We columnists are not as good as we think we are at changing people’s minds. But we’re better than we think we are at making people feel more strongly the way they felt in the first place.
Obama is clinging tightly to a lot of “Libya-Credit”: not one American life lost, Tripoli taken, Gadhafi overthrown, Gadhafi eliminated; Mission Accomplished! In a tight election, that Libya-Credit might get Obama re-elected. The purpose of this column is to pick up an ugly stick called “history” and try to knock that credit out of Obama’s grasp.
There’s an American folk-trait that urges us to swallow our vexation at our opponent’s success and give him high-fives, back-pats and soft strokes. The Jewish Talmud commands, “When the fox has his day, bow down to him.” Some of our most anti-Obama countrymen agree, “We’ve got to give him credit when he earns it!”
“But did he really earn it?”
I say he did not.
There’s an analogy hiding out inside World War II that Obama’s allies hope stays hidden. That analogy suggests that if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had handled World War II the way Obama handled Libya, 2 to 3 million more lives would have been lost due to that conflict’s prolongation.
It’s strange that this analogy stays hidden. It’s a little like hiding a bass fiddle in a phone booth.
After bombing Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese invaded the American-held Philippines, threatened an invasion of Hawaii, bombed Alaska’s Dutch Harbor, actually invaded three of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and had nothing but water to conquer before landing on the West Coast of the United States. Roosevelt had to fight all-out against Japan.
But Roosevelt had a lot more freedom to adjust America’s effort against the Nazis. Although Hitler declared war on America four days after Pearl Harbor, America faced no real threat from Germany. After Japan’s Sunday morning attack on Pearl Harbor while peace negotiations were in full swing, America’s urge was to fight back against Japan. Britain and Germany had already been fighting each other since September 1939, and the Soviet Union had become Britain’s ally in June 1941 when Hitler struck eastward. Who could have blamed Roosevelt if he’d told Britain and Russia, “Look. Germany attacked you. Japan attacked us. Japan is our priority.” In spite of an American population furious with Japan, it was clear we could do nothing to save the American troops in the Philippines, and America agreed with Britain and Russia: Germany first; then Japan.
Libya was Obama’s Germany. Suppose Roosevelt had treated Hitler the way Obama treated Gadhafi?
There would have been American planes based in Britain; and that’s about it. Who knows the level of precious American supplies we’d have shipped through deadly wolfpacks of German submarines to Britain and Russia, instead of diverting them to the American effort in the Pacific? There would have been no American “boots on the ground” in England to deter Nazi invasion, or in North Africa to strike German Gen. Rommel’s forces from the rear. Likewise, no American boots – after ridding all Africa of Nazi forces – landing in Sicily and marching up the Italian boot, tying up Nazi troops sorely needed in Russia. And, of course, there would have been no D-Day on June 6, 1944.
No one can tell you precisely how long World War II would have been prolonged. No one can deny it would have been disastrous. It’s safe to predict Roosevelt would have harvested no praise from Britain, Russia or the millions of endangered civilians on both sides for “leading from behind.”
The enemy Obama now gets credit for defeating, don’t forget, is Libya! (No insult intended; only accuracy observed!) And, although no NATO boots were deployed in the ground fighting, this was the air arm of the NATO we once-upon-a-time depended on to keep the mighty Red Army from sunning on the beaches of Normandy.
And the conquest of Libya took from March to October!
And yet the political air crackles with talk of credit!
When evil dictators are overthrown, I imagine angels singing. When that is achieved without loss of American life, the songs grow sweeter. But when Obama reaps “credit” for this kind of “victory,” the singing stops.
What would I have preferred? Maybe an American president with the guts and brains to knock European heads together and convince them that Libya is in their part of the playing field and America wants to see some of their boots on the ground (beginning with the Italian boots that overran Libya in the 1900s and have some responsibility).
I’d have preferred a Libyan campaign that took no longer than it should have, with casualties limited accordingly.
American lives should not be thrown around casually. Neither should “credit.”
We’re talking about the college kid who brings home four “F’s” and a “D” and explains he’s been spending all his time on one subject!