Condi Rice Is Wrong About Germany's Werewolves, But Right About Iraq
Mr. Herf is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Zweielerei Erinnerung: Die NS Vergangenheit im geteilten Deutschland (Berlin: Ullstein/Propylaen, 1998).
Toward the end of this grim summer in Iraq, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice compared the attacks on American and British soldiers there to the violence supposedly carried out by diehard Nazi fanatics known as "Werewolves" after 1945. Dr. Rice rightly noted that the period of 1945 to 1947 was a terribly difficult one. Four of the sixty million people killed in the Second World War around the globe were Germans. The German economy had collapsed. Millions of refugees flooded in from the East. Germany's cities and transportation networks were in ruins. Much of the political opposition was dead or in exile.
Before the end of the war, there had been rumors of possible guerilla war by diehard elements of the Nazi regime after the formal end of hostilities. Yet of all the many problems facing the occupying powers, a guerilla war was not one of them. The "Werewolves" had a scary name but no presence and did not become a serious security issue for the occupation. Instead of any heroic last stands, many Nazi leaders became the butt of bitter jokes as their promises of enduring heroism culminated instead in hundreds of suicides. The length and severity of the Second World War itself combined with the severity of Allied occupation made postwar guerilla resistance a fantasy.
Condoleezza Rice is correct in my view to draw on comparisons both between the Nazi regime and the Iraqi regime, as well as to the experience of postwar occupation. The links between European fascism and Nazism of the mid-twentieth century and the blend of nationalism, socialism and anti-Semitism in the Baath regime in Bagdad have generally received much too little attention. For reasons which Kenneth Pollack in The Threatening Storm laid out most convincingly, Saddam did indeed pose a real threat to the Middle East and over time to the United States and Europe. Yet the occupation of post-Baath Iraq is proving more difficult than the optimistic predictions of leading members of the Bush administration, especially those from Vice President Cheney. In these difficult times, it is important to remember that the occupation of Germany, which was far more familiar culturally and socially to the Allies than Iraq, was also very difficult, lasted a long time, suffered setbacks and left much to be desired.
It is important to recall that the Western, not only the Soviet, occupation was in the early years, very harsh. The victors found a sullen, defeated, demoralized and disillusioned population. Visions of revenge that had flourished after World War I were largely absent. In May 1945, the seven million members of the Nazi Party--and their families and friends--had much to hide and many networks and political skills with which to oppose de-Nazification. But after six years of terrible war followed by the full revelations of mass murder in summer 1945, there simply was no will among the Germans to continue fighting the Allies.
Yet the Allies took no chances. Between 1945 and 1949 the Western Allies alone interned 200,000 former members of the Nazi Party, its various organizations and former Nazi government officials. Over 100,000 were indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Of them over 6,000 were convicted and something over 800 death sentences were carried out. The Nazi party was crushed and outlawed and the German state ceased to exist as a national body for the four years of the occupation. The state apparatus, including the diplomatic and military leadership was dissolved and many of its leading officials were indicted and put on trial in the "successor trials" in Nuremberg between 1947 and 1949 which followed the main International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg of fall 1945 to fall 1946.
Four years was too short for those who wanted all the murderers brought to justice but it was long by anyone's standards and certainly longer than Franklin Roosevelt had anticipated during the war. An early return of German sovereignty--as the oh-so-helpful French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested for Iraq this past week--brought with it the prospect of an end to postwar trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The search for justice was bound to be highly unpopular with some segment of the German population. Tensions between democratization and sovereignty, on the one hand, and the search for justice and the truth about the old regime, were enduring features of the postwar occupation of Germany and of the early years of West German democracy.
In the first year or two, none of the occupying powers was eager to restore a German democracy and certainly none had a desire to put "a German face" on the occupation. Before democratization could take place, the Allies wanted to be sure that Nazism had been definitively crushed and that the German people in general understood that this was the case. Given that the German army fought to the bitter end and that the German anti-Nazi resistance was small, late and unsuccessful, the Allies did not romanticize German anti-fascism. Politicians such as Konrad Adenauer, Kurt Schumacher and Theodor Heuss prominent in the Weimar era who were not implicated in the Nazi regime emerged first in local elections. But the first national election did not take place until 1949, over four years after the end of the war. As the German historian Norbert Frei has recently pointed out -- see Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past (Columbia University Press, 2002) -- the return of sovereignty to the Germans after 1949 was accompanied by a massive effort by elected West German politicians to bestow amnesty on those accused of war crimes as well as by a refusal at the national level to continue prosecutions for crimes committed by officials of the Nazi regime.
The tension between rapid democratization and the search for justice about the past was a crucial element of postwar West German history and reappeared in the recent post-dictatorial regimes in Serbia, Argentina, Cambodia and South Africa where the forces of the old regime were able to prevent or delay timely trials for past gross violations of human rights. Gangster regimes, such as those of Hitler and Saddam are expert in implicating large numbers of people in crime. While restoration of sovereignty is crucial this should not become a rationale for allowing claims of expertise--often bogus and exaggerated--to prevent judicial reckoning.
