Monday, December 28, 2009

Bye Bye Filibusters?

According to The Hill, Senator Tom Harkin (D. Iowa) is preparing to introduce legislation to curb the filibuster in the Senate. According to Senator Harkin, the filibuster is being abused by Republicans who use it too often:
You're supposed to filibuster something that is a deep seated issue. . . The idea is to give some time for extended debate but eventually allow a majority to work its will. I do believe there's some reason to have extended debate.
The good Senator Harkin assures us he comes by his proposal honestly (since he first proposed it when a member of the minority); and is not coming forward with it now simply because he’s in the majority -- that same majority that has been absolutely beside itself with spitting angry rage at the minority’s recalcitrance and refusal to drink either the Left’s health care Kool-Aid or the cap-and-trade hemlock. The Democrats are furious that the Republicans are making them amass 60-vote super majorities over small beans like a government takeover of a sixth of the US economy.
Now I know that as a conservative I am supposed to be against this. Jay Cost, over at Real Clear Politics, has today provided all three bipartisans still existing in the United States with very cogent arguments setting out why keeping the filibuster is a smart idea, and arguing that this pesky parliamentary device is more essential now than ever before:
. . . the party extremes have grown farther apart. . . there are now fewer genuine moderates in the United States Senate than at any point in the last half century. Third, there used to be a sizeable ideological overlap between the two parties . . . It no longer exists. Put simply, the Senate parties have become ideologically polarized.
This helps explain the increasing use of the filibuster. As the parties drift apart ideologically, the majority party will more likely introduce legislation that the minority party can't accept . . . Using the filibuster is thus a rational response when one finds oneself in the smaller half of a polarized chamber, which is more likely to be the case today than 45 years ago
That all makes splendid practical sense,  if you disregard the fact that the filibuster is not working. Thanks to last year's perfect storm of an electoral debacle, the Democrats have the 60 votes to break  filibusters, especially since the Blue Dogs are a bunch of spineless lapdogs. (Oh, they'll bloviate, whine and promise, but the Left buys or rolls them every time, while the lapdogs  hold their noses, pocket their money and assume pious expressions). Thanks to the same filibuster, once this monstrosity is passed, there is very little chance of undoing it, whatever happens in 2010 or 2012. This albatross will have to be endured until it fiscally wrecks us.
It’s time for a display of bipartisanship. Senator Harkin is right. The majority should eventually be allowed, as he puts it, to “work its will.” Here’s hoping his bill gets 40 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate. As our President has so rightly told us, "elections have consequences." For a time, the Democrats can keep running wild, and we can have the government the Left thinks we deserve.  But that’s not the end of the story. Come November 2010, there are likely to be some more consequences, and even bigger ones in 2012. Perhaps majorities will work their will in ways not at all to Senator Harkin’s liking. Nice thought anyway.

Friday, December 11, 2009

12/11/1941

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy . . . but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. . . So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war -- the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand's-breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. . . How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. . . We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. . . Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force.
Winston S. Churchill's reaction to the news of Pearl Harbor, in his Memoirs of the Second World War, Volume 3: The Grand Alliance.
Several days ago, the United States remembered the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which, among other things, brought the United States into the Second World War. With the Japanese attack on the United States, the line-up of major powers at war was almost complete – but only almost. The US declaration of war, passed-out of Congress on the 8th (with but one dissenting vote) – named only Japan.

The United States had not yet heard from Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy – co-signatories to the September 1940 Tripartite or “Axis” Pact. On 11 December 1941, this changed when Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. A good argument can be made that with this step, Nazi Germany committed suicide.

In the strategic sense, Hitler’s decision to make war on the United States – for it was his alone – was absolute lunacy. In December of 1941, Germany had all it could handle in Russia: Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s plan to conquer the Soviet Union in a single campaign in the summer and fall of 1941 – had already failed, and the German Army was stuck in the snow in front of Moscow: its supply lines a shambles or non-existent, casualties already numbering over a million (front line infantry regiments barely fielding the strength of companies). On the 6th, the Russians – who seemed to the Germans to have bottomless resources – launched a massive counteroffensive.

Germany’s other enemy, Great Britain, was running its own war in North Africa, and at sea, relying on massive dollops of American financial and military aid to stay in the war. But without more, and as long as Germany could keep the situation in Russia more or less under control, Britain’s efforts, strategically, were an irritant, and not a threat. But with the Russian campaign teetering in the balance, Germany verged on strategic bankruptcy.
So why then, did Hitler compound his problems? Why did Adolf Hitler, with his eyes open, enter into war with the greatest industrial power on Earth? Pre-war German military planners concluded that Germany had lost the First World War because the Kaiser’s Navy had dragged America into it. But on 11 December 1941, Hitler proved to the world he was an amateur strategist, and repeated the mistake.
On the other hand, Hitler might well have considered that, practically speaking, the US and Germany were already at war. Legally, Germany and the US were at peace, but US ships were protecting convoys of US military aid to Britain in the North Atlantic; aid that the US, through the convenient fiction of Lend-Lease, was essentially giving to Britain. In fact, Britain (out of money, and without a sufficient population or resource base to really fight Germany on its own) was on US military and economic life support. Without the Lend-Lease breathing machine provided by Uncle Sam, Great Britain would have been forced to the peace table with Germany by mid-1941.
But convoying and massive aid was still not full-scale war, which the Germans, up till late 1941 – seemed to understand very well: the German Navy in the Atlantic being under orders to “avoid incidents with the USA.”

