then become a call to arms for the WOT?
The simple truth is, there are no honest arguments for why the war in Iraq should continue the way it has. Not. A. Single. One. There are many excellent arguments about the threat posed by al Qaeda, and about what must be done to fight it. As this writer himself says, however, this is primarily a war of ideas and ideas generally cannot be defeated by bombs. Nazi Germany collapsed not only because the Soviet army overran Berlin, but because Hitler proved not to be the savior of the German people that he had claimed to be. Perhaps the most significant act in Japan’s surrender was for the emperor to admit that he was not a god. Communism promised a worker’s paradise here on earth, but the people of eastern Europe only received poverty and repression. There are still Nazis, communists, and arrogant Japanese around, but none of them constitute a global threat. All of these ideologies were proven wrong, and that is what destroyed them.
“Jihadism,” as far as I know, promises an epic showdown with the West, among other things. I say we shouldn’t prove them right.