Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Passing a Milestone

Obsidian Wings links to an acute observation by Angry Bear regarding the War on Terror.
"This coming Thursday, May 19, 2005, will be the 1,346th day since the attacks of 9/11. That is the same length of time from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the end of WWII on V-J Day. (Dec 7, 1941 to Aug 24, 1945)

Most comparisons between WWII and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have been preposterous: Saddam Hussein was no Adlof [sic] Hitler; the "Axis of Evil" was no WWII Axis Powers; the far right even went so far as to compare Colin Powell to Neville Chamberlain.

But this milestone does provide the opportunity to compare the effectiveness of America's responses to both crises. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, America came together, and with determination, shared sacrifice, and the effective and focused leadership of FDR, George C. Marshall, and many others, America and her allies were victorious.
A poorly defined mission has led to poor results. Iraq is a mess and many Americans have concluded that the invasion of Iraq was unrelated to the GWOT. The situation in Afghanistan is not much better. Worldwide terrorism is still on the rise and America is now deeply divided."

The inaptness of the "WWII = GWOT" analogy works both ways of course--the likelihood that we will have an easily recognizable "VT-day" strikes me as very remote. However, on a symbolic level, I think there is an important point to be made here. What is our status on the war on terror? Are we making it more or less likely that terror will be a prominent threat to our children? Are we making inroads against terrorist organizations and structures? Have we insured that the global community will get behind us for the long-haul?

In all honesty, I think we are making progress in most of these parameters. But the vagueness of our objectives and the dearth of long-term, strategic planning by this administration makes it almost impossible to tell. Like with our multi-trillion dollar deficit, President Bush has done a top-notch job of ensuring that the most difficult problems will fly at us after he's already left office. It is the next President who will have to deal with the smoking aftermath of our non-existent global reputation and lack of a clear mission in the world. In World War II, this sort of problem simply wasn't present. But without overstating the similarities between that case and this one, I think it is unacceptable that the problem is present here.

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