Pundit vs. Pundit (Prohias)

Calpundit busts Instapundit:

ANALOGIES….Just a note to my conservative brethren: any chance we can stop working our way through the microfilm archives of 1946 newspapers? If the analogy of Iraq to Vietnam is strained, the analogy to World War II is simply rubbish. There is literally nothing in common between the two.


Actually, Kevin, I’ve gotta disagree here. There is a core lesson that we can take from the WWII papers, that the kinds of things we need to accomplish in Iraq take time. Even in the far more Western and ‘organized’ environment of post-war Germany and France, things looked challenging for the first year or so. Even in the highly hierarchical society of Japan, there was violence and chaos for a period of time.

Those are important lessons, and we’re right to be confronted with what the news and commentary of the time were saying to help us put our current situation into perspective.

While I do think that Bush’s team booted the postwar planning (simply by not having the resources, propaganda, and staffing prepared), I also think that the anti-war crowd, once they didn’t get their way, have been far over the top in claiming ‘failure’ prematurely. And history exists exactly to help us make those kinds of judgments.

29 thoughts on “Pundit vs. Pundit (Prohias)”

  1. To which I’ll add, we can also look back and see the success of efforts in Germany & Japan, despite the over-the-top “we’re losing the peace” rhetoric that is common to both cases.

    Need I also add the similarity of the “where’s Hitler?” questions?

    There is a big difference, however. Back in 1946, the Republicans didn’t have a substantial faction that wanted America to fail in Germany and Japan.

  2. Except that the original analogy that Instapundit put forth was about rationale for the war (WWII is just like Iraq, because Hitler was behind in completing the atomic bomb), and was utterly ridiculous. The post had NOTHING to do with reconstruction and the Marshall Plan. Therefore, your post and Joe’s initial comment are inappropos.

    Being of Norwegian descent, I have an idea why Hitler was behind on the Nazi A-bomb. Watching the History Channel, I also know that Germany declared war on the U.S. (and vice versa), had lobbed several hundred V-1 and V-2 rockets into London, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and occupied much of Europe.

  3. Norbizness:

    Whether the Germans WERE behind in developing the A-bomb is separate from whether we THOUGHT they were behind on the Bomb.

    Einstein took Fermi and Szilard’s case before FDR, iirc, in 1940, BEFORE the US entry into WWII. It was not until after the war was over that we knew just HOW far behind the Germans had been.

    By the standards of today, the multi-billion dollars (in 1945 dollars, probably trillions, today) spent on the Manhattan Project, diverting vital wartime supplies and probably costing us lives in the process, would mean “FDR lied, GIs died.” [I have to agree, the Marshall aspect is probably off, although Marshall, as Army Chief of Staff, certainly knew.]

    Moreover, along the lines of “PNAC” references, the US was openly planning on going to war w/ Germany, and even making it the priority target, LONG before Pearl Harbor (think Newfoundland meeting). One wonders if the same kind of jaundiced view of FDR and Churchill planning a war when the US was not even a belligerent would have been evidenced back then?

  4. Norbizness… I assumed he was referring to series like The Counterrevolutionary’s posts with headlines from 1946 on the failing occupation of Germany, etc. They’re quite excellent, and worth a look. Don’t have the link handy.

    With respect to stuff like the A-bomb… read The Counterrevolutionary’s article that Instapundit linked this time. His point that nothing else Hitler did would itself have been grounds for war according to many American left-liberals is largely valid. Indeed, these were very arguments of Joe Kennedy, Henry Ford, and the other Nazi sympathizers / America Firsters who wanted to keep America out of the war. Successful arguments, too… at least until Pearl Harbor.

    Where THECR doesn’t tread is in the way the stakes change the game.

    As Dan’s series re: The Weekly Standard piece is demonstrating, intelligence is always an inexact science. It’s a bunch of information, some (much?) of which is not true, and the task is to try and figure out which is which by looking for patterns etc., despite not just lack of access but usually a determined effort to deny and deceive. Agents like Richard Sorge (KGB, maye the best WW2 agent on any side) and Eli Cohen (Mossad agent in Syria, later caught and executed) who can decsiviely confirm major intelligence questions are really, really rare.

    The implications are clear: intelligence will not, by itself, suffice to provide adequate warning, confirmation, or security on the levels required when dealing with weapons with the damage potential of nukes. Which means policies – and even major actions – must often be built on suspicions and probabilities rather than proofs if keeping America safe is one’s primary goal. This was true even before 9/11, but that event has thrown this truth into sharper relief.

    Welcome to the desert of the real.

  5. Norbizness –

    Sorry, but you’ve flatly missed on this…the series that Calpundit is commenting on is clearly about the postwar issues.

