July 19, 2006
A "Disproportionate Response"By Rachel Neuwirth
Buzzwords plague discussion of the Middle East conflict. For too long the buzzword phrase was the so—called 'occupied territories.' But today the new buzzword is 'disproportionate response,' meaning that Israel is being admonished to not overreact to an act of war by her enemies.
How bitterly ironic considering that Israel's critics choose to forget how America fought WWII with its own 'disproportionate response.' The Allies that fought Hitler had no fear that Hitler's Jewish victims would overreact with a 'disproportionate response.' The only thing that was truly 'disproportionate' at that time was the allies' disproportionate failure to respond in opposing ongoing genocide against helpless civilians.
Today the buzzword crowd seems more concerned about restraining Israel than in defeating the Islamic terrorists that want to complete Hitler's goal of exterminating all Jews. How times have changed. Then, the survival of millions of Jews was of little concern to the nations. Today the same powers fear that the Jews are defending themselves too vigorously.
During WWII the two principal allied governments seemed more concerned that Jews might survive than that they would perish. The Roosevelt Administration played down news of the Holocaust lest the American people learn the magnitude of the ongoing genocide and demand U.S. intervention to save Jews from extermination. This is documented in the book The Abandonment of the Jews — America and the Holocaust 1941—1945, by historian David S. Wyman. The British blocked escape routes from Europe so that Jewish refugees could not reach the land of Israel in Jewish Palestine. Their concern was to appease the Arabs, prevent the establishment of a democratic Jewish state in the ancient Jewish homeland and assure their access to Arab oil.
One would think that that people who live in glass houses would not be so cavalier in 'casting stones' with such warnings. One could make a powerful case against American conduct in WWII regarding the use of 'disproportionate force.'
It could be argued theoretically that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did not really rise to the level requiring all—out war as an immediate response. The Japanese had their own complaints against American actions to deprive them of vital oil sources. Their attack was against American military forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, located far from the U.S. mainland. No Japanese bombed the American continent or targeted American civilians. They were not preparing to invade nor did they ever threaten to exterminate the U.S. populace.
There was a U.S. option to first try diplomacy before immediately rushing into war. Things moved slowly enough in those days to allow some time to first try for a peaceful resolution before taking precipitous and unilateral action. There were no U.S. diplomatic consultations to first gain international support before going to war. It was only after President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor that Germany, Japan's ally, declared war on the U.S. America then fought against Germany even though Germany had not invaded America nor bombed our cities and was far from ever doing so.
Both Germany and Japan were attacked on their home territories, killing millions, while America lost thousands. America lost combatants. They lost combatants plus millions of civilians; men, women and children. America deliberately attacked cities having little military value to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. The rationale was to 'demoralize' (terrorize?) the enemy populations into submission. That tactic may have just increased enemy resolve to fight on, or so some claim.
America did not consult the international community but instead acted unilaterally. Offers by both the Japanese and German governments to end the war via negotiations were rejected. Instead unconditional surrender was demanded. In early 1945 Japan was clearly on the road to defeat but America still insisted on unconditional surrender and used the atomic bomb twice to bring this about.
Japan and the Allied zones of Germany were occupied for years to impose our form of government on the conquered peoples. WW II cost an estimated fifty million lives. Was it really worth it? Shouldn't diplomacy have been tried first? If that failed, a policy of containment then could have then applied over the long haul. That was American policy for the Soviet Union over many decades, and it worked.
By now readers should realize that this writer is obviously playing the 'devil's advocate' to show how easily American actions in WWII could be cast in a highly unfavorable light. The above argument was deliberately skewed to be unfair to America to demonstrate a point. By telling the truth in a selective manner one can put a very different spin on the morality of American and Israeli actions.
There were very compelling reasons for supporting what America did in WWII. In early 1941 America was in grave danger. The Axis powers included Germany, Japan, Russia (before Hitler's attack), Italy and Spain. Much of western Europe was already occupied. Germany and Japan were expanding rapidly in Europe, Asia and North Africa with Nazi sympathizers operating in South America and even inside the U.S.
America had not yet recovered from the Great Depression, was highly isolationist, poorly armed and unprepared for war both politically and militarily. England was being battered by the German air force and was hanging on by a thread. The balance of power heavily favored the Axis powers with a bleak outlook for America and the west.
An all—out response to Pearl Harbor was therefore essential, and it came not a moment too soon, because in 1942 victory in the war was far from certain. Losing that war would have plunged the world into a new dark age of brutality. We had to win at all costs.
The real lesson of WWII was not failing to try diplomacy and negotiations. The lesson was that America and the West should have moved militarily against Hitler in the mid 1930's. It was already clear that Hitler was rapidly re—arming Germany for a coming war of aggression, but was not yet ready to attack. A pre—emptive attack by the West against Hitler at that time could have destroyed Hitler and his Nazi war machine while still confined to German soil. There would have been casualties on both sides but far, far, fewer than the millions killed later while much of Europe was destroyed.
The world seems inclined to forget the lessons of history rather than learn from them. The West should be supporting Israel's attempt to demolish the Islamic terror threat surrounding them rather than lecturing Israel about its 'disproportionate response.' Iran and Syria are clearly backers of Islamic terror, not only against Israel but also against America. The longer it takes to deal with them the greater the risk of a wider and more lethal war with an enemy possessing nuclear weapons and the means to reach America.