Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Why the 'Iraq 2003 - Mexico 1941' comparison is historically off the mark

UPDATED — Read why Kerry's 'Mexico 1941 - Iraq 2003' comparison is an insult to Mexico and Mexicans everywhere: "the comparison is an insult to the intelligence of anyone with the most basic working knowledge of the past". Be sure to read a German's take on what would have been the better analogy in the speech.

And while we're on the subject of historical analogies: a more pertinent analogy than the one involving Mexico, I read elsewhere on the web (and I wish I could remember where), would have been if the United States, in response to Pearl Harbour and Germany's declaration of war, had invaded Morocco. Which, of course, is exactly what FDR did.

The Expat Yank takes this further:

… the war between the U.S. and Germany did not commence with a U.S. invasion of Germany's North Sea coast, near, say, Bremerhaven. The U.S. forces in the European Theater proceeded to invade French North Africa in November 1942, and first fought not against Germans, but on landing beaches and in towns against French collaborationist troops. Within weeks, the Americans were also battling against Italians and, finally, ran into some Germans in Tunisia.

In July 1943 the U.S. and Britain invaded, oh, no, not Germany . . . but Sicily. There, most of the defenders were Italians, with a couple of good divisions of Germans in support. …

The U.S. and British Allies finally got around to fighting purely Germans in Normandy . . . well, maybe not "purely", for there the Allies also captured large numbers of Cossacks, Russians and even Koreans, who were, for a variety of reasons, fighting for Nazi Germany.

In October 1944, the Allies FINALLY reached the German border. In their first big ground fight for a GERMAN city, U.S. troops found themselves in Aachen, facing Germans in probably the closest thing to a Stalingrad-like battle that the Americans faced in Europe — house to house fighting against an enemy that used even the sewers to move troops about. The surrounded German forces finally surrendered, but by then the ancient city had been virtually destroyed. …

Nazi Germany fell about 6 1/2 months later.

Interestingly, the Aachen tourist site notes that:

. . .On the 21 October 1944 the city was liberated by the Americans after 6 weeks of intense fighting – approx. 65% of all houses and flats had been destroyed. . .
Liberated by the Americans. Not conquered. That is a GERMAN web site. (Someday, hopefully, one of the first small Iraqi cities liberated by the coalition will have a similar comment on its tourism web site.)

After World War II ended, it all made relative sense. It was all part of the "grand strategy." Uh-huh. But imagine how the strategy undertaken by Washington and London during World War II would have been debated by the public in 1943, had there been bloggers, and — oh, good grief — "anti-war" activists of today's sorts?

It all started with Morocco, echoes Steven den Beste:
…why was it that the first nation that the US invaded in WWII was Morocco? Certainly the Moroccans had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.

Morocco was actually a French colony and was under control of Vichy France, and was defended by French troops. While it was technically true that Vichy France was an "ally" of Germany … It's clear that Vichy France didn't represent a danger to the US and certainly Vichy France had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. So why did we attack Morocco?

It's because we were fighting a war, not a battle, and because we were removing danger to us, not retaliating. It is far more difficult to get Americans to reach the point of being willing to fight a war than most people acknowledge, but when it does happen the general American idea is that you fight to remove all of the dangers, and to clean up the entire situation. If you fight, you fight to win. And you make sure that you completely finish it so that you don't have to fight that particular war again. …

America's involvement in WWII was begun by Pearl Harbor because it made war politically possible. But though Japan had attacked us, and though there's no reason to believe that Hitler even knew it was coming, let alone had anything to do with planning it, Hitler was a greater danger to the US in the long run than was Tojo. Having finally crossed that extremely high barrier and become willing to go to war, the US did not just fight against and defeat the Japanese, for that would have left the German danger unaddressed. …

Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, but American involvement in WWII had nothing to do with revenge. Yes, many individual citizens were motivated by revenge, and on a political level that is what made war possible. But the US government got involved in the war to remove the danger we faced, and the primary danger was Nazi Germany.

Which is why we invaded Morocco. Morocco had nothing directly to do with the war, but it was a necessary first step. … We fought in Africa to kick the Germans and Italians out of there, so that we could use Africa as a staging ground for an attack on Sicily, conquest of which permitted an attack on Italy proper, which eventually knocked Italy out of the war and made it change sides and forced Germany to send more troops there because they could no longer rely on Italian forces (not that they were ever very reliable). Continued operations in Italy tied down large amounts of Germany forces and supplies which were therefore not available to use against the USSR or to hold France, and Italy was also used as a staging ground for an assault on southern France which took place shortly after the Normandy invasion. Once that happened, Germany had too many fronts to fight on and couldn't be strong everywhere; the Soviets launched a major offensive in parallel with the Anglo-American offensive in France and after that things went very badly for Germany. And it all started with Morocco.

Taking Morocco had nothing to do with anything that the people or government of Morocco had done. It was a strategic step, an individual battle in a much larger war. To try to analyze the Torch landings in Morocco in a vacuum, without that larger perspective, would make it seem completely nonsensical. And attempting to make sense of the attack on Morocco by assuming that it was directly inspired by Pearl Harbor would lead you to believe that we were insane.

But we weren't. Japan was dangerous, and we were fighting against Japan too. But Germany was the bigger danger. Once the US was in the war, we applied two thirds of our strength to the European theater. Pearl Harbor was what it took to get the US into the war, but once that happened America fought to remove all the major dangers facing it no matter where they were. …

To demand that our battle for Iraq be justified in terms of Iraqi involvement in the attacks against NYC and Washington is similar to demanding that the attack on Morocco be justified in terms of Morocco's involvement in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Obviously it wasn't involved, so obviously there's no justification for the Torch landings. But that argument is based on a fallacy: it assumes that we're only permitted to respond directly to actual provocations and must leave alone other dangers we face, no matter how serious they are, until and unless they too directly attack us. …

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