Don't compare Iraq to Germany or Japan

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, August 26, 2005

Rick Kaufman made some good points in his Aug. 23 letter, though I think his comparison of Iraq to Germany and Japan in 1945 underestimates a history of Western and/or democratic values existing in prewar Germany and Japan.

I would disagree with Mr. Kaufman in that there are significant differences between Germany and Japan in 1945 and Iraq in 2005 and thus the possibility for Iraq to be brought back into the family of nations. Unlike Iraq, Germany and Japan were ethnically homogenous, chose to accept (or at least not oppose) their rehabilitation at the hands of the United States, and were already developed modern economies. None of this is true for Iraq. Moreover, there was the real fear of Joseph Stalin in 1945. All this contributed to the highly successful rehab programs.

In addition, one can make a reasonable argument, as Adenauer did at the time, that Hitler broke with Germany's European past, only temporarily exiling Germany from the West. One can point to the democracy of Weimar Germany and much earlier the strong progressive movement in the Kaiserreich. Before World War I, Socialists were the largest party in the Reichstag.

The case for a democratic tradition in Japan is a bit more difficult to make, but Japan was far and away the most Westernized nation in Asia. Since the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century Japan's imitation of the West was intrinsically linked with at least some Western values.

Can Iraq be rehabilitated? It's possible, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. The best way to support our men and women in uniform is to get them out, because if we stay until a democratic Iraq exists, we'll be there until hell freezes over.

Alan Schorr


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