Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Test Case: Werewolves

A few posts back I noted that the lefties are tending to argue that things are going badly in Iraq, and the righties are tending to argue that they are going well. But, unsurprisingly perhaps, it isn't clear who's right. What's worse, not only do we not know whether things are going well or badly in Iraq, but we--ordinary folk--don't even have a very clear idea of what counts as going well and what counts as going badly in such cases. One way to get a fix on this, however, is to compare this occupation to other occupations--and there's been a good bit of comparison with the Allied occupation of Germany after WWII. This is probably not a perfect comparison, but it's probably better than nothing.

I've poked around a bit and have a few suggestions about this dispute:

1. There is a tendency on the right to emphasize the difficulty of the occupation of Germany, and there is something like a contrary tendency on the left. This needs clarification. No one denies that Germany was in complete ruins, and that the task of rebuilding was a massive one. What the right and the left have been disagreeing about is the ferocity of armed German resistance to occupation, in particular the "werewolves." (You can find lots of claims about havoc wrought by the werewolves at, which I won't link to because they are nuts over there; Rice also made some widely-quoted claims about them.)

2. As I noted in my earlier post, this disagreement turns on an answerable historical question. I also suggested that, by answering this question, we might get a tinly little bit of evidence on our way to answering the burning question "who's more full of shit, the righties or the lefties?" Even if this is right, however, it would give us only the tiniest bit of evidence, of course.

3. As it turns out, the left is right and the right is wrong. On this question, anyway. And it turns out that this information has been out there for awhile. Nobody ever tells me anything... Jeffrey Herf sets the record straight at the History News Network, and Slate had an article on this way back in August.

4. One consequence is that the right gets a few full of shit points.

But this is a pretty inconsequential case, I think.

But it does inspire me to start actually tracking down the information required to resolve some of the resolvable disputes between the right and the left. For example, on the nature of the Wellstone memorial. I've just been listening to Al Franken's new book, and his version of the memorial is very different from that of the right. And the Weekly Standard has just dredged that old dispute up. But this dispute is pretty easy to resolve: we just need to watch the memorial--something I haven't done. I think it's about 4 hours long, so this is a non-negligible undertaking. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it online yet. Of course there's a certain amount of vagueness associated with descerning the "tone" of events, but that doesn't mean that this issue is unresolvable. It might be clearly partisan and awful, as the righties are claiming, it might be pure as the driven snow (which I haven't heard anybody say), or it might be basically good with a few partisan excesses (which is the way Franken represents it). So I'm going to track this thing down and watch it. And you should, too. It's another test case.


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