W: the scapegoat for all of America’s violent impulses

I attended a dinner party this week in which all of the other guests were foreigners, coming from Mexico, Taiwan, and Colombia.  It was the night of the last presidential debate and the topic of the election came up.  All of the foreign guests espoused great hatred for George W. and blamed the Republicans in general and W specifically for all the violence perpetrated by the U.S.  These were all young grad students and post-docs and apparently America’s long history of violence hasn’t registered with them nor the fact that much if not most of that violence was authored by presidents from the Democratic Party.  I pointed out that the Japanese had killed fewer Americans in their attack on Pearl Harbor than died on September 11, 2001.  Yet Roosevelt, a Democrat, had killed millions of Japanese in retaliation rather than negotiate a settlement.  Kennedy started America’s Vietnam War, which his Democratic successor Johnson escalated.  Jimmy Carter, a famously wimpy Democrat, articulated the Carter Doctrine that any threat to control of Mideast oil supplies would be met with American military force then backed that up by funding a proxy army in Afghanistan against the Russians.  It would seem that W. and the Republicans have no monopoly on aggression in foreign lands and yet somehow the American people get a free ride.  If we can say “we didn’t vote for W” we are considered good citizens of the world.  George W. Bush attracts all of the hatred.

Maybe we should take advantage of the fact that we have our scapegoat in place.  We can make a list of all of the countries that we need to invade, install puppet governments in, or steal their natural resources.  If W. loses the election we go on a big military spree until mid-January and then Kerry can come in and say “We had nothing to do with the fact that Bush kicked your asses but sadly the U.S. government never apologizes for anything or returns any loot.”

[I did catch up by skimming the transcipt of the debate later.  My favorite thing that was said was from Bush:  “the actual user of health care is not the purchaser of health care.”  This is what distinguishes a visit to a hospital emergency room from a visit to McDonald’s.  Even if you don’t have health insurance and are going to be reamed out of $2000 for a simple X-ray the experience is pure Third World.  As far as the staff is concerned you are not their customer.  Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid are the customers.  If an executive from Blue Cross showed up at the hospital she would not be kept in a waiting room overflowing with the sickest most contagious SARS-ridden people in the metropolitan area.  If nobody had health insurance hospitals and doctors would start to pay more attention to the patient experience.]

48 thoughts on “W: the scapegoat for all of America’s violent impulses

  1. I’m sure your friends are more concerned with the future of the U.S. (and the world) than with what happened 60 years ago. You should listen to them and realize that “W” has led us (and will continue to lead us) down the road to disaster.

  2. Hmmm… Interesting Philip, but I think that you may be leaving a little bit of context out of your argument…

    Such as the expansion of american influence in the south pacific following the phillipine-american war (not to mention the white-fleet… were bull-moose republicans???), the subsewuent japanese aggression (and competition) and oh yeah, german aggression (they were japans allies) in europe that, um kinda, lend a little credence to going to war after pearl harbor…

    Hanging that all on FDR is mor than a little disingenuous, he probably avoided going to war far longer than necessary.

    ANd it could easily be said that the failure to recognize a democratic and nationalist Vietnam (as proposed by Ho CHi Minh, hell the guy even copied our declaration of independence) and to back the French colonialists following WWII could easily be hung on Eisenhower. The lack of us recognition had more to do with Uncle Ho’s overtures to the communist world (btw, vietnam had been at war with china for 1000 years) than any desire to become a fallen domino.

    Kennedy just got caught up in all of the Red Scare crap the Tail-gunner Joe McCarthy sold america on…

    Yep, warmongering seems to be the property of Republicans, Democrats just get stuck with the problems after the populace grows bored with the hyperbole and votes the republican scoundrels out.

    Just my opinion…

  3. You don’t say what they were grad students and post-docs OF. Interesting that they are more than happy to blame Americans while at the same time sucking off the teat of American-funded education (yes, I am aware prices are higher for non-US citizens). If you or I did that in a country foreign to us, we would be called Ugly-Americans. Why aren’t they called Ugly-Colombians?

  4. Love it! Both the Democrats did worse than Bush and the user of health care. Awesome thoughts.

  5. Its interesting how your posts are increasingly attracting the white supremacist demographic. The “teat of American education?” I thought such a thing would not exist in that great bastion of the free market.

  6. Philip,
    Stick to engineering, where you can speak with at least some authority. I challenge you to look at the website:

    Project for the New American Century

    especially the Statement of Principles signed by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush etc.

    Then try to tell me that this administration is not committed to preemptive war as a national policy and that W isn’t going
    to provide us with four more years of the same. Note that the WMD/Iraq theme is articulated in the letter to Clinton dated January 26, 1998


  7. Ref: “If nobody had health insurance hospitals and doctors would start to pay more attention to the patient experience”

    Exactly. And the above is *exactly* how you are treated in a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist office (both essentially cash businesses).
    As a Viet Nam combat veteran who did not exactly figure out “why we were there” (on my first mission I wondered “Am I bombing them because they are shooting at me, or are they shooting at me because I am bombing them?”), I have nothing but support for invading Iraq as how long can you listen to a madman telling the world Death To America while having the means to implement his hatred? Forget not-finding WMD. It is *intent* that counts (stop by any courtroom and listen for a while).
    Ref: “the Japanese had killed fewer Americans in their attack on Pearl Harbor than died on September 11, 2001. Yet Roosevelt, a Democrat, had killed millions of Japanese in retaliation rather than negotiate a settlement”

    As well he should have. Imagine The Germans & Japanese “winning their wars” with America on the sidelines. No Russia. No Israel. No “Europe”. And I submit maybe no America either as Hitler was working on Nukes but had taken a wrong-turn in the plutonium-generation road (his scientists later invented the centrifuge process –far superior to what the US used to fuel the Hiro/Naga bombs– but this technology arrived too late in the war).

