Do we need enemies?

by Richard on October 16, 2008

When I was in the scouts in the mid-1970’s we went on camp, as scout troops do. This particular summer, we’d more or less finished pitching our tents when we discovered that the troop nearest to us on the camping ground was German. There was a real ‘edge’ to that. Though Britain was in the ‘Common Market’, WWII still loomed pretty large. Sunday afternoon often featured a war film: what we knew about Germans, we’d learned from those. Part of the reason that Basil Fawty’s German routine was so funny (”Don’t mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it!”) is that it was so true for the times.

For the 1980’s, the enemies came in the shape of the USSR, tanks poised to sweep across Eastern Europe, missiles pointed in our direction, bombers perpetually on the runways ready for take-off. There was real paranoia about the nuclear threat. They were out to get us.

Then the USSR went away.

It died as a threat almost overnight. And a new enemy was on the horizon. Islam.

And it was out to get us too.

Two things fascinate me about all this. The first is the question I began with. Do we need enemies? The way in which we have been able to shift without effort from one enemy to the next suggests to me that we might. It is almost as if something in our collective psyche must have an ‘other’ over and against which it can define itself. We gain identity from being ‘not them’.

Second, it is interesting that enemies and allies are able to change places so easily. We fought against the Germans with the Russians. We fought the Russians with what we would call now Muslim extremists. (And not just in Afghanistan. Anyone else remember when the horrid Chechen terrorists were thought of as brave freedom fighters?) And in all of that time we’ve fought alongside our perpetual friends, the Americans — except in Ireland, where obviously the British were bloodthirsty imperialist aggressors. It was those nice men of the Marxist Provisional IRA who were the freedom fighters.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this - just thinking aloud.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1

PamBG 10.16.08 at 3:14 pm

I don’t know why everyone groans when I say read Rene Girard. I think he has a very good model of why civilizations need enemies. My opinion, of course.

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tortoise 10.16.08 at 3:52 pm

Pam, I didn’t hear any groaning and you (or Rene) will certainly get none from me. Girard rocks.

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dh 10.16.08 at 5:02 pm

Richard, I appreciate that you are honest and humble in your start of the thread by saying you don’t know where you are going with this and that you are thinking out loud.

I agree we don’t need enemies but if one like the Western World TRIES to do the right thing by suppporting the freedoms from dictators, evil regimes and the like and when one attacks or attempts to attack those things then how is one supposed to respond?

For me the Cold War was very much a concern. Every expert of history, etc. understands how close we were to world annihilation. If America and the West eliminated their weapons that doesn’t mean (as evident with Kruschev “we will break you”) that Russia wouldn’t use them. Also, we forget the internal struggle Truman had with the bombs and how a protracted War in the Japan would have killed close to a million people as compared with 100,000. That doesn’t mean I’m denegrating what happened because it is very somber. However, look at Japan now. It is a success story. S. Korea it is a success story. Germany it is a success story. etc., etc. etc. The same thing can happen in the Middle East but those who desire to destroy the freedoms Iran, Al Quada, N. Korea and the like must be dealt with. Does that mean 100% all of the time military action? absolutely not but when it is apparent like it was with Saddam that negotiations will NOT work then we can’t sit back and let them get stronger.

I see it positive that we dealt with Nazi’s, Soviet Communism and now dealing with Islamic Extremism. I also never thought of the IRA as “freedom fighters”.

The USSR died because they couldn’t keep up economically and militarily with the Western world and at the same time the people in the USSR observed this and was tired of living under their evil regime. Also it wasn’t overnight that is what the Cold War is all about. It took decades for them to fall.

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Tony Buglass 10.16.08 at 11:57 pm

DH: “I see it positive that we dealt with Nazi’s, Soviet Communism and now dealing with Islamic Extremism. I also never thought of the IRA as “freedom fighters”.”

The problem is that others see it as a positive that they are standing up against western imperialism, the spread of US-centred consumerist culture, etc. And while I never saw the IRA as freedom figfters either, they did. And a lot of Americans supported them. My brother was in the British Army in Northern Ireland - we saw the attitudes first-hand. A few years ago we had a holiday in the Irish Republic - the day we went to church happened to be the anniversary of the death of hunger-striker Bobby Sands - there were people on the pavements with placards and loudspeakers, and I parked my car with its English number plates a lot further down the road.

Freedom-fighter = guerilla fighter = terrorist. Which definition you use depends on where you stand in relation to the cause. British and US bomber crews in WW2 were described as “terrorflieger” - terrorists.

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dh 10.17.08 at 3:01 pm

Just because they believe they were freedom fighters, etc. doesn’t mean we should assume they are.

I understand that in WW2 British and Us bombers were considered terrorists but who started it first? It was the Germans who attacked innocent nations first and in a terrorist way called the Blitzkreig. When one looks at the facts from an unbiased way one has to take into consideration ALL of the situation.

