Tuesday, November 29, 2005
An imperfect, but perhaps more appropriate, post WWII analogy might be South Korea. At great peril and loss of life (60,000 Americans), we helped to secure a free and democratic South Korea as a bulwark to Communist expansion in Asia. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan form an Asian "arc" of freedom, democracy and prosperity that arguably has played an important role in moderating the worst tendencies of Chinese communism to the benefit of its people. And we did this in 1950 - just in the wake of an exhausting WWII -- in a faraway place, without immediate, tangible benefits. Few would today argue it was a mistake, though it was politically controversial, marred with disastrous setbacks along the way and (again arguably) may have contributed to significant electoral realignment. Generals as heroically recalled as MacArthur lost their jobs over Korea. As a moral matter, think about the disastrous plight of the North Korean people in comparison to the South Koreans or Japanese people. Amazing how the passage of time, and success, illluminates.
Some might argue that the loss of those 60,000 Americans wasn't worth it. How can you measure what might otherwise have been? Pat Buchanan argues today we shouldn't have fought the Nazis. Ridiculous. So too would I argue the point on Korea. Those 60,000 Americans gave their lives for American freedom as well as South Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese freedom. If you don't stem the growth of totalitarian societies by fighting for freedom, you eventually lose many more lives -- and quite possibly your own, and your family's freedom.
I agree entirely. And there is at least one other very apt analogy to the Korean war -- the execution.
The signature "disastrous setback" along the way, of course, was the intervention of China, which was occasioned by the United States decision to push the war far into the north after the victory at Inchon. In Korea, we could have achieved essentially the same result years earlier and with many fewer lives lost had we not made that mistake. Then, though, we understood that the fact of that mistake was not in and of itself a reason to abandon the mission, even if it was a reason to sack Douglas MacArthur (my history here, I admit, is from memory, so readers should fact-check my ass if I'm wrong on this).
In Iraq, there is no question that we made mistakes that this post-war period more difficult. Those mistakes happen to be trivial in their consequences compared to those made in Korea, but mistakes they were. Now as then, the fact of them has no bearing on two key points. First, whether we should withdraw. Second, our chances for ultimate victory.
I've said it before and say it again: our costs in both blood and treasure in Iraq are trivial. We can spend $80 billion per year and lose 1000 dead and 5000 wounded ad infinitum if it is necessary to do that in order to achieve our objectives. The only threat comes from those who would declare Iraq a loss rather than see any credit accrue to the present administration. Unfortunately, that's a great many people in the world.