A French writer living in America has written that "this war is not a war in the ordinary sense of the word. ...There are two series of conflicts going on at the same time: conflicts (involving military action) and conflicts which are ideological, political, social and economic. The latter transcends boundaries ... The very confusion of the situation has often served as an excuse for recommending a policy of aloofness." The writer was Raoul de Roussy de Salles. The date of publication was 1942. And the war was World War II.
Now, of course, we recall WWII as a classic, all out, necessary war. But in the spring of 1942, in America, Raoul de Salles, the patriotic citizen of a defeated France, could feel the need to explain that "It is only recently that America has lost the belief that she had a choice. Up to Pearl Harbor, the Americans were made to think not only that they could decide between peace and war but that they could decide how much war they would accept. This capacity of choice was an illusion ... Although he is fully at war now, he cannot forget overnight the point of view of the spectator, which he so recently was. The American still believes that it is his peculiar privilege ... to discuss from a more impersonal angle the social, political and economic future which will come out of this war."
As I was reading this old volume from my father's library in Los Angeles last week, I was struck by how fresh sounding was the author's description of an American public still tentative in its acceptance of the reality of total war. Today's soundbites from news coverage of the presidential election campaign are filled with candidates for president, and their supporters in the public, discussing exit strategies, turning the war over to the United Nations, focusing on the more pressing needs here at home for federal dollars, etc.
Listening to all the aspiring commanders and chief (except for Joe Lieberman), I don't hear any campaign promises related to winning the war on terrorism. They make a few obligatory references to getting bin Laden rather than wasting our time with Saddam, and then they get on to their real campaign message, which is the conventional, peacetime Democratic argument to tax the rich and give the proceeds to their likely voters. I am tempted to respond to these candidates with the snappy WWII era retort to complainers: "Don't you know there's a war on?"
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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