Skip to comments.War: Then and now
Posted on 06/02/2004 10:12:24 PM PDT by kattracks
It was refreshing recently to see a front page of the New York Times that was not full of editorials disguised as "news" stories, undermining the war and the president. However, it was a souvenir front page, reprinted from the New York Times of June 6, 1944 -- reporting on the invasion of Normandy that day.
Things went wrong with that invasion, as things have gone wrong with wars as far back as there are any records of wars. Yet no one called it a quagmire when American forces were pinned down by German fire on Omaha beach and taking heavy casualties. No one called the generals or the president incompetent or stupid.
One of the many reasons war is hell is that there is seldom adequate time or adequate information to forestall disasters.
In a desperate attempt to help U.S. troops unable to break out of the Normandy beachhead, Allied bombers launched massive air raids on the area -- accidentally killing more than a hundred American soldiers. But no one called it a quagmire.
No one demanded a timetable showing how much longer the war was going to last or an accounting table showing how much it would cost in dollars and cents. People of that era have been called the greatest generation. They were, at the very least, an adult generation -- which certainly cannot always be said for our present generation or its media representatives.
The Iraq war was not a month old before the word "quagmire" began appearing in the media, when a sandstorm stalled the drive toward Baghdad. Before the year was out, there were stories of our "war-weary" troops.
When Allied troops landed at Normandy, Americans had already been fighting for two and a half years of bitter defeats and costly victories -- and the British even longer. Yet no one called them "war-weary" and the news stories were about what was being accomplished, even as they told of the cost of those accomplishments in blood and lives.
To follow the news out of Iraq from the headlines and photographs on the front page of today's New York Times, you would have a hard time finding out what has been accomplished. There was a time when the electricity was out in Iraq, when schools and hospitals were closed, when there was no oil flowing.
Did all those things fix themselves, like self-sealing tires, or did the Americans have to do some things, at considerable cost and risks, and despite organized sabotage and terror?
It has been hard to know from the Times' front-page coverage of unhappy reservists being called up for duty and all the photographs they could find of coffins or of terrorists gleefully holding up the boots of ambushed Americans they had killed.
These two wars were of course different, as all wars are different. But the biggest difference was not between the wars themselves, but between the media of that day and today.
The negativism and carping of today's New York Times has even been applied in retrospect to the general in charge of the invasion of Normandy, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The television drama "Ike," has been denounced in the New York Times as "macho swagger."
Anyone who has actually seen the depiction of General Eisenhower by Tom Selleck as a thoughtful, troubled man, having to make painful decisions under impossible conditions, will know that this was no Patton swagger. The television drama ends, in fact, just before the invasion of Normandy itself.
It ends with Eisenhower, coming back in a car from having spoken to the troops before their embarkation and writing the famous note in which he takes all the blame for the failure of the invasion -- a note to be made public if in fact the landing at Normandy had ended in disaster, as many feared it would.
This is "macho swagger"? Or is anything that says we sometimes have to fight going to be given whatever label the New York Times thinks will discredit it?
The ideological agenda becomes painfully clear when the New York Times' reviewer criticized Eisenhower for his later policies as president, which is not what the TV drama was about.
Even after the Normandy invasion was successful, the Germans later caught the Allies by surprise with a massive counter-attack that led to the bloody "battle of the bulge." But no one called it a quagmire. They called it war. They were adults.
©2004 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Thomas Sowell | Read Sowell's biography
Dr. Sowell, now stop it. You are disenfranchising those who are challenged with Anti-Maturing Syndrome. This is discriminating against those victims who long suffer from this medically nebulas affliction. Where is your compassion?
And that, boys and girls, is the difference between our sitting President and his nominative challenger.
Having seen the film, I was astonished to learn that a NYT reviewer had attacked it. Now that is one limp-wristed paper!
I thought the Ike film was great, especially as my public school education was woefully lacking in that era/area of history.
"Macho swagger"? More like, painful weighing of options, feeling the pain and remorse ahead of time, knowing that thousands of your countrymen will die during the invasion, but that the freedom of Europe and the defeat of totalitarianism was worth it.
I just got done watching a D-Day documentary. The other difference about then and now--the WWII soldiers didn't view themselves as heroes, even though they did many heroic things and faced grave danger. They were doing their job, and trying to do it very well. They weren't trying to earn medals in order to look good as a future politician. And they didn't brag about their wartime service at every opportunity; it was a private thing.
Just finished sending an appreciative email to Dr. Sowell. Thanks for posting the thread.
