Monday, September 15, 2003

Deja vous all over again?: An interesting piece in the Globe and Mail that points out how long it was after WWII before America began to "win the peace."
Six months before, the world had cheered as the statues of the dictator came crashing down. The Americans had seemed heroic. But now things were going very badly. The occupation was chaotic, the American soldiers were hated and they were facing threats from the surviving supporters of the dictator, whose whereabouts were uncertain....

That's how it looked in Germany in November, 1945. In our memories, history tends to become compressed: There was V-E Day, then the American soldiers were cheered by the people of Berlin, then the president announced that hundreds of millions would be spent on the Marshall Plan, then Germany became the prosperous and democratic place it is today.

That is not how things unfolded. The United States has always been good at removing dictators from power, but the tedious, dirty work we now call "nation building" has never come naturally, or quickly. The enormous success of European and Japanese reconstruction did not even begin to emerge until long years of pain and disorder had passed.

Mr. Saunders point is well taken, but it doesn't really excuse the Bush administration for some poor planning and mistken expectations. In 1945 we were faced with a Germany that was utterly decimated after half a decade of war. The U.S.itself was utterly exhausted, both militarily and on the homefront. It was a tough sell to the public, after all that had been sacrificed, to spend the money and time to rebuild our enemy's country in such a way. If I'm not mistaken, that kind of action, by an undisputed victor, was unprecedented. It's not surprising that it took several years to decide it was the thing to do. (I read somewhere recently, but can't remember where, a scathing review of the MP and how Europe would have recovered faster without it. Very interesting, wish I could find it.)

The Bush admin knew very well what would be required of it After Sadaam. Of course we would be expected to rebuild the economy, the infrastructure, everything. Christ, if we do get a handle on the terrorist radicals attacking us, and forcefully stop them, we'll be accused of squashing dissent (Ashcroft will take the fall). I don't think that's fair, necessarily, but they can't claim to be surprised. Bush and his crowd need to deal with the fact that nobody is on their side, not Europe (minus Blair), not the rest of the Middle East (to the extent their loyalty isn't U.S. taxpayer funded), and not the Democratic party at home. It's been my feeling that Bush could prevail in Iraq because those who oppose him must walk a very fine line in their criticism, lest they sacrifice any spoils, economic or political.

All is not lost yet, by any stretch. But we need some good news, soon. 2005 will be too late.

Props to the professor for the link.

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