Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator (ludickid) wrote,
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator

Sitting out the big one

Conservatives who support the war in Iraq -- and yes, there's a few who don't -- love to compare it (and, by false extension, the War on Terror) with World War Two. Which in and of itself is no great crime; everyone loves WWII. It's the world's favorite war. Everyone, regardless of ideology, loves to use it as a handy metaphorical diving board (except, possibly, the Germans). Liberals tend to mention Hitler every time they detect an First Amendment violation, and conservatives tend to bring up WWII whenever they want to invade someone. World War Two is pretty much a guaranteed winner, because it's the one American War other than the Revolution that everyone can agree on. 1812 was too nebulous, the Spanish-American too nakedly imperialistic, the Civil War too ugly a reminder of the racist slave-holding past of a big chunk of the country. World War One was too bitterly opposed by too many people, and the average American today (and the average American of 1917, for that matter) probably has no idea what it was all about. Korea is likewise baffling -- didn't we lose that war? Aren't we still fighting North Korea? -- and despite the best efforts of the neo-conservatives, Americans still tend to think of Vietnam as a mistake. But WWII, man! Greatest generation! All those great movies, all the songs, all the great outfits on the dames! And despite a few moral hiccups (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, internment camps, taking our sweet time about giving a shit what Hitler was doing to the Jews), it was the most righteous war we ever fought. We were fighting supervillains! Tojo and the rest of those Jappos who bombed our boys at Pearl Harbor. And Hitler and the rest of his gang, a rabble of mass-murdering genocidal maniacs, the worst people who ever lived. They were trying to take over the world! You can't beat that for the kind of war that, if you had to fight a war, would be the kind of war you wanted to fight.

So I can't blame the right for using WWII as a jumping-off point for defending their latest war. But what does make me a little sore is the habit -- much beloved especially by James Lileks and Jonah Goldberg (who did it just last week) -- of implying that if today's liberals were in charge back then, we never would have gone to war, and we would have just sat on our asses worrying about Tojo's civil rights while letting Hitler skull-fuck everyone on Europe to death. Well, I got news for you, boys: today's liberals were in charge back then. In fact, FDR, who won the war, was about a hundred times more liberal than Bill Clinton, or anyone else in the modern Democratic party, for that matter. And who were the people urging us to stay out of the war? Who were the ones saying Europe could take care of its own problems? Who were the ones who sniffed that enough Americans had died for a bunch of toffee-nosed aristos in the last war, while cozying up to the business-friendly Mussolini and exchanging knowing winks about Hitler's attitude towards the Jews? That's right: the Republicans. The conservatives. The right wing.

Not that every Republican was against intervention; indeed, once we were finally in it, the GOP, as a whole, threw their entire weight behind the war effort. Nor, of course, was every lefty in favor of the war. But in the political arena, by far the most opposition to aiding the British and the Chinese came from conservatives. The biggest stumbling-block to European aid, to programs like Lend-Lease, came from the Republican Party. And the people with the nicest things to say about Hitler and Mussolini were almost all right-wingers. Naturally, it's absurd to say that the GOP opposed WWII, or did nothing to help win it, or were Nazi sympathizers. But it's even more absurd to speculate that the American left would have hidden under a rock and let the Nazis take over the world. No speculation is even necessary, because the historical record is clear: it was a liberal administration that won the war, and a conservative opposition who opposed it until it was no longer possible to do so. So any time we can bury that bogus reimagining of real history would be fine with me.
Tags: politics

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