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Where is Winston Churchill When We Need Him?

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In June of 1942, Winston Churchill — the then British Prime Minister and Minister of Defence — was visiting in Washington, D.C. to discuss with President Roosevelt a number of topics, not least among them the development of an atomic bomb and plans for a massive joint ground offensive to be undertaken in Europe later that year or the next. Meanwhile, in Africa, German General Rommel was actively trying to capture Tobruk, a very important strategic goal being defended by British forces. On 22 June, Churchill received word in Washington that Tobruk had fallen to Rommel. Thirty-three thousand British soldiers had been captured; twenty thousand had been killed. With Tobruk gone, the German Army was thought likely to proceed on to Cairo with little effective resistance. The fall of Tobruk was widely reported in the press throughout the world, along with a perceived disarray of the British Government. The Axis Powers were much encouraged and invigorated. According to press reports, Tobruk fall may bring change of Government; Churchill may be censured. There was lots of bad news, and very little good. Later, Rommel was routed in Africa and there was much more good, and much less bad, news.

When Churchill returned to London in early July, a vote of censure was in the offing before the House of Commons. Although offered an opportunity to have the censure motion tabled, Churchill declined; he deemed it of high importance that the motion be debated and the issue settled. After several days of debate, the motion was defeated, 475 to 25.

Perhaps the salient lesson from Churchill's remarks to the Commons at the end of the debate was, In wartime if you desire service you must give loyalty, a bilateral undertaking. It worked; Britain and her allies soon reached a turning point, and the war effort improved strikingly during the next couple of years, with the defeat of Germany in 1944 and of Japan in 1945.

Churchill's comment on the need for unity and reciprocal loyalty was based, in part, on the following proposition, stated during his comments on the July censure motion:

If democracy and Parliamentary institutions are to triumph in this war it is absolutely necessary that Governments resting upon them shall be able to act and dare, that the servants of the Crown shall not be harassed by nagging and snarling, that enemy propaganda shall not be fed needlessly out of our own hands, and our reputation disparaged and undermined throughout the world. . . . Much harm was done abroad by the two days' debate in May. Only the hostile speeches are reported abroad, and much play is made with them by our enemy.

The same was, of course, true of the censure debates upon Churchill's return to Britain in early July, and is no less true now, more than half a century later. Clearly, President Bush is no Churchill, and in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere the U.S. is not fighting for her immediate life. Perhaps it might be easier if she were, for in time of a war generally perceived to be of overwhelming importance it is also generally perceived that unity is necessary. Although the U.S. is less deeply involved in Iraq and Afghanistan than she was in Vietnam, where a similar lack of unity prevailed, loss of the Vietnam war did not much affect life in the U.S. The potential consequences of a rout in Iraq and Afghanistan are much worse. One cannot help but wonder how, if Churchill now were the President of the U.S., he might deal with the problem.

Until the recent successes of the "surge" in Iraq, the press were full of reports about how absolutely horribly things were going; there were daily front page and television reports of casualties, and the death of the four thousandth U.S. soldier since the beginning of the war was reported on 24 March 2008 with something almost approaching glee; not unlike a football score. The popular sentiment was very largely that the United States should withdraw, tail between legs if necessary, and abandon a cause which was not only lost but the continued pursuit of which was likely to make matters worse. Few pointed out that even though one death is very sad, the total of all U.S. casualties up to that point had been only a fraction of British losses in few days and in one battle alone, that of Tobruk. And the deaths during the battle of Tobruk were only 5.2 percent of British deaths during World War II (382,600 or 0.8 percent of her population). The U.S. suffered 416,800 deaths, amounting to 0.32 percent of her population. The troops of their then ally, the U.S.S.R., suffered 10,700,000 deaths. Comparatively little press and political attention has been accorded the more recent successes of the Surge, possibly on the theory that bad news makes good press and good news makes bad press.

Had the U.S., Britain and their allies not won World War II, Germany and Japan would have done so, and the world would now be a very different and less congenial place. In my opinion, the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and the consequences to the U.S. and other countries still necessarily reliant on her for support would also be devastating. If nothing worse than transparent confirmation that the U.S. is unwilling to keep her essential military commitments were to result, it would be bad enough: this is particularly true in view of the recent re-militarization of the former U.S.S.R. and China, both of which now seem quite expansionist. China, in particular, needs petroleum and other raw materials which she herself lacks in sufficient quantity to permit her continued and rapid economic expansion. Thus far, she has not used war to obtain what she needs. Without a viable concern that were she to do so the U.S. and her allies would resist militarily and vigorously, it is possible that she might do just that. Although the Olympic games in China may be a hopeful demonstration of increased openness to the world outside her borders, it must not be forgot that Hitler also put on Olympic games in Munich in 1936 to demonstrate the resurgent importance of Germany in the world.

