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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Two quotes

The "majority of Americans are unwilling to sanction a peace of vengeance" against [our foe].  Nor [do] they want America to police [the countries we now occupy, which are] "a seething furnace of fratricide, civil war, murder, disease and starvation."

Sen. Burton Wheeler (D-Montana), speaking of Germany on January 5, 1945, in opposition to FDR's insistence on Germany's "unconditional surrender" (as quoted in Michael Beschloss' The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman, and the Destruction of Hitler's German, 1941-1945, at page 175 (2002)).

Contrast that to this:

Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come.  In many nations of the Middle East — countries of great strategic importance — democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise:   Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free.

Remarks by the President, 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, United States Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C., on Nov. 6, 2003 (italics by BeldarBlog).

I don't know how Dubya could be any more plain, but I haven't seen that first sentence regarding "decades to come" get any press coverage.  Note that he's talking about not just Iraq, but the Middle East as a whole.  And elsewhere in that speech, he makes an overt comparison to what America did after WWII.

We did what it took to help Europe remake itself into a continent filled with democratic nations who certainly are not clones of ourselves and who aren't consistently our grateful fans — but the point there after WWII was to promote democracy as a deterrent to war.  We've had good success in Western Europe, but it took decades; we have work still to do in Eastern Europe, especially in the Balkans; but if more wars do erupt in Europe, they're far more likely to resemble the UK vs. Argentina affair over the Falkland Islands than WWII.  It's a work in progress, but it would be hard to argue that it hasn't been worth the time, effort, and money.

If we're patient and steadfast, perhaps in 20 years we can say the same about the Middle East.

So just who the hell was this Sen. Wheeler?  In his day, he was a leader of the isolationists; the Sen. Burton Wheeler cartoon from Nov. 7, 1941political cartoon (by Dr. Seuss no less!) to the right is from Nov. 7, 1941.  In historic context now, he's a nobody — a footnote at best or a quirky aberation quoted for purposes of humorous contrast.  If he were alive today, he'd probably be giving speeches to MoveOn.org.  He underestimated the size and scope and length of the post-WWII project this country faced.  Worse, he underestimated the wisdom and will of the American leadership and the American public. 

Will today's Democratic politicians do the same?  Will our allies in Europe and elsewhere?  Will our enemies?

Posted by Beldar at 10:33 PM in Current Affairs, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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