The Iraq war of spring 2003 lasted less than two months. It seems that at least some parts of the Iraqi army and secret services avoided combat with the American military and, so it now appears, prepared for postwar guerilla operations. After defeat, and then revelations of the genocide in summer 1945, Nazism and fascism were ideologically exhausted in Europe. No one outside a small lunatic fringe saw Nazism as carrying the torch of history's forward march. Today, most Iraqis appear to feel the same way about Baathism. Yet the brevity of the war has left more of the Baath Party members around to cause trouble. Moreover, of course, Islamic fanaticism is an ideological current which is not at all exhausted in the Middle East and which as Paul Berman has explained so well in Terror and Liberalism now carries the mantle of contemporary totalitarianism. So the emergence of violent attacks on the occupation, as tragic as it is for our soldiers and for the Iraqis as well, should not have come as a surprise.
Those who are pessimistic about a successful democratization of Iraq today should recall that optimism about Germany inside and outside Germany was in short supply, even given awareness of the Germany's previously defeated democratic and liberal traditions. Many doubted that the Germans were capable of elementary decency, not to mention supporting a stable democracy which could keep its armies from attacking its neighbors. Without economic recovery made possible in part by the Marshall Plan, German democratization would not have taken place. Finding the balance between repression of the Nazi past and implementation of policies aimed at economic recovery was time consuming and controversial. Indeed, as I argued in Divided Memory (Harvard University Press, 1997) those who pushed for rapid economic recovery often clashed with those seeking to focus on justice for the crimes of the past. Yet the two goals--economic recovery and legal and moral confrontation with the past--need not be mutally contradictory. Indeed, respect for the rule of law and openess about government policy past and present should be mutually reinforcing trends.
Today, the reconstruction of an Iraqi judiciary and widely publicized trials of leading figures of the old regime are crucial. So too are citizens commissions which aid Iraqis to tell their stories of life under the old regime. Now is the time for collecting testimony and oral histories. If there are Iraqi historians, in exile or in Iraq who were not compromised by participation in the old regime, now is the time for them, in association with the American and British occupation, to document the truth about life under Saddam. The citizens commissions, or Spruchkammern of the occupation years, produced a massive amount of material which compelled Germans to look at who had done what in the past. Such documentation should also include examination of the actions of the Iraqi academic and intellectual establishment under the old regime. Ascertaining degrees of complicity in Germany was difficult, time-consuming and often less than a success. Such periods are a field day for opportunists and cynics. But young people in Germany after 1945 -- as in Iraq today -- deserved the truth about who did what under the old regime.
Finding the right balance of repression of the Old Regime with encouragement of new political forces was difficult in postwar Germany and it is difficult now in Iraq. Postwar Germany witnessed what I've called "multiple restorations" of democratic traditions suppressed by the Nazis. Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and some Free Democrats all found supporters among the allied occupation. Iraq's democrats cannot point to a past era of democracy comparable to the Weimar Republic. Yet democratic and liberal traditions in Germany in 1945, however indigenous their roots were, were able to come back to prominence only because the Allied occupation made sure the Nazism remained crushed and then gave support to the small groups of committed German democrats.
The American led occupation of Iraq can do the same thing. In postwar West Germany (and Japan), fear of Communism and the Soviet Union encouraged joint efforts by the Western Allies in the form of the Marshall Plan and NATO. Today, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and dictatorship in the Middle East needs to concentrate the minds of Germany, Russia and perhaps even the irritating French. Fear of failure is as reasonable a motivation for effort as is hope of success in democratizing Iraq. Success, moreover, is as much in the interest of those powers who opposed the war this past spring as it is in the American interest. The democratization and economic recovery of Iraq is a vital interest of all of these powers as well as of those who seek democratization and peace in the Middle East more broadly.
A firm and powerful occupation in Iraq is essential not only to defeat terror, rebuild and protect the infrastructure, establish elementary law and order, get the electricity turned on and the oil industry back on its feet. Following a very long and very terrible war, the Germans in 1945 were in no mood to continue their lost cause. Following the very short and nowhere near as terrible Iraq war of spring 2003, it is not surprising that a small minority of Iraqis and foreign terrorists are attacking the occupation.
Paul Bremer, the head of the American occupation of Iraq appears to understand the obvious: it is vital that the occupation achieve success in economic reconstruction, everyday security and the demand for truth and justice about the past. Success in the postwar occupation in West Germany entailed the exercise of power to suppress our enemies, encourage our friends and foster the political and economic institutions of a free society. Those today who cast doubt on the ability of Iraqis to accomplish what the Germans with outside help did after World War II have forgotten the depth of fully justified pessimism of spring and summer 1945, inside and outside Germany about the prospects for a better and different Germany. West German democracy in the 1950s failed in important ways to get at the truth about the Nazi past in a timely fashion though the voices calling for looking at the truth square in the eye eventually found a broader audience.
If the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), for all its shortcomings, could emerge from the ruins of the Third Reich, I see no compelling historical reason why over time an Iraq with political democracy and market economics cannot emerge as well. Today, as after 1945, patience and firmness at the helm of American foreign policy were and remain indispensable.
comments powered by Disqus
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/21/2003
This comment was removed at the request of the poster. 9-15-05
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/21/2003
This comment was removed at the request of the poster. 9-15-05
Who Ami - 9/18/2003
Not so fast:
Benjamin got it wrong.
