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June 19, 2009

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Incidentally, once again Tobin Harshaw at the NY Times Opinionator summarizes the back and forth, naming both Eric and Hilzoy.

I think this point by magistra is crucial:

"If you want to be cheered as liberators, you need to get the hell out of there once you've done the liberating."

Either that or, as I've said before, there needs to be a reason why your occupation is viewed as legitimate, even if very unwelcome. Losing a war of aggression is like this. So, I think, are ongoing humanitarian abuses that are utterly and totally beyond the pale, so much so that it really isn't that unrealistic to imagine that people will come to their senses and recoil from what they've done.

Here, I'm thinking of Rwanda: normally, people do not just up and repent of their brutality, or even go quiet because they recognize that someone trying to stop it is doing something legitimate, but in very, very extreme cases, like Rwanda, it does not seem to me to be nuts to suppose that they might.

In neither case are you trying to impose democracy, so I think that, in principle, the cases in which you can pull off a military occupation without massive public discontent just do not include any cases of trying to establish a democracy.

But neither do cases in which you only stay a very short time. Staying for a very short time requires either the existence of a government that can be restored or somehow put in place very quickly (e.g., the Kuwaiti government after the first Gulf War), or utter and total irresponsibility. There will generally be no such government in waiting when you're trying to impose a democracy (there might be a party with a leader, or even a cabinet in exile, but not a whole government, ready to roll.)

"Either that or, as I've said before, there needs to be a reason why your occupation is viewed as legitimate, even if very unwelcome. Losing a war of aggression is like this."

I've made this point here before, but in the cases of both Germany and Japan at the end of WWII, there were highly accepted pre-existing central authorities ordering that the occupation be accepted as legitimate. I think that's highly important, too, and arguably essential.

If the Emperor, or the German High Command, had gone into hiding and issued general commands for everyone to engage in guerilla warfare, things would have gone very differently, regardless of the "war of aggression" part.

I'd in fact argue that it took quite some time for many Germans or Japanese to conclude that they'd engaged in wars of aggression, and very significant (large) portions of the population never did. I'd go further and suggest that a significant, if distinctly minority, portion of the current Japanese population still doesn't believe they engaged in a war of aggression. (Some Germans, too, but a much much smaller proportion.)

The Japanese right wing that maintains this is still a significant political force in Japan. The majority of Japanese still have no problem with the Prime Minister, or anyone else, paying visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. The views that Japan's war was an anti-imperialist war, or that Japan was more wronged than wronger by being nuked, aren't trivially insignificant in Japan.

But obeying the authority of the Emperor was an overwhelmingly popular sentiment.

If the Emperor, or the German High Command, had gone into hiding and issued general commands for everyone to engage in guerilla warfare, things would have gone very differently, regardless of the "war of aggression" part.

In the case of WW2 the Germans were sick and tired of war at that stage and were preoccupied with other problems - so no, things wouldn't have gone much differently.

I'd in fact argue that it took quite some time for many Germans or Japanese to conclude that they'd engaged in wars of aggression, and very significant (large) portions of the population never did.

True, but in WW2 they knew they had lost and that there was no other way forward, so "legitimate but unwelcome" (in some parts) is quite accurate. Most people wanted to simply move on and again were preoccupied with practical matters.

The problem faced by people like George Packer is that their livelihood depends entirely upon the continued perception that they are worth listening to. If he came clean and flat out admitted that he was tragically, catastrophically wrong on Iraq, he would risk marginalization.

Even if there had been a sensible rationale for assaulting Iraq, it should have been clear to every conscious being that the Bush administration couldn't be trusted to do it right. The dirty hippies had it right again-- I'll put their track record up against the likes of George Packer any day of the week.

US forces treated Germany, much differently than Japan. I think, most of the Japanese bureaucracy were kept and used to suppress leftists. I don’t think there was a “reckoning” like Germany experienced. (I’m studying with a child of red-diaper Japanese activists who were blacklisted by the US occupational forces and the “new” government).

"I don’t think there was a
'reckoning' like Germany experienced."

"Denazification" was very thin, and didn't last very long. It started in January 1946 and the whole thing was over by March 1948, before most of the serious trials even began.

That is, in the Western Zone. The Soviets took it a lot more seriously. For the western allies, denazification was mostly domestic public relations and lip service.

Tony Judt's quotes (taken from here convey the reality:

[...] On denazification programs (p. 56):

The real problem with any consistent programme aimed at rooting out Nazism from German life was that it was simply not practicable in the circumstances of 1945. In the words of General Lucius Clay, the American Military Commander, 'our major administrative problem was to find reasonably competent Germans who had not been affiliated or associated in some way with the Nazi regime . . . All too often, it seems that the only men with the qualifications . . . are the career civil servants . . . a great proportion of whom were more than nominal participants (by our definition) in the activities of the Nazi Party.'