    As for your Mexican/Taiwanese/Columbian guests, Dear God save me from the naivete of students. With no America, all of them would be subsistence farmers (oh yeah Viva Peron!).
    Bush and his Buddies completely blew the execution of the Iraq war, and should be removed from office for it. But if Kerry wins, and later “declares victory and leaves” he will have done a huge disservice to the Arabs.
    My Iraq plan from Day-1 was: Invade; Partition (Sunni, Shiite, Kurd); Divvy up the oil to keep everybody happy; Arm them all to the teeth; Get out.

    Well, I suppose “something for everybody” in my post…

  8. Philip: A large fraction of the available information from the debate is not in the transcript. It’s a lossy medium. It’s hard to quantify how exactly how lossy, but large portions of your cranial anatomy are idled if you’re not watching faces and listening to voices. Suffice to say you will get new insight into the incisiveness of President Bush’s comment if you watch the video.

    Slightly off topic: I’ve never seen a good explanation as to why the total expenditures on healthcare in the US are near double that of other western countries that have a large government health insurance role. We’re talking 15% of GDP here compared to 8-9% of GDP elsewhere. Perhaps it’s all that duplicated bureacracy in the duplicated private insurers that we pay for. Certainly the role of the private sector doesn’t seem to add competition or cost discipline, for some reason.

    The problem with the no-health-insurance model is that, while it may well contribute to the promotion of competition, people who do not have the financial ability to pay when they develop cancer or heart trouble would be either be subsidized in some way, or be left to die in the streets. So they’d be subsidized. Which in turn creates incentives for others to not save prudently for their own expensive treatments, knowing that someone will step in to pick up the tab. So if we’re going to be forced to build a health insurance system by dint of human dignity, we might as well try and build one that works.

  9. How can you compare fighting against fascists who declared war on us, or Communists who could have been legitimately considered a threat at the time, or Carter’s non-war that didn’t even involve committing US troops, to what is happening in Iraq? All of those wars at least appeared at the time to be in defense of vital US interests. You’d have to go back to the 19th century to something as aggressive and unnecessary as the current war.

    And what countries would we need to invade? With what spare forces? We’re stretched too thin already. Your thinking, and Bush’s, is like that of a dog chasing a truck with no consideration of what he’ll do when he catches it.

  10. rps: Apparently, if a person is Jewish but American, then he is not truly American as far as you are concerned.

    Or are you not aware that Saddam Hussein paid cash money, up to $25,000 USD, to each family of a Palestinian suicide bomber; suicide bombers that in many cases maimed or killed Jews that happened to be American. If that isn’t support of terrorism, what is?

    That alone would justify American involvement, let alone me pointing out that Kerry himself, and President Clinton, also used the same intelligence info to determine that Iraq did have WMD.

    Let’s not forget the need to make an example, “pour encourage les autres”: Libya agreed to big changes, without a shot being fired.

    Wiping out Saddam, establishing a Middle Eastern presence in case Iran doesn’t come around (they are next door to Iraq), and getting Libya to turn around doesn’t strike me as a complete and utter failure at this point.

    It’s funny though, because I remember the same kind of appeasement talk during the 80s, with leftists saying then that we could all get along with the Soviets and that Communism maybe wasn’t so bad anyways. It’s as if the word “Soviet” or “USSR” was crossed out and the word “Iraq” or Saddam” was penciled in over the same set of talking points.

  11. Guys: I was not condemning Roosevelt’s entry into World War II, just pointing out that it was aggressive and that not every country or politician would have responded the same way to Pearl Harbor. The European populations that were happy to cooperate with Nazi Germany, for example, probably would have come to terms with Japan rather than mobilized all of their energies and risked their lives to achieve unconditional surrender.

    My blog entry was meant to highlight the lack of historical precedent for these foreigners’ idea that the U.S. would be a pacifist nation if only Kerry were to win the election.

    There is also the matter of politicians doing the opposite of what we expect. Nixon, the lifelong staunch anti-Communist, establishing relations with Red China. Reagan, who came to office amidst fears that he would launch a massive assault on hostage-holding Iran, ended up hardly deploying the U.S. military at all. In the event of a major attack on the U.S. during a first Kerry Administration, Kerry might have to respond much more aggressively than Bush to avoid being seen as a wimp and risking a failure to win reelection.

  12. It’s not the President’s war making that they don’t like, Philip. It’s his contempt for international institutions, for treaties, for other ways that his administration might respect them.

    It’s the contempt that they pick up on and react to.

  13. Paul P, The main problem with trisecting iraq and thereby creating a kurd state is that Turkey (a long-term ally of us in the cold war) would never stand for it. They have withstood a long and bloody civil war with their own kurdish population and the idea of having a nationalist-kurd nation on their border is (to them) unthinkable.

    McRutter, a disproportionate amount of the us healthcare dollar (30% of medicare) goes to the last year of life in the us. I would be interested to know how this compare with other nations. The amount of money spent on preventative health care and/or health education pales in comparison. The amount of money laid out to lawsuits is just a drop in the bucket in comparison.

    PatrickG – comparing china or the old soviet usnion to iraq is like comparing apples to reall, really small peas. The only thing that they have in common is fear-mongering politicians using them scare the us population and divert money to the military budget.

    Phillip – I don’t understand their motivations, but I appreciate the sentiments of those foreign-born students that you mention. A great majority of foreign-born technical people that I have worked with have echoed similar feelings. Also, if Kerry does win this election, he will have a real mess on his hands. At least I have hope that he will deal with it rationally while giving the american public a modicum of HONESTY, which they deserve.

