President Obama’s D-Day ”Snub,” George W. Bush’s D-Day “Snubs,” and the Long Shadow of World War 2

The president is facing some flak for not releasing a statement or otherwise acknowledging yesterday (except for a tweet!) the 68th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of northern France in a surprise attack on Nazi-occupied Europe; 10,000 Allied troops were dead by the end of the day.

President Bush only commemorated D-Day twice; in 2001 when the National D-Day Memorial  was opened in  Bedford, Virginia and in 2004, when he commemorated the 60th anniversary of D-Day along with then French President Jacques Chirac. Bush, though, largely avoided the kind of criticisms Obama is facing for the same kind of “snub.” Much of that is naked anti-Obama partisanship, the same kind that insists Obama’s foreign policy is “weak,” even though it’s not much different from what Mitt Romney’s might look like and even noted neo-conservative Bill Kristol declared the president one of his own.

The United States president doesn’t commemorate D-Day or other World War 2 anniversaries every year because, well, we’re not a country like Russia, which actively deploys its World War 2 history to justify its actions more than half a century later. For example at his inauguration this year, Vladimir Putin said that Russia has a “great moral right” in its ‘security strengthening’ foreign policy “because it was our country that bore the brunt of the Nazi attack, met it with historic resistance, traversed immense hardships, determined the war’s outcome, routed the enemy and liberated the world’s peoples.” Nevermind that Russia then was at the head of a Soviet Union whose leadership was responsible also for the murder of millions of their own.

Which is not to say that perhaps America could not use some more historical perspective when it comes to World War 2; since then, America has subsidized much of Europe’s defense, even after the end of the Cold War. The American foreign policy establishment’s belief that the security of the free world lies on their shoulders can be traced to World War 2 and its aftermath, when institutions like the IMF, the United Nations and NATO were formed. Whether these institutions are still relevant or useful or necessary or proper in the 21st century is an open question, but not for the foreign policy establishment. American reflection on World War 2 does not go that far, but it should. Commemorating history may be important, but only an understanding of how we’ve become prisoners of historical circumstance can force us free of arrangements that may have far outlived their usefulness already.

Reason.TV remembering World War 2 Vets:

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  • aelhues||

    I don't see why the US president needs to commemorate D-day every year at this point. If it is, how many years go by before it isn't?

    As for the perspective question, I agree completely that we need to revisit the reasons for the IMF, NATO, and especially the UN. Of course the reason I would want to revisit them, is because I want them eliminated, or at least completely revamped. For them to still be relevant in this current time, their purpose should be redefined.

    I'd be happy if the US were to just tell all three to fuck off, and let the rest of the world deal with their nonsense.

  • wareagle||

    If it is, how many years go by before it isn't?

    about as many as it takes for July 4th to become insignificant. D-day was pretty big in our history. Might do the nation some good to remember that an affluent lifestyle does not occur simply by wishing it.

  • Brian D||

    People died for our freedoms in the War of 1812. Why don't the Presidents make annual proclamations hailing their heroic sacrifice?

  • ||

    Maybe they should.

  • Pi Guy||

    They do in Baltimore. It's an opportunity to trumpet how the Star spangled Banner was written here, thus demonstrating our role in securing freedoms. Or something.

  • Velcro Bootstraps||

    Facing some 'flak' huh....

  • Paul.||

    “because it was our country that bore the brunt of the Nazi attack, met it with historic resistance, traversed immense hardships, determined the war’s outcome, routed the enemy and liberated the world’s peoples.” Nevermind that Russia then was at the head of a Soviet Union whose leadership was responsible also for the murder of millions of their own.

    Both of these are mostly true at the same time.

  • ||

    Let's not forget the historic defense against the vile aggressor states of Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

  • Knoss||

    That's actually what the Canadian government claimed during the war. http://www.nfb.ca/film/our_northern_neighbour

  • Sam Grove||

    Whether these institutions are still relevant or useful or necessary or proper in the 21st century is an open question,

    Or whether they were ever really useful to the American people.

  • R C Dean||

    because it was our country that bore the brunt of the Nazi attack,

    Arguable, especially if you're Western European.

    met it with historic resistance,

    True enough. They fought hard, if not always well.

    traversed immense hardships,

    Can't argue that one.

    determined the war’s outcome,

    Only if you ignore the Pacific theater, and the enormous destruction visited on the German nation and armies by the Western allies.

    Here's my take: Germany probably would have won a conventional war on either front, if it wasn't overextended on the other front.

    routed the enemy and liberated the world’s peoples

    Oh, please. The Soviets never liberated a single person.

  • ||

    Here's my take: Germany probably would have won a conventional war on either front, if it wasn't overextended on the other front.

    --------------------------------

    I think both the US or Red Russia could have beaten them individually. They weren't the unstoppable military colossus many people think they were -- at least not to such an absurd degree.

  • ||

    *and.

    Proofreading, how the hell does it work?

  • R C Dean||

    Beats me. Obviously.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Actually, all things considered, the U.K. had them pretty much at a stalemate.

  • R C Dean||

    True, but a stalemate isn't a victory.

    If the Germans had been able to concentrate on building their Atlantic Coast defenses, had the troops assigned to the Eastern Front on reserve there, etc., I don't think we would have won, or even tried, D-Day.

    Conversely, if the Germans hadn't had a Western flank to defend, they could have hit the Soviets harder, taken Moscow and Stalingrad, and the Soviets would have had a hell of a time rolling them back. Imagine a Luftwaffe fully committed to the Eastern campaign, over all that ideal air-to-ground terrain.

    All speculation, of course.

  • Tulpa the White||

    The Nazis should totally have invaded the Middle East and dealt with Stalin later, after they met up with the Japanese army in India. Idiots!