    The prewar issues are a separate (and interesting) issue…


  6. Hmm, well, the US government did not occupy France in the post-war era, so I’m not quite sure why you even mention France. The Free French movement of de Gaulle set up provisional governments as areas of France were liberated by the allies or were self-liberated (much of Brittany was self-liberated for example); within six-months local elections were held in most areas of France (by December, 1944, most of France was free of German occupation). So to compare the situation in Iraq to what happened in France in 1944 is wholly wrongheaded; there is nothing like the Free French movement in Iraq to carry out the tasks that were carried out in France in other words.

    And I guess the real question is, why are you comparing war coverage as opposed to the facts on the ground? If they are like situations, then the veil of war coverage is not where I would look for comparisons.

  7. The use of the internet in the 2004 US campaign is just one more step of the technology revolution. I want to help this revolution grow, and to that end yesterday I set up http://blogforcanada.com as a place where Canadians can put forth their views on Canada’s political future. Unlike Dean’s online presence this isn’t controlled by any political party. It’s for the people themselves.

  8. praktike,

    That is the only analagous group as far as I can tell (I am no expert on Iraq’s political landscape – I have a difficult enough time dealing with my own country’s political system and understanding Europe and America’s); but if that is the case, then that would argue for an independent Kurdistan. Which, in my opinion, isn’t a bad idea.

    I suspect that when the British created Iraq, they created it like Britain and France created most of the second empire colonies – with a population divided along ethnic and religious lines that could be kept at each other’s throats. Whatever “natural” ethnic or religious affinities and borders that did occur were vut to ribbons in other words. I think this makes a decent argument for cutting Iraq into at least two pieces – an independent Kuridstan and a seperate Iraq south of it.

  9. Well, the link in the briefest of all Instapundit posts took me to an article and post that had to do with bad intelligence about the German A-bomb program; likewise, the commenters to the post all spent time with such pre-war considerations (especially the question of whether declaring war on Germany was “pre-emptive”). Haven’t been reading the rest of the 1945-1946 NYT articles, sorry to say.

  10. If the plan was to muddle through based on actual circumstances (i.e. adapt to conditions as they existed rather than go by some “plan” that would have been out of date by the time it was implimented) Bush and team have done an excellent post war job.

    People way underestimate the value of adapting to reality.

    The Brits understand having an experimental attitude. They even have a word for it. “Muddling through”. No shame in it at all.

  11. M. Simon,

    Calling it all “experimental” is simply a lame excuse for lack of preperation; or rather, in this case, an excuse for ignoring very good advice with the sort of pigheaded behavior of Monsieur Rumsfeld and his clique.

  12. “in this case, an excuse for ignoring very good advice”

    Which would be what? And if you were planning to quote de Villepin, don’t bother replying.

    Reacting to circumstances on the ground is a perfectly legitimate way of hadnling a situation when you don’t know ahead of time what you’ll find. It shows a willingness to engage with facts unclouded by preconceptions and a willingness to learn from mistakes rather than defend them. I like it. And it’s working pretty well.

  13. Yehudit,

    No, I am thinking of the plan created by your own government; that is the US State Department.

    Reacting to circumstances may indeed have its proper role; but if that is your primary modus operandi, then you will be in trouble sooner or later. And to be frank, there are enough experiences with these sorts of things that claiming that they are flying blind isn’t remotely credible.

    Eyeing its Oil, “Freedom Loving” US re-opens relations with Equitorial Guinea, Run by the Vicious Dictator Teodoro Obiang – http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/ap11-16-222242.asp?reg=AFRICA

  14. Einstein lied to us! The horror!

    Also, I love how the anti-war crowd keeps harping about “lack of planning” when prior to the war, they were complaining that the Bush administration was doing too much planning. You just can’t win with these boobs.

  15. Compounding to the WWII analogy, Germany and Japan never had any combined military operations. Hitler was committed to his master race theories of which Japanese had no part (not many blond haired and blue eyed Japanese) and Japan was committed to it’s view that Asian was their’s for control and coloniaztion, not for Europe. So calling Germany and Japan as being the “axis” powers was a lie. These two groups hated each other.

  16. Charles,

    The axis alliance was at best a convenience; there was little in the way of practical help that Japan could give to the Germans and vice versa (except for creating a two-front war perhaps). And the Japanese kept the Nazis in the dark about their plans to attack Pearl Harbor. Why Hitler gave the US an excuse to fight the Nazis by declaring war on the US has never been clear to me; it was something that was required of him, and nothing the Japanese could have forced the Nazis to do.

  17. Oh, dear. Jean Bart, if your goal is to rehabilitate the sullied image of the glorious French in the eyes of les Americains, vous etes en train de rater.

