Friday, June 06, 2008

Remember and Distinguish

UPDATE: below

Iraq isn't Vietnam. It's not World War II or Korea. Indeed, it's less fatal than the "peace dividend," as Gateway Pundit showed: "The US military lost more soldiers in the first 5 years of the Clinton Presidency than the US military lost in the first 5 years in Iraq."

I mourn the 4405 Coalition soldiers who have been killed, the three Americans captured and approximately 30,000 American wounded, the captured and wounded of other coalition forces and accidental civilian casualties in Iraq. Yet, on the 64th anniversary of D-Day, it's noteworthy--especially for those who "know" Normandy--that Iraq's no Normandy:
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy [NOfP note: here defined as June 6th to late August 1944]. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners.
Writing at Commentary, Jennifer Rubin provides perspective:
One wonders if today the event would be characterized in the same way and whether over 10,000 Allied casualties in a single day would be reported as a great tragedy, a sign our military planners had failed us in some way. . . [NOfP note: Michelle Malkin and Roger Kimball answer that question.]

Some basic historical literacy might provide Americans with some perspective on our current war and some understanding that even in the greatest triumph, mistakes, horrid mistakes, are made and yet through enormous bravery and determination we can persevere. At the very least we might have an appreciation for the enormity of the sacrifices needed to destroy fascism in the 20th century.
Apart from those referenced in this blog's title, most agree that destroying radical Islamic terrorism is a worthy 21st century task. Yet many claim the invasion was unjust and/or would withdraw precipitously. Do Iraq war opponents genuinely judge our sacrifice too steep?

I doubt they've even considered the numbers . Many are merely anti-American. The rest are unrealistic, a hang-over from triumph over Hitler, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote this week:
In the luxury of some 60 years of postwar peace and affluence — and perhaps in anger over the current Iraq war — Buchanan and Baker and other revisionists engage in a common sort of Western second-guessing. The result is that they always demand liberal democracies be not just better and smarter than their adversaries, but almost superhuman in their perfection.
Parallel rows of offset headstones form the database of D-Day freeing "Fortress Europe": "[T]wenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9386 American, 17,769 British, 5002 Canadian and 650 Poles." Today, we recall those who served, those who fell, and those who fight on. And we remember the fruits of appeasement as well as the additional fighting it forced.

In wartime, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


Mark Ledeen in the June 7th Wall Street Journal:
Ever since World War II, we have been driven by a passionate desire to understand how mass genocide, terror states and global war came about – and how we can prevent them in the future.

Above all, we have sought answers to several basic questions: Why did the West fail to see the coming of the catastrophe? Why were there so few efforts to thwart the fascist tide, and why did virtually all Western leaders, and so many Western intellectuals, treat the fascists as if they were normal political leaders, instead of the virulent revolutionaries they really were? Why did the main designated victims – the Jews – similarly fail to recognize the magnitude of their impending doom? Why was resistance so rare?

Most eventually accepted a twofold "explanation": the uniqueness of the evil, and the lack of historical precedent for it. Italy and Germany were two of the most civilized and cultured nations in the world. It was difficult to appreciate that a great evil had become paramount in the countries that had produced Kant, Beethoven, Dante and Rossini.

How could Western leaders, let alone the victims, be blamed for failing to see something that was almost totally new – systematic mass murder on a vast scale, and a threat to civilization itself? Never before had there been such an organized campaign to destroy an entire "race," and it was therefore almost impossible to see it coming, or even to recognize it as it got under way.

The failure to understand what was happening took a well-known form: a systematic refusal to view our enemies plain. Hitler's rants, whether in "Mein Kampf" or at Nazi Party rallies, were often downplayed as "politics," a way of maintaining popular support. They were rarely taken seriously as solemn promises he fully intended to fulfill. Mussolini's call for the creation of a new Italian Empire, and his later alliance with Hitler, were often downplayed as mere bluster, or even excused on the grounds that, since other European countries had overseas territories, why not Italy?

Some scholars broadened the analysis to include other evil regimes, such as Stalin's Russia, which also systematically murdered millions of people and whose ambitions similarly threatened the West. Just as with fascism, most contemporaries found it nearly impossible to believe that the Gulag Archipelago was what it was. And just as with fascism, we studied it so that the next time we would see evil early enough to prevent it from threatening us again.

By now, there is very little we do not know about such regimes, and such movements. Some of our greatest scholars have described them, analyzed the reasons for their success, and chronicled the wars we fought to defeat them. Our understanding is considerable, as is the honesty and intensity of our desire that such things must be prevented.

Yet they are with us again, and we are acting as we did in the last century. The world is simmering in the familiar rhetoric and actions of movements and regimes – from Hezbollah and al Qaeda to the Iranian Khomeinists and the Saudi Wahhabis – who swear to destroy us and others like us. Like their 20th-century predecessors, they openly proclaim their intentions, and carry them out whenever and wherever they can. Like our own 20th-century predecessors, we rarely take them seriously or act accordingly. More often than not, we downplay the consequences of their words, as if they were some Islamic or Arab version of "politics," intended for internal consumption, and designed to accomplish domestic objectives.

Clearly, the explanations we gave for our failure to act in the last century were wrong. The rise of messianic mass movements is not new, and there is very little we do not know about them. Nor is there any excuse for us to be surprised at the success of evil leaders, even in countries with long histories and great cultural and political accomplishments. We know all about that. So we need to ask the old questions again. Why are we failing to see the mounting power of evil enemies? Why do we treat them as if they were normal political phenomena, as Western leaders do when they embrace negotiations as the best course of action?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carl, thanks for remembering the day, appreciating those who are carrying forward the legacy of the D-Day vets, and for remembering Dad in the same vein. Much appreciated, Doug