This is not to say that the U.S. should indefinitely provide succor to everyone in the world. We have given very substantial military and economic aid to South Korea and much of Europe for far too long, the military and economic drains on the U.S. remain great, and it should be up to the countries so long assisted to look out for themselves now have the means to do so. The economic and military aid given by the U.S. was instrumental in achieving this, and without our continued enabling of their dependency they should be able to look after themselves fairly well. Cf. Dave Nalle, The Irrationality of Iraq. There is an additional point to be made: the difference between men and dogs, as noted by Mark Twain, is that if you take a poor dog and make him prosperous, he will not hate you for it. Men and countries are much the same.

Many more people immigrate to the U.S. than leave her seeking haven elsewhere, and the same is true of the countries of western Europe. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently suggested that Britain adopt some elements of Sharia law to accommodate her increasing Moslem population, and even without explicitly doing so, the intrusions upon freedom of speech in much of Europe and Canada and, to some extent in the U.S., have been remarkable. Interests of political correctness have trumped interests of free speech. The Moslem religion can be practiced freely in the US, Britain, Europe and Canada; this is as it should be. Indeed, in some places, substantial, if not excessive, accommodations not provided to others are made available to Moslems for the practice of their religion. Yet, most Moslem countries have not reciprocated even to the extent of tolerating foreign religions, the practice of which is in some cases subject to severe criminal penalties.

Between 1096 and 1272, European countries, at first mainly the French Empire, engaged in Crusades in Arabia and elsewhere. The Moors in similar fashion invaded parts of Europe, and thousands of words in the Spanish language are based on Arabic words. The Inquisition, in Spain and in other Roman Catholic countries, took place between 1478 and 1834. Many "heretics" were tortured, and there were many deaths. Although generally wars for fame, fortune, and power, and to satisfy the violent urges of the period, the Crusades were frequently supported by the Church; some were not. Now, the Islamic Jihadists do similar things, with relish and abandon, not to mention technologies far beyond anything available to the Christians during the Crusades and Inquisition. The Japanese Kamikaze pilots were in some respects similar to the Jihadist suicide bombers (Fox News, had it been in existence during World War II, would doubtless have referred to them as "homicide pilots." It's a quaint expression, and probably does no harm). They were doing it for their Emperor, who had the status of a god. However, they, unlike the Jihadists, tended to attack primarily military targets — possibly because due to the relatively short range of their aircraft, those were the only targets available. Nor did they hide behind or otherwise use their small children when doing so.

There are other striking similarities between the Crusades and the Inquisition on the one hand and the current efforts of the Jihadists on the other. Both sought and seek the spread, by unrestrained violence, of their cherished religious views; both were and are implacable; and both were and are highly toxic to the groups sought to be converted. Neither was nor is susceptible to peaceful persuasion that perhaps, just perhaps, they err, although over a very long period of time change to less violent means occurred in the one case and is possible in the other — also over a very long period of time.

The notion of waiting a century or more for the Jihadists to recognize the errors of their ways and to become dramatically more civilized and less violent does not seem to be a wise one. The potential consequences would probably by draconian in the extreme.

There is much to be said for the proposition that in the right hands, military might is the best hope for peace. However, we seem no more intent upon self preservation now than was the population of Britain back in 1933, when the Oxford Resolution was adopted, proclaiming: "That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country." Even as late as 1938, when following the Munich Agreement British Prime Minister Chamberlain announced "peace in our time," he was met by cheering crowds and there was a national sigh of relief. It should be kept in mind that Britain had had a respite of only slightly more than two decades since the devastations of World War I, memories of which had not been blotted out by time or reflection. And, of course, the intentions of Hitler were not fully understood except by a very few. At the Nuremberg trials which followed the war, German Marshal Keitel was asked whether the Reich would have attacked Czechoslovakia in 1938 if the Western powers had stood by Prague. He answered, "Certainly not. We were not strong enough militarily. The object of [the] Munich [agreement] was to get Russia out of Europe, to gain time, and to complete the German armaments." When things got bad enough, and recognition finally dawned that Nazi Germany and her allies seemed likely to take over the world, attitudes eventually changed. By then, it was almost too late; a world-staggering war, which could have been prevented by backing up peace overtures with even modest demonstrations of strength, resulted. If we are neither willing nor able to do whatever is necessary now, before it is too late, and with necessary force, we are likely to be forced to do much more, later. There are few alternatives:

