From Jessica’s Well
If you did not click on the link yet, please answer these questions before reading the article in LIFE Magazine. Where have you heard the following?
Americans are losing the victory
The troops returning home are worried. “We’ve lost the peace,” men tell you. “We can’t make it stick.”
Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American.
You try to explain to these (People) that they expected too much. They answer that they had a right to, that after the last was America was the hope of the world.
Never has American prestige in Europe been lower.
If you did not click the link, you could be forgiven for thinking these quotes are from modern news reports. They are not. These quotes came from just the first page of a LIFE article titled “Americans are Losing the Victory in Europe” January, 1946. The article goes into some length on European issues with America and her Armed Forces during the initial occupation six months after VE Day was declared.
Though the author tells of our victory in Europe against the very real and very sadistic evils of National Socialism, he states the following:
We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease.
Now WHERE have I heard that before? Saddam’s National Socialist Pan Arab Ba’ath Party was a successor to Hitlerism with a good bit of Stalin thrown in. A destructive collectivist regime bent on totalitarian (holistic) control of the populations’ every breath. Yet from the media, many leftists, and even a few on the isolationist right, we hear almost the same about the removal Saddam and the ending of the very real and very sadistic evils of Arab National Socialism.
Just like this author (up to this point in his article), the “anti war” left and the isolationists are just as wrong, as history shows for Europe and now on display, though barely reported on, in Iraq.
But here is where an important difference occurs.
That we are one world is unfortunately a brutal truth. Punishing the German people indiscriminately for the sins of their leader may be justice, but it is not helping to restore the rule of civilization. The terrible lesson of the events of this year of victory is that what is happening to the bulk of Europe today can happen to American tomorrow.
In America we are still rich, we are still free to move from place to place and to talk to our friends without fear of the secret police. The time has come, for our own future security, to give the best we have to the world instead of the worst. So far as Europe is concerned, American leadership up to now has been obsessed with a fear of our own virtues. Winston Churchill expressed this state of mind brilliantly in a speech to his own people which applies even more accurately to the people of the U.S. “You must be prepared,” he warned them, “for further efforts of mind and body and further sacrifices to great causes, if you are not to fall back into the rut if inertia, the confusion of aim and the craven fear of being great.”
Despite all the irrational and moronic calls that the current USA is a “Bush Police State”, we are not. If this point eludes some, let me remind you that US Service Members are not allowed to be armed, while in uniform, within the Continental United States (abbr CONUS) except for range qualifications and some training exercises. This is a point not missed by the islamofascists and hateful, militant leftists. We Americans are also free to move about the country and the world and free to communicate and express our views (college campuses being a very notable exception in their censoring and squashing of conservative views).
America, through our own very difficult trials and growth, is the exception in Human history. The general rule in the world is dictatorships, tribal/clan alliances, and authoritarianism reign. Common people are not only suppressed, but slaughtered in many areas. America, though not perfect and still growing, is the exception to this. The world marvels at our culture and is confused by it. By culture, I do not mean “pop-culture” or Hollywood celebrities who think they are important because someone pays them outrageous sums to lipsync a song. I refer instead to the overall culture of America and our efforts to not only accept those of warring factions, but to make them our allies. We did not punish the Iraqis for Saddam. Saddam himself punished them enough through 30 years of abuse. The Iraqis realize this and that is one of the many reasons the “awakening” has finally happened.
Case in point, though anecdotal. As a young Platoon Leader in 1998, I was in Bircko, Former Yugoslavia with a British Major from a Highlander Regiment. We were rebuilding the city’s railhead. A Serb gentleman approach us with a bemused look, probably because the Brit was actually IN Highlander garb (kilt, stockings, big knife on his calf, and a Beretta 92F/M9 pistol stuck in his sash). The Serb asked what we were doing and the reply was we were rebuilding the railyard to remove our equipment and return it to the local people afterwards.
In the course of the conversation, the British Officer asked what would happen if NATO and Russian troops pulled out that day and left the country. The Serb replied that “we will be at war within a week”. When asked what he was fighting for, the Serb replied “I fight for the Battle of Kosovo”. Remember, this was 1998, the Kosovo we know of, and are still dealing with, had not yet happened. The “Battle of Kosovo” which still angered him was 800 years ago. Grudges are not forgotten there and the people on all sides of that real civil war will tell you the exact same thing even today. NATO pulls out and the region will be at war within a week to a month.