  14. Hm. I’m reading Philip’s piece, and I don’t see it as a defense of W., but just a note that since Teddy Roosevelt stormed up San Juan Hill, the US has gone on violent foreign adventures under leaders from both parties.

    I just read it as Philip saying to the students: it’s not as easy a fix as you think. Just replacing a President may or may not work. Perhaps urging them to keep paying attention even if W doesn’t win.

  15. I think this fits in well with the conclusion the South Park guys came up with at the end of their episode on america and war in the episode “I’m a Little Bit Country”. Cartman sums it all up (after a time-travelling adventure to 1776):

    I learned somethin’ today. This country was founded by some of the smartest thinkers the world has ever seen. And they knew one thing: that a truely great country can go to war, and at the same time, act like it doesn’t want to. [a shot of the crowd] You people who are for the war, you need the protesters. Because they make the country look like it’s made of sane, caring individuals. And you people who are anti-war, you need these flag-wavers, because, if our whole country was made up of nothing but soft pussy protesters, we’d get taken down in a second. That’s why the founding fathers decided we should have both. It’s called “having your cake and eating it too.”

    Script is here:


    Sound clip:


  16. My kneejerk response to your statement about FDR’s “aggressive” actions after Pearl Harbor is that you’re being willfully fatuous to make a point. After all, Pearl Harbor was not an isolated attack, but part of a breathtakingly daring offensive across most of the Pacific and Southeast Asia. I’m not sure what the U.S. government’s negotiating points would have been in light of that: We’ll be nice if you don’t attack again? Your observation that Republicans don’t have a monopoly on letting loose the dogs of war is a valid one, even if you present a selective case (yes, Nixon made the opening to China; he also expanded the scope of the Indochina war and waged it with a ferocity that matched anything seen before him, though we did “Vietnamize” it and got our “peace with honor” well before the other side got to Saigon; yes, Reagan refrained from a major ground war anywhere, but there seemed to be lots of little rashes and boils like Grenada, Lebanon (check your October 1983 almanac), Libya, and something called Iran-contra that involved military stuff in Central America).

    But what you say is actually more interesting in light of Philip Roth’s new novel, which proposes an alternative history to the one we got with FDR. The merits of his fiction aside, one of his points is that the history-book lessons that we take to be inevitable — like the response to Pearl Harbor, say, or the Soviets prevailing at Stalingrad — are anything but in the moment.

  17. Philip raises a good question: why is it that so many foreigners dislike Bush, even in countries which are friendly to the US?

    I don’t think that it’s a matter of foreigners disliking Republicans as opposed to Democrats. I don’t recall Bush’s father arousing the same kind of dislike, for example.

    I don’t think it’s just a matter of Bush going to war with Iraq, either. During the run-up to the 2000 election, somebody did a poll in Canada and found that Canadians would vote for Gore over Bush by something like 65%-35%.

    So what is it? I think a big part of it is Bush’s public image, as he presents himself on TV–the Texan, cowboy, regular-guy image. It sells well in the US, but not abroad. Why?

    1. To foreigners, he comes across as _provincial_–a hick from the sticks, a rube, a country bumpkin, Forrest Gump in the White House. Should this guy really be the most powerful man in the world?

    2. He’s _ignorant_. I don’t think he’s stupid, but even David Frum, his former speechwriter, describes him as “incurious”, making decisions based on gut instinct rather than by looking at the facts. He doesn’t read briefing papers; he prefers to be briefed verbally by a very small circle of people. He doesn’t pay much attention to the newspapers, either, regarding them as biased and liberal (unlike Churchill, the neoconservatives’ hero–according to Churchill’s biographer Martin Gilbert, during World War II Churchill would read all the newspapers every day).

    3. In comparison to Clinton especially, he _doesn’t listen to people_. Hence his tone-deaf foreign policy. (From reading the Suskind and Woodward books, he doesn’t even listen to Powell; is it any surprise that he doesn’t pay attention to what foreigners are thinking?)

    4. He suffers from _hubris_. He lacks the humility so vividly described by Hans Morgenthau: “… the absence of the tragic sense of life, of humility, of that fear and trembling with which great statesmen have approached their task, knowing that in trying to mould the political world they must act like gods, without the knowledge, the wisdom, the power, and the goodness which their task demands.”

    In contrast, the Economist (which has not endorsed either candidate) summarized Kerry’s record as follows:

    “… does anything explain the persistent puzzle of who the real John Kerry is? Arguably, yes. These policies and his record all have one thing in common: they reflect a clear sense of America’s fallibilities.

    “As a Vietnam veteran, Mr Kerry gained notoriety by accusing GIs of war crimes. In the Senate, while others were making laws, he concentrated on investigating scandals such as the Iran-contra affair. His health-care plan would address one of America’s worst problems, the millions without proper insurance. His fondness for multilateralism seems a way of imposing external discipline on America’s power in the world.

    “For Mr Bush, America is always a force for good. The job of the president is to act on that basis. For Mr Kerry, the task is more downbeat and complex: to use the power of government to temper America’s failings as well as to buttress its strengths.

    “It is not, in some ways, a compelling vision, just as Mr Kerry himself is not a compelling candidate. But this year he offers a respite, a pause for reappraisal of what America stands for, after four years of heroic and sometimes hectic history-making.”

  18. While you are correct that America has a long history of aggression and violence – not surprising, considering its need to protect and expand the wealth of its economic elites, there are a few facts that you yourself fail to “register”.

