As of Thanksgiving, the war in Iraq has now stretched on longer than the United States’ involvement in World War II. To mark the occasion, the Washington Post decided to ask a bunch of genuinely significant people to reflect a bit on the meaning of that war for our own historical homent. Inexplicably, they asked me to contribute something to the conversation. Really, I’m just honored to find my words sandwiched between those of Henry Hyde and Ted Stevens:
Without question, the Second World War serves as a kind of default symbol for national virtue, and every president since that conflict has attempted to justify major domestic and international initiatives by evoking its memory. Our memories of World War II often emphasize the collective efforts of ordinary Americans to improve the world, to bring into existence a vision of social justice and international law in response to the utter breakdown of the global order. In its sloppiest form, though, the World War II analogy is used to inflate threats, to name enemies, and to elide distinctions between groups or historical forces that should not be confused with one another. We could easily make a list, for example, of a dozen or more figures who have been sold to the American public as the “next Hitler” since 1950, and we have only to look at the concept of “Islamofascism” — quite possibly the most ahistorical neologism I’ve ever encountered — to see how some commentators pretend to understand the complexities of political Islam by summoning up the most frightening images of the 20th century.
I’m hoping this validates my budding credentials as a “defeatist” or a “backstabber.” I’m not sure if it supports my claims to membership in the “Hollywood Left” — claims that are already weak, seeing as how I’ve never been to Hollywood, and haven’t seen a film since May — but I suppose one can always dream.
My favorite line from the whole piece, though, comes from Senator Intertubes, who recalled that “I lived with my grandmother [during World War II], and I remember we were asked to collect the grease from cooking. Everybody did something to help. No one’s doing anything like that now.”
Save your bacon grease, for chrissakes. No wonder we’re losing.