David Schraub writing recently on denial has a interesting view of history. In part, I think, this is due to a certain “denial” on his part. This is in some sense his defense of Mr Wright’s accusation that 9/11 is America’s crimes “coming home to roost.” He has two propositions from which he draws a conclusion. The problem is, that his thesis are false so I’m going to ignore the conclusion for now. His ideas are that denial (by a Nation or group) is implicitly a harm and then he notes how weak are the methods usually used. Now, in the past, Mr Schraub and I have argued somewhat extensively on whether Nation’s are culpable … and I think that largely they are not and he disagrees. I’m going to attempt to bypass that argument for this, for we’ve hashed that over quiet a bit not getting very far, except to each individually become more convinced that the other was wrong I think. In this latest sally, his location of denial as implicit harm is can be addressed without considering the personal/group axis. Denial is harmful on an individual basis, I’m not going to contest that. I’m not interested here in the individual vs group/national responsibility. The problem is, denial isn’t the problem. The problem is one of will.
Mr Schraub locates one of the principal crimes of America as supporting terror and death squads in Latin America. This instance is much like the firebombing of Tokyo or Dresden. These were part of a larger conflict in which the decision to do these things was placed. Removing it from context is in itself a form of denial. The left, of which Mr Schraub is a proud card-carrying member, is it seems still in the throws of a complete denial of the omnipresent harm concomitant with Communism. 100 million in less than a 100 years in the past century are ascribed directly to Communism and far more were punished by forced labor gulags, privation, and the dehumanization that comes with a police state.
Mr Schraub’s insistence that the political decisions in South America were context free. My guess is that he might agree that the Dresden/Tokyo firebombing were part of the horrors of war. But he might understand the thought processes in which the leaders and people in that time found that the decision to go ahead with those actions choice of the lesser evil. A London, having endured the blitz, felt justified in retaliating via similar attacks on civilian targets in Germany. Post-World War II NATO nations, in particular the US, were in a struggle against communism. There was both a national and humanitarian reasons for strongly opposing communism. Marxist dogma entailed the necessity of world wide struggle between its “system” and the free-market world. National strategies of both sides, because of nuclear stockpiles, hinged in a large part of swinging developing nations and the third world into their “camp” or sphere of control. In that context, the decision of nations like Vietnam and South American states to “go communist” mattered in the larger context. Furthermore there was a humanitarian concern as well. Communism, without exception, slaughtered, enslaved, and victimized millions of its own people. 100 million deaths have been ascribed to Communism in the 20th century, not to speak of the millions more who survived various horrors.
In that context, denial comes into question. Why did America use questionable tactics in South America? In part it was a question of allocatable resources. The useful idiots on the left, themselves (still it seems) as I denying the true extent of the horrors of communism, would not allocate the necessary resources to battle communism in many arenas such as South America honestly. However, it was still imperative to confront them … so the decision was made to resort to the only means available. So in the specific example of the terror/death squads in South America … the left is largely to blame. Too much in love with the “romance” of bloody handed murders like Lenin, Che, and the like, they saw no imperative to allocating the resources to halt and combat the spread of communism in South America. Like Dresden it was a question choosing the lesser of evils and needs to be put in context.
Furthermore Mr Schraub feels that there is a denial/atrocity cycle. That acceptance of denial enables atrocity. This is pop-psychology at its worst. It is not the denial of past atrocities that enable current ones. It is a failure of will, which Solzhenitsyn suggests is endemic to all Western democracies that is the problem. Our willingness to confront forcefully the horrors that occur in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is what allows them to continue. It is unlikely that by America or any exterior past actions are convincing for example Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army that its continued pattern of atrocities is permissible. Mr Schraub cites Armenia’s (un-confronted) atrocities as Hitler’s justification for his atrocities. Without reams of support for that particular contention, that idea is somewhat weak. Other sources have suggested that Lenin’s successes in his reign of terror encouraged Hitler on his. It might suggest that the success and effectiveness of these horrors (like Lenin’s being encouraged by the ‘wonderful’ results of the French Terror, which for him erred in “not going far enough”) that encouraged Hitler and others as well as the tepid response by outside entities that encouraged them. It wasn’t the memory (or lack of it) of the Armenian atrocities that encouraged Hitler it was the Western warships in the harbor with their screws clogging with human bodies and the hair or the dead and doing nothing that encouraged him.
Mr Schraub want’s to have his cake and eat it too. He opposes the notion that we should have confronted evil in Vietnam (communism) or in Nicaragua. Does he want to somehow magically confront the evil of this word by paralyzing us into further inaction to halt evil by making sure that we don’t ever act because war is hell? What tools are left? The problem of Hitler’s being enabled to commit horror wasn’t that past atrocities were forgotten it was because they are rarely if ever confronted. The paradox, unsolved by Mr Schraub, is that the confrontation is itself … horrible but that it is the lesser of evils.
Mr Schraub’s putative solution to the problem is it seems, is to weaken our resolve to act. Brilliant. Not.