Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Learn your history!
Reading these letters to the editor wrt Condi Rice's comparison of Iraq to post-WWII German occupation, I couldn't help notice the distinct lack of historical knowledge in the second (the first is a fine, first person account of the occupation of Germany)[Iraq Is Not Post-WWII Germany]. Now, the second letter, in full (it is too short to excerpt).

No! Postwar Iraq is not analogous to postwar Germany.

Germany had a homogenous society that had a substantially democratic form of government (before Hitler). Iraq didn't exist until the British drew arbitrary lines in the sand to create it, without regard for the disparate, distinct tribes whose history — and legacy — is tribal wars and, often, a nomadic, theocratic culture.

The absence of this fundamental understanding of the people and history of the region has led this administration on a path of destruction and self-destruction. President Bush and company need to read a few history books.

Now, I happen to agree with his point, and I certainly acknowledge that Iraq's borders, drawn by the British as part of an attempt to create balanced powers in the region, without regard to internal tensions, create a large measure of the problems (ahem, oil, Israel). BUT, how can anyone argue that Germany had a "substantially democratic" form of government. Yes, of course, the Weimar Republic was a democracy of sorts, and this statement is literally accurate, but it misses the point entirely. One of the major forces leading to the rise of Hitler in Germany was a nation unused to the form and function of democracy.
It is helpful to recall that the nation of Germany was very young in 1933, having been officially formed in, IIRC, 1877, basically by the force of the strong Prussian kingdom assimilating the other Germanic central European states of the former Holy Roman Empire. This basically Prussian state was ruled by autocrats, such as Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm, until WWI. After the war, the Western Powers (Britain and France, principally) forced an arduous and destabilizing peace on the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary, but principally Germany). This peace included the dissolution of the Kaiser's government and the establishment of the Weimar Republic. So, when Hitler came to power in 1933, democracy had "flourished" in Germany for all of 14 years. Additionally, the Weimar Republic was not nearly as homogenous as Mr. Yablow is suggesting. Political and social factions in Germany made for substantial potential for internal strife. It was largely economic impoverishment, lost national pride, and factional politics that allowed for the rise of fascism in Germany (and Italy, for that matter)
As I said, I agree with Mr. Yablow's point, but the main reasons post-WWII Germany is different are money and troops.
In the words of Mr. Yablow's letter, he needs to read a few (more)history books.