Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stephen Schwartz Gets It Completely Wrong

Scwartz is an obscure wingnut, but he's a wingnut writing for the Weekly Standard, and that means someone thought he was worth hiring. He had this to say when he compared Poland to Iraq:

There is, however, a more relevant and positive historical example evoked by the new Iraq, and it is that of Poland. Lest the metaphor be misunderstood, we must certainly guard against Iraq being divided between Saudi Wahhabis and Iranian radicals as the Polish Republic in 1939 was invaded and split by Hitler and Stalin.

But I have in mind the modern Poland of the last three decades. The new Iraq can play a role in the Muslim world similar to that seen when, at the end of the 1970s, the Polish nation, inspired by Pope John Paul II and the Solidarity labor movement, rose to challenge a Soviet power then viewed as invulnerable. Poland inaugurated an affirmation of popular sovereignty and intellectual freedom that spread first to countries like Hungary with which it shared a Catholic heritage, then to the rest of the Communist zone, and finally to the former Soviet Union itself, which then finally crumbled.


This is not to say that a Polish parallel in Iraq would bring instant gratification for a West, and a world, hungry for resolution of the Mideast crisis. In the 30 years that have passed since the beginning of the Polish national revival, that country has yet to fulfill its noble promise as a herald of democracy. It has contended with its own religious and national extremists, undergone disillusion with its hero Lech Walesa, and has even slid back, at times, into governance by its enduring "post-Communist" nomenklatura. But its role in the dissolution of Communist tyranny in Europe is inarguable.

Many wars fought by Americans were considered lost during the struggle. Washington at Valley Forge, the U.S. after the burning of the capital in the War of 1812 (which we did lose), Lincoln in the early period of the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt before the Battle of Midway in 1942, all faced the specter of defeat. The Korean War ended without a clear victory, although the people of South Korea today enjoy freedom and prosperity thanks to the sacrifice of American forces. Many Americans have lost touch with our military history, and these examples may mean little to them as they ponder the conflict in Iraq.

But in living memory, it is impossible to think that President Ronald Reagan would have told the Soviet rulers, between 1981 and 1989, to dispose of a reborn, independent Poland as they saw fit. Reagan would not have called out, in an unamusing paraphrase, "Mr. Gorbachev, reinforce this wall!" The Poles, like the Iraqis, faced setbacks and disappointments, but they prevailed, and their example changed the history of the world. A firm commitment to the new Iraq from the next American president may do the same for the Muslim nations.

Here's how I refute this:

1. Poland is almost entirely a Catholic nation (90% Roman Catholic) while Iraq is divided between Shia (60%), Sunni (37%) and Christian (3%) (Rough estimates).
2. Reagan abandoned Lebanon.
3. Poland was split between the Germans and Russians from October 1939 to June 1941.
4. We did not "lose" the War of 1812--Andrew Jackson slaughtered the British at New Orleans. Had the Treaty of Ghent been negotiated after that fact, the US would have won the war by forcing better terms. The victory at New Orleans ensured that the British had to abide by the treaty they signed.
5. The Iraqis don't want us there and our Status of Forces Agreement with them effectively cedes their sovereignty to us. During the Cold War, Polish sovereignty was effectively ceded to the Soviet Union. So, in effect, the US becomes "the Soviet Union" in its relationship with Iraq.
6. One can walk safely through a Polish city without fear of sectarian violence.
7. The Pope did more than just "inspire" the resistance to the Soviet Union.

Add your own refutations to the larger column--there are many more ridiculous assertions. It's a doozy.


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