Farley - 9/14/2003
And real historians, smug or otherwise, and unlike cranky college drop-outs, know what a "representative sample" means.
crussmith - 9/13/2003
Key differences between Germany and Iraq suggest different outcomes from occupation forces. Basing Iraqui policy on west sector German experiences is a prescription for disaster.
Allied occupiers of Germany shared religous and cultural ties with Germans that facilitated reconstruction. In Iraq the cultures are different to the point that the presence of westerners in holy places is considered an affront by most of Islam. This affront is the motivating factor in the growth of al Qaida and other Islamicist movements. A long term occupation is the best way to swell the ranks of terror. William O. Beeman anthropologist and director of Middle East Studies at Brown http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/consequences/2003/0213misreading.htm
Germans did not see their occupiers as motivated by desire for German resources. Given the prelude to war even if the Middle East was comprised of Lutherans and Methodists they would likely see the occupying forces as new colonist America and old colonist Britain dividing spoils. Political scientist Stephen Zunes
"Once Iraq allowed the UN inspectors into their country for unfettered inspections last fall and ceded to UN demands regarding aerial reconnaissance, interviews with Iraqi scientists, and other means of insuring full Iraqi accountability several weeks later, one could argue that Iraq may have finally been in compliance with most, if not all, of those outstanding resolutions at the time of the U.S. invasion. There are some key differences between Germany and Japan of 1945 and Iraq today. Germany had a democratic parliamentary system prior to Hitler seizing power in the early 1930s and Japan had some semblance of a constitutional monarchy prior to the rise of militarism in the late 1920s, whereas Iraq has never had a representative government. Germany and Japan were homogeneous societies with a strong sense of national identity, whereas Iraq is an artificial creation thrown together by colonial powers from three Ottoman provinces by and has only been truly independent for just 45 years; fighting between various Iraqi religious and ethnic groups has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands in recent decades. In addition, most Germans and Japanese recognized that their defeat and occupation was a direct result of their leaders' aggression against the countries’ neighbors, whereas the Iraqis -- whose government was far weaker and less aggressive during its final twelve years than it was in the past -- are more prone to see the American takeover as an act of Western imperialism, not self-defense. As a result, it will be quite difficult for the United States to establish a widely accepted and stable regime."
Jonathan Burack - 9/8/2003
If this little bit of ad hominem near-slanderous drivel is able to make it on to HNN's discussion board, I really do have to wonder what R. Piper must have said to get bumped off the boards here.
Herf's accomplishments are available for all to see. What are yours, Stan? Better yet, what are your IDEAS? Do you have any, "fact-based" or otherwise? We wait to find out.
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/8/2003
Perhaps UM should hire Chomsky and Edward Said
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/8/2003
Even if France wanted to join us, their military (like their statist economy) is so technologically backward compared to the United States right now, that they really wouldn't have been of much use. They are more useful as "peacekeepers," that is to say, if you discount Cote d'Ivoire. Whether that makes the French laughable is your call.
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/8/2003
This comment was removed at the request of the poster. 9-15-05
Jesse Lamovsky - 9/7/2003
It doesn't matter what the Iraqi people think, in terms of the main problem: the United States government does not have the right to send Americans to every corner of the globe to die for "regime change", or "liberation" or any other reason that does not involve the defense of our country. "Wars of liberation" might be a conceit that warms the hearts of communists and Likudnik ex-commies happy, but it's not really what the Founders had in mind for us.
aj mahon - 9/6/2003
americans put hitler in business ,built his war machine,and landed in 1945 to turn nazi s into businessmen. iraq seems to have been the same modus operani. sheer sheep continues.
Farley Steinman - 9/5/2003
...Do they salute Donald Rumsfeld for shaking hands with Saddam and for describing the looting or archeological artifacts as "untidy" ?
...Do they cheer Dick Cheney and Colin Powell for allowing Saddam to crush the 1991 rebellions while America troops stood to the side ?
Has the phrase "representative sample" encountered your consciousness ?
Stan Holbert - 9/5/2003
I am willing to accept on faith that Herf has scholarly accomplishments to his credit, but this sort of fatuous propagandizing for the Administration is certainly not an example of a serious or credible historian:
"If the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), for all its shortcomings, could emerge from the ruins of the Third Reich, I see no compelling historical reason why over time an Iraq with political democracy and market economics cannot emerge as well. Today, as after 1945, patience and firmness at the helm of American foreign policy were and remain indispensable."
Obviously there are ongoing difficulties at HNN, and amongst at least some commenters, in distinguishing fact-based history from sound-bite propaganda.
Derek Catsam - 9/5/2003
Hear! Hear! to Mr. Frusetta for his reasonable response. I too am a former Herf student and welcome both Frusetta's implicit call for civility and his willingness actually to provide some depth to his reading of Herf's article, which OBVIOUSLY does not draw the comparison with Germany and Iraq as closely as some of his detractors would have us believe.
Derek Catsam - 9/5/2003
I'm not saying anyone is sacred -- in fact, if you took the effort to look closely at what I wrote I explicitly said that criticism is fair game. What I am taking issue with are the PERSONAL attacks (Using the word "scholar" in quotes, to imply that a respected scholar in fact is not, etc.). Comparing Herf with Bellisles is fatuous. No one has ever made even a tiny beef with herf's integrity, and Bellisles is an outlier who did, by the way, get caught and ounished even if not according to a timetable of your liking.