The fact remains if we sat back and did nothing in German atrocities, Japanese atrocities, etc.. The response were to actions that were first done by the German government at the hands of Hitler regime and Hirohito’s regime, etc. If we would have not responded Japan, Europe, S. Korea, etc. would be living under regimes that would have devastated the people within those countries or regions and would have probably devasted the world. That isn’t fear but a fact of what would have happened. When one looks at the nations post WW2 I consider them a success story and the people within those nations do to.

One really shouldn’t be relativistic in looking into freedom fighter-querilla fighter-terrorist. Sitting back at the hand of beginning initiated atrocities by evil regimes is not an option.

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Kim 10.17.08 at 6:30 pm

Cognitive neuroscientists, as well as neo-Darwinian psychologists, suggest that we may be hardwired to have enemies, and to fear, hate, and kill them. That makes sense to me. And if it is true, it goes to show just how counter-evolutionary is the teaching of Jesus: the love of enemies is quite unnatural and can only be sustained by grace. And that in turn suggests that Christians who take the line, “Do it to them before they do it to you”, i.e. who are driven by Realpolitik, attending to the Sermon of the Mount more in the beach than the observance, are quite un-born-again. It’s interesting - isn’t it? - that so many of them are “evangelicals”.

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dh 10.17.08 at 7:30 pm

I still believe that if one looks at all of Scripture that self defense and defense of the innocent are things that God DOES support not unlike against USSR, WW2, etc.. Therefore my response is Biblical and rational. Also, to suggest that I’m “un-Born Again” is very much judgemental and not Christ-like in any way. I have never said that you weren’t a Believer, Kim. Also to label that “many Evangelicals are un-Born Again” I believe is also judgemental. You obviously have not observed ALL of the fruit of the majority of Evangelicals to make such a rash and unfounded statement that you made.

Kim, I have never said that I hate my enemies or fear them or even desire to kill them. I will say that if we know they are going to murder innocent people that self-defense and coming to the defense of the innocent are things the Lord WOULD condone and is condoned in Scripture if one looks at ALL of Scripture.

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Richard 10.17.08 at 8:31 pm

“…attending to the Sermon of the Mount more in the beach than the observance”

Classic! Don’t you dare correct that one, Kim!

DH, yes — Kim is being judgemental. He can be like that. But you know what, he’s right.
It’s a lovely fiction that those wars and conflicts you list were all straightforwardly struggles of good against evil, with us (US!) on the side of the fellows in the white hats obviously. But the reality is a good deal more complicated than that.

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dh 10.17.08 at 8:54 pm

He’s right? How about ALL of the fruit of the particular people? Has Kim or you observed ALL of that? Are you suggesting that the US had the “black hats” in WW2? Come on. Also, how is it that the USSR had the “white hats” in the cold war or even that the US had the “black hats” during the cold war? come on there as well. I’m not saying that the US was perfect in everyway but I believe the response was reasonable in light of the innocent people that were being hurt and how that many of those nations aren’t experiencing the hurt they had in the past. To neglect the positives after the response is really denying reality of the situation.

Lets keep Japan pre WW2, Germany pre WW2, S. Korea pre WW2 and pre Korean War, etc.? Wouldn’t you say that the Western world had a major impact in the positive situations that Germany, Japan and S. Korea are experiencing today?

Have you observed enough fruit to say that the majority of Evangelicals are not Born Again? I don’t believe you or Kim have enough experience to even begin to make those claims.

If people want to say that some people who say they are Born Again are in fact not, then I can go along with that but not in an overgeneralistic way like you and Kim are stating.

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Kim 10.18.08 at 2:25 am

“Beach”, actually, was quite intentional: Omaha beach, etc. … ;)

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Tony Buglass 10.20.08 at 10:15 am

dh: “Just because they believe they were freedom fighters, etc. doesn’t mean we should assume they are.”

I don’t. And I didn’t. But unless you at least try to understand where folk are coming from, you never get a handle on the situation, and the causes tend to repeat themselves.

“I understand that in WW2 British and Us bombers were considered terrorists but who started it first?”

Does that make it right? Bishop George Bell famously stood up in the House of Lords and condemned the Allied policy of area-bombing of German cities. That speech probably cost him the promotion to Canterbury which he’d almost certainly have got when Temple stood down. Yes, bombing enemy industry was the only way we could hit back, and yes, in the first years of the war they were lucky to hit the town let alone the factory. I know all about that. But I also know that the Allies did in great measure what they condemned the Germans for doing. “They started it” is what I used to hear from my children when I intervened in a squabble which had got out of hand.

