Bad Historical Comparisons and What Iraq is really about

Written by Tim King

I've heard people who think they know a lot about history saying that we shouldn't be Neville Chamberlains about this. If we turn away from war we encourage our own destruction--much like Britain did with Hitler prior to World War 2.

Comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler is absurd under any context. Hitler was voted into power. He then recontextualized and consolidated a demoralized country into the most formidable military power of its time. Iraq is an impoverished, third world country run by a dictator who has to spend most of his time watching his back, and has nothing like the cohesive government let alone the economic and military might, that Hitler wielded before and during WW2.

This is not 1936; Iraq is not Nazi Germany (in fact I'd place bets that Nazi Germany with 1940's equipment would beat Iraq in an armed conflict tomorrow). If we were to do a reasonable comparison of economic/military might with the world of the mid nineteen thirties and the early twenty first century, the only countries that might be considered comparable to Nazi Germany in the thirties would be the US, China or Russia - big military and economic powers with strong militaries and cohesive governments capable of stirring up their citizens into a patriotic fervor sufficient to destroy their enemies. I'd say that of the three China, with its profoundly centralized government and militaristic culture, is the best comparison.

Now, if China were to be building up its military and beating the war drums, obviously interested in conquest, we could get all historical about this and say we shouldn't be Neville Chamberlains. In fairness to Neville though, he was looking into the maw of the most powerful military beast ever formed. Efforts to calm that beast, considering the historical context, wouldn't be absurd. If China were to rear up in a prelude to strike, I somehow doubt that the US and the world in general wouldn't try and resolve it peacefully before preemptively striking the beast just to avoid being compared to Neville. Poor old Neville was in a no win situation, as we would be if China ever chose to strike. Apples to apples kiddies!

So enough already with these lame comparisons that don't hold any water. If we're going to do this thing (and believe it or not, I think we should), then let's do it without the rhetoric or moral dressing. With a clear, Machiavellian eye I get this:

From a Canadian point of view, I'm not sure I see the point of refusing to back a sure thing. There is little doubt this will be over quickly, and the US will be sure to remember who supported it and who didn't. Like it or not, the reason Canada is a G8 country is simply because it is next to the States. If we weren't, I imagine we'd be similar to Australia (NOT a G8 country with an economy about half as big as Canada's). I doubt all the morally upright types who are advocating not supporting the US on principle would be willing to do so if it meant unemployment and the loss of almost half of our economy. Nothing drives me crazier than Canadians thinking that they are independent from the States. This morning I heard that less than 4% of primetime dramas that we watch on TV are Canadian. We watch American television, imitate their culture, wear their clothes, sound like them and enjoy a standard of living almost twice what it should be because of them and we don't want to see it? C'mon, we all know what Canada is! We're Ameri-whores! Just admit it!

And as Ameri-whores, we should know that at the end of the day the United States gets what it wants; morality doesn't figure into their foreign policy. Whether it's screwing Canadian soft wood lumber exporters, inventing tariffs for Japanese imported cars or bombing the unholy snot out of Iraq, Americans (in general) are a protectionist, self-interested, isolationist people motivated mainly by their own well being? and who can blame them? We're all in it for ourselves. Wealth isn't spread equally across the earth because of a lot of history. That history dictates that if we want to hang on to what we've got and get even more (even if we are taking it from people with bugger all), we should abuse our power for our own benefit. If the world were a fair place we'd all be renting our land from aboriginal tribes, right?

The moral dressing the States throw on this whole Iraq thing is absurd. They are quite willing to support dictatorships if the dictator in question is willing to cooperate with American foreign policy (Pakistan, Philippines, Argentina, Panama, etc, etc). A great protector of Democracy they ain't. If we know this, then why would we stand on principle when we know it doesn't mean anything to them? If we depend on them to power our economy, why would we antagonize them, especially if it is over removing a vicious animal like Hussein?

And why not remove Hussein? Even a puppet government that allows American corporations into Iraq tax free would be better, wouldn't it?

On the one side we've got the anti-war at all costs "useful idiots". People who don't care what the issues are, and adopt a protectionist, isolationist stance of not dealing with anything that doesn't affect them directly. These people often follow their anti-war statement with something like, "we've got enough of our own problems to deal with." In an interesting twist the once globally minded left has become stay at home protectionist right - or at least they use the argument if they think it will server their agendas.

On the other we have the boo-ya, let's go kick some towel head ass, right wing (weekends at the lodge in white hoods) types who are just longing for an opportunity to kick some a-rab ass. They don't need much of a push when it comes to pulling the trigger; most of them are already there.

Now I like kicking ass as much as the next guy, but I'm not really spun by the whole racial issue, so getting me onside with the whole towel head thing isn't going to work. For me, the most satisfying kicking of ass is morally guided, and I think that Hussein's makes a fine pi?ata in that regard. A righteous ass kicking of Saddam would be most satisfying. On the other hand, if we're going to do the right thing, we should try and be consistent about it (immoral ass kickings are a big downer). If G.W. walked into the U.N. tomorrow with a revised U.S. foreign policy that promised no further economic aid, support or trade to dictatorships and that all the money formally going into that would be solely for assisting developing democracies around the world, I'd be there in a flash. That's an ass kicking I'd like to see happen: the U.S. supporting its wonderful Bill of Rights internationally rather than just for its own citizens. Of course this is outright standing on principle, and if it doesn't work for Canadians, why should it work for Americans? Standing on principle is a silly thing to do. It's much better to be self serving. It's just harder to be proud about it (though everyone sure is trying).

The irony is that taking out Saddam is the right thing to do, but the Coalition of the Willing is doing it for the wrong reasons. Rather than doing it for motivated self interest, why not do it because it's the right thing to do? ... And then keep doing it because it's still the right thing to do. I'll tell you why: 'cause that don't pay!