Paul Greenberg

I knew that Jay Rockefeller was a U.S. senator from West Virginia, but before now I had no idea what a seer the man is.

Not only can Rockefeller peer into the future and confidently tell us how it turns out, but he can turn the clock back to the past, specifically March of 2003, and, like a projectionist putting on an alternate reel, show us the better future that might have been.

If only the United States and its allies had not invaded Iraq, Swami Rockefeller explains, the world would be a better place today - even if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

How's he figure that? Well, Saddam "wasn't going to attack us. He would've been isolated there. He would have been in control of that country but we wouldn't have depleted our resources. ..." It's all right there, in the senator's crystal ball.

But two can play at this purely speculative game. Let's turn the clock back to 1936 and ask what would have happened if the West, instead of appeasing Hitler when he started his campaign of aggression by seizing the Rhineland, had stood up to him.

Suppose an Allied expeditionary force had crossed the Rhine early on and deposed Der Feuhrer in a blitzkrieg of its own ... but then found itself bogged down in a guerrilla war, having to fend off suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, and attacks on the freely elected government that had replaced the brownshirts. Who knows what would have happened?

But surely this much is certain: Some isolationist senator with Rockefeller's gift for second-guessing would have risen to explain how much safer the world would have been if only we had let Hitler stay in power, obnoxious little irritant that he might be. After all, "he wasn't going to attack us. He would've been isolated there. He would have been in control of that country but we wouldn't have depleted our resources. ..."

But as it happens, the free world did appease Herr Hitler. Again and again, until it was almost too late. And we all know the result: the most disastrous war in the history of the world.

Back in the present, the president of the United States continues to speak out for his strategy in this war on terror, or whatever History in its wisdom/hindsight, will call it.

Was the president's address from the Oval Office this week political? He was accorded the airtime on the major networks because it wasn't supposed to be political-and in the narrow, partisan sense, it may not have been. PB


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.