Friday, June 04, 2004

Losing the Peace...in Perspective

Rush Limbaugh has been talking about an article in Life magazine written in 1946 about how the United States was losing the peace in Europe after World War II. I made reference to this same piece back in October of 2003. Rush's attention, via F. Lee Levin, prompted me to give a couple excerpts . . . tell me if these sound familiar.

"Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American."

"Never has American prestige in Europe been lower. People never tire of telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops, of misunderstanding of European conditions."

"'Have you no statesmen in America?' they [the Europeans] ask."

The greater benefit of reading the piece is in gaining an appreciation of the fact that the situation in Iraq is not, historically speaking, unique nor particularly horrible or tragic. The aftermath of war is messy. Idealistic plans formed in the vacuum of a war room yield to pragmatic solutions evolved from realities in the fray. People must adjust to these new realities. None of this is new and it should not have been considered abnormal that things haven't gone perfect in Iraq. There are legitimat points to debate: the use of force in Fallujah, the dealings with Al-Sadr, letting the Iraqi army disappear, allowing the looting, etc. Lessons can be learned from these particular instances and from the reaction that our responses to these "crises" have ellicited among the Iraqis. We did not really know that much about Iraqi, indeed Arab, society: they do not, as of yet, know much about ours. We are still learning about each other and how together we can make things work in this particular moment in history.

However, some simply revel in second-guessing for short term political gain. They seize on every small flare up as proof that we are doomed to failure. They hope to portray failure in Iraq as indicative of the general ineptitude of the President. All to win an election. Others seize on these same instances for more philosophic reasons. They have travelled so far down the path of rejecting American exceptionalism, or even the less tendentious theory that America is a force for good in the world, that they are willing to go to any length to portray America as a capitalist empire, or some such, all to prove that their warnings of "quagmire" and "empire" and "blood for oil" should have been heeded.

The media and much of the elite academics did not want this war. They view war throught lens of Vietnam and can conceive of nothing good to be gained from war. They hold rhetoric dear and can conceive of no situation in which force is necessary. Failure to persuade is never the fault of the intransigent antagonist, it is always the failure of wronged protagonist. Deep in their hearts, they hope for failure in Iraq so that they can say "I told you so."

History shows that the aftermath of war is messy. It also shows that there have always been those who have second-guessed both the righteousness of the cause and the methods employed by the victors. Most importantly, history gets it right, and history will show that America won a just war and helped a people who had been oppressed, in one form or another for 4,000 years, gain the freedom to determine their own fate.

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