I’ve been hearing this line lately and I think it is terribly simple-minded. I guess it’s another way of saying “I’m tired of this war.” I’ve made analogies between this war and WW II, but only in the sense of the ideology we are fighting against. I have definitely come to the conclusion that some mistakes were made in this war. One of which is we did not send in enough soldiers to do the job well. Iraq is a country that needs security to create a stable environment so that positive things can happen politically. This is truly nation building.
I wish every pundit who makes the above statement would be challenged with these questions: “How did WW II end?” The answer of course is that the Japanese surrendered in 1945 (the war started for the U.S. in 1941). “What caused the Japanese to surrender?” The answer of course is two atomic bombs: one dropped on Hiroshima, the other on Nagasaki. Why were two bombs necessary? The way I heard it in my history courses in school is after we dropped the first atomic bomb on them, the Japanese government taunted us, “We bet you don’t have another one.” So we showed them we had another one. It was a WW II-style “shock and awe” move, except that civilian casualties were massive. There’s been a strong sense of shame about doing this, in the U.S., ever since. This is how WW II ended when it did, though. Had President Truman decided to not use nuclear weapons the U.S. military had an invasion planned for Japan. Our soldiers were training for it, and dreading it.
The ferocity of Japan’s military was well known at that point. They had their own version of suicide bombing, called “Kamikaze”. They were select Japanese fighter pilots, highly admired among their people, who volunteered to ram their planes into U.S. ships in hopes of sinking them. Often they had bombs attached to their planes for extra oomph. U.S. POWs were kept in terrible conditions, tortured, and put into forced labor that often killed them. In every land battle we had with them, Japanese soldiers fought down to the last man. They never surrendered. It was common for them to commit what we would call “terrorist attacks” against our troops. We would think we had secured an island, then a few Japanese stragglers would pop up and snipe at our soldiers, killing dozens. Iwo Jima was a particularly harsh battle. The Japanese had created underground passages all over the island, even creating an underground fortress, dug into a mountain that was on it. The U.S. soldiers who tried to take the island discovered quickly that there was no front line. Japanese soldiers would pop up all around them, shooting at them from all sides, and then disappear into their underground passages. A lot of the fighting took place at night, when it was difficult for our soldiers to see anything. Iwo Jima wasn’t even that big. My guess is it was smaller than Rhode Island, but we lost 6,825 soldiers taking it.
So we had good reason to dread invading Japan using conventional means. The casualty estimates for it, just on the U.S. side, were in the neighborhood of hundreds of thousands, to millions. I’ve heard from some WW II veterans who were training for the invasion at the time. To this day they are thankful that Truman decided to use the bomb instead of an invasion to finally get the Japanese to surrender. “He saved American lives,” they’ll say.
The point is the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan are the ONLY reason WW II was as short as it was. Had Truman not used them, the war would have lasted into 1946, if not beyond, and hundreds of thousands of American lives would have been lost. It’s even been said that if Truman had not used the bomb, when he had access to it, the American people would’ve demanded his impeachment. So in a sense Truman was damned either way. We have an unfortunate tendency as Americans to blame our leaders for the ferocity of our enemies, and what we are forced to do to conquer them.
I would suggest that people stop using WW II as a benchmark for how long this war should take. I agree with the idea that in Iraq we need to use overwhelming force, and we haven’t done that up to now. Maybe that’s what people are frustrated about. The war will take as long as it takes. What we need to measure is the progress we’re making, or lack thereof. This war is not going to end just because we’re tired of it.