Friday, March 28, 2003

Meaningless Words - I

Whenever I see the following word in any news article, essay or opinion piece, I know to move on immediately, rather than waste my time.

Fascism

The term "fascism" has much less meaning than it might at first appear to possess. There was so little in common between Hitler and Mussolini's system of government - beyond the themes of strongman rule, aggressive expansionism, outlaw status and a sense of aggrievance - that to throw around the term "fascist" or "fascism" is simply to substitute sloganeering for reasoning.

To include Franco's Spain in such a grouping is to reduce the term to utter meaninglessness - Hitler aided Finland's war efforts as well as Nationalist Spain's, so receiving military assistance from Nazi Germany cannot suffice to call a system of government "fascist." Hitler loathed Catholicism and the Vatican, while Franco gave the Catholic Church a privileged place in national life. Hilter despised Jews, while Franco actually offered them refuge while non-"fascist" states like Switzerland refused to do so. In fact, the one thing that comes across in "Hitler's Table Talk" is that he loathed Franco's regime intensely, even going so far as to say that a communist victory in Spain well might have been better!

One nation that did share a great deal in common with Nazi Germany was the Soviet Union: it shared all the brutal characteristics held in common by Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, even sharing in the paranoid anti-semitism that Italy never truly went in for. What is more, the Soviet Union was much more a police state than Nazi Germany ever was, countenancing nowhere near the minimal dissent tolerated by the Gestapo, and yet nobody has ever referred to it as a "fascist" state. Why should this be so?

The answer resides within the question itself, and explains the strange popularity of a term so nebulous as to be more an obstacle to understanding than an aid to it. The use of the term "fascist" is a dead giveaway that one is dealing with a member of the hard-left - whether the preferred rubric under which said individual resides be "socialist", "progressive", "marxist", "anarchist" or something else along such lines. People of this sort are as a rule immune, no, averse, to reason, and prefer to let hackneyed slogans stand in for rational thought wherever possible; for them, "fascism" denotes any school of thought or system of government they happen to dislike, just as "judeo-bolshevism" represented the universal bogeyman for another group of ideological extremists. Where the extreme left has an advantage of the xenophobic right is that Stalin was both an "ally" (in the loosest sense of the word) and a victor in World War 2, which gave his followers and their vocabulary a spurious legitimacy that was denied the Nazis by defeat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Take Down Saddam TV (NYT: registration required).

Who would ever have thought it possible? For once, I have to say that Maureen Dowd is right! There is simply no excuse for having left Iraqi television on the air for so long, and even now, after loud claims were made that it had been knocked out, broadcasts are still continuing!

Exaggerated claims of this sort only serve to damage the Pentagon's credibility, while it should have been obvious to all that, however many million dollars it might cost to rebuild the TV transmission infrastructure after the war, the likely expense would be more than justified by the denial of a propaganda platform to Saddam's regime. You cannot expect people to jubilate at your arrival when they can clearly see that the man they live in fear of is still alive and still giving orders to his henchmen.

I must also add that Dowd is right in saying that Rumsfeld's ideas about lightly-armed forces, "rolling starts" and the like simply have not panned out. What point is there in making rapid progress if the troops simply aren't there to consolidate the progress that has been made?

Yet again we see the wisdom of civilian administrators deferring to the professional wisdom of the military men when it comes to strategy. For all of Colin Powell's missteps in cajoling the U.S. down the U.N route, his doctrine of "overwhelming force" is being proven right by the course of events.

The presence of another infantry division with a full complement of tanks in the theatre of operations would be greatly appreciated right now, but it seems that the 4th Infantry Division isn't even scheduled to start moving till next Monday at the earliest. If its' presence should turn out to be essential, it would mean that the war will not be for at least another 4 weeks or so.

To sum it all up, there is no doubt that Saddam will be defeated, but it is likely to take a lot longer than ought to have been necessary.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Here we go again! The international press is rife with reports of catastrophe in Iraq, and to hear them cry out, one would think an entire division of the U.S. army had been wiped out in a major engagement.

In point of fact, a grand total of 21 American soldiers were either killed, captured or wounded. To put that number in perspective, something like 16,000 American soldiers died in the opening phase of the D-Day landings alone! In the course of World War 2, nearly 300,000 Americans and 500,000 Brits died in fighting. Even in Vietnam, a much less bloody conflict , approximately 50,000 Americans died in combat.

To suggest, as both American and other media are doing, that a cumulative total of perhaps 50 UK/US deaths constitutes any sort of catastrophe, is to betray a dazzling ignorance of history and the realities of warfare. If the number of Allied deaths were to rise to even 20 times this figure by the end of the campaign, it will still have constituted a military success of an unmatched order; after all, the Iraqi armed forces are not mere bands of spear-carrying tribesmen, but a real fighting force, armed with tanks, machine guns, rocket launchers and all the other weaponry of a modern army.
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When all is said and done, the main thing is that the U.S. troops have advanced to within 50 miles of Baghdad, after just 5 days of fighting, and they have suffered minimal combat losses in doing so.