Sit down and talk man to man (sorry, Senator Clinton), acknowledge the gross error of our wicked ways, ask forgiveness and provide reparations;

Prosecute and jail all who satirize or otherwise disparage radical Islamists;

Introduce Sharia law;

Since we are steadfastly unwilling to exploit our own substantial petroleum resources, cease importation of petroleum products from that part of the world (and from Venezuela, of course), revert to horse or ox drawn wagons, and abjure all stuff made of plastic or otherwise petroleum based;

Withdraw to within our borders and hope for the best (whatever that might be);

Cease exporting pornographic videos to Islamic countries (Hey — bans on exports of luxury goods to North Korea got Kim Jong Pil's attention); and

Agree to turn the U.S. over to them in fifty years (they will probably own her by then in any event) if they will just let us be.

Although these suggestions are, of course, set forth frivolously, they seem not too far off the mark when compared to some of the efforts currently being made to achieve "peace in our time" with an implacable enemy which has little if any interest in peace except on its own quite unacceptable terms. Iran has not been dissuaded through prolonged negotiation and mild sanctions from seeking nuclear armaments, and the various efforts directed to that end have simply given her more time in which to develop them — not unlike Chamberlain's achievement of "peace in our time" at Munich. Nor has Iran been dissuaded from providing material and other important help to the Jihadists. The Jihadists still hate and desire to kill us, and are enhancing their abilities to do so.

The Jihadists will never come to love us, nor we them. Our ways are as much anathema to them as theirs are to us. Although the U.S. remains one of the most powerful countries in the world, if not the most, she is accorded little respect on that account, even by many of her allies. Nor, frankly, does she at present deserve much. Theodore Roosevelt probably had it right when he said, "Speak softly but carry a big stick." We certainly speak softly, and when former President Carter goes off to enemy countries, he does that very well. Unfortunately, words softly spoken but not backed up by a big stick do more harm than good; at best, they reinforce a now powerful sense that we are weak and unwilling to do more than speak softly.

The military, ours as well as those of other countries, has a great propensity to fight the last war, rather than the present war. Military strategy which evolved during the Second World War finally brought victory, albeit at great cost in lives and material. Had Allied military strategy not evolved substantially during World War II, the Axis powers might well have been victorious. Traditional military strategy worked very well during the first phase of the war in Iraq, but something else was needed to follow up on our early successes. After a long while, we tried the "surge," and it has helped. The mobilization, training and use of indigenous forces doubtless contributed substantially.

Still, we must recognize a number of harsh facts of life:

Tribal hostility exists and will persist indefinitely in many countries, despite our most fervent wishes to the contrary. The post World War II creation of "countries" by drawing lines on a map, taking into account natural resources and the desires of the Allies, but with little regard to tribal hostilities, did not diminish those hostilities. The redrawing of country boundaries now, with regard to existing tribal hostilities, probably would do more harm than good; it would in any event be an herculean undertaking.

Just as tribal hostilities make it more difficult to foster the establishment of stable governments in Iraq and elsewhere, they also weaken the abilities of those places to harm us. The suppression of tribal hostilities under Saddam Hussein possibly made Iraq a stronger force for external evil than she now is.

If we are to accomplish anything at all useful, substantial unity of purpose at home in achieving necessary goals is essential. Otherwise, we will continue to suffer from a degree of "tribal hostility" likely to render our divided efforts nugatory.

We must attain an increased sense of urgency; the threats are real, and must be met. During World War II, President Roosevelt found it necessary to give first priority to defeating the Axis powers. Efforts at domestic social and economic reform were perforce given lower priority than he, and the country, would have liked. Failure to conquer the Axis powers would, in any event, have made the neglected domestic reforms useless. Once again, this is the case.

Although democracy is a truly glorious thing, it is not an immediately viable concept in many places, no matter how much we may wish it were. It generally needs a long incubation period and fertile soil in which to take root and prosper. It cannot be transplanted from fertile to infertile soil without first making the soil fertile, and we are foolish to think that it can be. British colonization of India over rather a long time worked to a modest degree, and the U.S., working with a very homogeneous and totally defeated people in Japan, managed to create a more or less democratic society where such had not previously existed. Efforts to export democracy to Africa have for the most part failed, abysmally.

Where it is necessary to deal with enemies themselves prone to tribal hostility, and which are for that reason and others poor candidates for the transplantation of democracy, we cannot realistically expect to create a climate in which anything resembling our way of life can flourish. However, we can stimulate, both overtly and covertly, increased openness — the availability of information from the outside world — and perhaps simultaneously, or in any event eventually, encourage (through free trade agreements, for example) the development of commerce and the availability of resources to permit it.

