Thursday, August 24, 2006

Historical Ignorance

The Leftist myth of World War I as the war fought about nothing is perpetuated in this recent opinion column:
The events in the Middle East are often compared to 1914 and the start of World War I. That war -- the Great War, the war to end all wars -- is actually the all-purpose war. It not only began for what seemed like a trivial reason (the assassination of a non-head of state), but it was fought with tenacity and brutality for what now seems no reason at all. In the end, millions died and the world was utterly changed. Why?
Was World War I really the first Seinfeldian war? Of course it wasn't. Anyone who has ever had the slightest inclination to actually learn something about World War I knows that the victorius British Empire blamed the war on German militarism. And anyone who has ever read about World War I in any detail knows that there was the issue of a Balkan power struggle between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. If the German militarists knew anything about the likely outcome of the war, they knew that a German victory would almost certainly lead to an Anschluss of Austria significantly sooner than the historical year of 1938.

The reason why Conservatives are big on comparing the Middle East to the Balkans lately -- President Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski presciently lumped the two together into one big Eurasian Balkans -- is that liberal public opinion about the Balkans post-1918 matches liberal public opinion about the Middle East post-2003. In the standard two-word formulation of foreign policies articulated for the general public, liberals across the West were more than happy to adopt a policy of "total neglect" with regard to these areas.

Hitler knew that this was the case. Notice that the Western policy of appeasement abruptly stopped once Hitler lost interest in taking over parts of the Balkans and decided to attack Poland. Stalin knew that this was the case as well. The very thought that the Soviet Union would have dared to besmirch its sterling international reputation by instructing its subordinate communist parties to overthrow the Balkan states would have had liberals laughing out loud in 1945, but Stalin did it and got away with it.

Fast forward to 2006 and even the intellectual coherence of the appeasers of 1938 has disappeared. For example, the contemporary Left has actually fractured into two factions holding diametrically opposed views about what is happening in Iraq. Some parts of the Left believe that the violence in Iraq is due to popular resentment of the the American occupation, and if the Americans troops leave the country then the violence will essentially vanish. Other parts of the Left believe that Iraq is careening towards an inevitable civil war fought along sectarian lines, and if the American troops leave then the inevitably escalating violence in Iraq will at least not be taking American lives. The Left obviously just wants the American troops to cut and run from Iraq -- damn the consequences -- and can't decide on which cover story will sell with the American public.

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