Imagine the progress Franklin D. Roosevelt might have made as commander-in-chief of American forces during the Second World War if only he could have had the benefit of advice from James Baker, Lee Hamilton and the other members of the Iraq Study Group. Today's column applies its lessons-indeed, whole sections of its text-to that earlier quagmire:
February 25, 1943
It is an honor and privilege to present you and the Congress with the attached 79 recommendations which are detailed in the following 50 pages. In addition you will find a 40-page preface summarizing the state of the current conflict, plus maps, lists of the experts whose advice contributed to our disinterested conclusions, and full biographies of the commissioners who participated in this bipartisan study. (Autographed photographs are available on request.)
After long and arduous study at a generally safe distance, and by matching the self-evident with the undeniable, offsetting every platitude with a generality, and scrupulously avoiding unhelpful and provocative concepts like honor and victory, we now have reached a carefully balanced bipartisan consensus sure to give no offense or risk dangerous specifics, to wit:
The situation worldwide is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved. During the past nine months we have considered a full range of approaches for moving forward. All have flaws. Our recommended course has shortcomings, but we firmly believe that it includes the best strategies and tactics to positively influence the outcome.
Despite the greatest mass mobilization in our country's history, the enemy remains on the offensive and is proceeding to expand its earlier gains. To quote one of the distinguished historians on our extensive panel of consultants: "So swift and far-reaching were the Axis victories during the first six months of 1942 that it seemed the United Nations had lost the warŠ." -Arthur S. Link, professor of history, Northwestern University, in his "American Epoch."
Within days of their disastrously effective attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese opened a successful offensive all across the Pacific, and as of this writing control Hong Kong, Malaya, the Philippines, and a number of lesser outposts. Guam, Wake Island and Singapore have been overrun. Most of Burma is lost, and India and Ceylon are threatened. The Japanese navy largely controls the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Except for a remnant that has made its way to Australia, the Allied fleet has been destroyed in the Java Sea campaign.