    On to more substantive critiques.

    Since we’re making comparisons to WWII, it seems relevant to compare postwar planning operations.

    Let’s see, it’s now understood that postwar planning for Iraq didn’t begin until January, and then only with a small amount of brainpower and other resources.

    I’m referring to a NYT magazine article, which is pay-only, so here’s a relevant Knight-Ridder article from a few months back.

    Postwar planning for WWII, on the other hand, began several years before the end of the war. Consider this WWII database containing:

    …some 250,000 pages [that] chronicle the activities of dozens of special committees established by the U.S. government to formulate postwar foreign policy. Together, these documents detail the foundations on which much of modern U.S. foreign policy was built.

    This extensive collection includes research reports, official policy papers, revealing memoranda, meeting minutes, State Department organization charts, and many other internal documents.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m don’t think it’s possible for any plan to be clairvoyant. But the more you prepare, the better you are able to respond to events you don’t expect.

    I went to see Giuliani speak a few months ago. He said that his first reaction to 9/11 was something like “Holy Shit! We never thought of this!” Shortly thereafter, he realized that the major components of the proper emergency response were already there, they just needed to be put together in a different way. Rudy said that “relentless preparation” had helped him and the City be able to respond calmly and with great assertiveness.

  18. Praktike: surely some of the experience we had in reconstructing Germany would have been of use in Iraq? I mean, one reason we spent years preparing was that we had no such experience. While even Bush supporters admit that, having decided to wing it for the postwar, we had to reinvent a lot of wheels.

    Although I was against the Iraq War, I think we should set up within the military or as a new civilian department an organization with real expertise in failed-state reconstruction. We are also falling behind in Afghanistan, in no small part for lack of resources, but also lack of practice. (Our Karzai government rules over a tiny fraction of the demesne of the Soviet’s puppet government, and you know how they ended up.)

  19. Andrew, I don’t understand your question.

    I was trying to make the case that planning is good, and is in no way inimical to flexibility in response to changing situations. And I was also trying to show that the OSD put a lot less thought into this than they should have.

    I agree that reinventing the wheel is stupid; we have plenty of more recent nation-building experience to draw upon.

    Indeed, I think this administration has shown that it is not, in fact, “serious” about nation-building. Sure, there’s lots of money flying around now, but they still seem to think that solving physical infrastructure problems is the most important way to build a democracy.

    If they were so serious about democracy, they’ve have studied it a lot more, and poured a lot more resources into promoting it. I hope they’ve become serious, but I fear not.

  20. Praktike, I was trying to say that just b/c we needed years of prep for Germany, we didn’t need years of prep for Iraq. But we needed more than the zero we got.

  21. Praktike:

    Did all this post-war planning begin before the start of WWII? The only way we would have had an equivalent amount of time would have been to begin planning under Clinton to invade Iraq. Hell, we couldn’t even get Clinton to respond effectively to attacks! And how much planning went into post-war Kosovo? Any excuse to “blame America” will do, I suppose. I’m much more impressed by a President (and staff) who tries an approach, recognizes its’ shortcomings and adapts and overcomes.

  22. SDN, what are you talking about?

    You didn’t get my point at all. And that nasty Ann Coulter-esque line about blaming America first is incredibly stupid in most cases, and misdirected in this particular instance. It was America’s planning for post-war Europe which I indirectly praised above.

    Furthermore, if need be, in future comments I will explain the difference between “America” and “the Executive Branch.”

    And if you really want to make a go of arguing that less planning is better than more planning, be my guest.

    And by the way, after regime change became official US policy in 1998, we sure as hell should have been thinking about the implications of that policy. The Pentagon, State, Department, and other branches make plans for things that haven’t happened yet or aren’t policy yet all the time.

    So yes, we should have developed extensive nation-building plans for Iraq under Clinton, especially since we had extensive invasion plans on the books. Shame on Clinton.

  23. Translation of CalPundit’s statement:

    “Hey, could you guys stop it with all the logic and history and especially the facts? I’m trying to make shrill, empty-headed accusations here and those ‘facts’ are just terribly inconvenient for me. KTHXBYE”

  24. AL,
    Regarding your original post… that is why I have made the comment (and will continue to do so) that the Dems will not even have a chance at the White House for the next nine years until they get better perspective and a true sense of history.
    Kevin has become a poor shill for the party, and it ain’t pretty. If that’s the best they can put forward (despite Bush having tons of weak spots), they are dead in the water. There is a lot to legitimately put forth against Bush, but most of the criticism is the wrong argument against the wrong poing at the wrong time. I can’t explain it. It’s like suddenly developing a tin ear after leading the chorus.

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