It's awfully easy to criticize others, easier still to do it personally. I never said there was anything holy about anyone, so that argument is irrelevant, I simply took issue with the incivility aimed toward a friend and mentor of mine who has certainly earned a modicum of respect.
I said "sack" and that is the word that I meant. This has nothing to do with the unwashed or not, it has to do with the fact that armchair quarterbacks sit back and take cheap potshots at people who deserve a whole hell of a lot better. Whatever it is that you do, Mr. Greenland, my guess is that you expect a modicum of respect and civility when you do it. Why is it that someone expressing their historical/political opinions does not warrant the same?
Josh Greenland - 9/5/2003
"I've sat on the sidelines of this one for awhile, but I am going to step in now. People post on HNN all the time and slam the scholarship of people who actually have the sack to write articles, who write books, who publish articles and who are widely respected. When someone like Lomavsky writes "Dr. Herf is (supposedly) a scholar" and then says he should read a political; scienmce book it is an intolerable ad hominem and has no basis in reality."
Without getting into specifics about Dr. Herf or what Jesse said about him, I see nothing holy about authors or academics as a whole. These groups have their share of idiots, manipulative incompetents and liars. You can put down those who don't have the "sack" (or do you mean sac?) to get out an article or a book, but it was mostly from the great unwashed that worthwhile criticism of "widely respected" Michael Bellesiles came.
Josh Greenland - 9/5/2003
Here's an article disputing Condi and Rummy's view of our occupation of Germany after WWII:
Condi's Phony History
Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq.
By Daniel Benjamin
The Rice-Rumsfeld depiction of the Allied occupation of Germany is a farrago of fiction and a few meager facts.
James Frusetta - 9/4/2003
Gus Moner wrote at length, exerpts removed:
>Well, we can draw certain ‘comparisons’ about fascists and the >Ba’ath, can we? Germany’s fascists were, without prior cause or >provocation, catalysts for the organised mass murder of over 6 >million people of all faiths and races, in less than a decade >and for a real holocaust of peoples in a war that took, by most >estimates, over 40 million lives in a mere six years.
Herf is addressing *ideology* of the regimes, not history, and is suggesting a *similarity* between the regimes rather than a simplistic "Hitler = Saddam." Nor is this particularly new; Stanley Payne made the same comparison in the mid-90s, and so have other scholars. (The same way we can compare Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, though Italy was *far* less violent and less anti-Semitic. There is a base ideology they share.)
While I believe the Bush administration (like all political regimes) has overplayed the "same as Hitler" card (as Clinton did with Milosevic, or Reagan did with the Soviets), this shouldn't mean a knee-jerk reaction. If nothing else, Jeffrey Herf's work is worth a serious look, and is too easily dismissed here (and by other posters). I usually *do* disagree with him (having been a student in his classes, I often argued with him over political issues), but he's worth serious consideration.
>learnt that from the early 20th Century on, the Jews invaded, >settled and finally stole Palestine from its native inhabitants.
Ah. Then the Germans in the 1930s were _correct_ to instigate World War II, what with significant portions of Wilhelmine Germany having been "lost" at the objectively biased Paris Peace Treaties? Me thinks not.
I might suggest that Herf is getting at the point that the Ba'athist regime nutured anger about tragedies in Palestine (as well as the loss of Kuwait), much as the Nazis fostered/created similar resentments in Germany. (On a personal level, given the one-sided history of the Arab-Israeli wars, one would think that the Palestinian cause might be better served in a non-violent, perhaps Gandhiesque fashion).
>It’s apples and oranges when comparing Germany and Iraq.
I'd agree on many points, and I agree with Mark Mazower more than with Jeffrey Herf; while Iraq and the Ba'athist regime had many similarities of ideology or "outlook," Iraq (at least after 1991) lacked a credible *threat*. The Iraqi war machine of 2002 was not the German war machine of 1939.
While Iraq committed many odious practices against its own people (practices that the US condoned when it suited its purposes), the *international* threat of the regime was not great. It is clear by now that the Bush administration's justification for war was inflated. The best that can come from the debacle is to try and improve the situation in Iraq as much as possible, a scenario I am pessimistic about.
>This is a bizarre comment. We begin with over 7 million party >members, not to mention family, friends and sympathisers, >clearly thrice the party membership, and then we get what, 6,000 >convictions.
Overwhelmingly, the Allies (the British, French and Soviets as well) tended to *reduce* the effect of de-Nazification over time. In part, this was for selfish reasons; each occupier sought German collaboration in occupation.
The *Germans* (including many non-Nazis) were also none-too-pleased at de-Nazifications, and German courts were notorious at reducing earlier sentences and for limited prosecution.
Rather than just take pot-shots at Herf, it might be of interest to read Divided Memories, which is among other things an excellent examination of how both the FRG and GDR treated the history of WW2 crimes over time. For some time, most Germans didn't *want* to know.
To be fair, I doubt the US or Iraq would be willing, as Herf suggests, to attempt a similar post-war occupation. As another poster commented, the US remained in Germany for other reaons than improving the lot of Germany (e.g., the Cold War). The US will not be willing to spend significant amounts of blood or treasure on "democraticization"; and I doubt Iraqis will stand for anything less than rapidly regaining sovereignty.
