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Nation-Building As Done By Actual Grownups - Riffs and Licks
steelbrassnwood
steelbrassnwood
Nation-Building As Done By Actual Grownups
In a column headlined "Our Blindness," Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist Mark Helprin grimly questions our preparedness for handling any of the major challenges facing the U.S. in the 21st century, which he identifies as the rise of China as a world power, the possibility of a global pandemic, and the disgraceful lack of any significant civil defense effort despite plentiful warnings of possible catastrophes, terroristic and otherwise.

And he not only ridicules Bush's attempt at nation-building in Iraq, he succintly answers the "We did it in Germany and Japan and we can do it in Iraq" argument:
Approximately 150,000 troops occupy Iraq, which has a population of 26 million and shares long open borders with sympathetic Arab and Islamic countries where popular sentiment condemns America. The Iraqi army was dispersed but neither destroyed nor fully disarmed. The country is divided into three armed nations. Its cities are intact.

In contrast, on the day of Germany's surrender, Eisenhower had three million Americans under his command -- 61 divisions, battle hardened. Other Western forces pushed the total to 4.5 million in 93 divisions. And then there were the Russians, who poured 2.5 million troops into the Berlin sector alone. All in all, close to 10 million soldiers had converged upon a demoralized German population of 70 million that had suffered more than four million dead and 10 million wounded, captured, or missing. No sympathizers existed, no friendly borders. The cities had been razed. Germany had been broken, but even after this was clear, more than 700,000 occupation troops remained, with millions close by. The situation in Japan was much the same: a country with a disciplined, homogenous population, no allies, sealed borders, its cities half burnt, more than three million dead, a million wounded, missing, or captured, its revered emperor having capitulated, and nearly half a million troops in occupation. And whereas both Germany and Japan had been democracies in varying degree, Iraq has been ruled by a succession of terrifying autocrats since the beginning of human history.
Helprin, whose novel Winter's Tale is the reason you can't easily declare Jack Finney's Time and Again the best NYC fantasy novel of all time, is a long-standing right-wing contributor to the page, which has been criticizing Bush more harshly than you'd expect for the last year or so.

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Current Music: Sheryl Crow, "We Do What We Can"

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Comments
bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: January 26th, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a very instructive post, in two ways. First, and most obviously, Helprin's debunking of the false parallels between postwar Iraq and postwar Germany and Japan is right on the money, and a jarring reminder of the differences even for those of us who know the history of World War II and its aftermath pretty well. (I don't know if he mentions it in the piece, but what's also conveniently forgotten by the neocons who seek to link postwar Europe and postwar Iraq, is that living conditions in the victorious European countries, the Soviet Union, and across Asia, were fairly bad for a decade following the defeat of the Axis.)

The second thing that strikes me about this post is an LJ phenomenon. I've noticed in my own blog that posts quoting news stories, and especially columns, rarely draw many comments. In reading this item, I have to wonder if it's because postings of that kind don't give the reader much to grapple with: the original author of the news piece or column has said it all.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: January 26th, 2005 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've noticed in my own blog that posts quoting news stories, and especially columns, rarely draw many comments.

I've noticed this as well, and I do think it's basically a reluctance to post a "yeah, what he said" comment. One of the reasons I prefer posting these things to emailing them is that you don't start the inevitable "Great quote" thread unless someone actually has something to say.

Of course, pictures of big machines prompt ten posts in 15 minutes, so that may tell you a bit about what people are interested in...
bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: January 27th, 2005 12:05 am (UTC) (Link)
You want to see what people are really interested in, post a nude picture—of just about anyone—and jump back so that you're not buried in the incoming blizzard of comments.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 28th, 2005 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Nation-building

While those of us who voted for Kerry might find some small comfort in seeing fissures appear among conservative support for Bush, it is indeed very small comfort. Does anybody believe Kerry would have been any more able or inclined to recognize, much less deal with these very real threats?

Where do we go from here?

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bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: January 28th, 2005 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Nation-building

Does anybody believe Kerry would have been any more able or inclined to recognize, much less deal with these very real threats?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Are you kidding me?
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: January 28th, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Nation-building

Short of actually breeding anthrax himself in the basement of the White House, it's hard to imagine how Kerry could do worse. I'm not sure he could address Helprin's three threats well, but not ballooning the deficit and not renouncing international cooperation would be a nice start.
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