Monday, March 20, 2006

Ahistoricality Alert: Rumsfeld's Progress

Rumsfeld says that we've done well in Iraq and must stay the course to be vindicated by history.
Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries.
Ralph Luker, Manan Ahmed and Hiram Hover have all noted this as a bad historical analogy, and I quite agree. But they haven't gone far enough. They haven't actually said why.

Let's start with the Nazis, shall we? I'll ignore, for the moment, the fact that we pretty much did hand postwar Japan back to the people who ran the war against us, leaving the Emperor in place, turning anti-nationalist reform laws into anti-communist purges and turning a blind eye while conservative parties and leaders retook control. I'll let pass the Nazis who we found useful enough to import to the US or allowed to escape to Latin America, etc. I'll even ignore -- in the ironic rhetorical way in which I draw attention to it -- that we allowed East Germany to go straight from Nazi to Soviet control; not happily, of course, but because we clearly didn't have the "will to fight" that war at that point. What did we do with West Germany? We conquered it, purged it, and stayed; not because it was good for Germans but because Germany was now the front line in the Cold War and it was to our benefit to stay and very much to our benefit to protect our weakened allies.

And how about that post-Soviet thing, eh? Did we fight a war to free the Warsaw Pact nations and I missed it? No, we never invaded Russia, nor even sent troops to its former satellites/colonies until well after they'd arranged their own affairs (with considerable aid from the EU, those baguette-twirling technocrats) and were stable enough to be considered reliable allies (despite the frequency with which former Communist parties and party leaders get votes and hold positions of responsibility, something we'd never allow in Iraq). How hard have we worked to keep former Soviet Republics from being under Russian domination? Some of them went back voluntarily; some have become their own insular totalities; others are wasteland war zones; for none of them have we done a damned thing worth emulating anywhere else in the world.

Rumsfeld concludes
What we need to understand is that the vast majority of the Iraqi people want ... better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country.
What's in that ellipsis? "...the coalition to succeed. They want..." If you take that out, it's much closer to the complicated, uncomfortable truth.

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