    1. Pres. Kennedy did not *start* the Vietnam War. Indeed, dabbling in the region’s economic business began with Truman, who proffered economic support for capitalist interests in the area (an early PAC perhaps?) and proceeded more malevolently with Eisenhower, a Republican president, who committed CIA resources to train and provide counter intelligence operations (which included killing). Kennedy continued this behavior, and at the time of his assassination, there were more than 16,000 US military “advisors” in Vietnam. Both the Johnson and Nixon administrations expanded the war, with the Nixon admin. authorizing genocidal bombing of civilian populations in Laos and Cambodia, with the Ford administration finally ramping activities down as the American failure to occupy and impose capitalism on the country become unable to ignore and untenable to continue. Simple math would conclude that the majority of this time span (1950 – 1975) was occupied by Republican presidencies in America. (9 years = Democrats vs. 17 years = Republican).


    2. Indeed, a history of American violence is incomplete without at least a tacit mention of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, whose extremely duplicitous record includes General Order No. 100, also known as the Lieber Code, authored by a German fascist. This order authorized starvation and torture under the context of “means to an end” when dealing with civilian populations in the South. A precedent for Abu Ghuarib.

    3. Europeans and South Americans are far more familiar with the evidence concerning American participation in the overthrow of the elected socialist government in Chile and support for the fascist dictatorships in Nicaragua and Argentina, during the Nixon Republican presidencies.

    4. Republican president Ronald Reagan fostered violence in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa and Central/South America during the entire 8 years of his term. Hundreds of thousands died and economies were destroyed by a “front war” used to divert attention from US sanctioned, large scale drug-and-money laundering which supplied the American economy with a significant infusion of cash needed to prop it up from the failed supply-side “economics” espoused by the administration.

    These crimes have contributed to the general contempt for American policies by the peoples of the planet, who correctly note the cover-up explicit in protection of such American financial interests. Indeed, arguments about freedom and democracy are of little comfort to populations who have been dealt the torture and bombing that Americans and their puppets have handed out.

    The current president is the least skilled at hiding his contempt for those who disagree with American interests. Surely, every other industrial nation also shares in the laundry list of injustices that have been handed out for the last 200 years, however GWB is not so much a scapegoat as a personification of all that is reviled in America by, as you call them, “foreigners”. Because they have the advantage of being on the outside, looking in.

  19. hexatron: funny, but last time I looked, it was the “antiwar” side the one blaming it all on the jews, not the Bushies.

    Dan: you wrote about Pearl Harbor “I’m not sure what the U.S. government’s negotiating points would have been in light of that: We’ll be nice if you don’t attack again?”. And why not? After all, most Kerry supporters seem to think that that’s a good bargaining strategy to prevent another 9/11… [snerk]

    Anonymous: your explanation about why the rest of the world hates the U.S. of A. is a commonly repeated one, and as usual, it fails to explain why that hatred isn’t extended to other countries who have committed the same atrocities. After all, France was the one that intervened first in Indochina, and it has supported dictatorships in Africa, sold weapons to Third World countries, taken part in genocides… and yet, nobody in the rest of the world wastes their breath hating France. Why? Because France isn’t the big guy in the world, the USA is.
    The USA isn’t hated because it’s more cruel or criminal than other countries, but simply because it’s the wealthiest and most successful one, and nobody likes the big guy, no matter how nice he is.

  20. Russil,
    You seem to be perpetrating a misconstrued ‘image’ of Bush as viewed by europeans as provincial, and therefore very likable to the common american.

    The reality, and foreign view of bush is very different. He is a child of wealth, whose family has had a long history of financial and political intrigue on the east coast. The ‘texan’ image is a recent convenience to the bush family.

    What you portray as a shoot from the hip, gut level honesty is more of a slavish obeyance to his inner-circle of advisors. His disagreements with Powell only show that Colin is not part of that inner circle.

    These incovenient ‘facts’ are much more widely dispersed in the overseas press than in america, we can only wonder why.

  21. Actually, in India, which often gets derided as a “Third World” country, you can get medical care that is very close to what you would get in a “First World” country for about a tenth of the price. Granted, the very latest remedies may not be available (say something that was discovered at MGH last month), but the vast majority of procedures, performed by competent persons are freely available.

    [I need a porcelain tooth. I will probably get one during my next vacation to India for about 1/10 th the cost of the $2000 that my local dentist quoted me]

    The reasons?
    1. No malpractice premiums
    2. The user of health care pays for the health care
    3. There is no “eat all you can buffet” — use more services, pay more. Use fewer services, pay less. People that use the system less do not subsidise people that use the system more.
    4. In general, it is a “cash and carry” system. No complicated armies of billing specialists; cash flow for doctors and hospitals is simple and predictable

    Caveat: What I describe is the private health care system, which while rather cheap by US standards, is still prohibitively expensive for the average Indian. The government run healthcare system is probably as bad as any.

  22. Jagadeesh–Indian doctors earn much less than American barbers. This, while peculiar, is no longer considered mysterious–it reflects the way exchange rates work. I quote:

    Higher productivity growth tends to produce a nominal and real exchange rate appreciation. It also results in higher prices in the non-traded sectors, making absolute prices in the rich (high productivity) counties higher than those in the poor countries (compare the cost of a haircut in Egypt and Switzerland).

  23. hexatron: funny, but last time I looked, it was the “antiwar” side the one blaming it all on the jews, not the Bushies

    Uh, yeah. And that can’t change, so what is there to be concerned about? After all, it took Bush six whole weeks to go from totally disregarding Iraq to getting war powers from congress, so shifting blame to the jews could take … how long? Weeks, I would guess. One juicy Dryfuss-style scandal would do it. It would certainly please Bush’s close friends and supporters in Saudi Arabia.