Finally, Iraq is *not* Germany; a country that had very limited minorities after WW2. The loss of territories, and the extermination of Jews (and Gypsies) meant that Germany had only limited problems with political minorities (such as Sudeten expellees; to a lesser degree, regionalism like Bavaria). Iraq is not only *not* a wholely "Arab" nation, but it is divided on regional and religious grounds.
Derek Catsam - 9/4/2003
I've sat on the sidelines of this one for awhile, but I am going to step in now. People post on HNN all the time and slam the scholarship of people who actually have the sack to write articles, who write books, who publish articles and who are widely respected. When someone like Lomavsky writes "Dr. Herf is (supposedly) a scholar" and then says he should read a political; scienmce book it is an intolerable ad hominem and has no basis in reality. I write this because Jeffrey Herf was one of my professors when I was dfoing my Ph.D. He was my advisor in my modern Europe field. He is one of the most repscted scholars of modern Germany around -- his book "Divided Memory" won the Beer Prize -- but he also is a respected public intellectual who has interest in, has lived in, has worked in Israel, and so his comments here are at least worth considering. His background in sociology, history, and, yes Mr. Lomavsky, our resident expert on Poli Sci 101, in political science as well. Professor Herf is not only respected as a first-rate, world class scholar and teacher, he is also a wonderful man, a good friend, and deserves far better treatment that the lesser lights who are willing to resort to personal attacks, slimy innuendo, and character assassination even as they have published nothing with the same merit as the people they slander. Disagree with Professor Herf -- I have in the past and will again in the future, I am sure -- but don't intimate that he is not a worthy scholar just because he does not agree with your worldview and especially because of an aside in an article that has little to do with his overall argument.
Jesse Lamovsky - 9/4/2003
On antiwar.com, there is a link to a Salon story pertaining to what Dir. Rice said, which quotes her at length.
Jesse Lamovsky - 9/4/2003
"the oh-so-helpful French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin..."
"even the irritating French..."
Sigh. Okay, I'm going to say this once, and I hope all of the France-sucks types read it: the nation of France is in NO WAY obligated to "help" us in our imperial ventures. France, and its government, is only obligated to act in its own interests, which may or may not coincide with ours. If it's not in France's interests to go along with us in a unilateral attack on an Arab country, than guess what? France won't go along. Nor should they. Doesn't matter if we helped them in 1944, or if they helped us in 1781, or whatever.
Dr. Herf is (supposedly) a scholar. He should crack a political science book and read about how individual states act in an anarchic (no world government) system, instead of coming off sounding like some yahoo disk-jockey bashing the "Frogs".
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/4/2003
This comment was removed at the request of the poster. 9-15-05
Jonathan Eric Lewis - 9/4/2003
If there is / was an anti-Semitic slant to Iraq’s Ba’ath leadership it was not for this sort of unprovoked hatred. If the writer could have taken the time to study history, he could have learnt that from the early 20th Century on, the Jews invaded, settled and finally stole Palestine from its native inhabitants. As Arabs and Muslims, Iraqis and all other Muslims feel a brotherhood and sense of responsibility to help them.
IS THIS A JOKE? ARE YOU AN HISTORIAN OF BA'ATH IDEOLOGY? AH, THE CLICHE ABOUT THE JEWS STEALING PALESTINE. BETWEEN THESE TWO COMMENTS, IT SHOWS YOU AREN'T MUCH OF AN HISTORIAN EITHER, BUT A DISGRUNTLED LEFTIST WHO PROBABLY TEACHES AT SOME OBSCURE SHITTY COLLEGE
ekkehard-teja wilke - 9/3/2003
where is it possible for me to obtain a transcript of Codoleezza's remarks?
Altoid - 9/3/2003
Having no wish to get involved in the Mideast's central problem, I just want to mention a couple of very small points having to do with the Iraq-Germany parallel.
First, Germany surrendered; Iraq did not. Germany was overrun from both sides and was de facto a conquered country, but there also was an official act of capitulation, if only (for strategic reasons) to the Western allies. For the Germans, a very legalistic culture, I think this had a lot to do with their recognizing the legitimacy of occupation. Ditto Japan. Both were not only defeated, but formally recognized the fact. Iraq never capitulated. It has been de facto overrun, but that isn't the same thing by a long shot. It's no help for an occupying power that it doesn't hold the symbolic transfer of state authority.
Second, the length of the various German occupations has had very little to do with the actual reconstruction of Germany. We wouldn't have been there 58 years just to rebuild the place; we were there to belly up against the Russians. In fact, reconstruction of Germany can't really be separated from the desire to create a strong front-line state. If the western Allies controlled the whole country, or if the Russians had their way with the whole of it, it might look very different today.
Iraq is not like Germany, nor it is Germany. It's Iraq. People there seem to suffer no confusion on that point.
