Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who let this happen?

The region's liveliest system: Amid the bickering and chicanery, people are engaging in democracy.
Sometimes it seems as if Iraqi politicians cannot agree on anything. Parliament has taken months debating a bill to pave the way to elections on January 16th, though at least 296 parties have declared their intention to compete at the polls. Yet outside the chamber many members say they want the same things. The era of sectarian division, they all insist, is over. Shias and Sunnis embrace at press conferences as they present electoral alliances. In the name of reconciliation, politicians disavow the militias that once killed on their behalf. Banners proclaim the goal of “national unity”. Is there any sign that such fine dreams might ever come true?

For all the backbiting, progress is plain. After months of negotiations, six main electoral blocks have emerged to meet a looming deadline for registering alliances. The three that look most genuinely post-sectarian may well be the strongest. The rest sport fig-leaves of diversity but are tainted with past sectarian violence.

Neocons took a beating over Iraq, and the Bush administration's post-invasion competence and leadership were notable primarily for their absence.

However, does anyone, even Andrew Sullivan, wish we could take a mulligan and have Saddam still in power?


Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Quite a few Westerners still regret the fall of the Berlin Wall, so I expect there's a good sized crowd that is unhappy about this too.

November 16, 2009 11:42 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Do you actually know anyone who regretted the fall of the wall?

I never heard of even one.

November 16, 2009 4:19 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Thatcher and Mitterand, for two.

November 16, 2009 5:05 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I am sure you could find plenty of academics who do. I have seen a number of stories of unrepentant western communists who quite regret the fall of Soviet Communism. I'll keep an eye out for any I see. You could here for an example.

November 16, 2009 7:37 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Unrepentant western communists is a pretty small pool.

November 17, 2009 10:03 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

But they tend to be concentrated in loud, public intellectual places.

November 17, 2009 12:01 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Here's an article on that subject. Or perhaps this one?

November 17, 2009 7:54 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Tsk tsk Garvin.

Excellent comprehensive article, but he lost me when he refers to Coulter as an attack blonde and says her accusation that "Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy" is idiotic.

As Obama et al. are proving day after day, she's right on target.

November 18, 2009 6:33 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

' Stalin provided his country, still highly vulnerable, with a territorial security absent in all history.'

Hmmm. Are you (or that reviewer) suggesting he didn't?

"Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy'

Yeah, because America First was a liberal, Democratic pressure group.

November 18, 2009 9:52 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Stalin's territorial security? Do you mean all the so-called Soviet Republics he added to his territory, the citizens of which weren't too happy to be securely tied to him.

America First? What do those nutcases have to do with anything.

November 18, 2009 12:20 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

No, I am not suggesting he didn't. You're definitely on the same page as Tom Friedman.

Your logic is faulty. "If B then A" does not follow from "if A then B".

November 18, 2009 12:46 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

' Stalin provided his country, still highly vulnerable, with a territorial security absent in all history.'

Hmmm. Are you (or that reviewer) suggesting he didn't?

The purging of the Soviet officer corps prior to Hitler's invasion, and Stalin's incredibly inept response to it, meant that he came very darn close to didn't.

Imagine how WWII turns out if Stalin had not inked his pact with the devil, and instead prepared for the obvious.

November 18, 2009 2:39 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Actually, he did prepare for the obvious. He offered a military alliance with the democracies, tried to buy Karelia from the Finns etc.

He did more than England or France.

He even fought the Japanese, which is more than anybody else did.

And he just barely prevailed.

As the Ukrainians learned in 1941-42, they wouldn't have been better off if he hadn't.

I dunno, erp, who ever heard of Charles Lindbergh?

A fair sample of the ability of rightwingers to judge such things here

November 18, 2009 4:05 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, are you alluding to the fact that prior to WW2, Lindbergh favored Germany? So did Joseph Kennedy and plenty of others, but did they sell out their country and act as spies for Hitler?

Studs Terkel had an FBI file. Shocking! Was he a member of CPUSA? Maybe not, but so what. He certainly was a sympathizer.

November 18, 2009 6:01 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

As usual, Mr. Eagar has to reach in to history to find comparisons to modern day events.

Anyway, trying to buy Karelia from the Finns was stupid and anti-preparation. It resulted in the Finns embarrassing the Red Army, demonstrating to Nazi Germany how weak it was, and ended driving the Finns in to German arms. I didn't think anyone still made excuses for the Winter War, but live and learn.

P.S. If we're going to go back to WWII, can we count all the pro-Soviet efforts of the MAL during the Cold War, which addresses quite directly my point?

November 18, 2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, if we don't go back to WW2, we will have to look at the glorious invasion of Grenada, I suppose. Are you sure you want to do that?

The question -- as I see it -- is not whether Stalin made correct decisions but whether he made attempts. He did. Britain and France did not.

I thought Skipper said Stalin didn't recognize the threat. He certainly did. That's why he moved against the Baltic republics and tried to obtain control of Hango from Finland -- he wanted to protect Leningrad.

The Russians did win, you know. They beat the Germans.

November 19, 2009 9:13 AM  
Blogger erp said...

The Russians beat the Germans? Not without a lot of help from their friends.

