My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


A Little Perspective: Germany, 1948

Much is being made--MUCH--of the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion. So I thought, just because I like seeing the Long View of events and the world, that I would do a little research and see just what some of the historical parallels to today's events look like. So, let's start with a little look at Germany, roughly three years after ITS liberation.

Granted, I suppose it could be argued that the appropriate parallel is actually France, 1947, roughly 3 years after D-Day. But it's my blog, so I'm gonna do it the way I want to.

From EH.Net Encyclopedia: After a transitory 90-Days Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan spanned three ERP years from July 1948 to June 1951.

Notice that? The actual inception of the Marshall Plan--THE great acheivement of European reconstruction--did not even happen until summer, 1948. For those who are bad at math, that's a full THREE YEARS after the end of the War in Europe. I wonder if the Old Media of that day and age wrote story after story after story about how the U.S. was failing in Europe; how we "didn't have a plan;" how it was all our fault, and taking out Germany was a giant mistake.

I suspect not.

But I digress. . . .

The Marshall Plan was by no means the first U.S. aid program for post-war Europe. Already during 1945-1947, the U.S. paid out substantial financial assistance to Europe under various different schemes. In total annual amount, these payments were actually larger than the Marshall Plan itself. One key element of the Marshall Plan was to bundle existing, rival programs in a package and to identify and iron out inconsistencies. The origin of the Marshall Plan lay precisely in a crisis of the previous aid schemes. Extreme weather conditions in Europe in 1946/47 had disrupted an already shaky system of food rationing, exacerbated a coal and power shortage, and threatened to slow down the pace of recovery in Western Europe.

That sounds pretty bad. Like we had no idea what we were doing, and that various agencies were working against each other. I also wonder why there's no mention of our allies--I wonder if we alienated them with our invasion.

But then, maybe the problem is the source. Let's look at another source. Perhaps a German one.

Set up for a limited period of four years, 1948 - 1952, the ERP operated through a counterpart fund. The money contributed by the U.S. included currency for loans, but went primarily (70 percent) towards the purchase of commodities from U.S. suppliers

Four years, which brings the total time PLANNED by the U.S.,with the cooperation of Congress, to finish reconstruction of Western Europe (not just Germany) was seven years. SEVEN years to rebuild a country with a history of western values, that had an intellectual tradition of democratic ideals (and other bad history), that had a modern (circa 1945) infrastructure prior to the U.S. invasion. Iraq has no history of westernism, no history of democracy, and an infrastructure circa 1945 . . . in 2006.

And yet three years is not enough time for the Old Media or Congress these days. Wonder what THIS press and Congress would have been like in 1948.

To fulfill the condition that the Europeans should collaborate among themselves, they too created a body, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) to coordinate the Marshall Plan on their side of the Atlantic. This was not an easy task; the Europeans had no tradition of common economic problem solving. Britain did not relish, then as now, giving up any of its precious sovereignty and was determined that the OEEC should be a multilateral but not a supra-national body. Germany was not an original member of the OEEC, but the organization soon realized that Europe needed Germany as much as Germany needed Europe. In the end, the Federal Republic of Germany was admitted soon after it was established in 1949, at which time a federal ministry under a deputy chancellor was created to handle Marshall Plan funds.

Among the interesting historical information contained in that paragraph about getting our allies to work together is the interesting little bit about the German Republic being ESTABLISHED in 1949. That, for those of you short on math, is FOUR years after the END of the war, five years after the invasion.

But maybe the creation of the Republic is late and incidental to the beginnings of democracy. Maybe, perhaps, Germany had a series of elections before 1948, perhaps a constitutional referendum? Let's see.

From Robert Selig, historian:

From the end of WWII until the spring of 1948 the Germans had been merely commodities of the Cold War. Their actual opinions had been neither sought nor heeded. When the Parliamentary Council held its first meeting in Bonn on September 1, 1948, the Germans for the first time since the end of the war had a chance to express their ideas and beliefs, or more importantly, their wishes.

First meeting?? On September 1, 1948?? Are you kidding? So in Germany post WWII the first meeting of a parlaimentary body met more than three years AFTER the end of the war. And yet, in Iraq, we have now had a Council election, a Constitutional referendum, and a Parlaimentary election.

I hate to point out the obvious, but it would seem we're just a bit ahead of the schedule that was established after WWII.

Perhaps that's because we weren't nearly so magnanimous in victory over Germany:

In the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Directive 1067 of April 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was instructed to occupy Germany "not...for the purpose of liberation but as a defeated enemy nation." Allied occupation was to bring "home to the Germans that Germany's ruthless warfare and the fanatical Nazi resistance have destroyed the German economy and made chaos and suffering inevitable and that the Germans cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves."

Yes, that's a bit of a different mission than we etablished for ourselves in Iraq. Okay, fair enough. It doesn't quite follow, however, that we can't have expected a better result in Germany than we got--a full partition which would become a tinder box for 35 years.

Just out of curiosity, are there rhetorical similarities?

The December 1948 report by General Lucius D. Clay, commanding officer in the American Zone of Occupation in Germany, to U.S. President Harry S. Truman was full of optimism. "I think in looking back on 1948 we can look back on it as a year of material progress, and I think we can take considerable satisfaction in the state of affairs." Clay thought that 1948 had "brought back a real hope for the future among the 40-odd million people" in the American and British zones.

That sounds familiar, don't you think? Maybe a little bit of the same optimism the President and his military advisors on the ground are expressing about Iraq? Do we have any reason to suspect that this President and his people are any more wrong than Truman and his people were in 1948? I would submit that we do not.

Well, finally, what about the number of troops in Germany? According to the Department of Defense numbers from 2002--a full 57 years after the end of the war--the U.S. still had some 94,000 personnel in Germany.

So, in conclusion, any reasonable comparison of post-war to Germany to post-war Iraq would seem to point one in the direction of quite a bit better progress in Iraq than we enjoyed in Germany.

Now, granted, we did not have the constant drip drip drip of bad news related to an insurgency. Or did we? We never really knew because the media of that day and age was not quite as invested in seeing the failure of U.S. efforts.

But maybe they, I don't know, just for grins, TRY to find a little balance. A short bit of historical perspective would be useful.

And so, just to provide that service for a disinterested media, over the next couple of days I will continue this series.

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