Why can’t we fight to the finish this time, so we’ll never have to do it again?

A friend sent me a link to an editorial bemoaning the fact that, by abruptly pulling out from Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, the Obama administration is ensuring that we’re leaving a job undone — something that invariably means one has to do it again.  If history is going to keep repeating itself, why can’t we just repeat the good parts?

World War I ended with a definitive American victory, but a dangerous, un-managed peace, one that pretty much made World War II inevitable.  By 1942, my favorite songwriter, Irving Berlin, pretty much summed up the WWII mindset, which was “do it right this time.”

‘Twas not so long ago we sailed to meet the foe
And thought our fighting days were done
We thought ’twas over then but now we’re in again
To win the war that wasn’t won

This time, we will all make certain
That this time is the last time

This time, we will not say “Curtain”
Till we ring it down in their own home town

For this time, we are out to finish
The job we started then

Clean it up for all time this time
So we won’t have to do it again

Dressed up to win
We’re dressed up to win
Dressed up for victory
We are just beginning
And we won’t stop winning
Till the world is free

We’ll fight to the finish this time
And we’ll never have to do it again

Trust old Irving to hit the nail on the head. And, in fact, that’s what the Allies did.  First, they destroyed entirely the totalitarian states in Germany, Japan and Italy.  Then, in those regions over which they had control (as to those the Soviets held), the Americans carefully rebuilt the nations into democratic allies.  It was a tough, long-haul job, but it prevented post-war massacres and ensured that (so far) we haven’t had to “do it again” with Germany, Italy or Japan.

Clearly, we’re a whole lot dumber now than we were in the mid-20th century. In 1991 we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (which is one of the reasons I’ve never liked Colin Powell, whom I’ve always blamed, fairly or not, for being the architect of that foolish retreat). Now, with Obama’s help, we’re doing it all over again, only worse. Does any nation get a third chance to remedy its chronic stupidity? I doubt we will, especially because Obama is also choosing to repeat the disarmament mistakes of the 20s and 30s. Ain’t those fancy Ivy League educations grand? They go in smart and come out stupid.

I’m an armchair warrior (aka a chicken hawk) and I’m disgusted and frustrated. I can only imagine how the troops — the ones who sweated and bled — feel as they watch their Commander in Chief dismantling all of their good work.

