Why is the Iraq War NOTHING like WW2?
June 4, 2004 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Today is the 60th aniversary of the D-Day invasion. George W. Bush will be giving a speech at Normandy Beach today in which he will compare the need for WW2 to the need for our current Iraq War. This seems a distinct overstatement and not historically accurate. (Not to mention philosophically accurate) I am no history scholar, but would not mind a clear, concise response to this comparison to use in mixed conversation. My question is this, 'Why is the Iraq War NOTHING like WW2?" Please avoid personal anecdotal responses. A historical and political overview is desired.
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Education (25 answers total)
The problem is that it's a war, much like how World War 2 was also a war. There is no logical answer to your question, because of that one string of similarity. Sorry.
posted by angry modem at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2004

Normandy Beach is in France.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:00 AM on June 4, 2004

Because Saddam had not taken over the middle east? That other countries weren't begging for our help? That we were the sole agressive member as oppose to the Allies?

It would have been more akin to WWII if in WWII we invaded Germany before they became militaristic, when Hitler first came to power. I mean parrallels can be drawn between any two similar things (in this case, two wars against bad men).

I think we could go on, and on, and on, about the differences and similarities but there's a logical fallacy for analogies where if the differences are greater then the similarities, it's not an analogy. And I think this would be the case.
posted by geoff. at 11:02 AM on June 4, 2004

Germany had invaded and was occupying other countries. Iraq was not. (Warning: using this argument supports Gulf War I, since in that case Iraq had invaded Kuwait. That doesn't bother me, as I supported GWI for this very reason, but if you also want to come down against GWI, this isn't the argument to use.)

Also, D-Day was on June 6, not June 4.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:05 AM on June 4, 2004

US : Iraq :: Germany : Poland
US : Iraq :: Japan : US
posted by kirkaracha at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2004

NOTE: I am not a historian . . .

Germany : Poland That's a bit too strong of an analogy kirkaracha. While the US is occupying Iraq, no one seriously believes the US has a desire to permanently annex another nation to our own. Which isn't to say that the US doesn't have some very specific interests in Iraq.

Japan : US? That doesn't make any sense at all. While there are obviously some parallels between Sept. 11 and Dec. 7, the US invasion of Iraq has not similarity at all to Pearl Harbor. Indeed, the long lead up to the war and the debates (if you can call them that) in the UN were exactly the opposite of a surprise attack.

One of the fundamental difference between WWII and the "War on Terror" is that the former involved nation states and the latter is a nebulous conglomerate of organizations and possible state sponsors. Bush tried to make the threat a bit more concrete with his "Axis of Evil" remarks, but that fell flat almost instantly.

And, of course, Nazi Germany posed a very clear and demonstrable danger to it's neighbors. This was certainly made clear after the fall of Poland, etc. While the bush administration tried to suggest that Iraq posed a similar threat with WMD, that allegation has also fallen through.

If we think about it a bit more, we could undoubtedly uncover further differences between the two conflicts. WWII obviously has very little in common with Iraq.

But that won't prevent the administration from attempting to garner the same patriotic fervor that that war enjoyed.
posted by aladfar at 11:31 AM on June 4, 2004

The argument for the analogy (whether you agree with it or not) is kinda sorta along the lines of:

"Germany and Japan (and Italy and whoever else) were troublemakers with totalitarian and nonrepresentative dictators that didn't want to play nice and presented a threat to the world in terms of their violent aggression, so they had to be stopped and reformed into states that will play nice. Iraq also was a troublemaker with a totalitarian dictator at the helm that threatened with world with violent aggression (even if never fully carried out) thus Iraq had to be reformed to fit into the global community and not threaten anyone. Due to the lessons of WWII, we stopped them before things got out of hand. Good for us".

The specifics of the various eras and conflicts are not relevant or really debatable as mentioned previously. If you want to dispute the analogy, start by disputing the paraphrasing above.
posted by loquax at 11:48 AM on June 4, 2004

Oh, and add to that, "Now we're rebuilding them just like we did Germany and Japan."
posted by loquax at 11:49 AM on June 4, 2004

"Why is the Iraq War NOTHING like WW2?"

Because the United Stes didn't leave the allies to fight the Iraq war alone for over two years.
posted by timeistight at 11:56 AM on June 4, 2004

And because of the complete not-ness of "Iraq also was a troublemaker [...] that threatened with world with violent aggression"
posted by nicwolff at 12:03 PM on June 4, 2004

Oh, and because we took WW2 seriously.
posted by nicwolff at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2004

Also, D-Day was on June 6, not June 4.

though today is the 15 year anniversary of the Tianamen Square Massacre in china.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2004

Oh! And because we took six years to rebuild Japan - already an industrialized country - before we gave it back to them. First, though, we wrote their constitution, and gave women the vote, and redistributed the farmable land, and instituted labor unions...

Want to try another paraphrasing?
posted by nicwolff at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2004

Germany : Poland: I was thinking more of invading a country on a trumped-up excuse, exaggerating the threat of a weak country. (German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms staged attacks and Hitler claimed that Poland was the aggressor.)