    And my awful little scenario is not about the war. It’s about failure. If Iraq turns into a peaceful democracy, deficits and trade imbalances, in the words of our Vice President, ‘don’t matter,’ and the country stays awash in oil and guns, then everybody’s safe.

    But there’s always the teensy chance that things do not work out, and that a victim must be found. Is there a little list of victims?

    And who is on that little list?

  24. I couldn’t agree more. I think GW Bush was the best person for the job and he’s done what is expected from him.

  25. Philip, I think stating “The European populations that were happy to cooperate with Nazi Germany” is a bit short sighted and mis-informed. It was certainly a bad judgement to not start and arms race, leaving the countries around Germany hopelessly outgunned. And of course there were traitors during the occupation, but not nearly as much as you repeatedly like to make your readers believe. The average European does not hate either Jews or freedom. Most people just tried to survive and fought nor helped their occupiers.

    But you cannot compare Europe vs. Germany againt USA vs. Japan. You can compare it with Japan vs. The South East Asian Countries They Invaded. How many of those countries built up arms when Japan became a threat? How many of it’s citizens helped the occupiers? The role of the US in the Pacific theater was not much different in type from the one in Europe, just bigger and the shooting started earlier. It was a South East Asian afair in which the US lend a hand (well, basicaly fought the whole war, but you get the point) which would probably not have happened if the Japanese hadn’t made the ill-fated decission to attack Pearl Harbor, by trying to pre-empt any US involvement, they instead signed their own death warrant as well. Their’s and Germany’s as now there was also no real excuse anymore to stay out of the European confilt. The US would probably have stayed out of both conflicts until it was too late without Pearl Harbor.

    Before WWII, the US had only a navy, the army was virtualy non-existent. Even when seeing the threat of Germany and Japan growing, like Europe, the US did not build up its forces in reaction. It wasn’t untill the shooting started they did and with a lot of help from British science and engineering. (RADAR, anyone? Code breaking technology? The engine powering the hero of the later airwar, the P51?)

    The only reason the US (and England!) had the opportunity to do this was the water in between. Had it been attached by land to western Europe, Hitler would likely have waltzed over the US at a pace that made the capture Poland and France seem like it was hard work.

    While the US’s efforts and sacrifices are greatly appreciated, don’t think for a second your country would have been in any better shape to fight Hitler in 1939 than any European nation was.

  26. Bas: In retrospect we’ve come to accept that total war against Japan was the only possible response to their attack on Pearl Harbor (and therefore that Roosevelt, despite having ordered the killing of millions of Japanese, is seen as less aggressive than George W. Bush). But the inevitability of a total war response was not obvious at the time and certainly not to the Japanese, who were the ones most directly concerned with being right in their appraisal. The Japanese did not expect to be able to win a total war against the U.S. and would not have attacked Pearl Harbor if they’d thought that we would respond as we did.

    [I’m not sure that your speculation about the U.S. being easier to conquer than France makes sense. You note that the U.S. didn’t have a large army and that we were saved by the Atlantic Ocean. The existence of this ocean, however, might have been noticed by U.S. military officials in the 1920s and 1930s. That is perhaps why they decided to invest in a navy and defer calling up an army until it was needed. In any case, I wasn’t criticizing Europeans for cooperating with Hitler. Joining the Nazis was a great short-term idea for most Europeans and would have worked out in the long-run as well if the English had not stubbornly refused to negotiate, much to everyone’s surprise.]

  27. “Joining the Nazis was a great short-term idea for most Europeans and would have worked out in the long-run as well”

    I think someone more knowledgeable than
    me could spend pages giving reasons
    why this is incorrect. I will just give
    one. I have repeatedly seen it stated
    that the Nazis wished to enslave the
    Slavs. I have even seen it stated that
    the Nazi view of the future was that
    the Slavs would die out.

  28. I am sure they would have noticed the ocean, but if it is pure speculation to say that the US might have built up arms if it hadn’t been there. It’s one of those “what ifs”. But if that is what we are discussing here, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the US stayed neutral and therefor did not pursue nuclear weapons, while Germany was already doing that. And creating aeroplanes with ever greater range. Think the same generals would have seen that one comming?

    While some countries sided with the Nazis for their own goals – Finland getting even with Russia, Italy’s goverment wanting an empire of their own, etc. – submitting to obvious defeat to end further bloodshed is hardly “joining the Nazis”. The lynching of those colaborators after the war shows that helping the regime set up shop in conquored countries was frowned upon by all but a few. I think accusing my grandfather of “cooperating with Hitler” just because he did his best to stay out of trouble and keep his family alive would be considered quite offensive by him.

    In any case, unlike the US, “Europe” is not a country. If you have issues with any particular country, I suggest you call it by its name.

    (PS: Speaking of collaborators: Although you seem to have been succesful with Siemens using ACS, don’t try to sell “Collaboration” software in Germany. As one of my colleagues found out in a meeting recently, it is still a dirty word here! 🙂

  29. Hi Bas,

    >The lynching of those colaborators after the war shows that helping the >regime set up shop in conquored countries was frowned upon by all but a >few.

    Can you support your statement that “all but a few” frowned
    upon it? I do not think that lynchings prove this, since
    lynchings do not require the approval of “all but a few”
    members of a country’s population. I am having trouble
    reconciling my impression of Vichy France (admittedly
    based on little knowledge) with your comments.

  30. With nazism in the thread, consider these touching remarks by one Arnold S. at a recent political convention. I was deeply affected by them:

    “When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria.

    “I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw Communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector.

    “Growing up, we were told, “Don’t look the soldiers in the eye. Just look straight ahead.” It was a common belief that Soviet soldiers could take a man out of his own car and ship him back to the Soviet Union as slave labor.

