Seriously, can we wage war during peace and win?
The Bush Administration continues to fight the War on Terror with only a handful of government departments involved: Department of Defense, our 16 various intelligence services, some elements of the State Department and Homeland Security. As for the other cabinet-level departments and the scores of government agencies below that level, it looks like business as usual.
The U.N. is of little consequence because the majority of its member nations are criminal enterprises whose governments are focused on extracting wealth from their native populations.
For our part, only our military (one-percent of our population) is actively suffering the hardships of being killed or wounded or having family life disrupted by repeated absences of one parent or the other. Ninety-nine-percent of us are free to follow whatever pursuits we fancy with apparently little regard for the fact that either a real or a fake Osama bin Laden is telling us that he, she or it plans another major attack against us here at home.
Apparently, many Americans are not taking al-Qaeda seriously.
Searching for an historical parallel, one finds almost the reverse situation in Great Britain of the 1930s. Only the solid British working-class and a handful of members of the upper crust in the Tory Party, like Winston Churchill, took what Hitler had to say and write seriously. A series of post-World War I British governments, mostly staffed by aristocrats, were passionately pacifist. Most, infamously, the government of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
Even after Hitler did what he said he was doing to do: Reoccupy the Rhineland, combine Germany with Austria, annex Czechoslovakia, invade Poland, Denmark and Norway, Chamberlain’s preferred response was to drop leaflets on Germany urging the German people to restrain Hitler.
Taken from Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, here are some examples of Chamberlain’s Phony War against the Nazis.
A Royal Air Force pilot flying one of the many leaflet- dropping missions over Germany returned to his base early because he had mistakenly dumped his entire load of leaflets on German soil still roped together in bundles. His commanding officer bellowed, “Good God, man, you might have killed somebody!”
“When American correspondent, John Gunther, asked a military censor for the text of a leaflet that had been dropped over Germany shortly after the [Nazi] invasion of Poland, he was turned down with this explanation: ‘We are not allowed to disclose information which might be of value to the enemy.’ Struggling to keep his temper, Gunther pointed out that the enemy had already seen the leaflet. Wasn’t that its point? The official blinked, then stammered, ‘Yes, something must be wrong there.’
When British intelligence discovered the Nazis were using the Black Forest to hide ammunition factories; the response of the British Air Minister was to say, “Are you aware that is private property? Why you’ll be asking me to bomb Essen next.”
Even after Churchill became Prime Minister, he had to fight the lethargy of some of his cabinet ministers and the entrenched British Civil Service. In fact, Churchill often answered his private telephone line with these words, “Come directly to the point!” Churchill had no time to waste on old-school-boy chit-chat.
England’s major newspapers were pro-Chamberlain and pacifist, making it difficult for Churchill to mobilize public opinion behind a genuine war effort. Does that seem familiar?
It was only with considerable “help” from Germany and Japan that Churchill and Roosevelt were able to mobilize their countrymen and women to fight.
But to our troops in the field and to their families, the War on Terror is not phony at all. Do you suppose that our trying to wage war during peace suggests to the terrorists that we are the ones who should not be taken seriously?
Syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. Writing as William Penn, he and his wife are the co-authors of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.