Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bush's Bad Analogy

Fred Kaplan responds to Bush's ill-advised analogy between today's War on Terrorism, or is that the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, and World War II. To be honest, Kaplan demolishes Bush. Here's how:
Accept for a moment the argument that Iraq is but one theater in a global war on terrorism. Overlook that, to the degree this is true, it's because Bush's invasion of Iraq—and his many miscalculations afterward—helped make it so. Even so, it would be an enormous leap to claim that the war in Iraq—or the broader war on terror—is the political, strategic, or moral equivalent of World War II.

Al-Qaida or its sundry offshoots could crash many more airplanes, wreck many more buildings, and bomb many more subways—and the magnitude of their power, and the urgency of their threat, would still fall far short of that posed by Nazi Germany. The panzers of the Wehrmacht rolled across the plains of Europe, toppling governments with ease, imposing totalitarian regimes, and killing millions in their wake. This was a war of civilization on a level that today's war—however you might define it—doesn't begin to approach.

But let's say that the two wars—World War II and Iraq (or the broader war on terrorism)—are comparable, that their stakes are even remotely as high. Then why is President Bush fighting this war so tentatively?

From December 1941 to August 1945—the attack on Pearl Harbor until the declaration of Allied victory—the United States manufactured 88,430 tanks and 274,941 combat aircraft. Yet in the two years after the invasion of Iraq, much less the four years since the attack on the World Trade Center, the Bush administration has not built enough armor platings to protect our soldiers' jeeps from roadside bombs.

To fund World War II, the United States drastically expanded and raised taxes. (At the start of the war, just 4 million Americans had to pay income tax; by its end, 43 million did.) Beyond that, 85 million Americans—half the population at the time—answered the call to buy War Bonds, $185 billion worth. Food was rationed, scrap metal was donated, the entire country was on a war footing. By contrast, President Bush has asked the citizenry for no sacrifice, no campaigns of national purpose, to fight or fund the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, he has proudly cut taxes, heaving the hundreds of billions of dollars in war costs on top of the already swelling national debt.

If this war's stakes are comparable to World War II's, the entire nation should be enlisted in its cause—not necessarily to fight in it, but at least to pay for it. And if President Bush is not willing to call for some sort of national sacrifice, he cannot expect anyone to believe the stakes are really high.
Well said. Kaplan 1 - Bush 0.

POSTSCRIPT: One scenario Kaplan does indeed fail to mention, and which is extremely plausible, is the Al-Qaeda franchise gets their hands on enough radioactive material to construct various dirty bombs, or heaven forbid, attain the expertise to build and then detonate a small nuclear device in a populated city. Maybe that still doesn't make Al-Qaeda as much an existential threat as the Nazis, but the death and destruction left by such a hypothetical would still be horrific.