    “Now, my family didn’t have a car. But one day we were in my uncle’s car. It was near dark as we came to the Soviet checkpoint. I was a little boy. I was not an action hero back then.

    “But I remember. I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I would never see them again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot. Today, the world no longer fears the Soviet Union, and it is because of the United States of America.”

  31. I am not sure what the Soviet Union has to do with Nazism, other than being the major force that crushed it, but now that you brought it up…

    While one is reasonably safe to say the US (and UK!) stopped Soviet expansion immediately after WWII, wether the US can take credit for the demise of the Soviet Union in another matter altogether.

    Some argue the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, including hardcore communist Soviet leaders for whom it would be benifical to spin the collapse into “communism was good, America got into a needless arms race, blah, blah, blah.”

    I tend to believe those people, not the delusions of a Holywood Cowboy President or Conan the Barbarian. And anyone “deeply affected” by this type of gloating speeches shows terminal signs of lack of self-criticism and should have their voting rights revoked as they are clearly not capable of making a truly informed opinion.

  32. PS: And if there is any country guilty of “joining the Nazis”, it’s the Terminator’s place of birth.

    Nothing against Arnold, he was, as he rightfully points out, “just a little boy”, but there was a reason that country was occupied by both Western forces and the Soviet Union in 1945.

    Just getting the facts straight.

  33. Bas,

    That’s the beauty of our democracy. You don’t have to be informed to vote.

    And with less than 5% of the 435 House of Representatives races contested in a serious way (districts tend to be gerry-mandered to one party or the other, and to overwhelmingly favor incumbents over challengers), you have almost zero opportunity to affect change in the legislative branch of national government. So voting as an informed voter has less impact on the legislative agenda than lobbying, but the co$t$.

    A little optimism two weeks before the big election!

  34. Bas,
    I think your European biases may have colored your opinions on the Soviet’s demise. While the Soviet Union crumbled under its own weight, it is pretty clear that the Reagan administration brought it to the tipping point. Good analysis of late 70s and 80s history, especially Soviet Union decision making with bleeding in Afghanistan, along with the pressures to bring the system closer to Western standards in terms of capitalizing on its human capital and getting western investments, caused the system to break. It’s hard to give Reagan’s administration entire credit for defeating them, because it was a 45 year fight, but they surely took an opportune moment to raise the stakes and tip them over. Their lack of preparedness for the fall of the berlin wall shows that even they were taken by surprise. Also, it is not hard to see how the US primarily through its immediate allies and later throught he European and Asia-Pac institutions was leading the fight to not only stop the Soviet expansion, but cause them bleeding in a variety of proxy wars. The bleeds were on both side, its just the Soviets’ had lower cushion to tolerate them. For example, their military might was matched to that of the US in many areas, and often exceeded US capabilities through sheer ingenuity (ie, thrust-vectoring on fighter planes has been deployed in Russia for over 10 years, US is partially there). The US trew more money at the same problems and had a system capable of paying for those debts through commercialization. The Soviet’s didn’t have that vent to pay for their effort and crumbled on so many levels. That was Reagan’s contribution: upping the ante when the Soviet resources were stretched across the board.

    Philip’s post above had a very good point: smart, intelligent people can be easily blinded by their passions and zeal born out of dislike and even hatered for someone or something, which leads them to irrational conclusions. It’s a good reminder when making comments.

  35. Three words: oh.. my.. god.

    Phillip, please get a basic history book and read up on US isolationism and why FDR almost “needed” the attack on Pearl Harbor to enter the war. Basically, while much of Europe thought that it was possible to appease Hitler through “appeasement polititcs”, the US simply decided it was not their problem.

    Also besides Austria which Hitler brought “home” (“heim ins Reich”) there wasn’t a single country that just “cooperated” with him. Hitler even went after his own allies (Moussolini anyone) and he actually *conquered* France, Poland and so on. Great Britain crumbled under the attacks of the German Luftwaffe, it needed American help to rebuild, a basis for today’s unwavering friendship towards the US. It’s also easy to see why everybody here (in Germany) loved the American soldiers when they were here… we didn’t kill millions of them during the war, so they were quite a bit nicer to us than the other countries’ soldiers.

    The idea that the Soviet Union’s fall was alone Reagan’s work, somehow misses all the other factors… they went bankrupt, guys! That really never happens just because of one rival’s actions, but I let this one go because it would just take too long to explain.

    But for god’s sake, comparing a full-blown military invasion to the actions of 19 individuals is a really loooong stretch and even if the comparison did work, you’ve attacked THE WRONG COUNTRY. (I hope you realize that it’s not only Michael Moore who said that.. but France & Germany, which might explain why we don’t fight in Iraq, but sent soldiers to Afghanistan)

    In Germany, according to one of our biggest newspapers “S

  36. “The Japanese did not expect to be able to win a total war against the U.S. and would not have attacked Pearl Harbor if they’d thought that we would respond as we did.”

    Phillip – did you forget that the Japanese did not surrender after the first nuclear (or nuke-layaar as Dubya likes to say it) bomb was dropped ? A second had to be lobbed three days later before Hirohito surrendered. If this is not indicative of the unrelenting aggresion of Japanese military leaders hell bent on fighting to the finish what is ?

  37. Vele, I could say the same thing about you, your time in the US seems to have biased you as well. I think it’s safe to say we can agree to disagree on this one.

    But I didn’t sink so low as to accuse anyone of making comments based on “dislike or hatred”. I can only assume that you mean to say that I dislike or hate America and therefor bias my conclusions away from giving credit to the them. As I do not dislike or hate America, only certain actions and views emanating from the country and it’s people, your conclusion about my comments is simply wrong and remind me of this whole “you are either with us or against us” thing.