Without an appropriate sense of history and recognition that there are many who are anxious and able to emasculate and conquer an unresisting U.S., accompanied by a strong sense of national unity, we are powerless to live in peace and prosperity. Neither wishing that it were otherwise, nor the current climate of tribal/political hostility in the U.S., is likely to make things better.

This article is intended as a plea for national unity in the face of a common and deadly enemy. It is not intended as an apologia for President Bush; far from it. It is simply too early to make such judgments rationally. History, written years from now, will attempt to unravel the question of whether he was a good, mediocre or bad president. Currently, his popularity ratings are extraordinarily low; perhaps deservedly so. Like all national leaders, he made decisions. Some will be judged as having been good, some as having been bad. I would only point out that a president who presides over the entry into what becomes an unpopular war, and particularly if he fails to finish it satisfactorily, is bound to leave office with very little popularity. President Truman, as the then president, was popular at the end of World War II. Yet, he left office during a deadly stalemate in the Korean Conflict with popularity ratings nearly as low as President Bush now has. Truman is now generally regarded as one of our truly great presidents. Even Churchill, who presided over the belated British entry into and conclusion of what became a very successful war against Hitler's Germany, was promptly voted out of office when the war was over. He is now generally regarded as a savior of Western civilization.

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About Dan Miller

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    May I be the first to compliment you on another well-argued and challenging article, Dan.

    However, before the serious commenting starts, I must just say this to Baronius…

    ‘The Japanese Kamikaze pilots were in some respects similar to the Jihadist suicide bombers (Fox News, had it been in existence during World War II, would doubtless have referred to them as “homicide pilots.”)’

    Ha, Baronius! See – I’m not the one who keeps bringing up Fox News!!! Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha Ha!!! Ha –

    …sorry.

    [shuffles off stage right before anyone notices]

    ;-)

  • Baronius

    You can run, Dread, but you can’t hide!

    Very tight article, Dan. Loved the Mark Twain quote.

  • Dan Miller

    Thanks, Doc and Baronius, for the very nice comments, which I appreciate very much.

    Let me tell you a (no longer) secret: when I write these things, my primary goal is to stimulate discussion and controversy. Most often, I pretty much agree with what I write, and that is about 95% true of the current article.

    I really enjoy it when folks take opposing views, rationally presented, with which I can take issue. That is lots of fun.

    So, please take issue with something. Anything. Even just for the sake of argument. I have very thick skin, which rivals that of an alligator, and do not take the least offense when someone disagrees.

    Again, Thanks!

    Dan

  • Irene Wagner

    Though I’m not that great a judge of well-written articles, in my opinion this qualifies. OK, let me be the first to find something in here to contest. I wonder if (pg 4)

    “Sit[ting] down and talk[ing]” face to face “acknowledg[ing] the gross error of our wicked ways, ask[ing] forgiveness and provid[ing] reparations;

    is necessarily an “alternative” to

    prevention of “a world-staggering war” “by backing up peace overtures with even modest demonstrations of strength.”

    The first is one-sided groveling on the part of the US, but if it’s truly an “alternative” to the second, then the second would be describing something like the Marshall plan in all parts of the Muslim world where the US military has gotten involved—reducing to rubble first, then, as completely virtuous victor, helping to rebuild.

    Another way of putting this is: Radical Islam certainly has a lot to answer for, but do you think the US has things for which it might–even needs to–apologize as well? What would peace overtures look like if both sides recognized this? Could both sides recognize this? If a poor dog does not hate the man who makes him rich, why did Saddam Hussein (whom the US elevated to power) and the Mujahadeen (whom the US assisted in Afghanistan’s struggle against the invading USSR?) end up hating the US?

    I have not been a very “unificacious” person for the last two days, so I will listen quietly while the others duke it out.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    OK, Dan, I’ll oblige.

    First of all, it takes an extremely prejudicial read to interpret that Washington Post report on the 4000th U.S. death in Iraq as having a tone ‘almost approaching glee’. To me, it came across as a very dry report listing the incidents and casualties of that day.

    Dang liberal media!

  • Dan Miller

    Thanks, Irene

    Please let me think about it over night and respond tomorrow. I will do my best, but please keep in mind that the question of how we should best proceed is a complex one; there are many problems to which there are no viable solutions, and there are many solutions to which there are no real problems.

    Dan

  • Baronius

    Yeah, Dan, this site is always boring on Friday afternoons. I picture all the regulars hanging out together at Happy Hour somewhere, and they never invite me….

    I’m not impressed with your history of the Inquisition. It really only went nuts in Spain, and was quickly condemned by the Vatican. It didn’t seek to convert anyone by force. They only went after fellow Catholics who were suspected of heresy.