As for th IRA - you might not have seen them as freedom fighters, but a good number of Americans did: they had a lot of money out of Noraid, based as I remember in New York. When Reagan sent USAF F-111s from UK airfields to bomb Libya (because no other European power would allow him to use their airspace for the mission), he argued that it was justifiable because the Libyans had (allegedly) supported a terrorist attack on US forces in Germay. I wrote to the US ambassador in London, and suggested that on those grounds, it would be justifiable for the RAF to bomb New York. Funnily enough, he never answered.

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dh 10.20.08 at 3:02 pm

Tony, I DO understand how things repeat themselves. It was a fact that France was the world’s military power pre WW2. They had more tanks and a stronger military. Everyone knew the actions of Gernmant in 1937-1938 that Germany was going to attack innocent nations but guys like Neville Chamberlain, French focusing solely on their Magineau line, etc. allowed for the Germans to attack first and thus make for a longer more drawn out war than if the French and English together would have attacked Germany knowing they violated all of the treaties from a military standpoint. Germans were told don’t attack Czech and they did, don’t attack Austria and they did and the greatest tragedy don’t attack Poland and in the end they were left to fight for themselves and have a divided land with the ultimate end Poland totally German. We all know the Jewish persecution that followed.

Also, with regard to bombing German industry. It was the only way to stop the Germans from continuing their campaign. There was nothing to keep them from stopping short of that. However, to suggest that the Allies should not have done this is so short-sighted and is totally understandable if one truly understood the mentality of the Gernman government. To also put the Allies in the same category as the Gernmans when they commited attrocities that could have never been imagined is really appauling to me. Have you seem Germany, Italy, Japan, S. Korea, etc. today? If we would have followed your policy these nations for decades would have lived in terrible conditions and millions of lives would have been lost otherwise.

On the Libyan thing, we are talkiong about governments not people. So your logic doesn’t work. It is understandable to attack Libya at that time because the US was attacking the heart of the Libyan military. For the RAF to bomb New York is just not logical when in fact the US government, military and the people as a supermajority supported the UK as opposed to the IRA. Also the US government cracked down on Noraid so your logic just falls short on that as well.

If one knows for sure like anyone would that the Germans and Japanese are going to fight to the end let alone their starting it in the first place against innocent nations then isn’t it reasonable to prevent those attacks by attacking first so as limit the amount of time of war than otherwise and therefore save lives? Maybe you need to ask the Japanese now, the Germans now, the Italians now, etc. “Are they happy that the Allies won WW2 and then ask them how many lives would have been lost if the Allies lost?” and you will find your ideology just falls short and actually keeps people in bondage and death.

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Tony Buglass 10.22.08 at 9:48 am

Dear DH, it would help if you address what I said, and not what I didn’t say. I didn’t argue that bombing of enemy industry was in principle wrong - it was strategically necessary, and certainly in the first 3 years of the war all we could do was to get the bombs into the same part of Germany. I also did not suggest that appeasement was right. There is a case often made that Munich allowed us a year to build more Spitfires and Hurricanes, but it ignores the facts. France as you say had more tanks, just didn’t know how to use them. The Czechs had a large army and air force - had we stood firm with them in 1938, Hitler might have backed down. Had the British and French stood firm in 1937 when he marched into the Rhineland, the troops had orders to move straight out and not risk confrontation. Easy to say with hindsight - but what we forget is the WW1 experience which 1930s leaders remembered too well, and were trying desperately to avoid. Easy to judge and condemn them for their failures. Hitler had to be stopped, and we were right to go to war against him.

My argument was picking up the hypocrisy involved in condemning Germany for Warsaw, Rotterdam, Coventry, London, etc, and then doing Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, etc - area bombing, which was less targetted on the industry as aimed to wipe out the work force. That was the relevance of my reference to George Bell - the same George Bell who travelled to Stockholm in 1942 to meet German church leaders, who informed him that a strong Christian anti-Nazi resistance was in a position to stage a coup and bring the war to an end if the Allies would undertake to treat honourably with the revolutionary German government. Of course, Churchill had to say no, because the Big Three had already decided on unconditional surrender, and there was no way in which Stalin would accept anything less after what had already happened to Russia. Most of the 6 million Jews were still alive at that point…

Trust me - I know my military history. I also know what was going on in 1983, and that Reagan was wrong to bomb Libya. Every other NATO ally told him so - only Mrs Thatcher allowed him to use RAF bases to launch his attack. At the time of the attacks, Noraid was pouring money into the IRA; Russian AK47s and Czech Semtex was being bought with US dollars and used to kill British troops on British territory. We would have had more right and evidence to attack the Noraid HQ than Reagan had to bomb Tripoli. That was my point, and it still stands.