  38. The Japanese had already surrendered when the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was an excuse to test it and more importantly to send a message to the Soviets that the US had the bomb. It’s on public record.

  39. Joh:
    “The Japanese had already surrendered when the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima”

    – Uh no, read your history books. An unconditional surrender was not proffered up until the second bomb was dropped – and that was only upon the interventon of Hirohito. The Japanese military leaders wanted to continue the fight.

  40. I’m Portugues, and I don’t know the history of Democrats or Republicans. The point is not that, the point is George W Bush! You had good presidents from both sides, but this one, is bad, it does’t matter the party he is.

  41. Stella: The fact that the Japanese were reluctant to unconditionally surrender even after an atomic bomb attack in 1945 does not mean that they, in 1941, desired a war to the bitter end or were enthusiastic about fighting Americans for the sake of fighting. Pearl Harbor was a high-stakes gamble that didn’t pay off partly because the aircraft carriers were out at sea on December 7 and partly because the U.S. turned out to be unwilling to negotiate.

    Europeans: On the issue of European populations cooperating with Nazi Germany… I was only pointing out that those countries that were early partners with Hitler, e.g., Vichy France, fared better than those that resisted, e.g., Czechoslovakia. If Germany had refrained from attacking Russia and declaring war on the U.S., at least until England was conquered, it might have enjoyed a long domination of Western and Central Europe in which the cooperating countries would have had comfortable roles. This is what the French were counting on at the time and you can see it in some of their contemporary documentaries (see the DVD “Eye of Vichy”). From the perspective of 2004 we can say that it was obvious that the Germans would lose in the long run and therefore all of the Europeans who cooperated with them were fools but presumably it was not obvious to the French circa 1940, for example.

  42. “[I did catch up by skimming the transcipt of the debate later. My favorite thing that was said was from Bush: “the actual user of health care is not the purchaser of health care.” This is what distinguishes a visit to a hospital emergency room from a visit to McDonald’s. Even if you don’t have health insurance and are going to be reamed out of $2000 for a simple X-ray the experience is pure Third World. As far as the staff is concerned you are not their customer. Insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid are the customers. If an executive from Blue Cross showed up at the hospital she would not be kept in a waiting room overflowing with the sickest most contagious SARS-ridden people in the metropolitan area. If nobody had health insurance hospitals and doctors would start to pay more attention to the patient experience.]”

    Very well said Phil. Funny how the responders all chose to enter a pissing contest about war brutality. The health care system is one or our ‘real’ problems here in the states. It’s near impossible to even get price quotes from doctors. I have no health inusrance by choice, as I have factored that it’s cheaper for me to pay out of pocket. I usually can get a cash discount, but some doctors and staff look at you crazy when you ask if there is a cash discount. And when you tell them you’re a “self-payer” they give you that painfull look of pity- “Poor lad doesn’t have health insurance”.
    Health care doesn’t look at us as the sevice consumers and they the service providers. Instead they are the “Lords of mercy and miracles”, and we the poor huddled masses.
    It’s always a formula for disaster when there is a disconnect between people and their money. The health insurance co’s have to act as the gatekeepers now, keeping the health care system in check. Better than nothing, but not nearly the same were it the “consumers” themselves watching over their health care expenditures.

  43. Outrageous.

    The Pacific phase of World War II was the result of Japanese aggression against China, which began in Manchuria in 1931 and was directed against the rest of China later in the 1930s (the 1937 Rape of Nanking was part of this aggression). FDR directed a policy to try to halt Japan’s aggression against China. An additional factor was Stalin’s desire to deflect Japanese aggression away from Siberia, a policy which culminated in a Soviet-Japanese nonaggression pact in April, 1941. (Had the Japanese invaded Siberia in 1941 Stalin would not have been able to withdraw Zhukov’s forces from Siberia to defend Moscow.) The diplomatic failure was a missed opportunity for an agreement for Japan to withdraw from China which fell through because Japan was unwilling to give up Manchuria and no one in Roosevelt’s administration took the trouble to clarify just how much of China Japan would have to give up. On the day of the Pear Harbor attack the Japanese launched offensive operations over thousands of miles of territory and a negotiated settlement would have been impossible because the militarists running Japan weren’t about to quit while they were scoring spectacular wins. Paul Johnson provides an excellect discussion of the Japanese strategy in “Modern Times.”

    The Japanese militarists refused to accept defeat, and they held little regard for the lives of their people. They still wanted to continue the fight after the bombing of Nagasaki, but the Emperor put a merciful stop to the carnage. Had he not done so there would have been millions of more deaths. An important point here is that the U.S. had at least four more A-bombs and they would have been used in support of an American invasion of Japan. The Japanese surrender also kept Stalin from occupying Northern Japan and installing a Communist regime there.

    The key point for understanding World War II in Europe is that Hitler wanted a war and that Stalin gave him one when he signed the notorious pact of August 23, 1939 in hopes of deflecting German aggression to Western Europe. Given the fact that Hitler had told the German Reichstag on January 30, 1939 that he would destroy the Jews if war broke out, Stalin probably knew that he was starting the Holocaust when he signed the pact. Stalin’s regime never told the Russian people that the 1941 Germans were entirely different from the relatively benign Germans of 1914.