Alec Stern - 9/3/2003
This comment was removed at the request of the poster. 9-15-05
Jesse Lamovsky - 9/2/2003
My, my, what an ambitious undertaking Mr. Herf is proposing. He's so far off in the neocon neverland of post-WWII Germany that he neglects to admit, at least not outright, that "we're" going to have to pony up troops- a lot more troops- "we're" going to have to spend a lot more money, and "we're" going to be there for at least four more years. Actually, perhaps for the next fifty-eight years, seeing as American troops are still stationed in Germany. Is this really a good idea? Should Americans die to rid Iraq of Ba'athism and "anti-semitism"? Who really wants this?
"Following the very short and nowhere near as terrible Iraq war of spring 2003, it is not surprising that a small minority of Iraqis and foreign terrorists are attacking the occupation..."
Is he kidding? The United States didn't annihilate the Iraqi military in open war in 1991 and, almost continuously for the next twelve years fly thousands of bombing sorties over that country? I doubt the average Iraqi would think of this as a short war. That Iraq perhaps did not intrude on Mr. Herf's thoughts for over a decade does not make this a short war. On the contrary.
Flaws, flaws, flaws here. And Condi Rice should make up her mind. Is the occupation like Germany circa 1945, or Birmingham circa 1963? Which is it?
Johnny Johnson Jr. - 9/2/2003
Mr Herf, If I may dare to suggest, try reading this:
David Richardson - 9/2/2003
When I lived in Germany in the late 1960s as a teenager, attending the German public school, a common question (from Germans) was, "Don't you chew gum ? I thought all Americans did."
More overtly negative comments about America and Americans were not unheard of, for example skepticism about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War then raging. Yet, never once did I encounter the slightest questioning about "why are American soldiers here ?" Isolation on enclosed “Little America” islands was seen as a bit weird, but locals apparently had no doubts at all about the value and legitimacy of tens or hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops being semi-permanently stationed in bases in Germany. I can't imagine why anyone would want to compare this to Iraq today except as a crude political rationalization for a very different kind of occupation.
John Maloney - 9/1/2003
When I was transferred to Germany in 1955, the war had been over for 10 years (almost to the day). From my childhood, I had always been a history buff and volunteered for German duty to expand my cultural horizons.
We were subjected to a four-hour lecture concerning Germany, received a little booklet (30 or so pages) about Germany, and were assigned to our units.
It didn't take me long to realize that most of my buddies rarely went beyond the red-light district surrounding the bahnhof during their trips to town. I guess that's why they thought most German women were only interested in the money the GIs had to spend.
To the best of my knowlege, I am the only one of us who made the effort to learn the German language. As a result of speaking German, I obtained an understanding of German culture and customs.
The attitude of contempt held for the Germans by most GIs was visible. I assume the Germans sensed this as well. This, together with the language barrier, kept contact between GIs and Germans at a minimum.
The hearts and minds thing has to take place at a personal level.
At the official level lip-service is paid to good relations, but even there, the reality is different. When I asked my CO for permission to marry a German girl, the response was, "Do you really want to marry a German?".
We never had to carry out house-to-house searches, never killed German civilians accidentaly, and were therefore not subjected to animosity to the extent it exists in Iraq.
So it seems that occupying a country is not the way to win friends and influence people.
twenty-five years after my tour in Germany, my daughter was stationed there for 2 years (with the US Army). She had the advantage of speaking German from the start.
I asked her when she returned if she had dated any Germans during her time there.
"Dad! Are you serious? Of course not!" was the reply.
John Doe - 9/1/2003
Werwolf was not designed to function after a German surrender (the Nazis were utterly unwilling to make contingency plans that took into account the possibility of a surrender). The "werewolves" were intended to offer resistance in occupied portions of Germany on orders from the Nazi heirarchy in unoccupied areas of the Reich. Werwolf's biggest success, the assisination of the Allied appointed mayor of Aachen in March 1945, took place on Himmler's orders. Once Germany surrendered Werwolf essentially fell apart, although there were some isolated acts of resistance and sabotage on local initiative.
Saddam may well have made plans for post-surrender resistance. And Saddam remains on the loose and is likely directing at least some of the anti-US resistance in Iraq today, a sharp contrast to 1945 in Germany where all leading figures alive at the end of the war either surrendered to the Allies or simply tried to disappear.
Edmund Birkenstock - 9/1/2003
Using deceptive excuses, Nazi Germany invaded and conquered most of Europe, and then declared war on America while the U.S. was still preoccupied with Pearl Harbor. To therefore compare George Bush's Iraq war with Adolf Hitler's holocaust is absurd. But at least that "parallel" would have aggressor lined up with aggressor and vanquished set beside vanquished. Unless he is being radically excerpted out of context here, Mr. Herf's "history" books obviously need to read with considerable caution.
Gus Moner - 9/1/2003
Well, we can draw certain ‘comparisons’ about fascists and the Ba’ath, can we? Germany’s fascists were, without prior cause or provocation, catalysts for the organised mass murder of over 6 million people of all faiths and races, in less than a decade and for a real holocaust of peoples in a war that took, by most estimates, over 40 million lives in a mere six years.
If there is / was an anti-Semitic slant to Iraq’s Ba’ath leadership it was not for this sort of unprovoked hatred. If the writer could have taken the time to study history, he could have learnt that from the early 20th Century on, the Jews invaded, settled and finally stole Palestine from its native inhabitants. As Arabs and Muslims, Iraqis and all other Muslims feel a brotherhood and sense of responsibility to help them. They were also once part of the same country, the Ottoman Empire. It’s apples and oranges when comparing Germany and Iraq.
