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Works and Days

Politics and War, Then and Now

November 17th, 2006 - 3:17 pm

Is it a Roar or a Meow?

Governance is not the same as easy criticism. Already the Democrats are learning, as is eternally true of our wonderful political system, that loud opposition is not the same as being responsible for governance.

Suddenly the beloved press is looking again into John Murtha’s questionable ethics—and wondering whether we can really leave Iraq so easily. Nancy Pelosi was unable to see Murtha elected as majority leader, and we wonder about her political skills when it is matter of being a leader rather than a megaphone. And we still await something novel from the Democrats about Iraq commensurate with their vehement criticism. Surely they will soon introduce legislation rescinding Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, and wiretaps, since they convinced us that such measures have done nothing to make us safer and couldn’t conceivably have anything to do with the absence of another 9/11 attack.

Couldn’t We Just Get Along?

I suggest a few new proposals that might benefit the country and enhance Democratic prestige. First, eliminate farm subsidies. Most go to corporate farms while smaller family farmers get nothing. No one can determine why a carrot or peach grower doesn’t qualify, but a cotton grower or dairyman receives government loot. It’s a perfect populist issue for such self-acclaimed reformers.

Strike a deal on energy: allow drilling in Anwar and off the coasts in exchange for tougher mileage standards on trucks and SUVs. Offer tax breaks both for renewable energy development and coal gasification. End tariffs on imported ethanol.

Put aside worry for the moment about guest workers and amnesties and just close the border now—through more fencing, more agents, more employer fines, and offering a verifiable ID system.

Introduce a spending freeze. Since the revenues are soaring, the current deficit is a result of government spending exceeding the rate of inflation.

So it is gut-check time for the Democrats. Either they will seek to appear moderate and institutionalize their newfound majorities, or prove lunatic and beholden to all the old fringe groups that turned voters off. I hope their pros have sent out a memo: don’t be photographed with Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, or any of the Hollywood elite. Muzzle John Kerry. Shut up the Wal-Mart-buying John Edwards on the evils of Wal-Mart. Tell Sens. Durban, Kennedy, et al. not to say a word about our troops. Don’t let Congressman Murtha or Sen. Harry Reid give any lectures on the culture of corruption. Instead they should follow James Webb around or the newly elected Jon Tester of Montana who at least look like old-style Democrats that were not at ease with pompadour hairstyling, windsurfing, and Volvo SUVs.

Israel

We are witnessing strange things about Israel. Columnists this year wrote about it being a “mistake.” And for the first time emboldened Islamic leaders talk seriously not about restoring lost land on the West Bank and the Golan Heights, but of “wiping” it off the map entirely.

The Lebanon war saw not just slanted coverage, but outright falsification and lying from the major Western new servers—many of them served by local stringers who provide on the ground propaganda and faked photos. And now the Holocaust has been reinvented, as the old idea of a safe haven for the survivors of the Third Reich has been transmogrified into “a one bomb state.” Mein Kampf is translated as “Jihadi” on the West Bank and sells briskly. We are seeing a venomous anti-Semitic hatred in the Arab-supported state papers that the world has not witnessed since the 1930s and 1940s.

Back home, the Left/Right split on Israel has also been turned upside down. If you wish to read sick hatred about the Jewish state go to the leftist blogs or the campuses, not the Montana badlands. Somehow the Palestinians have reinvented themselves as liberal victims of Western, white male imperialists. Thus, in the manner of Blacks, Chicanos, Gays, and Women they are deserving of the usually accorded sympathy for their oppressed status—never mind the Islamists’ gender apartheid, religious intolerance, homophobia, and fundamentalism that should be so repugnant to the liberal mind.

Now more than ever Israel is nearly all alone—and so serves as a barometer in the West of true liberal courage of conscious. It has no oil, no international terrorists, no large population, no real material advantages and no threats to be made in the most crass sense.

Instead, it is a humane liberal society, an atoll of reason in a surrounding sea of autocracy. So it is the perfect litmus test for the Westerner: on the one hand is principled support for an embattled democracy; on the other, is easy appeasement that wins applause from millions, eases concerns about oil and terrorism, and offers cheap relief of elite guilt by trashing the very Western culture that rewards us all. Tragically, most leftist elites these days fail the test. Somehow, especially in Britain, they put themselves on the side of illiberal groups like Hamas or the Palestinian Authority whose history is antithetical to very notion of tolerance.

