Along the Tracks

Friday, December 05, 2003
 

Back for now


Have to ... huh, huh, huh ... write fast ... huh, huh, huh ... catch my ... huh, huh, huh ... breath.

Okay, it’s not quite that bad - but this has been a very busy couple of weeks! And next week, I get to be Northwest Signal sports editor, start laying out Living Today, oversee a week’s worth of thorny school board and budget stories, prepare a sample issue for all of Napoleon, make a three-and-a-half hour trip to an undisclosed location in the middle of Thursday, then drive right back, finish my Bryan Times column, then go to Bowling Green to appear on “The Journal” and debate the Iraq war. Oh, the BT Christmas Party is Wednesday night, too. I might even be doing the Saturday Times - at 5 a.m.

But that’s next week. Right now, let me offer a few pithy comments:

  • As Mickey Kaus says, John Kerry is finished, done for, kaput. Mickey thinks the new challenger-apparent to Howard Dean will be Wesley Clark, but I can’t bring myself to believe any serious Democrat would vote for such a blatant fraud. I think Kerry’s impending fizzle helps Dick Gephardt, who should win Iowa. This is going to be a two-man race very quickly, but I think Gephardt is the other man.
    Oh, and as far as Kerry’s withdrawal speech, how about this: “I cannot in good conscience take part in a selection process which rewards cynical posturing and takes this party farther and farther away from its traditional, steadfast dedication to American ideals of fairness, hard work and common interests.” I’m not sure what that means, but it would fit well with most of the things Kerry says.
  • Plenty of folks have been trying to “parallel” this War on Terrorism with past wars, and with specific historical points in those wars and post-wars. You can find similarities all over, and make good arguments for why one or another is correct.
    I’d like to turn the comparisons on their head, for a change, using the World War II example: How would the world have received a policy of military action by Franklin Roosevelt if he had set out on a path of pre-emption, say in 1938. At that point, the Holocaust was in its initial stages, Japan was just beginning its rape of China, and Italy had conquered Ethiopia in quasi-colonialist fashion. Hitler seemed dangerous - but he hadn’t attacked anybody, and claimed he had no intention of doing so. Japan’s bloody efforts were occurring half a world away. Italy was just following the same course Britain, France and even the United States had within the past fifty years. Why was war so urgent? There was no “imminent threat.” Hitler was “in his box.” The war in Ethiopia or in China did not directly affect the U.S. or Britain or France. Yes, the humanitarian situation was bad in Europe, Africa and Asia, but military action by the U.S. and allies would only make things worse. We needed to get to the “root causes” of “why they hated us.” Above it all hung the American economy, still deep in the doldrums, making such “adventures” too expensive to even consider.
    Well, if FDR had decided to act, it seems quite likely that millions of Jews would have lived who instead died; European destruction on a cataclysmic scale could have been avoided; China and Korea would have been largely spared the brutality of the Japanese - experiences which fed directly into the success of the Communists, the Korean War a decade later, and half a century of death and misery under dictatorships.
    This isn’t meant as a criticism of FDR. He operated in the times, under the politics and with the knowledge he had. It is doubtful he could have mustered the nation before we had the shared experience of a devastating attack (like 9/11 seemed to do for this war). What this thought experiment allows is the opportunity to learn from what happened in the past and, hopefully, to find a better path in today’s world.
    So instead of looking at the War on Terrorism as World War II - or whichever war one might choose - we should look back on World War II (or whichever war) through the lens of this war, noting how the Bush Doctrine might have changed things back then. No one can discern all paths and consequences, but clearly, standing up to an aggressor like Mussolini, cutting off a militaristic Japan and pre-empting the growing threat of Nazi Germany would have resulted in a very different world. Looking at the hopeful possibilities, and the mournful reality, I think taking such actions in 1938 would have resulted in a better world.


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