November 19, 2009 9:29 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eagar;

I have no problem with going back to the invasion of Grenada, but as usual you've jumped around so much I have no idea what you think that would demonstrate / prove / indicate / dispute. But if you think it's equivalent to a grand strategy that cost millions of unnecessary casualties (including over a million executions of returned POWs), have at.


I have to agree more with Mr. Eagar here. While the USSR received enormous amounts of aid without which it would have fallen, the Soviets had in fact turned the tide against Germany before the Normandy invasions. Most of the Wehrmacht was on the Eastern Front, not the Western, right up to the end of the war.

November 19, 2009 10:34 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Actually, the Russians turned the tide before America even passed Lend-Lease. We had nothing to do with the outcome. The British did, but mostly by pinning down just enough -- and it was a very near thing -- German forces to allow the Russians to prevail.

In 1914, the foes of Germany on the western side pinned their hopes on Russia on the eastern side, but it didn't work. In 1937 and later, the foes of Germany on the western side pinned their hopes on Russia on the eastern side, and it did work.

In neither case did the people who expected the Russians to do the dirty work care how it was done, or who paid the price.

It ill becomes the people who avoided paying much price to critique those who did.

November 19, 2009 11:15 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Then why was Frankie so hot to help Uncle Joe?

November 19, 2009 11:32 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...


Because Mr. Eagar has his history wrong. Lend-Lease was passed on 11 March, 1941. Operation Barbarossa started on 22 June, 1941. Apparently on Eagar's world, the Soviets turned the tied against the Nazis before the Nazis even started the invasion! No wonder he admires Stalin's military acumen.

November 19, 2009 5:17 PM  
Blogger erp said...

SH, in the 70's and 80's I worked with Soviet citizens here in the U.S. on short (two and three month) visas. What they had to say about the USSR made me wonder how the media and academe not only got it wrong, but 180 deg. wrong.

Since then I don't believe anything at all, I don't care where the information comes from, about what happened in that part of the world since the last real czar met his maker.

Maybe someday, after political correctness has been thoroughly discredited, the true history of the 20th century will be written. I wish I could be around to find out what really happened.

November 19, 2009 5:42 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

erp, because they thought it would turn out well in the end, they didn't how many "little people" got cracked for their omelets, and they thought they obviously be in the nomenklatura.

November 19, 2009 8:53 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It's more mysterious than that. For an example of someone who did not get into the nomenklatura but also supported the regime, see here

November 20, 2009 9:19 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, I also had a chance to talk to Jews/dissidents who were allowed to leave the USSR during the Carter years. They were true believers. Few of them denounced communism and many were dismayed at our open hedonistic culture, not unlike their counterparts in academe here at home. In fact, I learned years later that some of them actually voluntarily returned.

I could never understand why American Jews basically tolerated/ignored the rabid anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Certainly Israelis knew the score. Maybe as aog said, it was just part of the greater good of making omelets.

November 20, 2009 10:06 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

They hated the czars. My friend, the most devoted capitalist you ever saw, tells me that everybody in his neighborhood -- Brighton Beach, all Jewish half a century ago -- was in the Revolutionary Communist Party.

But that's perhaps a Jewish thing.

The great mystery (to me, anyway) is not that bolshevism was tyrranous -- we've got lots of tyrannies -- but that antibolshevism in every country took the form of fascism. What's up with that?

The only way I can dope it out is that the regimes that bolshevism proposed to replace were truly awful. There are hints, here and there, although I find them incomplete.

Alexander Werth said that peasants supported the Stalin regime because it taught their children to read. They knew that would never happen under the czars.

November 20, 2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, I can't fault those in Russia who were oppressed by the czars and hoped the revolutionaries were telling the truth.

What I can't fathom is that people still believe them a hundred years and millions of deaths later.

November 20, 2009 3:32 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eagar;

But why didn't they support the Kerensky government? The idea that the Bolsheviks overthrew the Czars is communist propaganda. The Bolsheviks overthrew a semi-democracy that was forming. Of course, the Bolsheviks weren't even the majority of the Communist party (that would be the Mensheviks).

But mostly I am with erp. At the time, it was easy for Lenin to conceal what he was really about. By the time of Stalin it took a willing suspension of perception to do so, yet Stalin still has his fans in the West. Or Trotsky, who was simply a slight more inept Stalin.

I suspect that anti-bolshevism took the form of fascism because that the was other 'wave of the future' in those days. We look back differently now, but then fascism looked quite good, even FDR was a fan. Moreover, the situations in which bolshevism can succeed are those in which the majority of the population is looking for a centralized power, which generally gets you one or the other.

November 20, 2009 9:08 PM  
Blogger erp said...

SH - IMO the only difference between communism and fascism is that commies took their orders from Moscow and fascists mostly didn't.

November 21, 2009 6:02 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Can you guys get your prejudices straignt? Fascism was antimarxist (see Ernst Nolte, 'Three Faces of Fascism,' who says antimarxism was the only thing that united the various fascisms.)

FDR cannot have simultaneously been a fsscist and a commie.

Just more evidence for my belief that not one American in 10,000 could recognize a commie if he did find one under the bed.