  • Mickey Rat||

    Sound "Axis Allies" strategy does not a viable alternative history make.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Damn squirrels ate my ampersand!

  • Knoss||

    Had the Nazis not made it a goal to kill all the Slavic people they would have been able to win easily because the Ukrainians, Belerusians, and White Russians who helped the Germans at the start of their campaign would continue to do so.

  • ||

    "... because it was our country that bore the brunt of the Nazi attack, ..."

    Arguable, especially if you're Western European.

    -----------------

    Not to mention that Soviet casualties were so exceptionally high largely because they were so militarily primitive for much of the war.

  • Pi Guy||

    Partly true. But the Soviet military's philosophy was different than ours and 10% or even more casualties were figured to be acceptable. IOW, they'd fight longer before retreating. D-Day's one of the few instances where the allies were willing to take that much damage. And I don't think there was any plan of retreating.

    Of course, the Germans were right in their back yard so they probably had more motivation.

  • Aresen||

    The biggest factor in the Russian losses was the incompetence of the high command, especially their insistence in sacrificing whole divisions to hold or take ground that was not tactically valuable.

    Zhukov had to put his head on the block to pursuade Stalin to allow Zhukov to use a tactical retreat to entrap the Germans at Kursk. (And Stalin demoted Zhukov to a far-off command as soon as the war was over.)

  • Tulpa the White||

    Tyrants don't handle military setbacks very well. Hitler went similarly off the rails as a military tactician when things started to go south for Germany (though invading the USSR was incredibly boneheaded, not just in retrospect either).

  • R||

    Their incompetence was largely due to Stalin purging his officer corps in the years prior to WWII.

    They also would have had a much harder time of it had the US not been cranking out weapons and supplies for them at a fairly furious rate.

  • ||

    If you look at the figures it's more like "an impossible time" without the millions and millions of tons of materiel being constantly shipped over.

    The Soviets really tried to downplay/ignore this and so you just hear the endless war casualties drum being banged though.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I doubt the demotion had much to do with retreating. It more to with being the winning field general and a potentially dangerous rival to Stalin.

  • Loki||

    Not to mention that Soviet casualties were so exceptionally high largely because they were so militarily primitive for much of the war.

    "The one with the gun shoots. The one with the bullets follows the one with the gun. When the one with gun gets shot, the one with the bullets picks up the gun and shoots."

  • Tulpa the White||

    "Save yourself the paperwork."

    ::places loaded gun on table::

  • MattJ||

    'Nevermind that Russia then was at the head of a Soviet Union whose leadership was responsible also for the murder of millions of their own.'

    Oh, we can do better than that:

    Nevermind that Russia was then was at the head of a Soviet Union whose leadership was responsible for allying with the Nazis, signing a peace treaty with them which agreed to split Europe into Soviet and Nazi spheres of influence, supplied the Nazi war machine with the materials of war, directed their agents in other nations to agitate against opposition to Nazi aggression, and only altered their stance after the Nazis invaded 'Soviet' territory, by which time the Nazis had conquered/enslaved more than half of Europe and built their war machine into a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut that, of course, was going to cost you millions of lives to drive off.

    Oh, boo hoo, Russia. You had a choice between allying with the Nazis against the West, or allying with the West against the Nazis. Don't whine to history now about what unreliable allies the Nazis were, jerks.

  • tarran||

    The Russians helped start World War II and won despite being stabbed in the back by one of their allies.

    Everyone else lost.

    Some countries more than others.

  • ||

    The guy's a quasi-fascist who idolizes the Soviet era. He's a fucking retard. Many Russians that God daily that the evil empire died, and acknowledge the barbarities and depravity of Red Russia, most of my extended family included.

    Of course, that never stops them from electing retards to high office.

  • ||

    *thank

  • NeonCat||

    "Of course, that never stops them from electing retards to high office."

    Or us, God help us.

  • Zeb||

    Sounds like more people looking for things to get outraged about.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Sounds like more people looking for things to get outraged about.


    It's statements like that that really piss me off.

  • Pi Guy||

    Seriously, don't hold back. tell us what you think.

  • tarran||

    Your neutrality sickens me.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "At least with an enemy, you know where they stand."

  • DJF||

    I think that the President, Congress and the Supreme Court should commemorate the date of every battle, even every skirmish the US has fought.

    While they are busy doing that they won’t have time to screw things up more then they already have done.

  • Pi Guy||

    This could work!

  • Aresen||

    THREADJACK: Li Wangyang has died.

    http://behindthewall.msnbc.msn.....ances?lite

    This was a man far, far braver than I.

  • ||

    When you have Wang and Yang in your name bravery is required.

  • Paul.||

    Say it again! I DARE you!

  • ||

    When you have Wang and Yang in your name bravery is required.

  • ||

    When you have Wang and Yang in your name bravery is required.

  • ||

    When you have Wang and Yang in your name bravery is required.

  • ||

    When you have Wang and Yang in your name bravery is required.

  • ||

    When you have Wang and Yang in your name bravery is required.

  • Loki||

    The squirrels developed a serious stuttering problem there for a minute.

  • R C Dean||

    I blame Bush. Or bath salts.

  • sous vetement pas cher fe||

    Hej Jag är så glad jag hittade din blogg sida, jag hittade dig av en slump, medan jag söker på Yahoo efter något annat, Iaf jag är här nu och vill bara säga tack för en fantastisk tjänst och en allround trevlig blogg (jag älskar temat / design), jag har inte tid att läsa igenom allt just nu men jag har bok-märkt det och även lagt till din RSS-flöden, så när jag har tid kommer jag att vara tillbaka läsa mycket mer ska du hålla uppe det fantastiska arbete.

  • RogrDane||

    Honoring anything, except perhaps bowing to a Middle East potentate, is not O's forte. He cannot even salute!

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