In the past three years the Bush administration has vigorously made comparisons between reconstruction in Iraq and post-World War II Germany and Japan. Many of the administration’s analogies have been forced, at best. A variety of historians, political scientists, and even former government officials have suggested that the comparisons are rather tenuous. But a new report by the Congressional Research Service has essentially demolished the administration’s analogies.
Condoleezza Rice, as National Security Advisor, gave a speech to the American Legion convention in 2003 in which she made comparisons between Iraq and German reconstruction. She cautioned, “There is an understandable tendency to look back on America’s experience in postwar Germany and see only the successes, [but] 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable. SS officers engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them -- much like today’s Baathist.”
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went even farther at the convention. He told the audience, “Nazi regime remnants… plotted sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up police stations and government buildings. Does this sound familiar?” The only problem with these comparisons is that they’re false. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), which acts as the nonpartisan public policy research office of Congress, notes in a new report comparing the occupation of Iraq with that of Germany and Japan, “Iraq faces an insurgency that deliberately sabotages the economy and reconstruction efforts, whereas there were no resistance movements in either Germany or Japan.”
In fact, to say that there were no organized resistance movements in post-World War II Germany and Japan is an understatement. Former Ambassador James Dobbins, along with the RAND Corporation, authored a study entitled America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, which determined that there was not a single post-war American combat casualty in Germany or Japan.
In 2003 President Bush gave a speech in which he said, “Following World War II, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany, and we stood with them as they built representative governments. We committed years and resources to this cause. America today accepts the challenge of helping Iraq in the same spirit.” In reality, there are significant differences between both Germany and Japan and Iraq. Prior to the emergence of militarism in the 1920s, Japan essentially functioned as a constitutional monarchy. And before Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, Germany had a democratic parliamentary government. Iraq, by comparison, has never had a democratic government.
Only a few months ago, Mr. Bush made another comparison when he stated, “After World War II, President Truman believed that the way to help bring peace to Asia was to plant the seeds of freedom and democracy in Japan. Like today, there were many skeptics. Fortunately, President Truman stuck to his guns. The spread of freedom to Iraq requires the same confidence and persistence, and it will lead to the same results.” But the CRS report demonstrates that we’ve already done much more for Iraq than we ever did for Germany or Japan. And it’s produced far less results to date.
According to the CRS report, U.S. aid allocations for Iraq over the last three years are $28.9 billion, all of which has been in the form of grants. Almost 62 percent of this went for economic and political reconstruction assistance. The remaining 38 percent was intended to strengthen Iraqi security. For post-World War II Germany, the U.S. provided $29.3 billion (in 2005 dollars) in assistance between 1946 and 1952, consisting of 60 percent in economic grants, 30 percent in economic loans, and 10 percent in military aid.
In Japan, post-war U.S. aid amounted to $15.2 billion (in 2005 dollars) during the same time frame, of which 77 percent was grants and 23 percent was loans. Almost a third of the aid was targeted at economic reconstruction. Comparatively, a greater proportion of Iraqi aid has been provided for economic reconstruction than was the case for Germany or Japan. Total U.S. grant assistance to Iraq over the last three years is approximately equivalent to total loan and grant assistance provided to Germany and almost double that provided to Japan, over a seven year period. And yet the administration has accomplished so little.
It’s clear that the Bush administration’s analogies between the flawed reconstruction efforts in Iraq and the occupation history of Germany and Japan are inaccurate, if not false. But it should come as no surprise that the Bush administration is attempting to re-write the history of the aftermath of World War II. This administration loves revisionist history. For much of the last three years, the administration has tried to re-write the history surrounding its decision to go to war.
Gene C. Gerard has taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years at several colleges in the Southwest, and is a contributing author to the forthcoming book Americans at War, by Greenwood Press. He writes a blog for the world news web site OrbStandard at: www.orbstandard.com/GGerard.
Other Articles by Gene C. Gerard
of Foreign Aid