Ed Driscoll

'We Came, We Saw, We Left No Trace'

Remember back in September of 2002 when one blog ran the photo above and wrote:

This picture was taken in the days immediately after Japan’s surrender to the Allies. This picture became public, and spread alarm throughout the Japanese. Why? Because it showed that Japan had been defeated. There was an obvious difference in the stature and demeanor of MacArthur v. Hirohito. MacArthur is relaxed, wearing a relatively casual khakis. Hirohito is stiff, in very formal attire, and looking a bit worse for wear. The picture created an impetus among the Japanese to engage in self examination for the first time, and with the active help of the MacArthur, truly changed Japanese society forever. Now why do I bring up this picture? Because this is exactly the point that Steven [Den Beste] is trying to make. We need to inflict a serious, undeniable defeat on the both Islamism and Pan-Arabism.


Ironically, right above that post, the author wrote the next day:

Ewwwww!!! Someone arrived at my blog by searching for “Big testicular pics” on Google. I want to get more hits, but not those hits. Ick!

Actually, those two posts dovetail surprisingly well. Certainly, the liberals who ran the American government of the mid-1940s had much bigger balls and were thus infinitely more confident in their assumptions than their counterparts who control American culture today. As Alan Brinkley wrote in The Publisher, his 2010 biography of liberal Republican Henry Luce, the founder of Time and Life magazines, who coined the phrase “The American Century” in the early 1940s, his vision of how the much of the planet would be shaped at the conclusion of World War II, a vision that was certainly embraced by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations:

“What can we say and foresee about an American Century?” [Luce] asked. His answer was bold, ambitious, idealistic—and filled with the missionary zeal that had shaped his life. “It must be a sharing with all peoples of our Bill of Rights, our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our magnificent industrial products, our technical skills. It must be an internationalism of the people, by the people, and for the people.” America was already the “intellectual, scientific and artistic capital of the world,” he claimed, and Americans were “the least provincial people in the world.” But more important than that the United States now had “that indefinable unmistakable sign of leadership: prestige. And unlike the prestige of Rome or Genghis Khan or 19th Century England, American prestige throughout the world is faith in the good intentions as well as the ultimate intelligence and ultimate strength of the whole of the American people.” The creation of an American century would require great vision. It would mean a commitment to “an economic order compatible with freedom and progress.” It would mean a willingness to “send out through the world [America’s] technical and artistic skills. Engineers, scientists, doctors, movie men, makers of entertainment, developers of airlines, builders of roads, teachers, educators.” It would mean becoming “the Good Samaritan of the entire world,” with a duty “to feed all the people of the world who … are hungry and destitute.”

Most of all, the American Century as Luce envisioned it would require:

a passionate devotion to great American ideals … a love of freedom, a feeling for the equality of opportunity, a tradition of self-reliance and independence and also of co-operation….[W]e are the inheritors of all the great principles of Western civilization—above all Justice, the love of Truth, the ideal of Charity…. It now becomes our time to be the powerhouse from which the ideals spread throughout the world and do their mysterious work of lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmist called a little lower than the angels.

From these elements, he concluded, “surely can be fashioned a vision of the 20th Century to which we can and will devote ourselves in joy and gladness and vigor and enthusiasm…. It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.”


That idea held roughly until the death of JFK, followed by a successor administration that believed they could simultaneously go to the moon, fight the Cold War, fight a hot war in Vietnam and Texas-size the New Deal with the Great Society. In the aftermath of that hubris, and a fair amount of cognitive dissonance, liberalism would come crashing down to earth, and become obsessed with a whole host of reasons why the nation — and the planet — were royally screwed. Environmentalism, zero population growth, a so-called energy crisis and a whole plethora of other doubts were the symptoms of a self-created mental depression that once manic liberals found themselves wallowing in during the entire 1970s.  In the early part of that decade, Patrick Moynihan said, “Most liberals had ended the 1960s rather ashamed of the beliefs they had held at the beginning of the decade.”

And they’ve never recovered their confidence in America since. Which is why, as with just about everything out of Washington these days, Mark Steyn writes in his latest column that the war in Afghanistan has become just another postmodern Show About Nothing:

The last crusader fort I visited was Kerak Castle in Jordan a few years ago. It was built in the 1140s, and still impresses today. I doubt there will be any remains of our latter-day fortresses a millennium hence. Six weeks after the last NATO soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. Before the election in 2010, the New York Post carried a picture of women registering to vote in Herat, all in identical top-to-toe bright blue burkas, just as they would have looked on Sept. 10, 2001. We came, we saw, we left no trace. America’s longest war will leave nothing behind.

They can breach our security, but we cannot breach theirs – the vast impregnable psychological fortress in which what passes for the Pushtun mind resides. Someone accidentally burned a Quran your pals had already defaced with covert messages? Die, die, foreigners! The president of the United States issues a groveling and characteristically clueless apology for it? Die, die, foreigners! The American friend who has trained you and hired you and paid you has arrived for a meeting? Die, die, foreigners! And those are the Afghans who know us best. To the upcountry village headmen, the fellows descending from the skies in full body armor are as alien as were the space invaders to Americans in the film “Independence Day.”

The Rumsfeld strategy that toppled the Taliban over a decade ago was brilliant and innovative: special forces on horseback using GPS to call in unmanned drones. They will analyze it in staff colleges around the world for decades. But what we ought to be analyzing instead is the sad, aimless, bloated, arthritic, transnationalized folly of what followed. The United States is an historical anomaly: the nonimperial superpower. Colonialism is not in its DNA, and in some ways that speaks well for it, and in other ways, in a hostile and fast-changing world of predators and opportunists, it does not. But even nations of an unimperialist bent have roused themselves to great transformative “cleaning processes” within living memory: The Ottawa Citizen’s David Warren wrote this week that he had “conferred the benefit of the doubt” on “the grand bureaucratic project of ‘nation building’… predicated on post-War successes in Germany and Japan.”

It wasn’t that long ago, was it? Except that, as Warren says, the times are “so utterly changed.” It seems certain that, waging World War II today, the RAF would not carpet-bomb Dresden, and the U.S. would not nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And, lacking the will to inflict massive, total defeat, would we also lack the will to inflict that top-to-toe “cleaning process”?

Ah, well. Kabul is not Berlin or Tokyo. As long as wily mischief-makers are not using it as a base for global mayhem, who cares? To modify Bismarck, the Hindu Kush is not worth the bones of a single Pennsylvanian grenadier, or “training officer.” Afghanistan is about Afghanistan – if you’re Afghan or Pakistani. But, if you’re Russian or Chinese or Iranian or European, Afghanistan is about America. And too much about the Afghan campaign is too emblematic. As much as any bailed-out corporation, the U.S. is “too big to fail”: In Afghanistan as in the stimulus, it was money no object. The combined Western military/aid presence accounts for 98 percent of that benighted land’s GDP. We carpet-bomb with dollar bills; we have the most advanced technology known to man; we have everything except strategic purpose.


But plenty of ways to distract the public.

Surprisingly Related:Frummery.”

Flashback: An early sign that the Bush Administration lacked the cultural confidence to transform the failed states of the Middle East the way Truman hit the CTL-ALT-DLT keys on Germany and Japan — when it accepted the politically correct assumptions of the left described here and failed to push back.

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