The Right Coast

August 02, 2005
War: Then and Now
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Mark Steyn has it right, as ever:
The United States that so confidently nuked two Japanese cities is as lost to us as the old pre-mushroom cloud Nagasaki. In what circumstances would Washington nuke an enemy today? Were we to re-run World War Two, advisors to the President would counsel against the poor optics of dropping the big one, problems keeping allies on board, media storm, Congressional inquiries, UN resolutions, NGOs making a flap, etc. And chances are the Administration would opt to slug it out town for town in a conventional invasion costing a million casualties.

[C]onsider the broader lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: an enemy folds when he knows he’s finished. In Iraq, despite the swift fall of the Saddamites, it’s not clear the enemy did know. The main victims of western squeamishness in those few weeks in the spring of 2003 turned out to be not American or coalition troops but the Iraqi civilians who today provide the principal target for “insurgents”. It would have better for them had more Baathists been killed in the initial invasion... Wars fought under absurd degrees of self-imposed etiquette are the most difficult to win – see Korea and Vietnam – and one lesson of Germany and Japan is that it’s easier to rebuild societies if they’ve first been completely smashed. Michael Ledeen, a shrewd analyst of the present conflict, likes to sign-off his essays by urging the Administration, “Faster, please”. That’s good advice. So too is: Tougher, please.
Read the whole thing.

Steyn's piece leads off, by the way, with a reference to a 1920s pop song called "Nagasaki":
Back in Nagasaki where the fellers chew tobaccy

And the women wicky-wacky-woo…
The wonderful 1990s television version of the Wodehouse stories, "Jeeves and Wooster", has a scene with Bertie singing this song at the piano. (Here is a link to a CD from the series, which includes the song.) I remember thinking, when I saw the show at the time, that this was a brilliant, eerie, touch.