November 21, 2009 9:50 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, define your terms!

A Marxist is a socialist, a communist is a socialist, a fascist is a socialist, a Bolshevik is a socialist, a Maoist is a socialist and Obama et al. are socialists.

They all have one thing is common and that is central control and limited/non-existent individual freedom.

Communists in most contexts means those socialists under the control and direction of the former Soviet Union, so calling Obama a commie is merely a short-hand way of identifying his motives, not suggesting that he gets his marching orders from the ghost of Stalin.

November 21, 2009 10:08 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Because Mr. Eagar has his history wrong. Lend-Lease was passed on 11 March, 1941. Operation Barbarossa started on 22 June, 1941. Apparently on Eagar's world, the Soviets turned the tied against the Nazis before the Nazis even started the invasion! No wonder he admires Stalin's military acumen.'

I had to check my memory, and it wasn't wrong. First convoy arrived Aug. 31 (all British) with raw materials. Second Oct. 1, again almost all raw materials.

Neither had any impact on the fighting, which was decided sometime on October or November.

People seem to have a hard time with the concept of military decision. No one, I think, ever quarrels with the idea that the war between Japan and the US was decided long before Aug 1945. Some would put the decision in June 42, although I think it was later, not earlier than Jan 43.

Anyhow, when we are taking credit, nobody has great difficulty with the concept of decision. When it's the Red Army, somehow it cannot be.

November 21, 2009 12:48 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Yes, you did. Let's go to the quote, which you can find just by scrolling up

"Actually, the Russians turned the tide before America even passed Lend-Lease"

Let's do it again in slow motion, just the critical bit

"before American even passed"

Woah, there it is - "passed".

I am just astounded that you think you can fudge that when the original quote is right there, just a couple pages away. You got the history badly, flagrantly wrong.

By the way, the decision on the Eastern Front was in August of 1943 at the end of the Battle of Kursk. That was the moment of decision.

Your claim that it was decided by October of 1941 is, frankly, laughable. One need only look at the campaigning in 1942 to see that. Even as late as Feb of 1943 in fighting around Kharkov, the Wehrmacht was scoring massive victories. Your history is still quite wrong.

November 21, 2009 4:03 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Yes, I misspoke. Lend-Lease was passed earlier, but the agreement to extend it to USSR came later. (As I recall, Lend-Lease wasn't even discussed for Russia until after June 22; why would it have been? But I cannot quickly find the date that the US-USSR protocol was signed.)

There was no chance that even if the Germans had won at Kursk (which they didn't) the outcome of the war with Russia would have been different.

Recall that the Germans did not expect to have to fight into 1942. (It is my opinion that they didn't expect to have to fight at all; they expected Russia to collapse. But that's just an opinion.)

In November '41, there were panicky appeals for donations of furs to provide winter clothing for the army in Russia. Hitler had already released a good chunk of industrial capacity for consumer goods, as he did not think he would need more munitions.

My view is that the Russians won when they inflicted a casualty the Germans could not make good. That was sometime in October or November. At the very latest, the counterattacks in late November-December showed that the Germans had failed in their campaign.

The Germans said they suffered 900,000 casualties in Russia up to Jan. 1, 1942. Russia far more, but the difference was, Russia could replace hers, Hitler couldn't.

In the spring of '42, Germany renewed its offensive, but at about half the scale of '41. If Germany couldn't make Russia collapse with 300 divisions, how was it going to do so with 150?

The war was over, the fighting wasn't.

(The US came close as dammit to losing a whole army at Leyte in 44, because of Halsey's incompetence. But do you think that, even if Japan had pulled that off, the outcome of the war would have been different?)

November 21, 2009 6:01 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I think that, absent aid from the Allies, the Red Army would have lost at Kursk and lost the European part of the USSR to Germany or German puppet states. Men don't help if you don't have war material and without Allied aid, the Soviets would not have been able to relocate enough industry past the Urals. Had the Germans run the 1942 campaigns better they might have won the war that year. You may disagree, but I find (for instance) B.H. Liddell Hart's opinion more convincing than yours.

November 22, 2009 6:42 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If the Germans had put the main weight of their attack toward Moscow in 1941, they might have conquered the capital and, perhaps, have brought down the regime. But they didn't.

That they advanced on a broad front is one of the main reasons I believe they did not think they were going to have to fight. They expected a fight in France, and they followed regular military strategy by concentrating their assault.

It was a close-run thing.

I am not, in general, a big admirer of military thinking. Recall that in June 1941, bets were being taken at the Department of Defense about how long the Russians would last. The pessimists were saying 3 weeks, the optimists 6.

Kursk did not have the potential to be decisive because it was the most violent collision in history -- both sides mounted main offensives against each other. That just doesn't happen and demonstrates a failure of intelligence (information) on the part of the Germans and intelligence (good generalship) on the part of the Russians.

After it was over, the Russians were too winded to exploit their victory, and if the Germans had won, they wouldn't have been able to exploit it, either.

A German victory at Kursk would have delayed the Russian advance one, maybe two years. It would not have stopped it.

November 22, 2009 9:51 AM  

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