This week?s September 11 hearings and former anti-terrorism staffer Richard Clarke?s just released charges of Bush Administration incompetence should be seen as the latest example of how America historically has reacted to the outbreak of a major war.
The sudden commencement of major war is so shocking and disruptive of normal civilized life that there seems to be a psychological need for the event to be explained in terms of treachery or stupendous incompetence. It is too disturbing to accept the reality -- that normal government officials, performing as they normally are expected to, were inadequate to avoid the catastrophe.
The considered judgment of history tends to find the causes of major wars to be the failure of existing systems of governance to properly manage newly emerging great historic forces. But in the moment of crises -- and often for decades afterward -- the melodramatic storylines prove the more compelling. The appeal of these human stories is only exacerbated by the cynical career survival instincts of the politicians both in and out of power at the moment of disaster.
After Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short, the top navy and army men at Pearl Harbor, were promptly scapegoated and fired. Ever since, and continuing to this day, books are published suggesting that President Franklin Roosevelt conspiratorially knew about the attack before it came. While the truth may never be completely known, the larger reality was that the rise of an expansionist, conquering Japanese empire in the Pacific (along with Hitler?s war making) made it almost inevitable that America would be forced into military response -- whether at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, or someplace else within the next few years. Ultimately what mattered was how FDR and America fought the war.
Similarly, the slogans and stated aims enunciated at the commencement of our wars are never the complete explanation. In our Civil War, the stated reason for belligerence by the Union -- to preserve the union, not to end slavery --- was never completely accurate and changed between 1861 and 1865. For the abolitionists in the North it was always about ending slavery. For the border state citizens who remained loyal to the union it was expressly not about ending slavery.
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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