Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I know you're never, ever...

...supposed to make any comparisons with Nazi Germany -- ever -- but I'm going to make one today, okay?

On Monday I displayed my (true) peacenik side (I'm a child, after all, of the Vietnam Era); now I'm going to sound like a bit of a -- gasp! -- neocon. Ready?

But first a history lesson. Germany, you may recall, lost the First World War and was forced to abide by the harsh Treaty of Versailles which led to mass resentment among the populace and, ultimately, the guy with the funny mustache. Now, it would have been bad enough if the Nazis had just terrorized their own people, but they also became a threat to their European neighbors and eventually the whole world. (I would argue that the Nazis' scapegoating of the Jews was not unlike the Jim Crow laws following the defeat of the South in the Civil War, but that's the subject of another post.) In hindsight, Nazi Germany had to be dealt with, despite the best intentions of Gerald Ford, Kingman Brewster and the rest of the America Firsters. (If Hitler had had "the bomb" and the ability to deliver one over here, it would have been a lot different.) Most important, Germany was de-Nazified after the conflict and rejoined the Community of Nations. Now they -- and Japan -- are among our closest allies. (Funny how that works, isn't it?)

I can't help seeing something similar in ISIS. Iraq was defeated, militarily, and its government effectively handed over to the Shiite majority. The Sunnis, meanwhile, were badly treated by the new Baghdad regime and became, understandably, more and more resentful. (Sound familiar so far?) When the civil war broke out in neighboring Syria, the Sunnis there and in Iraq morphed into ISIS, a la the post-WWI Germans into Nazis. Again, it would be bad enough if ISIS were just mistreating its own people and beheading the occasional Western journalist unlucky enough to find himself in its midst, but like Nazi Germany, ISIS -- through terrorism -- has become a threat to the West and the United States.

So what are we to do? I'm afraid, just like in the 1940s, the U. S. may have to lead an allied force into ISIS-controlled territory and rid the region of this menace. And that means, yes, boots on the ground -- lots of 'em -- and an occupying force for decades to come. But it has to be a true coalition (not just the U. S. and Poland), with other Western nations, Middle Eastern countries, and even -- like in the 1940s -- a Russian presence. It has to be "The World against ISIS," nothing less. And, while I'm at it, we need to bring back the draft. That's easy for me to say (my kids are too old now to serve), but this volunteer army stuff is just not fair. (Do you really think we would have invaded Iraq in the first place if the children of the upper-middle class were at risk? I don't.) No, we all have to be invested. It can't be a half-assed effort like before; it has to be like World War II. If we can't agree on that then we shouldn't even bother.

(Remember when General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, testified that "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would probably be required to occupy Iraq? Let's bring back the draft and send a million -- and be prepared to leave them there a while. As someone noted on Twitter yesterday, occupying Germany for 70 years has worked pretty well so far.)

So there you have it: the dovish response and the hawkish one -- all in the space of three days. Am I conflicted? Yeah; sue me.


James said...

Vietnam seems like a better comparison both in terms of tactics (asymmetrical warfare) and motivation (reaction to occupation) of the "enemy". I guess I should make clear that I am not a fan of ISIS but I think when you consistently invade a region and set up oppressive puppet regimes to strip it of its natural resources you are going to be complicit in creating people lost to violent reactions. I think the United States needs to take some responsibility for its role in creating this Frankenstein if it hopes to find new and apt ways to defuse the situation.

Ed Crotty said...

Agree that a multinational force needs to fix this problem. Disagree that US or any Western country should "lead". As for the draft, I will defer to the military who says they are not interested. But I do think there should be a "war tax". Only people with sons of a certain age would be subjected by the draft - let the rich send their dollars off to war.