The speech this week from our President on the war in Iraq and previous warfare in US history left me, as usual, utterly confused as to the point and the methods used in his deductions. Historian John Dower of MIT heard the President reference a book by Dower on the reconstruction of Japan following World War 2 and was pretty angry at said usage:
"They’re desperately groping for a historical analogy, and their uses of history are really perverse.
"In the case of Iraq,” Dower said, “the administration went in there without any of the kind of preparation, thoughtfulness, understanding of the country they were going into that did exist when we went into Japan. Even if the so-called experts said we couldn’t do it, there were years of mid-level planning and discussions before they went in. They were prepared. They laid out a very clear agenda at an early date."
Notable as well is the recent history - a 2002 editorial by Dower - in which he outlined 10 reasons why the success in Japan could not be applied to Iraq in any way. The interview with Dower is here.
A spokesperson for the White House responded to Dower's outrage:
"While professor Dower may disagree with the applicability of the quote, the president in no way endorses his view of Iraq."
This careful picking and choosing of words and historical meaning is a disservice to our current deployment of troops and our hopes for success in Iraq. Instead, what I am constantly seeing, is a policy in search of a strategy, actions which go in search of meanings after the action has occurred.
Distorting the past, the present and fumbling for the future - is this the best the White House can do?