9/15/2005

Gadflyer: World War II was good for GOPpies, despite the millions of deaths

Us and Them.
Joshua Holland (6:57PM) link

Yesterday, I commented on the first in Tony Blankley's three-part series on why the Global War on Terror, or as Jesus' General calls it, "The Eternal Struggle to Resubjugate Brown People," is really exactly the same as World War II (which, by the way, was very, very good fun for all, despite all the dying and stuff).

Part two's out today and, from that fount of wisdom, we get some insight into What's Obvious To Them:

World War II was good, despite the millions of deaths, the limitations on daily lives, the encroachment on peacetime liberties and the arduousness of wartime life. The war was good because the sacrifice was for a noble cause, for the perpetuation of America and the American way of life.

The struggle against Islamist terrorism is an equally good war -- and for the same reasons. We have just as great a responsibility to win our struggle against insurgent Islamist aggression as our parents and grandparents had to win World War II.

There is no other cause so urgent. If we do not pay with our sacrifices now, we (and our children) will pay in greater losses later. We must be prepared to be just as ruthless and rational as the "greatest generation" was in defeating fascism.

Just as their generals and admirals made no compromise to the imperative of total victory on the battlefield, so British and American political leaders, courts and popular opinion let the requirements for victory define the powers of their government on the home front.

Prior to America's entry into the war, Congress passed laws that, collectively, authorized President Franklin D. Roosevelt to instruct the FBI to investigate suspected subversive activity.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, the Smith Act of 1940 and the Voorhis Act of 1941 were the grounds for Roosevelt's wartime domestic surveillance of American citizens whose political activity might lead them to serve the interests of opposing nations.

And blah, blah, blah--you get the picture. As Atrios put it, he channeled Michelle Malkin. Classic Defense of Internment stuff.

Now contrast that with What's Obvious To Us, courtesy of Mark Danner in Sunday's New York Times:

Facing what is beyond imagination, you find sense in the familiar. Standing before Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, George W. Bush told Americans why they had been attacked. "They hate our freedoms," the president declared. "Our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." As for Al Qaeda's fundamentalist religious mission: "We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions - by abandoning every value except the will to power - they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism..."
[…]

Such rhetoric not only fell easily on American ears. It provided a familiar context for a disoriented national-security bureaucracy that had been created to fight the cold war and was left, at its ending, without clear purpose. .. Al Qaeda was not the Nazis or the Soviet Communists. Al Qaeda controlled no state, fielded no regular army. It was a small, conspiratorial organization, dedicated to achieving its aims through guerrilla tactics, notably a kind of spectacular terrorism carried to a level of apocalyptic brutality the world had not before seen.
[…]

And however extreme and repugnant Al Qaeda's methods, its revolutionary goals were by no means unusual within Islamist opposition groups throughout the Muslim world. "If there is one overarching goal they share," wrote the authors of the Defense Science Board report, "it is the overthrow of what Islamists call the 'apostate' regimes: the tyrannies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan and the gulf states.. . .The United States finds itself in the strategically awkward - and potentially dangerous - situation of being the longstanding prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the U.S., these regimes could not survive. Thus the U.S. has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle that is both broadly cast for all Muslims and country-specific."

Elsewhere, Danner uses what is perhaps the best quote in relation to the whole Pearl Harbor-World Trade Center analogy: "Declaring war on 'terror,' is like declaring war on air power."

It reminds me of Thinking in Time, a book written by Richard Neustadt and Ernest May in the late eighties that still has a lot of traction with foreign policy nerds. The two historians--I think May still teaches at Harvard--argued that high-level decision-makers rarely have the time or the patience to gather all the facts about a given situation, collect opposing views, bat it around and come to a really well-informed decision. So they use historic analogs as a kind of analytic short-cut.

But there's a hitch. Too many elected officials have a crappy sense of history. So they go grasping for bad analogs--you know, 'it's just like WWII'-- and it throws them right off track.

Neustadt and May suggested a framework for testing analogous events. One stage is to list the 'likenesses and differences' between the past event and the one at hand.

Tony Blankley is apparently writing a book drawing a parallel between World War II and the GWOT. The only 'likenesses' are that people are getting killed, and the United States and British militaries are on the same side.

Everything else is 'differences.' And you can't make good policy with bad analogs.

See Iraq, invasion of ('It'll be just like democracy-building in 1945 Japan!').

PS: Will someone please get David Horowitz his medicine before he hurts himself?



The Gadflyer: Fly Trap

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