The point I was trying to make is the first place is that the analysis of freedom-fighter (ours) - guerilla (neutral) - terrorist (theirs) is important in understanding the issues and the possible remedies. In the most recent example, in which an aid worker was killed by the Taliban for “Christian propaganda” it probably achieves nothing to dismiss them as terrorists. It may achieve a little more to note (publicly and loudly) that this demonstrates them to be heretics within their own culture - the Prophet was much more lenient than them to “the people of the Book.” They invalidate their own Islamic faith by thier actions.

Of course, I doubt any of them read this blog, and I doubt any of them would repent if they did, but it helps in the wider context to develop a more subtle analysis than “goodies-baddies.” Once war has broken out, we’re all baddies to some degree, even if it is a so-called just war.

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dh 10.22.08 at 3:45 pm

I still agree that the leaders were trying to avoid WW2 from the experience of WW1 but was very clear and it wasn’t hindsight that Hitler was going to attack these nations and it is a fact that only when France was taken over that anybody did anything about it. I appreciate you acknowledging my points with regard to WW2 but I still fault France and England. France and England made commitments beforehand with Czech and Poland and they didn’t stand by their word. Then when Poland was attacked we let it fall and then split up Poland between Russia and Germany. Ridiculous. The desire of Hitler was clearly evident by these actions and it still didn’t change the nations at be.

Also doesn’t it seem shortsighted to think that a coup would have took care of Hitler in light of the strong military and SS of Germany? The fact remains it would not have worked the logistics were just not there. Also, it IS understandable in light of Hitler not being trusted that unconditional surrender should be the conclusion and in the end it was and that was

Also, I don’t by the logic of the Noraid vs. Libya thing. The fact remains that Libya was growing stronger in its military and had to be dealt with to prevent future actions. The difference being is that we are dealing with governments and the fact is the US government and military did NOT support the IRA and as such it is much different than the Libyan thing. Also, in the end the US cracked down and Blair and Bush cracked down on Noraid.

I still believe that we CAN label the Taliban as terrorists. They murdered innocent people how can they not be looked at as such? Also, Islamic faith is really no faith at all in that Faith in God is Salvation alone. I still buy the “baddies to some degree”.

15

Tony Buglass 10.23.08 at 9:52 am

” Then when Poland was attacked we let it fall and then split up Poland between Russia and Germany.”

We? We had nothing to do with it - that was Hitler and Stalin. The only thing we could have done to help Poland was go to war (which we did) and go onto immediate offensive on the Western Front (which we didn’t). It is a truism of miltary history that each war begins with generals trying to fight the last one - so we expected defensive trench warfare writ large, and didn’t expect blitzkrieg.

“doesn’t it seem shortsighted to think that a coup would have took care of Hitler in light of the strong military and SS of Germany?”

Of course it does, given the usual mythology about what it was like in Nazi Germany. In fact, there was a strong underground anti-Nazi movement, involving a large number of high-ranking officers who were against Hitler because they were Christians. That was why the German Church leaders asked to meet Bishop Bell in Stockholm - the only reason they didn’t start a coup without seeking the approval of the Allies was the memory of the 1918 “stab in the back.” Of course th Allies had little option but to seek unconditional surrender, given their previous experience, but the resulting tragedy just goes to illustrate that history is more often cock-up than conspiracy.

“I still believe that we CAN label the Taliban as terrorists. They murdered innocent people how can they not be looked at as such?”

Fair comment. I don’t disagree. But to be even-handed, how many innocent people have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by British and US bombing? What does that make us?

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dh 10.23.08 at 3:03 pm

Well after reviewing what we did militarily, historians have said that we clearly did not do enough to help the Poles. Didn’t expect blitzkreig when that is what they did in Czech as well as the military excersizes in the Spainish Civil War? I don’t think so in light of history. THe Allies clearly let the Poles down. Why did the Allies wait 2 days to attack Germany until after Germany attacked on Sept 1st? Why did the British send only 1,800 troops into Poland to defend Poland when clearly if one looked at the German military you would need more? Why do a defensive campaign instead of an offensive campaign when Germany was clearly doing blitzkreig and showing their colors previously? All historians said that the intial start of WW2 was a shortsighted one by the Allies. The fact remains they were forced to do something they didn’t want to do. They weren’t truly commited to the word they gave Poland, Czech and the like. The fact remains it took multiple nations to fall to the Germans before we got the numbers to even begin to take on Germany and it was almost too late. Any history of WW2 says this.

So we DID have something to do with it by not doing all we could to help the Poles. True we went to war in Poland but read this from Wikipedia of all places: “Although the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany soon after Germany attacked Poland, very little direct military aid was provided (see Phoney War and Western betrayal).”

The fact remains that the coup would NOT have worked no matter how many or little the number of people involved. Hitler had a stronger military and SS than you realize that would have cruched ANY resistence as evident in the Putsch Rebellion. Also the fact remains that unconditional surrender WAS achieved and if we would have taken on Germany BEFORE the Germans did their blitzkreig the war less lives would have been lost.