I turned to the Highlander and stated, sarcastically, “isn’t it good that we do not carry a grudge for so long”. The major’s reply, in German, was “yes, we would all be speaking German then.” This became a short history lesson in US/UK history for the now confused Serbian. In the end, he stated (paraphrasing), “You (pointing to me) were a colony of the UK, rebelled against them, fought them for years, and now you are allies?! I do not understand.” To which the British Major replied, “And that is why we are occupying your country and not the other way around.”
There is the American exception and greatness again. An empire does not rebuild and rearm the vanquished. We rebuilt and rearmed Germany, Japan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We did change policies from Bosnia/Serbia to Iraq and Afghanistan though. In the latter two we did not interfere with elections. However, in Serbia, we nullified several elections which the world did not agree with. That dangerous precedent is thankfully not repeated.
Infant mortality is already so high that a Berlin Quaker, quoted in the British press, predicted. “No child born in Germany in 1945 will survive. Only half the children aged less than 3 years will survive.”
Nothing in Iraq or Afghanistan comes remotely close to this level of suffering. Yet neither the occupations of Iraq nor Europe mismanaged at the top levels, or even farther down. The scale of the devastation in both cases were unimaginable and nothing in history prepared us for the magnitude of the reconstruction efforts. In both WWII and OIF, the population was subjugated and/or slaughtered by a national socialist regime and in both, a third party (USSR in WWII and Iran in OIF) played havoc on reconstruction. In the past, the victors (if they even left the vanquished nation intact) did little to nothing in assisting the defeated. Starvation and devastation were the norm. Thankfully, America and her allies do not follow history in this regard.
On Germany, which plunged the Continent into its misery, falls the blame for its own plight and the plight of all Europe. But if this winter proves worse even than the war years, blame will fall on the victor nations. Some Europeans blame Russia for callousness to misery in eastern Europe. But some also blame America because they expected so much more from her.
Again, it is the “Party X (NAZI Germany and Russia here) is bad, but Shame on YOU America for not being superheros”. We hear this over and over even today. America was not “fast enough”, did not “do enough”, or did not “give enough” for disaster X,Y, and Z but no one else is held accountable, even when it is proven America did give, do more, and was not responsible for even causing the event.
Unfortunately, the LIFE article except ends and one has to pay to see more. But there are other articles. This from the Instapundit Archives. (Note, quotes edited for readability by replacing the “?” which always appear with proper quotation marks.)
How Long Will We Stay in Germany?
By Demaree Bess
Saturday Evening Post
February 2, 1946
“Just what I expected!” angrily exclaimed the official from Washington. “I told President Truman that the Army doesn’t understand coal mining. I told him he would have to send civilian specialists to manage this coal business in Germany.”
The official was exasperated. Here he was, inspecting the fuel situation in Europe, and what did he find? He found that although winter was already here, the rich German coal fields still were not producing much, and the United States would have to ship our own coal to Europe to make up the deficiency.
If I substituted “oil” for “coal” would the link be more apparent? Or maybe power generation, sewer systems, road construction, etc? All of these obstacles were faced by the US Armed Forces in Iraq early on. All were overcome and are still improving with a lot of work, just as they were in Europe.
I do like the article’s “both sides of the story” take. The Army’s response to said civilian official?
The American general who was responsible for getting coal for the United States zone in Germany was even more exasperated.
“I’d like to know what your civilian specialists would have done with this setup?” he retorted. And he went on to point out that there is practically no coal in the American zone of occupation. The mines of Silesia are controlled by the Red Army; the Ruhr fields are in the British zone; the Saar coal is in the French area.
“We Americans thought at first that it didn’t matter where the mines were located,” the general continued. “We thought that everybody in Europe was equally anxious to get the coal out of the ground before this winter. But it certainly hasn’t worked out that way.”
I guess it was a quagmire then.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. And the US Military will continue to get the job done to the best of our ability despite the naysayers.