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One Other Reason the Germany Analogy is Stupid…

[ 12 ] June 29, 2008 |

The conquest of Germany and Japan was not, in the largest sense, motivated by the belief that the German and Japanese people needed to be liberated from tyranny. We were happy enough to “liberate” them, but surely the Soviet Union was far more tyrannical than either in a domestic sense. Rather, Germany and Japan were conquered because both presented grave threats to international order and, in a very real sense, to civilization as we understood it. As such, nobody really cared what the Germans and the Japanese thought about being occupied, at least in the early days. Everyone knew that the German and Japanese puppet regimes would happily accept the military installations we installed in their countries, and no one was overly bothered by what the random Hans and Akira on the street thought about it.

Since 2003, the liberation of the Iraqi people from tyranny has become the sole plausible (and I use that term in the broadest sense possible) justification for the invasion of Iraq. As such, there’s rather a contradiction inherent in the project of creating a puppet state in order to legalize a long term military occupation that, by all evidence available, seems to be strongly opposed by a substantial majority of the Iraqi population.

The problem is this; if you say you’re liberating people, you have to make some allowance for what they do with their liberty.

Comments (12)

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  1. matt says:

    This seems more or less right, but I’m skeptical that Nazi Germany was significantly “less tyrannical domestically” than was the Soviet Union, especially once the terror period was over. The only sense in which that seems plausible to me is in that state control of all aspects of the economy (prohibiting “capitalist acts between consenting adults” to use Nozick’s famous phrase) really does require a stunting of society, but in other areas it’s far from obvious to me that the Nazi brand of fascism would have allowed any significant dissent and would have continued extending itself into all aspects of life that it found useful to do so.
    Other than this little nit I’d certainly agree with the above.

  2. What Matt said; Germany seems at least as tyrannical as the Soviet Union to me…

  3. elm says:

    I assume you mean “in the domestic sense” to mean “for straight ethnic Germans” because I imagine the German Jews, Gypsies, gays, etc. found the regime quite tyrannical. And probably more so than their brethren in the Soviet Union found their regime.
    On your broader point, yes, I agree. We fought Germany and Japan because they were expansionist tyrannical regimes and we were trying to prevent their expansion and not because we were trying to liberate them. Similarly, the Cold War was about trying to prevent the expansion of their tyranny and not liberating the Russians and others from tyranny. Hence our support of local tyrants who opposed Communism.

  4. Mark says:

    As a smaller, more urban country, tyranny in germany would be more pronounced.

  5. celticdragon says:

    Agree with the above comments, while noting that the tyranny (terror, really) was much more focused on specific ethnicity in Nazi Germany, of course. Stalin and the MKVD terrorized pretty much everybody.

  6. Mark says:

    One thing that grates me terribly about this discussion–I mean the general elite discussion of which Max Boot is a part–is this tacit assumption that the United States acts as a neutral party, disinterestedly attempting to do what’s best for Iraq. The inability to come to terms with the actual objectives that the United States might have and consequences of our pursuing them, both as a matter of policy as well as justice, really gives the Iraq debate a sickening kindergarten quality.
    “tyranny (terror, really) was much more focused on specific ethnicity in Nazi Germany, of course.”
    Jews and other persons non grata were subject to special kinds of scrutiny and obliquy, but its in the nature of totalitarianism that the means of tyranny–surveillance, violence, propaganda–are directed at everyone.

  7. howard says:

    we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we fought germany and japan because japan attacked us, we declared war on them, and germany declared war on us.

  8. jon says:

    The British and French declared war in fulfillment of their treaty obligations to Poland. No one came Czechoslovakia’s aid. France permitted the reoccupation of the Saar and the Ruhr. As long as Japan was rolling up uncolonized Asian countries they weren’t hampered. It took the bombing of Pearl Harbor and earlier predation on British and French colonies as party of their Axis treaty obligations for the West to engage in hostilities against the Japanese.
    Looks like pure self interest and treaty obligations to me. Once conquered, we wanted the territories we held to be amenable to our economic system for purposes of trade, as well as to form the ‘bulwark’ against communism.
    As much as concern about the treatment of various peoples and distaste for political and social systems, these were at best contributory, second order issues gathered to eventually support economic, legal, and realpolitik goals.

  9. Geaghan says:

    It’s also worth noting that the Nazis’ seizure of power in Germany never provoked internal dislocations on the scale of the Russian Civil War, which resulted in something like 20 million deaths. Unlike the Soviets, the Nazis also didn’t have to face foreign military intervention from the U.K., Japan, France, the U.S. in Canada.
    Russia was continuously at war from 1914-23, far longer than the other combatants. By no means does this justify decades of Stalinist repression, but it at least puts it in perspective.
    Otherwise the main point is well taken.

  10. John Emerson says:

    Since 2003, the liberation of the Iraqi people from tyranny has become the sole plausible (and I use that term in the broadest sense possible) justification for the invasion of Iraq.
    Imperialism, world domination, a monopolar world, national greatness.
    These phrases and words can’t be spoken aloud, but for a lot of war supporters, more at the higher levels than at the lower, they’re the real reasons.
    That was the difficulty with the argument about the war: the pro war people knew that most of what Bush said wasn’t true, but they didn’t care because they thought they knew what he really meant. Many really did know.
    You can’t argue with success. If Bush had stabilized Iraq, a Republican would be elected in 2008. But he screwed up.

  11. Martin Wisse says:

    Bloody hell. Sully is still pushing the “it worked in Germany so have faith in Iraq” story?
    I debunked that back in 200-bloody-2.

  12. Rob says:

    Martin,
    No; Sully is arguing against the analogy.

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