Work and Days

Wars, then and now

The Hate-America Industry

When bin Laden praised William Blum’s Rogue State, it soared to the top of Amazon’s sales charts. So too now has Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival—as soon as the semi-literate Hugo Chavez held it up at the United Nations. The Left sees it as McCarthy-like to even suggest that our own are the ideological godheads of the enemy. But it is true.

I am going through the rough draft of a new Al-Qaeda reader this morning, translated and edited by Raymond Ibrahim, soon to be released by Doubleday. What do Dr. Zawahri and bin Laden complain about from their caves in Pakistan? Why, of course, the American failure to sign Kyoto, our desecration of the environment, George Bush reading a goat story on the morning of 9/11, Halliburton, and—that critically-important concern of radical Islam— the lack of campaign finance reform in the United States. Much of their rants are simply jottings and notes taken from watching Fahrenheit 9/11 and killing time in hideouts by listening to talking heads on CNN.

This is all fine and good in a free society, but there are two concerns—other than the abject hypocrisy of these comfortable prenatal Americans kicking at their own embryo. A tenured Chomsky—who thrives in pleasant, secure surrounds, makes a living through secure air travel, and is paid by a university rich in Pentagon contracts—can rant only on the surety that what he sees in the abstract as evil and so must end won’t quite fall apart in the concrete. William Blum said he was pleased by bin Laden’s endorsement, but wouldn’t want the terrorist to call him. But why wouldn’t he, since both agree on the central evil of our times—and the need to address it?

And that’s the point: there is a hot-house plant feel to this shrillness, in which authors sell books, and filmmakers rake in profits, but their invective supposedly doesn’t really weaken the system enough to imperil them and their children. But for a terrorist to read from these American intellectuals that the United States is the greatest source of terror in the world is not to begin a “conversation,” but to embolden them even further to try ending American altogether.

Second, the hysteria of the hate Bush’s America industry has moved the entire critique of the United States far to the left—and now over the edge. Hugo Chavez’s performance trumped Khrushchev’s shoe-thumping, and was right up there with Hitler at Nuremberg. The Council on Foreign Relations welcomed in Ahmadinejad, who once again denied the Holocaust to their faces: would they have invited Pinochet to lecture them about the “lies” that any Chileans were killed, or a P.W. Botha to assure them apartheid was a vast exaggeration? We live in an age not merely of award-winning films and mainstream novels depicting the assassination of President Bush, but of Venezuelan, Cuban, Iranian, and North Korean thugs relying on just this domestic industry of self-hate for their very message.

The End of Wars

Today I finish the last class of a five-week course I taught this late summer at Hillsdale College on World War II. What is striking is the abrupt end of the war, whose last months nevertheless saw the worst American casualties in Europe of the entire struggle. 10,677 of our soldiers died in April 1945 alone, just a few days before the collapse of the Nazi regime— about the same number lost a year earlier during the month of June in the 1944 landings at Normandy and the slogging in the Hedgerows. Okinawa saw our worst casualties on the ground in the Pacific—and was declared secure only 6 weeks before the Japanese surrender. 1945 was far bloodier than 1939, a reminder that in the midst of a war daily losses are not necessarily a barometer of how close or far away is the end of the carnage. Ask the Red Army for whom the final siege of Berlin—361, 367 Russian and Polish soldiers lost—may have been their worst single battle of their entire war, itself characterized by killing on a scale unimaginable in the West.

I don’t know how close or far away we are in Iraq from securing a chance for Iraqi democracy to stabilize, but I do know–despite the recent spate of doom and gloom journalistic accounts–that, as in all wars, it is almost impossible to tell from the 24-hour pulse of the battlefield.