Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Slow posting day

No good reason. But I have to say, this sloppy thinking bugs me every time, even when (via Olaf) it's by Rick Mercer:
You end by saying you personally cannot envision that peace can ever be paved with military offensives. May I suggest to you that in many instances in history peace has been achieved exactly that way.

The gates of Auschwitz were not opened with peace talks. Holland was not liberated by peacekeepers and fascism was not defeated with a deft pen. Time and time again men and women in uniform have laid down their lives in just causes and in an effort to free others from oppression.
Ah, the gates of Auschwitz. Opened by the Red Army, and thenceforth the people of Poland lived happily in freedom and liberty forever. Oh, wait, they didn't. They lived under foreign occupation for 50 years.

Pity when a little detail ruins an already-bad line of reasoning.

My post about the President being "Commander in Chief" was about semantic differences, this is another one. Military offensives can achieve victory, sometimes. (Sometimes they get defeat, too.) But the way we achieved lasting peace in Western Europe and Japan was not simply by destroying the Nazis -- it was by putting the pieces of Europe back together again, deliberately, and competently. That is to say, yes, Mr. Mercer, fascism was destroyed in Europe, and hasn't returned, because of many deft pens working over decades. It's not like we killed every German to wear a swastika on their arms. And yes, it's a good thing we didn't.

Nobody who's read this blog regularly will doubt that I take great pride in Canada's role in World War II, and Mercer is absolutely correct earlier in this piece -- the prof he's excoriating deserves Mercer's scorn.

The military force of the Allies did a great thing by destroying our enemies, I truly believe that. But to say that our soldiers didn't win the peace that followed is also perfectly correct. And Mercer should have the sense to look up some of the soldiers-turned-politicians who made a lasting peace possible. Start with men like Marshall and Eisenhower.

I wonder why it is we're so quick to laud the military for things it didn't do. Probably because we can't seem to fathom that politicians can do things right.


Olaf said...

I had a feeling someone would pick up on that, but I think you're being unfair.

Just because one dictatorship was replaced with another, doesn't mean you shouldn't remove the first dictatorship, if possible, and oppose the second for 40 years thereafter, until it's collapse, when a war was no longer an option.

I mean, what is your point? This whole tact pisses me off for some reason, as if the liberation of Auschwitz was a pointless "effort to free others from oppression", just because the soviet union stepped in to fill a void the West couldn't.

For me, as in Afghanistan, the point is that just because military measures alone aren't sufficient in solving any international problems, but that doesn't mean they are not sometimes necessary, which is a not so subtle nuance that people with bleeding hearts often miss (not you, just saying in general).

I'm sure you'd agree that the military effort in WWII was absolutely essential as a precursor to the "efforts that made a lasting peace possible".

I think it's personally reasonable for Mercer to make this claim, and to place greater emphasis on the actions of soldiers than on the actions of Eisenhower and Marshall, in that the latters actions were providing money, while the former's actions were in sparing their lives.

Your claim that "Mercer should have the sense to look up some of the soldiers-turned-politicians" is in this context unwarranted. Mercer isn't writing a history of the 20th century here, he's very briefly pointing out the efforts of soldiers.

john said...

"This whole tact pisses me off for some reason, as if the liberation of Auschwitz was a pointless "effort to free others from oppression", just because the soviet union stepped in to fill a void the West couldn't."

I suspected it would. But notice what the argument is -- Mercer talks about "offensives leading to peace", and then invokes the Holocaust. Why? The Holocaust was a monstrous crime, but it wasn't a war. I took issue with the holocaust reference -- and not, I'll point out, the example of Holland -- because it's not a serious argument. It's an argument that if you don't support war X on day Y, you hate the Jews and want them all dead.

It's an attempt to use 12 million corpses as punctuation to an argument about the here and now and it's totally irrelevant.

More broadly, if we're seriously going to argue that the USSR's incredibly brutal, nearly-as-bad-as-the-Nazis campaign back west across Europe was acceptable just because the Nazis were worse, then every war in history is acceptable, or good even.

The honest, historically accurate argument is that the USSR was doing it's damndest to re-create the Russian Empire, and we didn't have the muscle or the inclination to stop them.

At the same time, the death camps were shut down -- and a big hoo-rah for that indeed. But let's not pretend there's anything noble to the Soviet intent there. As it was throughout the entire awful war, the fate of Hitler's victims was entirely incidental to the aims of the leaders on all sides.

rabbit said...

Don't forget that Holland has also lived under the jack boot of tyranny since it's "liberation" in WW II. So too France, Norway, Italy, and so on.

Oh wait, they didn't.

Your point on Auschwitz hardly negates Mercer's argument. Indeed, it seems quite minor.

To tell you the truth, I don't really get your point at all. Are you suggesing that taking up arms is never necessary or justified to stop tyranny? If so, you should state this clearly.

john said...

Read what I wrote above, Rabbit. I don't object to the example of Holland. I specifically objected to the holocaust reference because it's a non-sequitur designed to inflame and accuse, not argue.