Thursday, June 30, 2005
"Germany and Japan's remarkable comeback since 1945 holds an instructive lesson for the United States today. During the last six decades both countries recovered from total defeat, massive loss of life and infrastructure and the humiliation of occupation by concentrating first on economic revival, then building a political society designed to cause as little offense as possible to the international community and finally, since the end of the Cold War, asserting themselves militarily but only in peace-keeping missions which even their former enemies couldn't openly oppose. Now both are poised to resume the roles they played before they launched their empire-building military campaigns, no longer as expansionist aggressors but as powerful nations worthy of trust and respect.
Particularly in Germany, every postwar generation was taught about the evils of militarism and the horrors their parents and grandparents had carried out in the name of God and country. Pacifism is the norm; Nazism is reviled. Even in Japan, where official signs of contrition haven't been forthcoming, only a few nostalgic nutcases yearn for the glorious days of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. No one's afraid of the Axis anymore.
Now the U.S. is the sole, charter member of its own Axis of Evil: invading and threatening invasions, breaking arms treaties willy-nilly, kidnapping and murdering foreign citizens without cause, refusing to abide by the Geneva conventions. But that will change someday--whether we're forced to change, as were Germany and Japan, or whether we choose a different path on our own. What's daunting is how much time--and humility--it will take for the rest of the world to trust us as much as they trust Germany and Italy."
AHEAD: SIX DECADES OF HUMILIATION