Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Those who forget history are condemned to be Senators

Condi Rice, during her last appearance before the Senate, was forced to listening to that yapping terrier, Barbara Boxer, ask questions about why the U.S., having gone into the war because it thought there were WMDs in Iraq, actually wants to stick around and help create a Democracy in that country. Rice attempted to remind Boxer that we did precisely the same thing vis-a-vis Germany and Japan in WWII, only to have Boxer cut her off preemptively with the non-responsive statement that some of Boxer's relatives died in the Holocaust, so that there is nothing more to be said on the subject. (Did I say Boxer's a yapping terrier? I erred. I like dogs. Boxer is a mosquito -- small, offensive, limited in thought, and potentially very dangerous). Here is David Gerlernter's brilliant response to Boxer's attempt to destroy intelligent debate:

Rice's analogy was exactly right. And by the way, using the Holocaust as a bat to beat political enemies over the head is demeaning to Jews and to human dignity. Having lost relatives in the Holocaust does not, in any case, confer expertise in U.S. history. Democracies rarely declare war to improve the world, as Rice could have explained had she had the chance. They fight to protect themselves, sometimes to fulfill treaty obligations. But once a war is underway, free peoples tend to think things over deeply. Casualties concentrate the mind. We refuse to let our soldiers die for too little. America at war has lifted its sights again and again from danger, self-interest and self-defense to a larger, nobler goal. Same story, war after war. Iraq fits perfectly. At first, Colonial America made war on Britain to loosen the British grip on commerce and society, not to create an independent state. Only as the war dragged on and costs and casualties mounted did public opinion swing round toward independence. In 1861, the North reluctantly made war on the Confederacy to hold the Union together. President Lincoln was painfully aware that, at the start of the fighting, freedom for the slaves would not have commanded popular support as a cause for war. Only later, as casualties mounted and blood ran in rivers, did freeing the slaves become the Union's ultimate goal. We marched into World War I behind an idealistic war message from President Wilson to Congress. But the U.S. was in a fighting mood because of Germany's threat to sink unarmed American merchant ships and a German secret message (intercepted by Britain) offering Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico if it joined Germany against the U.S. Only later did self-determination in Europe and the creation of a League of Nations become American war goals. Which brings us to World War II. And, of course, Rice is dead right: Once the war was over, we spent years cultivating democracy in Japan and Germany. But we entered the war because Japan attacked us and, four days later, Adolf Hitler declared war on us. What do we conclude when the secretary of State makes a plain statement of historical fact and a senator won't listen? That it is only natural for demagogues to attack thoughtful, polite officials who are trying hard to tell straight truths about a complicated war. The Boxers of this world ought to be met with single-minded slogans, but no doubt Rice can't see why she should stoop that low. Americans who don't know history are the demagogue's natural prey. Boxer's statements assume that Americans at large know as little about history as she does. Let's hope it's not true.