Now, an argument can be made for the other side of the coin, that Iraq posed a long-term threat to the region or USA. But, it begs the question, why is Iraq a threat to the USA? No one wishes to discuss the reasons. We are just given the usual rant about not being friends of freedom and democracy, bogus links to terrorists, brutal dictatorship, having WMD. You name your poison; Iraq had it.
The USA’s economic and diplomatic activities have put it in this situation of being the object of derision and hatred and that is why so many Muslims despise our `policy’ toward their region. Why should any nation, especially one as small and militarily insignificant as Iraq, thousands upon thousands of kilometres away from the USA be a threat to the USA, or indeed have any conflict at all with the USA? It is because the USA is the power that subsidises Israeli occupation of Palestine, and allows its violations of UN Resolutions to go unsanctioned whilst insisting those against Arab or Muslim states be enforced, even with military force. Moreover, US industry, mainly oil and petrochemicals, demand, for reasons unbeknown to most of us, to own or control the oil resources, rather than just treat them as another natural resource such as magnesium or whatever, to be bought and sold. So, we have courted the hatred of the Muslim world by courting Israel, buying off Sheiks to enslave their people while they get rich selling us petroleum and gas and promoting undemocratic regimes that cater to US industry. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t ma?
And Mr Bush publicly wonders why terrorist target the USA, asks himself why the USA has to do a better job of ‘getting out the message’ that we are good. The man is either a fool or an idiot, or he has not got the message himself.
The Muslim world has got our message loud and clear through our actions, not out propaganda. We support dictatorial regimes that keep Muslim people under control, corrupt Sheiks that do the same, all the while helping Israel occupy, wall-in and settle the remnants of Palestine not yet colonised. Is it any wonder terrorists take aim at the USA?
As for the regional threat, Iraq and Iran fought to a standstill after nearly a decade. The Kuwaiti Emirate was once a part of Ottoman provinces that make up what is now Iraq. Anyhow, why should it bother the USA that X or Y nation has more or less oil? They have to sell it for it to have value. Other nations have plenty more dependence on Middle East oil than the USA and yet manage friendly relations with both the Muslims and Israel, get their oil needs met and go about their business. Peacefully. They even own joint ventures throughout the region for oil development without getting caught up in wars. Moreover, why have successive US governments, run by oil and petro-chemical interests refused to lead as dramatic an effort to become energy independent as we do to go to the farthest reaches of space? We spend 400,000 million a year on defence and yet we are dependent on foreign energy. Since the Nixon years we have been warned of the dangers of oil dependence. Yet, independence has not been in any political party’s plank for three decades. Fools. We have spent between 260,000 and 400,000 million per year on military defence and what on energy independence? If we had spent the necessary amounts to promote hydrogen, solar energy and electric power, to name but three, we’d be able to significantly disengage from the hornets’ nest the Middle East is.
Much needs to be discussed as to why these threats exist, which the likes of Ms Rice refuse to enter into dialogue, much less do something, about.
What is truly unpardonable is that these CCCs (Conservative Christian Crusaders) in the Bush 43 administration failed to be briefed on the history of the de-Nazification of Germany. Neither were they briefed, (or if they were, paid no attention) to the German methods for running occupied states.
The author moves onto the German-Iraqi analogy with a fools’ aplomb when he continues: “Yet the Allies took no chances. Between 1945 and 1949 the Western Allies alone ‘interned’ 200,000 former members of the Nazi Party, its various organizations and former Nazi government officials. Over 100,000 were indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Of them over 6,000 were convicted and something over 800 death sentences were carried out.”
This is a bizarre comment. We begin with over 7 million party members, not to mention family, friends and sympathisers, clearly thrice the party membership, and then we get what, 6,000 convictions. Wow. I am stunned. That was it? That’s an appallingly minuscule fractional number. My calculator returned an error when given the 6000/7million calculation, so its less than insignificant, yet he wants us to believe ‘The allies took no chances’ on getting rid of Nazis. What are we, stupid? For perspective, imagine a prosecutor in your community that had 6 convictions on 7,000 arrests. What would your verdict be?
If you want to read the other side of this Germany-Iraq analogy, read my post in reply to an earlier story on HNN on this very subject Fixing Germany Wasn't Easy Either My comment is titled: RE: Excuse me
What right or business have we in occupying Iraq? If the issue was WMD, that’s over and done with. If it was regime change, that too is done. If the issue was oil, lift the sanctions permanently. Oh, wait, we cannot. It seems the US put language in the UN sanctions resolution demanding certification of no WMD before sanctions could be lifted.
I suggest we set up a government, not a consultative body as now, reconstitute an army, police and judicial system and go home. That would cost a lot less than the occupation. This business of being there for years and spending scores of thousands of millions is absurd. The Ba’ath party has run Iraq for 30 years and there is hardly anyone who can do anything related to running the nation and its industries who isn’t or wasn’t a member, pretended to be a sympathiser or related to a member. They had to be affiliated somehow to get ahead. Much more than in Germany, where Nazis ruled a mere 12 years, Ba’ath party members took in nearly two generations of Iraqis. The ‘claims of expertise’ in running the nation are not as bogus in Iraq as the author would have us believe they were in Germany.