Also, one has to look at the intent. It is worse to intentionally kill innocent people as opposed to unintentionally. If one looks at the “friendly fire” in Afghanistan and Iraq the numbers are dramatically low compared with previous wars. The facts support this. Is this terrible? yes but that doesn’t change the fact that the Taliban is intentionally murdering its peope. America and the British are not intentionally murdering innocent people. So we CAN label them as terrorists and be even handed with this like I mentioned.

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Tony Buglass 10.24.08 at 11:22 am

“Didn’t expect blitzkreig when that is what they did in Czech as well as the military excersizes in the Spainish Civil War?”

Czechoslovakia wasn’t blitzkrieg, not by a long shot. Neither was Spain.

“Why did the Allies wait 2 days to attack Germany until after Germany attacked on Sept 1st?”

The ultimatum was issued the very next day. Democracies never move as fast as dictatorships, especially when going to war. As for what happened next, the whole thing was amateurish and hap-handed - even after 6 months of Phoney War, the British High Command was talking about sending battalions of infantry across neutral Norway to help Finland against Russia. We were talking battalions, when the Germans were talking divisions. Nevertheless, your comment that “we” divided Poland between Germany and Russia is rubbish. And I’d always be cautious about using Wikipedia as an authority - words like “Western betrayal” say rather more about the author of the piece than the intent and motives of the West in 1939. (And if you want to talk about failure to help, where was the US? Churchill had to beg Roosevelt for the Lend Lease scheme to be implemented.)

“The fact remains that the coup would NOT have worked no matter how many or little the number of people involved.”

You don’t know that. Nobody knows that. I do know about the strength of the regime, the numbers of the SS, SD, SA, etc. I also know that those who flew to Stockholm to meet Bishop Bell were confident enough, and did represent a lot of high-ranking people in the Reich. Revolutions work by decapitating the monster, and this monster could have been decapitated.

To return to my original point:
“Also, one has to look at the intent. It is worse to intentionally kill innocent people as opposed to unintentionally. If one looks at the “friendly fire” in Afghanistan and Iraq the numbers are dramatically low compared with previous wars.”

Well, all I can say to that is that ALL of the UK casualties in Iraq in 1991 were so-called friendly fire. Intent? If you drop bombs on targets in residential areas, you will get “collateral damage” whether or not you intended it. Saying “sorry, didn’t mean it” doesn’t cut any ice at all.

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dh 10.24.08 at 4:35 pm

The fact remains that Germany WAS doing and learning the Blitzkreig in Spain. That is how they learned how to do their attacks in Europe. The fact remains the French and UK should have anticipated attacks and it seemed that they did by saying “attack Czech and we will declare war, attack Poland and we will declare war”. It seems to me if they were truly commited to those things they would have as you suggested sent divisions and not battalions. At least we can agree on that one. :)

What are you talking about here” even after 6 months of Phoney War, the British High Command was talking about sending battalions of infantry across neutral Norway to help Finland against Russia.” Finland was pro-German and Russia was an ally. You might want to check out the facts here.

I quoted Wikipedia but there are hundreds of sources regarding WW2 military history and they ALL say that it was a “Western betrayal”. To not send divisons and propose only battalions and only send brigades shows that it WAS a betrayal. The Allied forces should have known from previous operations the intent of the Germans because it was clearly obvious.

With regard to the US, if France and the UK would have done their job and addressed the Czech and Poland situation as we discussed we wouldn’t be talking about have as needed as much help. I totally agree that the US should have helped earlier but you got to realize that the UK and France didn’t do their job to address the German/Hitler situation the way they should have. They “spoke loadly and carried a small stick” as opposed to “speaking softly and carrying a big stick”. In the end the “small stick” got “knocked out of their hands”. I totally agree that America needed to do the Lend Lease earlier but the fact remains that the French and UK were more of a major miltary power than the US at that time and they were both a stronger power than German pre-1939. To me with that power they should have “knocked out the stick of Germany before it got big”.

I still believe the coup would not have worked. I believe all those church leaders had predispositions of being pascifists and were truly blinded by how strong the Germans were in terms of numbers. Also a coup wouldn’t have kept the military from doing what it was doing. The French Revolution didn’t keep Napoleon from doing what he did. The same would have been for Germany.

I also don’t believe that all of the UK casulties in 1991 in Iraq were “friendly fire”. Who called them ALL friendly fire and what were their predispositions? The milk plant and the aspirin plants DID have enemy forces surrounded by innocent people. At the time we didn’t realize there were innocent people being used as shields. At least we were able to destroy the enemy and when one looks at how short the War in 1991 was then we can say further lives were saved. One has to look at ALL of the area involved. THere were enemy forces in residential areas and that is a fact. The fact remains to save the region as a whole one has to eliminate the enemy forces that are doing this terrible “human shield” operation. Thank God we dealt with them and liberated Kuwait at that particular time.