Now we have yet again the ubiquitous Jimmy Carter. Not content with a failed Presidency, he is determined to turn his legacy into even a greater failure, lecturing us in his new book about an apartheid Israel.

Unlike blacks in his own Georgia of the 1950s, Israeli Arabs vote and enjoy civil liberties, perhaps a million of them, with another 100,000 plus as illegal aliens. In fact, they enjoy rights not found in other Arab countries, inasmuch as Jews treat Arabs inside their own country not just better than Arabs treat Jews (they ethnically cleansed 500,000 from the major Arab capitals in the 1960s), but in the sense of civil liberties better than Arabs treat Arabs.

Carterism is a new postmodern pathology in which smug piety, dressed up in evangelical new-age Christianity, pronounces from afar moral censure on the more righteous party—on the theory that acting well but not perfect is worse than acting badly. Carter reminds me of the timid parent who spanks hard the good son for the rare misdemeanor because he takes it with silence while giving a pass to the wayward son for the daily felony because he would throw a public fit if corrected.

Debating

This past eight days I have been at various places from San Diego to off the Mexican Coast to New Orleans discussing, and debating scholars and pundits on issues ranging from illegal immigration (no to open borders), troop levels in Iraq (don’t add and don’t subtract, but change tactics and force the Iraqis to step up), and World War II (the Red Army, for all the savagery and ordeal on the Eastern front, was not mostly responsibility for winning the war, and its soldiers were no more courageous than Americans at Bastogne, Normandy Beach, Iwo Jima, or Okinawa.).

Sir Max Hastings and I this morning gave differing views at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans on the role of the Soviets in World War II in connection with the efficacy of totalitarian armies versus democratic forces. In passing I made the point that much of the Red Army’s zeal came not from the superior motivation (provided by the fear of being shot), but by the fact it was for nearly 4 years fighting on the soil of Mother Russia. And when it was not—Poland 1939, Finland 1939-40, or even Afghanistan in the 1980s—it fought far worse as an expeditionary force than did the Americans in WWI or WWII, whether at Bastogne or Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Yes, it is true that 3 out of 4 Wehrmacht soldiers were killed by the Red Army, but the vast majority of Italian and Japanese soldiers were killed by Anglo-Americans; and strategic bombing, Lend-lease, fighting in three simultaneous theaters on three continents, supplying allies, running a submarine and surface naval campaign across the globe were all beyond the Soviets. In general, I found Hastings astute, deeply learned, and polite, and our differences in emphasis were discussed cordially and in a context of gentility.

World War II Redux

On the topic of WWII: After September 11, suddenly the war was in the news as never before, as it became the reference point, rightly or wrongly, for much of our current struggle with the jihadists. 1930s appeasement was seen again in terms of preemption, whether against Saddam or Iran. With the end of the Cold War, and the nuclear plans of North Korea and Iran, we recalled Hiroshima as never before—especially with the specter that the once bombed Japan might well be forced itself to go nuclear.

How do wars end? We seem now always to seek to explain a reformed Japan and Germany in contrast to the up-in-the-air end of the Korean War or Gulf War I, seeing again the wisdom of our fathers who were intent not to repeat the indecisive armistice of World War I.

Intelligence failures? After the WMD fiasco we can now understand the failures to anticipate Pearl Harbor or know the magnitude of exactly what was going on in the death camps. Poorly armored humvees brought us back to thin skinned Shermans and the disastrous day-light, unescorted B-17 raids of 1942-3.

And the UN—that postwar liberal, Western notion of collective security and governance—seems hopelessly naive, given the illiberal nature of the non-Western states in the General Assembly and Security Council. Then there was the constant looking back to Pearl Harbor after 9/11—and wondering what would it take to truly anger the American people when we lost more on September 11, 2001 than on December 7, 1941, and on the home soil of the continental United States, right in the heart of our two greatest cities.

Finally, we all evoked the generational differences. To me it was summed up when Democrats alleged that “We took our eye off Afghanistan by going into Iraq”. My Lord!—this is a country that fought Italy, Japan, and Germany all at once, and was in an inferno on Okinawa while racing eastward past the Rhine, while bombing Berlin, while slogging up through Italy, while igniting the Japanese mainland. Our ancestors apparently had quite a lot more eyeballs than did their lesser sons and daughters.

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