Japan : US: One of the reasons Japan attacked the US is that they thought they'd have to go to war eventually, and it would be better for them to strike early.

Regarding loquax's analogy (which I don't agree with), I think a better analagy would be if the US had unilaterally attacked the Weimar Republic, with it's weak and small military, because of Germany's aggression during World War I.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2004

nicwolff - you got me all wrong, I was paraphrasing the analogy as I'm aware of it, not arguing for it.

I was suggesting that to argue against the analogy, argue against what I had wrote, which you have done, so good work!

For the record, you can draw analogies between anything you want. It's easy to selectively include and preclude information, therefore there will be elements of truth in any analogy. The problem is that different people have different thresholds for what they would consider to be a valid analogy, especially when you throw partisan politics and revisionist history into the mix. Two intelligent people arguing on opposite sides of this analogy should be able to keep at it forever citing various bits and pieces of history and minutiae, but there's really no point. You'll win the argument if you stay out of it and criticize the practice of drawing analogies in a debate.
posted by loquax at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2004

This is a classic neo-con rhetorical trap, and don't fall for it (the WW2 analogy, not this post).

The initial statement is factually absurd, contrary to any reasonable perception of reality. By even engaging in this debate, you're putting yourself on the defensive and lending credence to the initial statement. Fuck that. Demand of your right-wing friends an explanation of why it is so. When they offer up the expected "because Saddam was a threat, just like Hitler" response, just keep needling "Why?" and "How?"
posted by mkultra at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2004

Response by poster: mk, not bad. See this is what I was going for in some sense, I suppose. It is an amazingly loaded rhetorical snare. Yet somehow, I would like to find a historical "NO WAY" to utter. But what you point out is realistic as well. Ask for proof.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 1:14 PM on June 4, 2004

Sorry if I mistook you for the originator of the poor analogy, loquaw! (I shouldn't get snarky in the green anyway.) Your points (and mkultra's) are excellent.
posted by nicwolff at 1:15 PM on June 4, 2004

just keep needling "Why?" and "How?"

I don't think you want to do that. The deeper you get into this analogy, the harder it is to work your way out. It's easy to answer questions presented to you. How was Saddam a threat like Hitler? Easy, he killed tons of people, persecuted ethnic minorities, had invaded sovereign countries and had access at various points in time to lots of weapons and had tried in the past to make nukes. Next question. Again, I don't agree with the analogy, but it's easy to make.

If you insist on debating this point, far better to make the argument for your opponent beforehand, and point out why it is wrong before they have a chance to respond, or selectively filter the facts they chose to present. For instance, "I know you're going to say that Saddam was like Hitler, but you're wrong because of the scale of his crimes/ability to perpetrate them/whatever else you chose to say". This flips the onus onto your opponent to refute what you have stated, which is again near impossible due to the vagaries inherent to analogies.

If that makes any sense...
posted by loquax at 1:17 PM on June 4, 2004

nicwolff - np!
posted by loquax at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2004

Because the United Stes didn't leave the allies to fight the Iraq war alone for over two years.
That was my first thought too. But then realized "one thing" you can connect the two: UK & USA. invaded. Then the argument is lost because no Iraqi military helped in the liberation. Let WWII have its own glory, sheesh!
posted by thomcatspike at 2:03 PM on June 4, 2004

No WMD were found in Japan or Germany, a similarity.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:39 PM on June 4, 2004

1. Until the end of the second World War, European powers had been engaged in nearly continuous conflict for hundreds of years.

2. From the Franco-Prussian War to the Second World War, Germany demonstrated a combination of technological innovation and industrial production that enabled internal production of world-class weapons.

3. Despite Germany's defeat in the First World War and treaties designed to limit its warmaking potential, Germany built a new army and conquered Europe.

Iraq had a 10-year long war with Iran. Has Saddam attempted to attack Iran since? Iraq did invade Kuwait, but was rapidly driven out by the United States. Saddam may want to be an Arab Napoleon, but is there a middle-eastern warrior culture that can back these goals up? Saddam's neighbors seem to be happy pumping oil and playing on the world commodities markets. His more dysfunctional neighbors like to detonate bombs from time to time. Is there any middle eastern army with real strategic battle experience?

Other than a few unusually large cannons, what local arms industry is there in Iraq? Most of Saddam's weapons seem to have been purchased abroad.

Saddam doesn't seem to have had any success, or even interest in, building a new army after his first defeat at the hands of US forces.

finally, Saddam's Moustache-grooming skills were nothing compared to Hitlers :)
posted by Kwantsar at 4:39 PM on June 4, 2004

Bush has no clue to what is going on historically, we are no longer in an era of ideologues. We have moved to an era of Clash of Civilizations where the major Civilizations of the world (west, muslim,hindu,chinese,japan,africa,latin.amer) are coming into ever increasing contact leading to every increasing frictions.
posted by stbalbach at 10:54 PM on June 4, 2004

No WMD were found in Japan or Germany, a similarity.

Um, except for those gas chambers and ovens. Weapons. Of mass destruction.
posted by baltimore at 10:37 AM on June 6, 2004

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