June 06, 2007
Today is the anniversary of D-Day, which marked the beginning of the Battle of Normandy. Thousands of Americans were killed just in the first few hours of the initial D-Day landing, and according to the Wikipedia article, American casualties for the Battle of Normandy eventually totalled 29,000 dead, and 106,000 wounded and missing.
It's tough for most Americans to imagine casualty figures like that today. Yet the country has twice the population as it did in World War II.
It's easy to analyze these things retrospectively, but it's pretty clear that the awful casualties in the war against Nazi Germany would have been far fewer had Hitler been engaged earlier instead of appeased and allowed to grow stronger.
In a famous 1940 radio broadcast on the illusory nature of appeasement, Winston Churchill warned that "each one hopes that if it feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."
Churchill was right.
And I think Churchill was right about this too:
"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."At least, I certainly hope he was right.
I think the reason why Americans like to exhaust all other possibilities before doing the right thing is that if you do the right thing and prevent an awful thing too early, and then the awful thing never happens, people will focus on whether it was ever necessary to do the right thing. Thus, had the Americans lept into an early war against Hitler and taken him out before he grew strong, there'd have been a massive denunciation of an evil and illegitimate war -- and no one would have known that World War II had been avoided. The paradox is that we might be successfully avoiding a larger war right now without even knowing it, but there's no way to know.
So, we might be able to avoid another D-Day and we might not be. Either way, I think it's important that we remember.
posted by Eric on 06.06.07 at 12:46 PM
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