    The Crusades, on the other hand, are a great example of why I’m a conservative. The people, the religion, and the government all had the same bright new idea. And the idea, in and of itself, wasn’t a bad one: a counteroffensive against the Moors. But everyone got really excited, and didn’t think things through. Those mighty ancestors of Al Gore knew that they could save the world. Of course everything went wrong.

    I can see the analogy between the Crusaders and the modern Islamic extremists. The thing is, there have only occasionally been non-extremist Muslims.

  • Baronius

    No offense to Irene and Dread. You’re definitely part of the cool crowd. I just forgot to click the Publish button for half an hour.

  • zingzing

    baronius: “The thing is, there have only occasionally been non-extremist Muslims.”

    ko–lli ekat eht etab erofeb i daer eht elcitra. anyway, why do you think so? ever met one?

    (yeah, right.)

  • Clavos

    Well, so far, I’m disappointed. Not in the article, which I think is not only well written, but also thought-provoking, dealing as it does, with an issue about which we all should be thinking.

    I expected far more controversy in the comments thread, and was even planning on inviting Doc to bring his cooler and share my beer with me, while we lounged back on my lawn chaises, advantageously placed front row center.

    Where did everybody go?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The people, the religion, and the government all had the same bright new idea.

    Not exactly. It was the people who had the bright idea; the Church jumped on the bandwagon; and governments, as was accepted practice in those days, did as they were told by the Church.

    Clav, I just finished my last Sierra Nevada wheat beer. Got anything tasty in the cooler there?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    And Baronius… seriously. I’ve never met an extremist Muslim.

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    I’m not impressed with your history of the Inquisition. It really only went nuts in Spain, and was quickly condemned by the Vatican. It didn’t seek to convert anyone by force. They only went after fellow Catholics who were suspected of heresy.

    You need to expand your reading on the history of the Inquisition. Take a look into the fates of the Spiritual Franciscans, Cathars, Albigensians, Hussites, Waldensians and myriad other groups the inquisition suppressed. The inquisition predated the Jesuits and went on for hundreds of years before and after the rise of protestantism. It was much worse and more widespread than many realize.

    Dave

  • STM

    Fox News is nuts with that homicide bomber stuff.

    All bombers who kill people are homicide bombers.

    Suicide bombers are the only ones who do it by killing themselves. Even in the interest of at least presenting the news as it is, we need to mark that point of difference.

  • bliffle

    Not a very good article.

    Too full of unsubstantiated assumptions and imperatives. Alternatives are proposed which are not exclusive and exhaustive.

  • Dan Miller

    Irene,

    The “alternative” of sitting down face to face, acknowledging the gross error our ways, etc., was a frivolous one, along with no longer importing pornographic stuff to Iran. There are, of course, some things for which we could apologize, and we often do so when collateral casualties are inflicted on a very difficult to distinguish civilian population.

    Negotiations with Iran, Syria, Hamas, et al has not been effective. Israel, at the urging of the U.S., has done nearly every thing possible to win them over, with the exception of burning the Talmud on the Sabbath in Jerusalem. If all sides recognized the benefits of peace, it would be a much better world; unfortunately, it is not one in which we live.

    You ask, If a poor dog does not hate the man who makes him rich, why did Saddam Hussein (whom the US elevated to power) and the Mujahadeen (whom the US assisted in Afghanistan’s struggle against the invading USSR?) end up hating the US? The simple answer is that although we sometimes insult all canines by referring to Hussein, the Mujahadeen, et al as dirty dogs, they weren’t dogs; they were people. That was the difference between dogs and people noted by Mark Twain.

    Dan

  • Dan Miller

    Baronius,

    My one sentence “history” of the inquisition was not intended as a definitive exploration of the topic. However, as I understand the subject, it was in large part directed against Christian heretics, and also against converts from Islam and Judaism, many of whom had converted to Christianity to escape rather violent persecution and the sincerity of whose conversions were therefore suspect. Later, Protestants were targeted. Also, as I understand the situation,it lasted nearly four hundred years. That seems short in geological terms, but not in the sense that “short” is commonly used in reference to human affairs.

    The Inquisition was exported to Cartagena, Colombia in 1610 and persisted there until 1811; there was a brief resurgence between 1815 and 1821, when the Spanish government in Colombia surrendered to Simon Bolivar. When I was in Cartagena for six months or so eight years ago, I visited a very impressive museum devoted to the Inquisition, with many torture devices on display. They were pretty gruesome and made a strong and lasting impression.

    Dan

  • Dan Miller

    Doc,

    I agree that the Washington Post article which I cited was pretty dry, and recognize that I should have cited other or additional sources. Mea culpa. I still think that the wide-spread media focus on the four thousandth death was excessive; the four thousandth death was neither more nor less tragic than the 3,999th or the fifteenth death. I also adhere to the view that the deaths in Iraq received much more press coverage than did the later substantial reductions in numbers of deaths following the successes, albeit incomplete, of the surge.

    My view was well expressed by a military spokesman as follows: Major Brad Leighton, another military spokesman, deemed the media focus on landmark numbers inappropriate. “This isn’t a lottery,” he said.

    The four thousandth death was seen as a grim “milestone”, and it was hotly argued as a solid basis for getting out of Iraq. The very vocal opponents of remaining in Iraq used the four thousandth death to highlight their arguments that lives and money were being wasted. There may have been good and sufficient reasons to get out of Iraq, but reaching a grim “milestone” was not one of them. The point I was trying to make, probably poorly, was that although war is always horrible and although the death of any soldier fighting in a war is tragic, the death toll in Iraq has been far less than in most other wars. If a country goes to war, there will be deaths. As noted in the article, twenty thousand British soldiers died in just one battle, at Tobruk, and Churchill faced a censure motion shortly thereafter. The war was then going poorly, with hardly any indications of ultimate success; when wars seem to be going poorly, those in opposition make the most of it. Yet Churchill was able to withstand the censure motion after days of debate by a vote in the Commons of 475 to 25.

    To understate the situation rather grossly, President Bush is no Winston Churchill and that is unfortunate. The need for national unity is not on that account less, however, and its absence makes the situation worse, not better.

    Dan

  • Irene Wagner

    Thankyou for taking time to answer, Dan.
    I flubbed the grateful dogs question, but you answered it as graciously as you could given the idiotic way it was posed. I said I wouldn’t argue and I won’t, but to rephrase the question so it really asks what I meant it to ask: did the US give anything to the mujadaheen or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the ’80’s for which they had a right to be ungrateful? Or did we just make dirty dogs dirtier?

  • Dan Miller

    Irene,

    I have no idea whether what we gave them provided a right, or a rational basis, to become angry with us. I rather hope that we gave them what we thought, at the time, to be in our best interests, which did not necessarily coincide with their best interests. I suspect that we knew both were very dangerous, and that both might well become enemies in the future. It was the then current situation which concerned us. That is not an uncommon situation.

    During the Second World War, Churchill and Roosevelt knew very well that Stalin was a bad person, a dictator who had caused many deaths among his subjects for his own internal political purposes, and that he was very ungrateful and difficult to deal with. Like French General de Gaulle, for whom Churchill as well as Roosevelt had little love, Stalin had no great love for either Britain or the U.S., and demonstrated this by his conduct during and following the war. We nevertheless provided the maximum support possible to Stalin, involving sending U.S. and British merchant ships, escorted by military convoys needed elsewhere, through U-Boat and German surface war ship infested waters to bring military aid to Stalin. Almost as many tons of supplies were lost as arrived. So were many lives and ships. We had to do it, because Stalin’s armies were needed to keep the German armies occupied on the eastern front. Had they not been occupied there, and therefore free to devote hundreds of thousands of extra forces to the western front, the allies would almost certainly have lost the war.

    Sometimes, it is imperative for a country to rise above principle and give aid to bad people. In doing so, we are most not likely seeking to win their hearts and minds, but only to advance our own national interests.

    Twain’s dog-man comment has little to do with the reactions of leaders such as Saddam Hussein or the leaders of the mujadaheen. They will hate us or love us as their own interests dictate. The ordinary people under their leadership are a different matter. They seem to resent our ability to help them, perhaps on the theory that we have that ability because we are somehow better than we are.

    Dan

  • Ruvy

    Negotiations with Iran, Syria, Hamas, et al has not been effective. Israel, at the urging of the U.S., has done nearly every thing possible to win them over, with the exception of burning the Talmud on the Sabbath in Jerusalem. If all sides recognized the benefits of peace, it would be a much better world; unfortunately, it is not one in which we live.

    It should be noted that the Israeli régime, having lost its moral compass altogether, continues to follow a suicidal policy of appeasing the Arabs and all it gets us is missiles and more attempts a terror. And all the while, the American government continues to push us on this suicidal road.

    So, those of you in the States who advocate actually doing something to kick the shit out of perceived enemies in the Middle East have a point – if you can allow us to do the same without wagging your moralizing fingers at us. Remember we gave you the Bible, not the other way round, and we damned well understand the morality in it better than you do.

