Monday, April 17, 2006

God Bless World War II

Every once in a while I come across a blog post that that very clearly articulates a point I’ve made a number of weak stabs at. One such is this post from Glenn Greenwald who successfully skewers the Right’s consistent stuck-in-time worldview:
To pro-Bush war supporters, the world is forever stuck in the 1930s. Every leader we don't like is Adolf Hitler, a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world. Every country opposed to our interests is Nazi Germany.

From this it follows that every warmonger is the glorious reincarnation of the brave and resolute Winston Churchill. And one who opposes or even questions any proposed war becomes the lowly and cowardly appeaser, Neville Chamberlain. For any and every conflict that arises, the U.S. is in the identical position of France and England in 1937 – faced with an aggressive and militaristic Nazi Germany, will we shrink from our grand fighting duties in appeasement and fear, or will we stand tall and strong and wage glorious war?

With that cartoonish framework in place, war is always the best option.


To be sure, Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug who murdered and oppressed his citizens with virtually no limits, etc. etc., but the notion that he was ever in a league with Adolph Hitler in terms of the threats he posed, the capabilities he possessed, or even the ambitions he harbored, was always transparent myth. This equivalence is even more fictitious with regard to Iran, which -- although saddled with a highly unpopular president who is clearly malignant and who uses nationalistic rhetoric to boost the morale of his base – is a country that is, in fact, ruled by a council of mullahs which has exhibited nothing but rationality and appears to be guided by nothing other than self-interest.

We were led into invading Iraq by a group of people who are as bloodthirsty as they are historically ignorant. They are stuck in a childish and stunted mental prison where every event, every conflict, every choice is to be seen exclusively through the prism of a single historical event, an event which – for a variety of reasons, some intellectual, some cultural, some psychological – is the only one that has any resonance for them. Even as we are still mired in their last failed war, they are attempting to impose these stunted historical distortions to lead us into a new one.
Glenn correctly notes how “cartoonish” and “childish” it is to constantly apply this Nazi Germany template any troublesome nation. These comparisons are totally without historical merit but it’s hard to get that point across to people who willingly or otherwise cling to fifth grade notions of military power, diplomacy, and economics.

But what’s to blame? Poor education (or retention of education)? Blind political loyalty? Watching too many movies?

Maybe all of the above to some extent, but I think nostalgia is largely to blame. There has been a great deal of, well, romance imposed on the memory of the World War II years. After all, the country came together to defeat real threats. It was, in hindsight, a “glorious” war where good stood up to and defeated evil through brute force. Everyone sacrificed. It was simple to understand. If only ALL conflicts were so clear cut there could be no questioning our purity of motives.

Of course, this WWII nostalgia ignores a lot about how horrible the war was and what the political, economic and military realities were leading up to it. In short, the nostalgia is misplaced but very real to Americans.

I’ve never understood why the military “solution” to a problem is thought to be preferable based on its simplicity. Actually, war is never less than messy and is actually very complicated because it is the ultimate destabilizer. There are way too many unintended consequences for it to be considered an easy solution.

But hey, when you see Hitlers everywhere, it only makes sense to shoot first and not ask any questions ever.


JeromeProphet said...

Well argued.

And now we own it.


A Bishops Wife said...

The last sentance is a classic!