Wednesday, May 03, 2006

White Jive: When I read this WSJ column yesterday, I was rolling my eyes after a couple paragraphs. Come this morning, I see that people are calling it brilliant.

In a nutshell, the column's main point is that we limit our use of military engagement against other countries because, well, we feel guilty about being white.

Now, conservatives aren't generally allowed to talk about race without someone calling them racist. So they tend to find creative ways to back into the conversation. However, this is one of the more perplexing ones.

The column notes that in World War II, we bombed the bejeezus out of Germany and Japan. Since then, we've been more tepid with our military might, choosing limited engagement. Vietnam and Iraq were third-world enemies, so we didn't feel the need to demolish them. But then we lost in Vietnam and spent much more time in Iraq than planned. So why the reluctance to smother them with smart bombs?

His answer is because liberals make us feel guilty for being white and powerful. That's quite a provocative and intriguing theory. Too bad it has nothing to do with reality. The truth is we're trying to limit civilian casualties.

World War II was the first war in history that combined superior air power with superior munitions. We turned Germany into rubble. But, because Germany was turning the rest of Europe into rubble, we had no choice.

After that came Korea and Vietnam. Not only did we want to avoid carpet-bombing civilians, we decided to limit our own casualties by sending fewer troops. Plus, these were third-world countries. So there really wasn't as much to bomb -- no industry to pulverize or neighborhoods to destroy to kill morale. Also with the advent of television coverage, people became less tolerant of what became known as collateral damage.

So while we could lay waste to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine if we wanted to -- even without nuclear weapons -- public opinion in and out of the United States would never stand for it. As a result, we're in for a long, hard slog.

That wasn't hard. However, such ideas are less provocative and would never get published in The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. Yesterday's column is noteworthy more for its creativity than its description of reality. The power of human imagination never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately, reality is usually more boring than that. And the news business is more about publishing incisive commentary than the truth.


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