I will say if we had gone at that time and eliminated Saddam all the way to Baghdad we might not have had the situation we are having today. At least after the surge it is getting dramatically better to the point that regions are being handed over to the Iraqi people as we speak which is the goal of the operation being run currently.

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Tony Buglass 10.24.08 at 7:26 pm

DH - you need to slow down and get a bit of focus, because some of you statements are simply out of touch with the facts.

“Finland was pro-German and Russia was an ally.” No. That was after. In 1939, Stalin and Hitler were seen as Axis allies by the West because of their carve-up of Poland (and of course the Non-Aggression Pact signed by Ribbentrop and Molotov in August 1939). Finland was neutral, until the Russians attacked them. Because Stalin was at that time Hitler’s ally, we saw Finald as a friend, and proposed to help them. They surrendered before we could get organised. Then in June 1941, Hitler attacked Russia, and Russia became our ally (my enemy’s enemy is my friend) - Finland turned to their enemy’s enemy (Germany) for assistance.

“Germany WAS doing and learning the Blitzkreig in Spain.”

No. I’ve just been reading a detailed history of the Spanish Civil War, and Geman armour was not involved in the way later employed in blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg in France meant a co-ordinated use of armour, artillery and airborne forces, developing further the blitzkrieg employed in France in 1918. The Germans developed their use of air power, and especially of divebombers, in Spain. That is not blitzkrieg.

” It seems to me if they were truly commited to those things they would have as you suggested sent divisions and not battalions. ”

My word for the British leadership at that time was ‘amateurish.” I still maintain that. “Betrayal” implies intent, which is simply not demonstrable. Whatever historians you’ve read.

“I totally agree that the US should have helped earlier …” Separatism is the word you’re looking for. There was a very strong resistance in the US to being sucked into another European war, to the extent that the US ambassador in London in 1940 was publicly predicting our defeat. Brits are made of stronger stuff!

“I believe all those church leaders had predispositions of being pascifists and were truly blinded by how strong the Germans were in terms of numbers.” What evidence do you have to support those assertions? I have George Bell’s own book, together with readings in Bonhoeffer, Lillje, and others. I also know that the restance included Christian officers like Canaris and Stauffenberg, later involved in the July 1944 bomb plot. Hardly “deluded pacifists”. I also have (among other books) “Dying We Live” a collection of testimony of anti-Nazi Christian martyrs. As part of my degree, I studied the churches in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Your assertions are no more than assertions.

“I also don’t believe that all of the UK casulties in 1991 in Iraq were “friendly fire”.” Fact. The British forces in Iraq suffered astonishingly few fatalities. Onoe of them were the result of engagement with Iraqi forces. A small handful were due to “blue on blue” engagements near Basra, others were due to US air attacks on British vehicles (the most notorious being a US A10 attack on British vehicles clearly dsiplayin recognition strips in good visibility. This was absloultely nothing to do with the human shield, which ended before the war started (one of my church families had someone held as a hostage for those weeks).

My case still stands, I think.

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dh 10.24.08 at 8:03 pm

Well, the coordinated air campaign is a major part of Blitzkreig, even though it is not blitzkreig alone, that was being developed. The point I was making was that the allies should have looked at how the Germans were invloved in Spain and see the intent of Germany to do what they ultimately did which was blitzkreig. Also, calling Germany and the Soviets “allies” is very much an oversimplification. Also, your statments seem to imply that the West was aligned with Germany when that was clearly not true. The West came to the defense of Poland and the point I was making was that the allies let the Poles down by not sending enough forces that were so obviously needed to do what they said they were going to do. That is clearly a betrayal.

I still maintain betrayal because they never intended to send in enough forces to be able to truly do what they said they would set out to do.

Even though I did say that America should have helped earlier, I still believe strongly that England and France could have prevented Germany from doing as much as they did (not that they would have prevented them from attacking). The situation would have limited the sphere of WW2 to a smaller geographic region than it ended up being and it would not have required as much America assistance albeit they would still need to help not as much as otherwise.

With regard to the coop, while you say you have studied the situations then that doesn’t mean they would have been able to do it and I argue they wouldn’t have because the situation militarily vs. governmentaly was like France during the french Revolution. In fact later on the military desire to do things militarily very much different than Hitler to achieve the ultimate goals of Hitler. The military and SS would overwhelmed any coop attempt as evident in all of the many dissent roundups that the German government did.

With regard to friendly fire intent IS so important. As you stated the UK suffered few casulties at all but just because friendly fire occurred doesn’t mean that the war in Iraq should not have taken place. The fact remains that there WERE human shields and they occurred before the war and for a few months after the war started.

I have no doubt to your comments about anti-Nazi Christians but the fact remains the amount of forces Hitler had were way more and should have been recognized by anybody.