The first barb at Mr de Villepin is mindless: ‘the oh-so-helpful French Foreign Minister’ suggested an early return to sovereignty and he derides it. It’s about time we admit the French and the other 11 members of the 15-member UNSC (this I can calculate: 73%) who rejected an attack were correct. We were wrong. They warned us we’d create a mess of instability and chaos. We got it. Now, we’ll have to run to them for help, like naughty little tykes who got in trouble for failing to heed father’s advice.
Iraqis, with a new judicial system, could serve as their own prosecutors for the Ba’ath apparatus’ crimes they unearth, or could do it with assistance of the UN. As the author himself points up, “the two goals--economic recovery and legal and moral confrontation with the past--need not be mutually contradictory” The question we differ on is how. I claim we needn’t be there to dish out ‘victor’s justice’. The Truth Commissions and other aspects of reconciliation with the past suggested by Mr Herf are good healers and should also be emphasised, again through the UN.
However, Iraq, as that pesky Mr de Villepin said, needs its sovereignty- to stop blaming others for its ills, if nothing else. Ah, those ‘irritating French’. Mr Herf sounds like one of the fundamentalist Muslim radicals he so disavows when he derides the French. So, anyone who disagrees with US policy is ‘irritating’. The French have done the US a favour pointing to the difficulties and errors in our ways on the road to Baghdad and we spit at them. Texas style. Eat French Fries and French toast, Mr Herf.
The author is right, however, in pointing up: “the emergence of violent attacks on the occupation, as tragic as it is for our soldiers and for the Iraqis as well, should not have come as a surprise.” There was enough hate for US policy in the region prior to the invasion that anyone with half a brain could have guessed that we’d become a juicy target in Iraq. As Bob Hebert mentioned on 1 September 2003 in a NY Times editorial, what the US needs is adult supervision. The kids in charge with all their toy weapons and their hands on the till have run amok.
What we cannot pretend is that Iraq becomes what we want it to be: a US-modelled ‘democracy’. Why should we foist our form of government on others? So that their special economic interests, and in this case it can only be oil, coincide with ours? There is no tradition of democracy, nor is it a way that Muslims traditionally organise their societies. Their culture and religion are based on a model that does not separate church and state.
For that matter, ours seems ever more like theirs; with the recent controversies over gay rights and the 10 commandments pointing up the perverse control religion has on the nation. The US public has forgotten that the church and state ought to be separate; indeed, it was so engrained by in constitution. In God We Trust is in the coinage and the US President is constantly referring to “God Bless America” and God’s will being the USA’s as well. Remember, they also praise their God and claim to do His will. To deny them this 1,400-year-old tradition of governance by military force will not work.
The obsession with ‘democratising’ Iraq is specious. Nations, people and cultures have to sort out their own processes for development. Remember, in Europe and N America, a mere 300 years ago, women also wore headscarves, dressed to their ankles and were fully controlled by men. You cannot shove democracy down the throats of illiterate, ignorant people the world over. Iraqis are widely considered to be amongst the most educated people in the Middle East. They and only they need to determine the sort of government they want to have.
“A firm and powerful occupation in Iraq is essential not only to defeat terror, rebuild and protect the infrastructure, establish elementary law and order, get the electricity turned on and the oil industry back on its feet”. I disagree with the claim that the occupation is the way to accomplish this. It is the Iraqis who need to do this, not the occupiers. Like it or not, (as the irritating French warned us) Iraq is and will for long remain a chaotic place after the US invasion. We de-stabilised the fragile mosaic of social cohabitation there. Only a quick return to Iraqi sovereignty can speed up the process of economic reconstruction and socio-economic self-government. We can help, from the outside, through the UN. Otherwise, we become the occupiers, the problem and the target for the bomb.
Mr Bremer and the author are both wrong in thinking that it is the occupation forces that will “achieve success in economic reconstruction, everyday security and the demand for truth and justice about the past”. It can only be the Iraqis who do this. The comparisons to Germany are bogus. There were not 1,000 million Germans outside Germany opposed to the occupation. This is a central fact no one wants to mention, much les accept. The outside help can only come through recognised international institutions, the very same ones the US mocked on the Road to Baghdad.
If the author insisting on his bizarre Germany-Iraq comparison sees “no compelling historical reason why over time an Iraq with political democracy and market economics cannot emerge”, as in Germany, he fails to understand history, people, religion, culture and current events. It is a sad and wanting calling card for someone posting an article on this site.
R. Piper - 9/1/2003
Editor: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED. IT DOES NOT MEET HNN'S STANDARDS OF CIVIL DEBATE AS OUTLINED HERE:
- T. rex fossils arrive at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
- Quote of the Day -- Time Magazine's Top 100 People
- Investigation: The Resegregation of America's Schools
- 5 Explosive Revelations Leaked from Senate Report Exposing CIA Torture
- In Parts of the South, Glorifying Slavery No Longer Pays the Bills
- UC Berkeley professor emeritus Robert Harlan dies at 84
- She Came All the Way from Melbourne to Attend the OAH
- The 7 Most Popular HNN Videos from the 2014 OAH
- Jesse Lemisch’s up-from-below history is still strikingly original
- U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War -- His second Pulitzer!