Clay did not exaggerate. On May 8th 1945, when the war in Europe ended, there were 8 million Nazis in Germany. In Bonn, 102 out of 112 doctors were or had been Party members. In the shattered city of Cologne, of the 21 specialists in the city waterworks office -- whose skills were vital for the reconstruction of water and sewage systems and in the prevention of disease -- 18 had been Nazis. Civil administration, public health, urban reconstruction and private enterprise in post-war Germany would inevitably be undertaken by men like this, albeit under Allied supervision. There could be no question of simply expunging them from German affairs.

More (p. 57):

Germans in the 1940s had little sense of the way the rest of the world saw them. They had no grasp of what they and their leaders had done and were more preoccupied with their own post-war difficulties -- food shortages, housing shortages and the like -- than the sufferings of their victims across occupied Europe. Indeed they were more likely to see themselves in the role of victim and thus regarded trials and other confrontations with Nazi crimes as the victorious Allies' revenge on a defunct regime. With certain honorable exceptions, Germany's post-war political and religious authorities offered scant contradiction to this view, and the country's natural leaders -- in the liberal professions, the judiciary, the civil service -- were the most compromised of all.

And more (p. 58):

Opinion poll data from the immediate post-war years confirm the limited impact of Allied efforts. In October 1946, when the Nuremberg Trial ended, only 6 percent of Germans were willing to admit that they thought it had been 'unfair', but four years later one in three took this view. That they felt this way should come as no surprise, since throughout the years 1945-49 a consistent majority of Germans believed that 'Nazism was a good idea, badly applied'. In November 1946, 37 per cent of Germans questioned in a survey of the American zone took the view that 'the extermination of the Jews and Poles and other non-Aryans was necessary for the security of Germans'.

In the same poll of November 1946, one German in three agreed with the proposition that 'Jews should not have the same rights as those belonging to the Aryan race'. This is not especially surprising, given that respondents had just emerged from twelve years under an authoritarian government committed to this view. What does surprise is a poll taken six years later in which a slightly higher percentage of West Germans -- 37 percent -- affirmed that it was better for Germany to have no Jews on its territory. But then in that same year (1952) 25 percent of West Germans admitted to having a 'good opinion' of Hitler.

Eventually, the lessons of denazification did sink in, but it was more with the postwar generation than with those who supported Hitler at the time. And the reason probably had much less to do with what the denazification programme had to say than with the fact that the postwar era allowed Germany to rebuild and prosper where the Nazis had ultimately brought only defeat and despair. When Germany was ruined and starving, denazification was further punishment; in a prosperous Germany, Nazism became useless and unfashionable baggage.

The Soviets took it a lot more seriously.

Yeah, the NKDV put 150.000 people in Gulags, where more than 40.000 of them died, because the of the unbearable conditions there - great. Amongst those imprisoned were quite a few Social Democrats and other critics of the new regime, that the Soviets wanted to get rid of. Calling them Nazis was a very convenient way of achieving that goal. And some ended up there simply because their neighbour didn't like them and called them a Nazi, just like the members of the "Taliban" or "Al Quaeda" in Guantanamo. Also, the GDR was full of former Nazis who managed to successfully hide their past and became fierce proponents of the new order - the founding myth of the GDR as the "better Germany" was one big lie.

And the reason probably had much less to do with what the denazification programme had to say than with the fact that the postwar era allowed Germany to rebuild and prosper where the Nazis had ultimately brought only defeat and despair.

Here the contrast with the aftermath of WWI--in which Germany was not occupied at all but Germans still felt humiliated and aggrieved over the course of a decade plus of economic failure--is instructive.

I am always suspicious of formulas for making war "work" (e.g. occupy them for just the right length of time, make sure they know they've been defeated, use overwhelming force, have a clear exit strategy, etc.). War fails--and fails massively--more often than it works, and the successes are often unpredictable and as much a result of unintended consequences as are the failures.

War is a huge gamble, terrible in both its upfront costs and its odds. That it very occasionally succeeds doesn't change this fact. And the record of U.S. wars since the success of World War II suggests either that we are congenitally bad at learning what makes a war work, or, more likely, that there are simply no formulas to be learned from it and that we were, for once, very lucky.

Where do I go to sign up for invading Iran? I'm gonna have to bring a paycheck in somehow.

"Where do I go to sign up for invading Iran?"

Try here and here.

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