    But leaving all that aside, your enemy is not in Iraq, it is in Arabia under the Thugdom of the Wahhabi murderers. And your enemy is in Iran. Turning Tehran into nuclear glass BEFORE it ignites a regional war would be a good idea. Waiting until it actually gives its running dogs orders to start a war will result in far more deaths. Continuing to do business with the Wahhabi thugs will only impoverish you all. TAKE their fucking oil, kill their kings and be done with it. But see to it that the price of crude goes to the $40/bbl level before it bankrupts you.

    Finally, Dan, you need to consider Russia and China. They are still substantial nuclear powers and can cost you all an awful lot in a nuclear exchange – something which can still occur – Russia in particular has an axe to grind, while the Chinese are waiting to see if they can bring you down economically.

    Your revivified Churchill has quite a war to fight on his hands, Dan.

    Something for you to chew on this Sunday.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Ruvy… Doesn’t your fourth paragraph, above, somewhat deflate the good idea which you seem to imagine is in your third?

  • Irene Wagner

    Are you sure that was a moralizing finger you saw wagging, Ruvy? Neoconservative foreign policy analysts consult Machiavelli not the Bible.

  • Dan Miller

    Hi, Ruvy

    Part of the enemy is in Iraq, courtesy of Iran if for no other reason, and if we leave him there we will continue to be perceived by the Wahhabi and others as powerless. Maybe we can pacify the area, maybe we can’t. But if we don’t, who can or will? And if nobody does, it seems to me that the results will be very unfortunate.

    As far as I am concerned, Israel should not be restrained from looking after her own best interests. Just about every other country, with the exception of the U.S., does; why shouldn’t Israel? Unfortunately she, like the U.S., needs to pull together the national unity of purpose to do it. She seems to be having a bit of trouble on that front as well.

    I noted that Russia and China are potential problems, and both worry me — China slightly more than Russia. If we are, or at any rate are perceived to be, powerless and unwilling to act strongly, and not necessarily with force at least not now, they are likely to cause rather big problems. Speaking softly, without letting it be known that we are willing to use a big stick to the extent necessary, is ineffective.

    There is nothing useful we, Israel or any other country can do unless a modicum of national unity is restored; we seem to be receding from that goal, rather than taking even little tiny baby steps in that direction. That was the principal point I was trying to make in the article.

    Dan

  • Dan Miller

    In line with the observation in the article that good news is bad press and bad news is good press, an article in that rabidly conservative sheet, The Washington Post, notes:

    THERE’S BEEN a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks — which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war.

    The article goes on to illuminate the recent and rather dramatic “surge” successes, and suggests that When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

    Perhaps, if we recognize success at least to the extent that we bemoan failure, some degree of national unity might be possible.

    Dan

  • Clavos

    With all due respect, Dan, given the temper of the times, calling for recognition of any degree of success in Iraq is not likely to bring about unity, IMO.

    It’s more likely to generate even more disunity, as there are those among the citizenry whose partisan position against the administration is so virulent, they will acknowledge nothing but negative viewpoints.

  • Dan Miller

    Clav,

    Yeah, I know, but hope springs eternal . . . . Still, wouldn’t it be great?

    Dan

  • bliffle

    Guesses and fantasies about other peoples perceptions and psychology are poor basis for a military strategy.

    For example, IMO these are dumb ideas that will lead to failure:

    “#24 — May 31, 2008 @ 21:09PM — Dan Miller
    … we will continue to be perceived by the Wahhabi and others as powerless…”

    “… pull together the national unity of purpose …”

    “If we are, or at any rate are perceived to be, powerless and unwilling to act strongly…”

    “…There is nothing useful we, Israel or any other country can do unless a modicum of national unity is restored;”

    Opposition strategists will not long be fooled by fake demonstrations of ‘unity’ and resolve enforced by domestic censorship, political oppression, or propaganda.

    IMO It’s just plain dumb to try to trade real military and economic values for wishful dreams of enemy perception.

  • Clavos

    QED, Dan…

  • Dan Miller

    Res Ipsa Loquitur, Clav

    Dan

  • Ruvy

    Guesses and fantasies about other peoples perceptions and psychology are poor basis for a military strategy.
    …………..

    Opposition strategists will not long be fooled by fake demonstrations of ‘unity’ and resolve enforced by domestic censorship, political oppression, or propaganda.

    IMO It’s just plain dumb to try to trade real military and economic values for wishful dreams of enemy perception.

    Yup, that was the point of my post, Bliffle. Winston Churchill lead a war bent on winning, and Dan Miller’s erstwhile Churchill, the one he perceives America is missing, needs to do the same.

