Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April 1, 2008

     The New York Times reminds us that this is the date on which the United Sates invaded Okinawa back during World War Two.  And Richard Cohen writes in the Washington Post today about a pacifist, Nicholson Baker, who has written a book arguing that no, it  wasn't a good war after all.
     Cohen thinks it was, and so do I.  I'm not a pacifist.  I thought Korea was a marginal war;  I thought Vietnam was a mistake.  We said we were containing Communism, but the Communists won and discovered that Marxism didn't work.  The last time I was there they were entertaining American tourists, some of them veterans revisiting the places where they'd fought.
     And Iraq was a mistake, of course.  Saddam Hussein was a bad man--bad to his own people--but he was not remotely a threat to the United States.
     But World War II?  I always remember an interview I did on some anniversary years ago with Bill Mauldin, the GI cartoonist whose soldiers, Willie and Joe, were probably the most famous soldiers in the European war.  Mauldin talked about how, years later, he didn't think WW II had made the world a better place.  People weren't kinder; poverty and violence hadn't vanished;  things were much as they had always been.  Then he paused for a couple of seconds and added, "But of course we had to kill Hitler."  And of course we did;  his was evil in a much more pervasive way than Saddam, spreading his hatred from country to country until no part of the world was safe.  He had to be stopped.
     In a sense it's harder to justify wars now because they can, in this nuclear age, be so total.  "For the first time," a Roman Catholic cardinal named Joseph Bernardin said some years ago, "man has the capacity to destroy God's created order."  And of course that's true.
     But I still think there are times when a country has to fight.  This mess of Mr. Bush's just isn't one of those times.  

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