It seems that Hitler, just as he had underestimated the Soviet Union, underestimated the industrial and military power of America. Partly on the basis of bad advice from his admirals, and his own assumptions about Germany's ability to defeat the Soviet Union for good in 1942, he reasoned that Japan would keep the Americans busy enough for him to win his war in Europe without much American interference.
Time would prove that Hitler made himself and his country a sucker's bet. Fortunately, American resources were vast enough to fight a full scale land, air and sea war with Japan; raise and supply a major army to fight land campaigns against the Germans in Europe; arm and feed the British; help the Soviets; build the ships to move the army and supplies around in; build an air force from scratch to level Germany’s cities; build roads and ports on five continents; work on costly experiments like the atomic bomb – and still manage to pay for all this. America could afford it. By comparison, Hitler's Germany, and every other power in the conflict -- fought a poor man's, shoestring war.
Perhaps more importantly, Hitler made the fatal error of taking the struggle personally. He wanted a confrontation with the rich plutocratic Americans -- in any way that he could get one. The F├╝hrer really, really hated America, and in particular the US President, Franklin Roosevelt – as a reading of his diatribe in the Reichstag, announcing war with the United States -- makes amply clear:
And now permit me to define my attitude to that other world, which has its representative in that man, who, while our soldiers are fighting in snow and ice, very tactfully likes to make his chats from the fireside, the man who is the main culprit of this war. . .
More even than his faulty strategic assumptions, Hitler's hatred and envy of America and its President drove him to abandon rational calculations of interest and advantage, and into the fatal misstep that would destroy him.
What if Hitler had declared neutrality in the Pacific War? Not that treaties were ever an issue for the Nazis, but technically, Article 3 of the Axis Pact did not require Germany to go to war with the United States. Probably, neutrality would not have helped Hitler much, but it would have gravely complicated the allied position politically.
President Roosevelt could probably have obtained a declaration of war on Germany anyway, (Congress was working on that already), but there were large segments of American opinion that wanted to stay out of the European War. On 12 August 1941, with Hitler holding almost all of Europe, his U-Boats in the Atlantic, and the German armies knocking at the gates of Moscow -- the US House of Representatives, evidently living on another planet, opted to keep the draft by a majority of one vote.
It is very unlikely that the United States would have enjoyed the unity that allowed it fight the war to the finish had Hitler not moved first. Hitler, by stealing Roosevelt’s thunder, did the world a favor by destroying in advance the arguments of the isolationists, solidifying the conviction of the American people that there could be no deals with the Nazis or the Japanese, and that the war had to be prosecuted until total victory. Isolationism was mortally wounded by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and finished-off by Hitler’s speech in the Reichstag, as the ensuing American declaration of war (after Hitler's) proved. Churchill's reaction to Pearl Harbor, recorded above, more accurately reflected the situation after 11 December 1941.
Suppose, however, that Hitler had not only declared neutrality in the Japanese war, but torn-up the Axis pact and actually declared war on Japan? Unlike democracies, dictatorships can change policies on a dime -- as Hitler had shown in 1939 with his deal with Stalin, that he tore up in June 1941. What if Hitler had gotten up in the Reichstag, denounced the Japanese sneak-attack on America, and offered the US "help?" Not that Germany would have ever really fought such a war, but it seems improbable that the United States could have gone to war with Germany under those conditions.
With America out of the European war, and what was left of the isolationist lobby demanding full focus on the war with Japan (no aid for Britain and Russia, and no second front, ever). Hitler might well have forced the British to a separate peace and beaten the Russians. At the least, Hitler could quite possibly have achieved a stalemate with Stalin, thus managing to keep much of Germany's ill-gotten gains, and having his hands free to maintain his criminal Nazi regime indefinitely.
Fortunately, Hitler’s half-baked views of strategy -- and his paranoid fantasy that Roosevelt and the Americans were part of his mythical world-wide Jewish conspiracy – drove Hitler and Nazi Germany to suicide. On 11 December 1941 – Hitler abandoned strategy and just did what he wanted to, cast off ambiguity, and made the quasi-war with the United States real.
Now that pretense was over, the very next day, as the historian Christian Gerlach has shown, Hitler took steps to move the Holocaust (already begun in Russia) into high gear, announcing to his intimates his decision to annihilate European Jewry. But history had other plans. Matters would end quite differently than the architect and maker of all this misery supposed, because Hitler’s decision on 11 December 1941 led not to a German-dominated Europe but to his squalid suicide in his miserable little Berlin bunker, and the burning of his carcass on some rubbish-heap.