    Neither Kennedy nor Johnson “started” the Vietnam War. This honor goes to one Nguyen That Than (final revolutionary name Ho Chi Minh, “He Who Enlightens,” an allusion to a form of Buddhist saint) and his inner circle. The key point here is that Ho was a life-long Communist who founded the Indochina Communist Party in 1930 on orders from the Comintern and aspired to place all of Indochina under the hegemony of his Party. Like most of the Communist dictators (Lenin is the principal exception) Ho was both a nationalist and a socialist just like Hitler. Ironically, his Party was operating under the name Vietnam Workers Party, evocative of National Socialist German Workers Party, during Vietnam War. Both the First Indochina War and the Second Indochina War were the result of this ambition. The Vietnamese Communists operated in much the same way as the Japanese militarists–with complete contempt for human life. The Communists killed more civilians than the Americans did in the Vietnam War, and they picked up the pace when it ended, particularly in Cambodia, as one would expect in a socialist revolution. The order to start construction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail was issued in 1959 by the Vietnamese Communist Politburo, well over a year before Kennedy was inaugurated.

    The Vietnamese Communists achieved their objective of hegemony over Indochina when they took control of Cambodia away from the Communist Party of Kampuchea (“Khmer Rouge,” i.e., Red Khmer) at the end of 1978 in the Third Indochina War. Ironically, the CPK would have never come to power without the assistance of the Vietnamese Communists (Ben Kiernan’s “The Pol Pot” regime points out in “The Pol Pot Regime” that the Vietnamese Communists manned the heavy weapons in the final seige of Phnom Penh.)

    The notion that the U.S. is more violent than other countries flies in the face of reason. The American people have always preferred peace. They thought they were voting for peace in 1916, 1940, and 1964, but each time the man they elected was unwilling or unable to deliver. Note that in each of these cases hostilities had been underway for some time before the U.S. entered the conflict.

    In sharp contrast, since 1918 most of the major wars were started by socialist regimes (including the German National Socialists). Furthermore, the twentieth century was one in which more people were killed by their own government (including occupation governments) at the time of the publication of the French edition of “The Black Book of Communism” the various Communist regimes had killed 85 million (the low number, the high number being 100 million. As I have related earlier, the German National Socialists would not have been able to kill their 18 million (from an appendix in Alan Bullock’s “Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives”) without the help of Stalin.

    The simple truth is that anti-American sentiment is socialist sentiment based on some form of Lenin’s theory of imperialism. The worst variety is that expressed in that work that was popular with Sixties radicals, Franz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth,” which hold that white people are responsible for all the evil in the world. If you substitute the term “Jews” for “white people” you have the German National Socialists’ rationale for the Holocaust.

    This history of the twentieth century has shown that socialism is a false science which was a colossal failure and caused incalculable human misery. No educated person should believe in it.

  44. Phil,

    Many years ago, when we first met, you had recently spent several days as a guest of Her Majesty’s Government-provided health service, after you developed the bends. I quote

    More important than the money was the warmth of the staff at Townsville General. They ordered lunch for me the first day without being asked. They anticipated my questions and needs. There were no lengthy bureaucratic waits or procedures. The staff tend to dress casually and don’t try to distance themselves from the patients. It sucks to be ill (you can’t say “sick” in Australia because it means vomiting) but if you’re going to be ill there really isn’t a better place than the hyperbaric unit at Townsville General Hospital.

    (Snipped from http://www.photo.net/webtravel/diving/decompression-illness)

    You can’t claim that having a third party payer leads to the poor treatment that you get, when you were treated by a hospital at which you did not have insurance, and did not know if you were able to cover the charges racked up (I have seen illegal immigrants treated for many thousands of dollars at my hospital), and lived to praise the experience.

  45. nqn, doesn’t Philip saying: “If nobody had health insurance hospitals and doctors would start to pay more attention to the patient experience” kind of prove your point?

    If think he means to say: “if health insurance weren’t an issue (ie: universal health care) hospital’s would be nice to patients instead of those footing the bill”. I read it as a sharp criticism to the system in general.

    But maybe I read it all wrong. Philip?


    From electoral-vote.com:

    From The Los Angeles Times: “Nationwide, at least two polls in the last week showed that newly registered voters favored Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry by double-digit margins. The Massachusetts senator holds an even greater lead, the polls found, among voters 29 and younger… The conclusion is that the new voters and younger voters favor Kerry by a large margin, but historically they don’t actually bother to vote. If they do this time, it could make a big difference.

    Come on people––your vote is essential!

    THERE’S STILL TIME TO REQUEST YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT in many states if you are registered to vote!
    It’s easy; it’s online.

    Absentee Ballot information online:


    Please e-mail this information to all of your friends!


    Your future depends on it!


  47. Surely a citizenry that makes Chinese slave labor, SUburban assault Vehicles, violent cartoons, snuff films masquerading as religion, and gangsta TV profitable is capable of making responsible choices at the polls! My neighbors have allowed themselves to be dumbed down so significantly that they don’t believe that their behavior even has consequences, nevermind the specific irresponsibility that has led to this election.

    Arundhati Roy describes the current choices more eloquently than I ever could:

    “There are differences in the I.Q.s and levels of ruthlessness between this year’s U.S. presidential candidates. The anti-war movement in the United States has done a phenomenal job of exposing the lies and venality that led to the invasion of Iraq, despite the propaganda and intimidation it faced.

    This was a service not just to people here, but to the whole world. But now, if the anti-war movement openly campaigns for Kerry, the rest of the world will think that it approves of his policies of “sensitive” imperialism. Is U.S. imperialism preferable if it is supported by the United Nations and European countries? Is it preferable if UN asks Indian and Pakistani soldiers to do the killing and dying in Iraq instead of U.S. soldiers? Is the only change that Iraqis can hope for that French, German, and Russian companies will share in the spoils of the occupation of their country?

    Is this actually better or worse for those of us who live in subject nations? Is it better for the world to have a smarter emperor in power or a stupider one? Is that our only choice?”


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