    In Jewish religious terms, what Dan (atheist that he is) is really calling for is someone to fight “the wars of the messiah” – the good fight where we know who is right and who is wrong, and where we have real faith in our struggle; all these things are missing from the American military campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as from the attempts of our own IDF to provide even minimal protection to us Israelis.

  • Dan Miller

    Ruvy,

    Thanks, I think.

    Obviously, mere perceptions of national unity ain’t worth much. Perceptions that Coca Cola is a wonderful drink, necessary to achieve happiness, may work in the advertising world. They don’t work in the present context, however. There has to be the real thing, and it has to be based on solid understanding of who is the enemy and who is not.

    You say,

    In Jewish religious terms, what Dan (atheist that he is) is really calling for is someone to fight “the wars of the messiah” – the good fight where we know who is right and who is wrong, and where we have real faith in our struggle. . . .

    I agree, although even an Atheist or Agnostic can have moral certainty that some things are right and that others are wrong. It’s not too complicated a concept, and maybe one of these days I’ll do an article exploring it.

    Dan

  • Ruvy

    I wasn’t being critical – just relishing the irony. You managed to put your finger on the issue that was the very problem – a sense of moral certainty. You don’t need to write an article about how even an atheist can do that. In fact, there is no need to justify that at all. I have an article in the hopper and you can deal with the question there when it comes out, should you desire. I’m sure you’ll have plenty to disagree with. It deals with similar issues, and there are times when irony ain’t so funny….

  • Dan Miller

    Ruvy,

    I know you weren’t being critical. When you are critical, it comes through loud and clear, and I usually appreciate your criticisms. I look forward to reading and responding to the article; you may be surprised about the points on which we agree and disagree.

    Dan

  • bliffle

    Churchill had hardcore military experience and was an intelligent man with a work ethic that allowed him to apply himself intelligently and thoroughly to the tasks he faced. He had to struggle with the giant egos of Stalin and FDR and was dealt a very weak hand. His personal strength and intelligence were his tools.

    So why did we elect a witless lazy twit like GWB?

  • Dan Miller

    Biffle,

    Leaders like Churchill don’t come along very often, and perhaps they come along less often now than before. And even if there were one now, we would not elect him or her. Our leaders are a reflection of us, and right now, we are pretty sad.

    Dan

  • troll

    …who first used chemical weapons on the Kurds – ?

    yup – one hell of a guy…need more like him to save the world

    we don’t need no stinking national unity…we need human (and troll) unity

  • Dan Miller

    There are some interesting insights in this article, which deals with the opposition parties in Venezuela:

    Now we can discuss the opposition organization. It is fitting that I discuss them last because after ten years of chavismo they are still defined by a reaction to chavismo actions, not really by their proposals. . . . in some districts the “primary” battles of the opposition are becoming nasty enough that they could end up in a division of sorts. . .It is [un?]fortunate that the primary process of the opposition so far [h]as evolved positively because it has served to mask the major deficiency of the opposition: its unwillingness to tackle the dangerous reality of Venezuela as Chavez is trying to impose his political project in spite of his loss last December. This blogger includes himself in the list of those who look with astonishment the major opposition candidate talk exclusively of potholes needing to be fixed.

    The parallels to what is going on in the U.S. are not exact, but it is still interesting to view our own political processes with one eye looking out the window at what is going on elsewhere. I should hasten to point out that the blog author is a Venezuelan, living in a remote part of Venezuela, and is very much anti-Chavez. How he manages to keep his site up, I really don’t know. But he is an excellent source of information for those who are interested.

    Dan

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    it is still interesting to view our own political processes with one eye looking out the window at what is going on elsewhere

    I wish more of your compadres had the same enlightened view, Dan. Too often it’s: “America is America, and we and we alone decide what America does. If the rest of the world doesn’t like it, they can lump it. We still reserve the right to tell everyone else what to do with impunity, however.”

    Your Venezuelan blogger’s view is interesting. Like the anti-Chavez grouping in that country, the Democratic Party’s actions are currently largely driven by the Republican-dictated political paradigm, thanks to decades of GOP dominance in Congress, in the White House, or both.

    The same sort of thing happened to the British Conservative Party after World War 2: they allowed themselves to get swept up in the socialist ideals that had broad appeal in the country, and to perpetuate them when they were in office even though they were ideologically opposed to them. It took a truly Churchillian figure – Margaret Thatcher – to effect a sea change in the direction of British politics.

  • Matt

    Pat Buchanan’s new book makes some great points but falls apart when he spins he tries to spin his antisemitism in to something he thinks people can digest. He poises him self in a position where you have to agree with him, but then drops a bomb in your lap. Nice tactics, but none the less futile. I suggest reading this book review on his new book.