Alex Massie

Dishonesty and ignorance at any cost

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Daniel Larison as already done yeoman work dismantling elements of David Gelernter's appalling piece in The Weekly Standard. But more needs to be done and, that being the case, let's have at it in this and a number of posts to follow.

Gelertner's piece, cheerily headlined "Defeat at Any Price" makes the case, natch, that Democrats and liberals in the United States want to see America defeated in Iraq. Of course, they're devilishly clever and never actually come out and say this (Gelertner declines to buttress his case with any quotations from Messrs Clinton, Obama, Edwards et al that would support his claim that they believe "America would be better off if it lost"). Nonetheless, being in thrall to "Appeasement, pacifism and globalism" Democrats want to see America laid low. These, he says, "are the Big Three principles of the Democratic left" - a left wing (and hence, by definition, a minority of Democrats) that, we might note, has thus far done precisely nothing to end the war in Iraq. We may argue whether Congressional Democrats are damned for being too cautious or too ambitious another day. Nonetheless, any outside observer might conclude that they're a rather ineffective bunch of Fifth Columnists...

Anyway, we can deal with some of this later. Gelernter then moves on to the usual euro-bashing. A brief excursion through World War One concludes that it was wrong to learn any lessons from that conflict at all, let alone let it influence your thoughts on the desireability of future wars.

Pacifist globalism was so popular it lost World War II for the tragically underprepared French and nearly lost it for the British. The British pulled themselves together and made a heroic stand, but the French will never live down (least of all in their own minds) the humiliation of being overrun by German armor in a matter of weeks; of choosing not even to defend their beloved capital city. Poland put up a stiffer fight than France in the Second World War.

Because, yes, it would have been sensible for the French to acquiesce in the destruction of Paris. This vile paragraph simultaneously manages to insult two peoples, slighting the Poles with the slimmest praise available to people of Gelernter's ilk while, conveniently, ignoring what actually happened during the Battle of France.

This pretty well-sourced Wikipedia article usefully catalogues casualty figures from WW2. No-one, I think, would pretend that 1940 was France's finest hour. But the notion that the French waved the Germans in to Paris is unsupported by the facts. Nearly 100,000 Frenchmen were killed in the Battle for France alone. A further 60,000 died in subsequent battles between 1940 and 1945. Those figures do not include the 20,000 or so Resistance fighters killed, nor the much greater number of civilians killed in 1940 and, later, as part of Gestapo and Wehrmacht reprisals. Indeed, proportionally (for whatever little this may be worth) more Frenchmen than Americans died during the Second World War.

I know it is now too much to hope that the happy warriors on the American right might occasionally remember this. But they would be better men - and better historians - if they did.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticsforeign policyfranceusa