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Tony Buglass 10.25.08 at 12:11 am

“Also, calling Germany and the Soviets “allies” is very much an oversimplification.”

What else could the Russo-German Pact signify? They were certainly regarded as allies by the West until 1941. They did co-operate, not only in the partition of Poland, but also in trade - in fact, the lead echelons of Barbarossa passed Soviet grain shipments heading in the opposite direction! Russia was Germany’s biggest trading partner from 1939-41.

” your statments seem to imply that the West was aligned with Germany”

Really?? You astonish me - I can’t see anything I’ve written which could be so interpreted.

” the allies let the Poles down by not sending enough forces that were so obviously needed to do what they said they were going to do. That is clearly a betrayal.”

Then we disagree on the meaning of betrayal. The allies might well have been misguided in how they felt able to help Poland, but they went to war specifically to stand with Poland. The initial casus belli may well have been lost to sight in the later crises, but it did resurface in 1945 when Russia placed a pro-Soviet Government in place in Warsaw - the legitimate Polish Government had been governing in exile in London throughout the war, and the West felt betrayed by the Soviets’ usurping of the Polish regime.

“they never intended to send in enough forces”

Prove it.

” I still believe strongly that England and France could have prevented Germany from doing as much as they did”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If the Western governments had seen things so clearly, we’d never have signed the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, and would have expanded the RAF much earlier. We’d have had the forces in place to resist the remilitarisation of the Rhineland (as I suggested much earlier). WW2 would have been nipped in the bud.

“while you say you have studied the situations then that doesn’t mean they would have been able to do it and I argue they wouldn’t have”

Nobody knows. Given the strength of the leadership, it is not impossible the coup could have succeeded. Or not. The fact is that the leadership was very strong, in key positions in Government ministries, and could have decapitated the SS and Gestapo. With Goering, Goebbels, and Hitler in prison or dead, the position could have been radically changed - which was of course the aim of the 1944 bomb plot.

“As you stated the UK suffered few casulties at all but just because friendly fire occurred doesn’t mean that the war in Iraq should not have taken place. The fact remains that there WERE human shields and they occurred before the war and for a few months after the war started.”

No. The human shields were in place after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and were held for a few months, but were released long before the Allied build-up in the Gulf was complete, and well before hostilities broke out. (As I said, I had direct pastoral involvement in this.) As far as friendly fire is concerned, I never argued that it was a case for not proceeding with the war. It is a fact that ALL UK casualties were caused by friendly fire. It is also a fact that collateral damage WILL occur when bombs are dropped on targets in civilian areas, and that was known. A great deal was made of so-called smart weapons, LGBs that more or less knocked on the door to be in - the fact is that they were a very small percentage of the munitions dropped on Iraq. I think we were right to go to war to get Iraq out of Kuwait, but let’s not be naive about the tactics involved.

My overall point (in case anyone thinks it’s been lost in the haze…) is that war in general is a Very Bad Thing, and once we get involved, we’re no longer talking about Guys in White Hats versus Buys in Black Hats, but everyone starts to get sucked in to teh darkness. War dehumanises all who take part in it. I have studied military history and strategy longer than I’ve studied theology, and I find they cross-fertilise very well.

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steve martin 10.31.08 at 6:33 pm

We do not need enemies. But in this broken world inhabited by broken people, we will have them.

‘The Black Book of Communism’ (7 contributing authors) examines one particular brand of evil (not to lessen the horrors of other evil, murderous regimes)

The question ought be, ‘what do we do with our enemies?’ Thanks be to God that up until now we have recognized them and fought them.

23

Tony Buglass 10.31.08 at 8:44 pm

Steve - “We do not need enemies. But in this broken world inhabited by broken people, we will have them.”

Yes, up to a point. I think the point that lies behind this conversation is not that there will always be somebody who takles exception to what you do, but that groups do tend to need some target in order to ‘bounce off’ it and sharpen their own self-definition. It’s a kind of tribalism, which is at the heart of the human condition (aka fallenness)

“…until now we have recognized them and fought them.”

I fear that in some circumstances we have made enemies where we didn’t need to.

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dh 10.31.08 at 9:04 pm

I’m in total agreement with Steve and with no “to a point” but wholehearted agreement.

Also, I believe that War is bad but I also believe that if a nation or innocent nuetral nations are attacked that it is just as bad to do nothing or not respond militarily. You seem to not regonize the good to respond to bad nation militarily. Responding military in defense of the innocent is not a “bad thing” but a good thing. However, that doesn’t make war good because it isn’t it means that the response can be good. Heck, even God told the Israelities to “take on the ites” because of their idoltry. I don’t believe God was saying that with an understanding that the Israelites were bad.