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  • jj

    Historical ignorance has always been a basic tenet of the west, for some reason.  In Britain, just to take the most glowingly radioactive obvious example, everybody with a brain knew that the genuinely idiotic “peace” imposed on Germany at Versailles did nothing more than lay the foundation for WWII – but it turned out brains were at a premium in British governance.  Churchill, again to take the obvious example, passed much of the thirties warning against German rearmament – though he was much more ambivalent than the myth would allow about Hitler.  He kind of admired der Fuhrer, as he watched him take that shattered country by the scruff of the neck and rebuild it – far more successfully than Britain was being rebuilt through the depression years.  (The other myth is that he was the lone voice crying in the wilderness.  He wasn’t “lone,” plenty of people were just as or even more forceful on the subject than he was; and the “wilderness” from which he was crying was a bench in Westminster.  It’s somehow-or-other widely forgotten these days that he was in the government for every minute of the 1930s – he wasn’t some poor kid nobody would listen to standing outside in the snow with his nose pressed against the window.  He was inside, sitting by the fire with his feet up, snorking down the brandy and having a cigar.)
    But the fact is, as you say, faced with the obvious Britain did nothing.  France did nothing.  And America, so fed up with the whole performance in WWI, did nothing quite resolutely.  (It is, again, forgotten today – or just not taught – how disgusted America was through the 20s and 30s with Europe’s whole act.  We were not merely disinterested, we actively despised Europe for the double-dealing and crap that got pulled at Versailles.)  And then of course the depression knocked everybody over backwards- except Germany and Italy; dictators have uses –  and there were other things to think about.
    And that’s usually the case.  It isn’t that everybody’s stupid, generally no more than 90% are – but not everybody.  The world keeps turning, and other things arise to intervene.  Because the west for the most part doesn’t do command economies, the other things – like the depression – get the attention.  The unfinished business overseas fades from the front page.  And democracies are a chain that’s only as strong as its weakest link.  Democracies get tired.  We got tired, and left unfinished business in Korea, which is now a new problem.  We left unfinished business all over North Africa, so people who were pretty much allies, as the word is defined in the 20th century, Idris and Farouk go, and their nations become an ongoing problem.  The French left unfinished business in Vietnam, so that psychopathic communist killer and deep-thinking philosopher-king “Uncle Ho” kills more people than Hitler did collectivizing the north.  (Another little fact your history teacher didn’t know.)    A decade+ later we left unfinished business there ourselves, because we got tired of it, and turned victory into our own defeat.  (And a few million more corpses.)
    And now, of course, we are not only tired, but broke, too, so we will once again turn a chance at victory into a defeat, and, just as you say, the problem will re-emerge in the not nearly-as-far-off-as-democrats-hope future. 
    It’s a psychosis of republics and democracies – and it’s why they don’t last.  Republics and democracies are swell, but they’re first cousins of mob rule, and when the mob grows tired or disenchanted, or its eye is caught by something else, they leave it all to do over again.  And we’ll have it to do all over again, with the one interesting difference that for the first time in the history of America the question must be asked: can we?  With an ever-smaller and under-equipped military, and no money to remedy that, the question become: are we able?  I see things that are not encouraging.  Another thing that mobs love is panoply, gilt, feathers, plumes, whistles, and shiny brass – all of which look good, but may not actually add much.
    I notice things like that, cause for concern.  Here’s one – a touch off topic, but I raise it in the name of fuss, feathers, and shiny stuff – that you probably noticed, if you’ve checked out the latest issue of Seapower.  Right now, the United States Navy has 128 blue-water surface combatants (carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, littoral combat ships); 30 LHDs, LHAs, LPDs; and 71 subs of all types.  Now, admittedly, a one-to-one comparison is considerably less than entirely valid, and a lot of them do other things, (I suppose) but the fact is the US Navy right now has 229 combatant ships – and 335 admirals.   There’s an admiral and a half for every ship.  I guess they look great on parade, but, does that seem a little top-heavy?  Lots of chiefs, fewer and fewer Indians.  Another characteristic of republics and democracies: lots and lots of shiny rank, makes everybody feel better.  How many of them know anything about operating a ship?  (And if they don’t know that, why are they admirals?  Does the guy in charge of supplying toilet paper really need flag rank?)
    A lovely distraction.  When What’s-his-name Brown was US Chief of Staff, under Nixon, I think, everybody thought it was very rude of him to notice that the British military consisted of lots of admirals, lots of generals, lots of bands – damn few soldiers, and not much guns.  Are we different?  Or, when it comes time to do it all over again, will we have any more wherewithal than they do?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Obama was never smart to begin with.

    That was just one of numerous Leftist lies people wanted to buy into. They got tired of being burned on the NIgerian email scams promising them a cut of 100 million, you see.

     Rome overcommitted and refused to fund the legions that were maintaining economic prosperity and military security at the border lands. Hadrian pulled out of Britain, when the native Britains actually didn’t want him to go. The Brits evenually fell into economic collapse and then began the dark ages. Fun. Hadrian also had a bunch of rebellions in Judea, and he renamed it to Palestine to spite them for it. Then future Emperors redistributed funding from the legions to the Senate, his political cronies, Gladiatorial games, slaves, and all that other entertainment stuff.

    Meanwhile, the Empire was crumbling from the outside in, the inside out, whatever. The barbarians finally figured out that Roman power wasn’t so hot to begin with. Why did they think that? Because barbarian legions could finally go right up to Italy and they couldn’t even find a Roman legion left to fight them, because they were all disbanded.

    America is about 5 decades short of that, because Republicans keep reversing the Leftist sabotage. If it wasn’t for Bush, America would only have 20 or 30 years left, but because Bush rediverted funding to the military, final American collapse is not yet here. Although chaos and border warfare, is just going to intensify. 

  • Danny Lemieux

    We left Iraq and we will soon leave Afghanistan with our tail between our legs and a fig leave to cover our international humiliation and weakness that will be transparent to all but ourselves. In our wake, we leave thousands if not millions in those countries who supported us or looked to us for salvation upon whom will be subjected the vicious reprisals of the Al Qaeda and Talibanis of the world. Their crime will have been to have believed us when we told them we would support them.

    I think that it was Henry Kissinger who remarked that being a friend of the United States can be lethal. Fact is, the 20th Century has seen plenty of betrayals of our friends…Cuba (Bay of Pigs), Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (our violation of our own treaty obligations to supply arms, ammunition and airpower), Iran, Iraq, Poland, Czech Republic (missile defense), Egypt and, soon, Afghanistan and Britain (re. the Falklands).

    What do all these betrayals have in common? Hint: it starts with a “D”.

  • http://bkivey.wordpress.com/ bkivey

    As an engineer, the title of your post brings to mind one of my favorite lines from ‘The Incredibles’: “Why can’t somthing that’s fixed, stay fixed?”