Jun 05 2008

World War II: the Bad War?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:34 pm

Victor Davis Hanson, the well-known historian, has written an article at Real Clear Politics, regarding recent revisionist attempts to criticize how the Allies got into World War II, as well as how they fought it, attempts being made both from the left and the right to create, without quite saying so, some kind of moral equivalency between the Allies and the Axis.

Essentially, the argument is that if the Versailles agreement that ended WWI had been more “fair”, and if the Allies had not made unenforceable security guarantees to Poland, and more or less let Hitler have what he wanted, the war could have been avoided. After all, what interest did France or England have in defending Poland? Buchanan makes other, somewhat more subtle arguments, but they boil down to assessing Hitler as negotiable, or implying that the unfair resolution of WWI was the real culprit.

This all reduces down to an enormous exercise in Monday morning quarterbacking, combined with myopic hindsight (not 20/20, since those looking back in this way seem to be missing essential points).

Hanson’s take on this:

Buchanan and others, for example, fault the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I as too harsh on a defeated Germany and thus an understandable pretext for the rise of the Nazis, who played on German anger and fear.

Those accords may have been flawed, but they were far better than what Germany itself had offered France in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War, or Russia after its collapse in 1917 — or what it had planned for Britain and France had it won the First World War. What ultimately led to World War II was neither Allied meanness to Germany between the two wars nor an unwillingness to understand the Nazis’ pain and anguish.

The mistake instead was not occupying all of imperial Germany after the first war in 1918-19. That way, the Allies would have demonstrated to the German people that their army was never “stabbed in the back” at home, as the Nazis later alleged, but instead defeated by an Allied army that was willing to stay on to foster German constitutional government and its reintegration within Europe. The Allies later did occupy Germany after World War II — and 60 years without war have followed.

Had Nicholson Baker been alive in 1942, I doubt he would have had better ideas of how to stop the Nazi and Japanese juggernauts that had ruined Eastern Europe, Russia and large parts of China and southeast Asia other than using the same clumsy tools our grandfathers were forced to employ to end fascist aggression.

A Nazi armored division or death camp stopped its murderous work not through reasoned appeal or self-reflection, but only when its fuel, supplies and manpower were cut off.

I am currently visiting military cemeteries in France, Luxembourg and Belgium, some of the most beautiful, solemn acres in Europe. The thousands of Americans lying beneath the rows of white crosses at Normandy Beach, at Hamm, Luxembourg, and at St. Avold in the Lorraine probably did not debate the Versailles Treaty or worry too much whether a B-17 took out a neighborhood when it tried to hit a German rail yard.

Instead, our soldiers were more worried that they had few options available to stop Nazi Germany and imperial Japan — other than their own innate courage. The dead in our cemeteries over here in Europe never bragged that they were eagerly fighting the “good” war, but rather only reluctantly finishing a necessary one that someone else had started.

They and those who sent them into the carnage of World War II knew Americans could do good without having to be perfect. In contrast, the present critics of the Allied cause enjoy the freedom and affluence that our forefathers gave us by fighting World War II while ignoring — or faulting — the intelligence and resolve that won it.

Read the whole thing.

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Jun 05 2008

History has still not ended

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 5:54 pm

There’s a lot of discussion here and there and other places about the future of the Republican party, and “conservatism” (not the same thing, of course). Some speak of the millennials as less interested in political parties, less ideological, etc. We hear that Reagan conservatism isn’t going to sell anymore, and that it isn’t just a matter of not having a great communicator anymore, but rather that the public just doesn’t see things like it did.

Almost universally, the analysis seems to involve the assumption of stability in events, in anticipation of only small changes from current circumstances, and it assumes the ability of politicians and the media to manage message to the general public. This gives extraordinary power to the message deliverers, of course, and the better message deliverers are expected to win most of the time. In sum, this approach assumes that politics is about politicians.

But it isn’t, in the end. It’s about events, most of which are beyond the immediate control of any given crop of politicians.

People’s memories are short. “We will never forget” has morphed into “maybe we weren’t in so much danger after all”. A decade ago, the left blocked drilling in Anwar and other places, because the oil wouldn’t come on line for a decade, and, “It won’t help us right now.” But the decade has passed, and I just filled my tank with regular gas at $4.35 per gallon, self-serve. If they’d drilled then it would have helped now. Most people don’t know that the two hottest years in the last century are 1934 and 1998 (1934 was the hottest, with a cooling period in between, and no one can claim the 1930s warming was due to CO2 emissions), and most people don’t know that we appear not to be warming up since 1998, but cooling, if anything.

But there are likely to be developments that totally change the dynamic of things, and to quote our second president, “Facts are stubborn things.”

When there is a major attack on US soil (inevitable, according to many serious observers), or possibly even on one of our allies, peoples’ attention will be re-focused. If there is any obvious link between the left’s less forceful approach to terrorists and their enablers (likely), there will be a re-energized right. Let’s be clear: if Islamicist extremists do the deed, and if the left has curtailed programs that might have detected or stopped the attack, or removed pressure that would have diverted the attackers’ attentions, or (shudder) if there is a nuclear attack carried out by anyone who got the materials to do it from an Islamic nation, the blowback will be enormous, and a very large price will be paid by the party that is identified in the public mind as having been asleep at the switch. Fool me once….

Does anyone think that Congress will be able to resist public demand for drilling when gasoline is $6.00 per gallon? If so, how about $8.00? $10.00? At some point, the dynamic changes. Sure, the left will try to pin the blame on the evil oil companies, and that miserable resource hog, the American driver. And that works for awhile, when people aren’t paying that much attention. But at some point, instead of just wondering why prices are so high in a vague sort of way, people are going to DEMAND to know. There will be debate, and the old answers will be trotted out, but inevitably someone is going to get peoples’ attention with the simple idea that as demand goes up and supply doesn’t, the prices will rise. Few people want to drive less.

So, I think drilling is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time, and public desperation. And the party that had a history of blocking it, and fights it to the end, is going to suffer, for awhile.

By the end of an Obama administration (two terms to 2016!), if we have not had a year hotter than 1998, it will be impossible to claim global warming is even real (with a straight face, anyway), let alone caused anthropogenically. (The activists have begun to suspect this… that’s why they’ve changed the scare-phrase to “climate change”, which works no matter what happens, since the climate always changes.) If the left has forced a very costly scheme to control carbon emissions in the meantime, and the economy has suffered because of it, gas prices are higher, etc., then the campaign slogan for the conservative candidate in 2016 could be, “WHAT global warming?”

None of this will stop Obama from getting elected this year, unless the terrorists are stupid enough to mount an attack on US soil before the election, or gas goes up to $6.00 per gallon immediately. I expect neither to happen immediately.

Unfortunately, I expect both during Obama’s presidency, though this is one time I’d love to be wrong.

The only (very cold) comfort will be that the winds of politics will probably change direction again… for awhile, at least. It will be too late to immediately undo Obama’s disastrous effect on the courts, the economy, and our national security… but it may bring an opportunity to staunch the bleeding, at least. Until, of course, the stupid Republicans who come to power in the reaction get complacent, fat and greedy, like the last crop that just lost Congress in 2006.

Pray for McCain to win, but the nation will weather an Obama administration, painfully.

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