I remember that the press treated President IKE as a dummy, also. Herblock's cartoons in the WP typified the press's view of him. IKE has little interest is playing the role of "star." His days with MacArthur had made him contemptuous of play-acting. The press got the idea that John Foster Dulles was in charge of foreign policy and only recently has it become clear that Dulles was largely a front man. How involved Eisenhower really was can be seen in the Lebanese crisis, which was a much bigger operation than we learned from press reports and involved the concentration of much of American air power in the region so as to affect events in Iran. Ike planned much of the operation from the Oval Office, but appeared not to be involved.
Thanks, kattracks, for a great post! I always appreciate the clear vision that Dr. Sowell brings to his columns - a vision that makes him one of the giants (IMO) of journalism.
I grew up under Ike and have learned much about him since he passed away so many decades ago. Ike was, without a doubt, a master politician; able to deal with the likes of superegos such as Patton, DeGaulle and Montgomery. Somehow, despite the depth of his feelings and his command of the war, he managed to get all of those great men under his command to work together as one. For ANY organization to attempt to sully his reputation is cowardice. Ike was a fine, honorable man capable of taking on today's crop of limp-wristed, leftist, appeasement-centric "journalists" with both hands tied behind his back.
Were Ike running the War in Iraq today, a lot of "journalists" would have a lot of "'splainin'" to do - just before he booted their cowardly butts out of country.
A Giant not just of Journalism, but certainly one of America's Best and Brightest Sons.
God Bless him and keep him healthy and hale; we will need the likes of men like Sowell in these times.
The one thing missing from this article is mention that the Allies were pinned to the beachheads at Normandy for about a month after D-Day. That really was nearly a quagmire-type situation, but again, we simply built up our forces and a tactical and strategic strategy to cope with that problem.
The adults were not only in charge during 1944, but they also were in evidence operating the old media. Now, the Fraudcasters and Old Media mediots are being operated by adolescent socialists and nazis.
Another thing the WW2 servicemen and their families didn't do was bellyache about the fact that our equipment was not the most advanced technologically. We all knew that there was a price to be paid in blood for freedom, and that that blood would be ours and our children's.
Sure, we would have loved to have Tiger tanks and jet aircraft, as the Germans did, but our superior manufacturing lines cranked out sufficient numbers to overcome their technicological advantages - we had no real choice other than to allow greater time for the Germans to advance even further - so we lived with tanks insufficient in armor, and slower planes. Defeating the enemy was the important thing. Our desire to lower casualties was important, but not overriding - Victory was the watchword. If we had made certain that we had as low casualties as possible at each turn, we'd still be on the beaches at Normandy - or we'd be speaking German.
Thanks for the ping!
Omaha Beach was not the only quagmire. How about the strategic bombing campaign of 1943 in which the deep penetration raids into Germany were called off after the catastrophic heavy bomber casualties of Schweinfurt and Regensberg? No one whining loudly and publicly about the fact that the self defending bomber formation concept was flawed and that they failed in not having a long-range fighter escort ready at the time. We are so used to the Air Force sustaining almost no casualties in current day operations that we often forget that the 8th Air Force alone had more dead (26,000) than all the entire Marine Corps did in World War II (20,000) there were no loudly public howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win this.
How about the night naval battle off Savo Island, Guadalcanal in August of 1942 in which the United States Navy was defeated, sailed away and left the Marines stranded on Guadalcanal? There weren't any howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win.
How about the slaughter off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in 1942 in which the U-boats of the German Kreigsmarine sunk 500 allied merchant ships in a six-month period in the greatest naval disaster in United States history? Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win.
How about the Kasserine pass in Tunisia in February of 1943? Rommel's Afrika Corps soundly defeated and routed green American troops, sending them into pell mell retreat? Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire these Germans are just too tough to beat.
How about the bloody stalemate inflicted on units of the 1st, 4th, 28th, and 9th infantry division's by the Germans during the battle of Huertegen Forest as a prelude to the Battle of the Bulge? Or that battle's disasterous opening on the Schnee Eifel in Belgium in which intelligence failures allowed a totally surprised American Army to lose two whole infantry regiments in the opening rounds of the battle? Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire we just can't win.
Or how about the defeat inflicted on the allies during Operation Market garden in 1944 when everyone knew the Germans were already beaten? Or the horrendous losses off Okinowa? Or the bloody repulse at the Rapido River in January of 1944, or the bloody stalemate at Anzio or even the entire checkmated Italian campaign? Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win.
We often forget that World War II was no unrelieved string of victories until the final triumph. We often suffered defeat on the battlefield, sometimes catastrophic, but we prevailed because we knew that we had to.
Nothing even remotely resembling any of these historical disastrous of World War II has occurred in Iraq, but these infantile naysayers who try to pose the situation has an absolute defeat are either hopelessly naïve or determined to demoralize our soldiers and willfully undermine this effort. Despite the setbacks that have occurred in Iraq, there is nothing here they cannot be remedied to this country's favor.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.