Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy :: The Difference between Germany, Japan, and Iraq
The Difference between Germany, Japan, and Iraq   Print 
Written by Erin Solaro  
Monday, 29 December 2003

Many people compare reconstruction in post-war Iraq to the post-war reconstruction of Germany and Japan. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is only the most vocal proponent of the idea that we were going to liberate the Iraqis the way we liberated the Axis peoples, especially the Germans, from their own tyranny.

Would we had liberated Germany and Japan! Instead, we invaded, conquered them, and then we occupied them. The human costs were unbelievable: approximately 3.5 million German soldiers, and 780,000 civilians, killed. The death toll was nearly as great in Asia with an estimated 1.3 million Japanese soldiers, and 672,000 civilians, killed. The prewar German population was 80.6 million; that of Japan in 1940 was just over 73 million. Germany was ground like grain between two great armies that fought through its cities street-by-street and sometimes house-by-house. JapanÝs wood and paper cities were attacked with incendiary bombs to cause firestorms because it made a lot of sense to kill skilled workers.

The Allies insisted on unconditional surrender by the legitimate German and Japanese authorities. This demand forced all who thought the Nazi and Imperial orders were worth defending to fight, and often die, for their beliefs.

In contrast, the Iraqi government did not surrender, but, like its army, simply crumbled.

Iraqis and American GIs alike know that Iraq is home to Iraqis, not Americans. It is now a matter of sheer will between us and the Iraqis who, for whatever reasons, wish us to leave--right now. Iraqis who are willing to cooperate with us are known to the resistance and are intensely vulnerable. Unlike Americans, they canÝt go home.

In the summer of 1945, Germans and Japanese knew winter was coming on and that they had been brutally defeated and conquered by people who had gone to war specifically to defeat them. The Cold War, while looming on the horizon, was years away. Germany and Japan had manufacturing and agricultural economies to rebuild under the hard eyes of occupation troops. In contrast, the Iraqi resistance has only to read the papers to know how their actions affect our force structure, our operations in other countries, and the Korean contingency.

Winter is coming on. Everyone knew Germany and Japan were going to be occupied for a long time to come; in a real way, they still are. Now is the time for us to be very serious and very honest with ourselves, with the Iraqis who want to drive us out, and above all with the Iraqis who would cooperate with us in building a decent Iraq. We need to tell them how long we plan to be there and what we plan to do. Casual references to imperfect and incomplete historical analogies can serve only to confuse.

Erin Solaro is Executive Director of Aret╚a, a Seattle-based public policy and cultural affairs center. All rights reserved.


Further Reading

Wesley Clark, ýOccupation: No Model for this One,ţ Washington Post, March 23, 2003, Page B2.

John W. Dower, ýWarning from History: DonÝt Expect Democracy in Iraq,ţ Boston Review, February/March 2003.

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 December 2003 )
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