September 17, 2007
Why Did FDR Invade North Africa?By James Lewis
One of the clichéd questions of the Left is "Why did Bush invade Iraq? We were attacked by Saudi Arabians on 9/11!" Or so goes the customary narrative.
This mantra is supposed to expose President Bush's stupidity. But in fact The Question reveals the asker's own clueless blunder about war and strategy. The proper answer is to point to other presidents and other wars. Like FDR after Pearl Harbor.
After the "day that will live in infamy" FDR's first land attack took place in Morocco and Algeria, then French colonies, in alliance with the British.
Why? Morocco is about as far from Pearl as you can get. Why punish the poor North Africans for what the Japanese did to us? Well, FDR understood the enemy, and so did the American people. It wasn't just Tojo who attacked the US on December 7, 1941. It was the Axis imperial alliance -- Germany, Japan and Italy. They were bent on world conquest, had already conquered most of Europe, and had to be stopped at a time and place of our choosing.
So our first land attack came in North Africa, not the Pacific. It was the other side of the world. We fought Rommel in the desert, along with the British Army and the Free French, cut off his supplies by sea, and step-by-step drove the Germans and Italians back across Sicily and Italy.
Meanwhile the US Navy and Marines beat the Japanese at sea in the Pacific, and started a heroic and bloody island-by-island conquest of the Philippines, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and all the rest.
In the upshot, the Allies invaded France before we finally reached Japan. So by the "logic" of our friends on the Left, FDR attacked all the wrong places and all the wrong people -- the Germans and Italians (who only fought back once we attacked), not the Japanese who assaulted us at Pearl.
Our highbrow strategists on the Left must believe that FDR should have just done a tit-for-tat for the attack on Hawaii, avenged two thousand plus American lives, and the war would have been over in six months. Which is a load of nonsense, of course, because the Japanese, the Germans and Italians, were long-term, world-wide, imperialist fanatics.
So are the Islamic fascists.
(It may be true that the Italians did not generally fight fanatically in WWII, but in the previous world war their courage and sacrifices were awesome, just like the French in WW I. When FDR went to war two decades later, therefore, he could not know with certainty how the Italians would fight. He could not even know that Pétainist France would stay out of the battle against us. But there was no doubt that we were facing a fiercely dangerous enemy engaged in long-term world conquest -- just like the ones we face today.)
FDR understood that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not an isolated incident, just as President Bush understood that the attack on America on 9/11 was not an isolated event. The liberals still don't get that. They who woke up on the morning of September 11, 2001 -- and promptly went back to sleep the day after that. None so blind as will not see.
Al Quaida (and the Khomeini cult) are mujahedeen in the martyrdom tradition of Islamic conquest, willing to commit suicide to bring the world back to the "purity" of a 7th century desert patriarchy. It was violent jihad that spread Islam with amazing speed in the two centuries after Mohammed, racing from small towns in Arabia to conquer swaths of Byzantium, Persia, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, North Africa and even the Iberian Peninsula. The message to each new target was the same: submit or die. That is still the message of violent jihad today.
There is a reason for the US invasion of Iraq, just as the Left suspects -- but it's not what they think. And it's not a secret, but a strategy President Bush has spelled out many times. Since the media turns a blind eye to our strategic reasoning, it still bears repeating: Our forces overthrew Saddam in part to create a killing field to draw terrorists. We could not possibly invade every place where Al Qaida has converts -- they are in most countries in the world, including Britain and Pakistan. We did not want to wait for another attack in the United States, where every elementary school and corner gas station is a target. So we took the next best option of attacking in their home territory, provoking tens of thousands of jihadis to flock to us.
Al Qaida is being systematically killed and humiliated even now, both by Coalition forces, by Sunni tribes who have finally revolted against them, and by the Shia-dominated elected government and its Iraqi Army. If we beat Al Qaida over there, they will have a bloody nose for a long, long time to come. And we will be setting back the Iranian looney tunes more than ever before. For human civilization, it would be a great win. If we can do it.
Both North Africa and Iraq were historic gambles. If we had lost in the desert against Rommel, Britain might now be a Nazi province. Europe might be governed by Hitlerites, perhaps in alliance with a Stalinist Russian Empire, and all the nukes over there would be pointing at us. China would be Japanese territory, along with Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, and perhaps India -- the whole Japanese Imperial Co-Prosperity Sphere. And all their nukes would also be pointing our way. The Axis Powers came within half a decade of developing nukes, and they had also cruise missiles and long-range bombers. Allied victory was not a foreordained conclusion, any more than victory in Iraq is today.
Iraq has meant painful learning for Coalition forces. Lincoln had his learning curve, and so did FDR.
But our troops have shown that America isn't ready for the dust-bin yet. Without them other Americans could not live in safety; nor could the ingrate Europeans; nor would the Middle East escape unscathed. They all depend upon our emerging victorious. That's the result of being the major civilized power in the world. We either live with that or accept the alternative.
Our domestic politics has been a kindergarten game by comparison to the work the military have done, day in and out. The little kids are constantly yelling "Are we there yet?" with all the shrill self-centered ignorance of the Boomer Left.
We are now seeing progress. We also have the historic privilege of watching Americans and allies of great character, strength, intelligence and courage, doing the toughest job in the world, in a way that is as civilized as humanly possible. But we will never see our fighters through our twisted media culture -- only by the good fortune of embedded combat reporters, all volunteers, and without the support of the big media.
So the next time somebody asks you why we are in Iraq, you might want to ask what FDR would have done. Don't expect a thoughtful answer. Yet FDR is still a Hero of the Left, and that question bears repeating until they start to think.
Six years after 9/11, half the country still can't figure out what all the fuss is about. It's important to remind them.
James Lewis blogs at dangeroustimes.wordpress.com.