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Tony Buglass 11.01.08 at 11:37 am

DH, read what I said again, instead of such a knee-jerk reaction. I agreed with Steve’s central point about ‘this broken world’ - my qualification was to clarify the issues behind”we don’t need enemies” - namely, that groups as part of their self-definition need “the other” who can become opponent or enemy. This is an observable phenomenon in group dynamics at all levels.

As far as war, and it beign goood to go to war in a just cause, etc - I have never disagreed with that. The argument presupposes the justice of the cause. What I have said from the outset is that war is ALWAYS a failure in relationships. It never resolves the problems, rather replaces them with a different set of problems, and is a disastrously expensive way to attempt a resolution, n materials and lives. By analogy, divorce is never right: it is always a failure to keep the marital promises for life. It might be the only remaining option - what I call the Martin-Baker option; if your wings have come off, your engine is on fire, you thank God that Martin-Baker make good ejector seats and you punch out. (The mark of a good pilot is that you have the same number of landings as you had take-offs!) In the same way, when politicians fail to resolve their differences by civilised means of discourse and negotiation, war happens. We had to go to war in 1939, because Hitler thought he could get away with another invasion. We should have stood firm earlier. We had to go to war in 1991 because negotiation wouldn’t get Saddam out of Kuwait. Etc, etc. But that doesn’t make war the right thing to do, just the least bad option.

26

dh 11.03.08 at 3:59 pm

Tony, I see what you are saying but I still believe that fighting evil regimes is the right thing to do. It may not be good that one has to go war to defend ones self or to protect ones self but right nonetheless. To me it would be terrible for a nation not to do the things needed to defend or protect ones self. You seem to fault both sides rather than realize that the instigator is the one that is truly bad aka Saddam, Hitler, etc. Destroying Saddam and Htiler WERE the right things to do.

27

Tony Buglass 11.04.08 at 10:31 am

DH: “Destroying Saddam and Htiler WERE the right things to do.”

I’ve never argued otherwise. What I have argued is that war is a failure - the better way would be for international relationships to function in such a way that evil regimes do not have the opportunity to flourish. If the Western Allies had had the courage to say no to Hitler in 1937, history could have been so different. If the US had supported Ho Chi Min in 1945, and through the UN helped in the establishment of democratic governments in newly-liberated countries, rather than acquiescing in the attempted re-establishment of the old colonial regimes, things could have been so different. Etc, etc.

Yes, I’m arguing from hindsight, and yes, that gives 20-20 vision which they could not possibly have had. I make no claims to political genius, just thoughful Christian analysis of the evidence to try to learn how to do things better next time. If only those in power would do the same…

28

dh 11.04.08 at 2:43 pm

Supporting Ho Chi Minh would have been a devastation because he supported Communism all along. I understood he turned to the Soviets later but the Western nations understood that he was Communist all along.

I hear what you are saying but saying no to Hitler in 1937 required military action. The premise doesn’t support your conclusions.

29

dh 11.04.08 at 2:44 pm

To me the true failure is that enemies have to attack innocent neutral nations. They are the true culprit not the culprits you are truly to deny.

30

Tony Buglass 11.04.08 at 6:24 pm

DH: “I hear what you are saying but saying no to Hitler in 1937 required military action. The premise doesn’t support your conclusions.”

(Actually, it was 1936 - my mistake.) No - it would have required the threat of military action, no more. The German troops who marched in (cycled in, actually) to the Rhineland were under strict orders not to engage in combat - if the French had simply stood at roadblacks, the troops had orders to turn and return to Germany. Hitler was at that point afraid of war, because he was still weak. But despite their superiority in numbers and equipment, the Allies were even more afraid of war than he was. They stood by and watched as the Rhineland was re-occupied. That gave Hitler the courage to push a little bit harder. The rest is history.

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dh 11.04.08 at 8:07 pm

Hitler afraid of war? very funny French standing at roadblocks would NOT have worked. Actually going in BEFORE Hitler went in in 1938 would be required to be successful. Even if the Germans return (for the sake of argument) nothing would keep nor did keep the Germans from getting stronger to the point where they able to do the Blitzkreig. That is the part you don’t understand and the problem with your conclusion from your premise.

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Tony Buglass 11.04.08 at 10:49 pm

DH: “Hitler afraid of war? very funny French standing at roadblocks would NOT have worked.”

OK, then. I have given you facts. Hard facts. facts which you can source if you want to - I have certainly read them in several military histories. Principally, when Hitler decided to reoccpy te Rhineland in 1936, his troops cycled in, with strict orders not to resist confrontation by the French. Now, that is a fact. French roadblack would have closed the wa, t Germans would have obeyed orders, turned round, and returned.

Now, in response to that evidence, you have nothing to offer but sneer and supposition. If you won’t show me respect by taking my evidence seriously, at least show yourself the respect of offering worthwhile arguments.

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