Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fighting Bob wouldn't

The following may be one of the most curious statements that I have read in an op-ed. Ever.

Dave Zwiefel, writing in the Cap-Times, is commending Wisconsin Senator Bob LaFollette's opposition to the US entry into World War I. That opposition, according to Zwiefel, was righteous because the world would have been a better place had we decided to allow the blood to continue to run:

Fighting Bob lost that battle, but there are some who believe that had he won it, the world would have been a much different place today. Our entry in that war set the stage for an entirely new U.S. role in world affairs that has escalated since. Some insist that had the Europeans been left to settle their own affairs, the conditions that evolved to produce an Adolf Hitler and led to World War II would have never occurred.

It's that last sentence that got me. WWI was one of the most brutally murderous wars in human history. There was no end in sight until the Americans intervened. It wasn't so much that we had a great Army but that the Germans (who were still on French soil when they surrendered) knew that they would be overcome by our dirty capitalistic wealth. There would be no end to the men and materiale that we could move to move to Europe. They had nothing left but we had a whole lotta more.

So how would the world have been a better place had we let the slaughter continue? Maybe there would have been no Adolf Hitler and WWII because there would have been no Europeans left. Maybe Zwiefel is arguing for efficiency. One war. One solution.

Maybe the world would have been a better place because the Germans would have won. Maybe they could have kept a lid on all those nasty urges for self determination that lead to conflict. Still, history tells us that Deutschland uber alles is generally no walk in the park for the alles.

Or lets say the Allies would have won anyway. If Zweifel is under the impression that it was Wilson who wanted the most punitive aspects of the Versailles Treaty, he is wrong. That was the doing of the European Allies and Wilson went along because all he wanted was his Fourteen Points and his doomed League of Nations. The idea that the Allies would have been more reasonable if the war went on longer and only the French and British were there seems just a snidge unlikely.

Maybe its victory that Zweifel has a a problem with. Perhaps he believes that the Europeans would have eventually decided to forget the whole thing, returning to the pre-bellum status quo. No use crying over spilled milk and 50 million dead. What if they gave a war and nobody came?

I know that we in Wisconsin are all supposed to regard Bob LaFollette as the unacknowledged savior of everything because he is the Wisconsin politician who has come the closest (and it wasn't very close) to being President, but maybe his opposition to the war had something to do with his largely German-American constituency. That just couldn't be.

As for Zwiefel's larger point - that the war in Iraq was foisted upon us by profiteering corporations - I am suitably chastened. And I thought there was - like - real conflict in the world. There is always Madison, preserved in amber, insisting that everything that we have learned was wrong is still right.

No comments: