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Rebuilding after war takes time
Question of the Day
It shouldn't come as a shock that rebuilding Iraq will be, as many are predicting, long and costly. The same was true when Americans led the massive reconstruction efforts of Germany and Japan after World War II and South Korea in the 1950s.
A half-century later, "We still have troops in Korea, and we still have a large presence in Germany," said Blair Haworth, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History.
Historians are unwilling to equate the level of violence and terrorism against U.S. troops in postwar Iraq today with conditions American soldiers encountered in Germany and Japan after World War II.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has compared the attacks on U.S. and British troops in Iraq to those carried out by Nazi fanatics known as "werewolves."
"SS officers called werewolves engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them, much like today's Ba'athist and Fedayeen remnants" in post-Saddam Iraq, Miss Rice told a Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering in San Antonio last month.
Historians point out, however, that the Nazi Secret Service officially disbanded the werewolves shortly before Germany surrendered.
Nevertheless, other radicals who viewed Adolf Hitler as a martyr -- many of them associated with the Hitler Youth -- continued to call themselves "werewolves" and engaged in violence up to a year after the war ended.
The werewolves were blamed for the assassination of the mayor of Aachen, Germany, in May 1945.
"Aachen was the only city under U.S. administration. It was infiltrated by an SS hit squad who killed this guy," said Tom Schlesinger, a retired Army major and political science professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, who served in Army intelligence in occupied Germany.
Jeffrey Herf, a professor of history at the University of Maryland, said Miss Rice's assertions "were off the mark."
He said American troops never faced guerrilla warfare in postwar Germany because Germans had accepted their defeat. That is not the case in Iraq, he said.
The U.S. occupations of Japan and Germany "took years," said Richard Sommers, a historian with the Army War College Museum in Carlisle, Pa.
Mr. Schlesinger, in a telephone interview, said the Japanese offered little resistance to American occupation forces and "not a single American" soldier was killed by postwar hostility.
But U.S. troop deployment was mammoth -- "probably as many as 400,000" in Japan shortly after the war ended in August 1945, said John W. Dower, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist on postwar Japan. In Iraq, the United States has about 140,000 troops.
Two years after World War II, 200,000 Americans were still in Japan, "not for security but for American strategic deployment in Asia," Mr. Dower said in a telephone interview. The occupation of Japan lasted 6 years, ending in April 1952, he said.
"As American citizens, it takes a considerable time to root out pernicious influences and establish the kind of positive republics that have emerged in Germany and Japan, and that we hope to establish in Iraq," Mr. Sommers said in an interview.
Marlene Mayo, a historian at the University of Maryland, credited the relative smoothness of the Germany and Japan occupations to U.S. planning that began early in the war.
"I'm not aware that was done in Iraq," she said.
The exact cost of the occupation of Japan is uncertain, but the United States did not provide direct financial aid for its reconstruction.
Because of food shortages, occupation officials began providing humanitarian aid to Japan in 1946.
"The Marshall Plan went to European countries. There was never a [financial aid] package for Japan," said Ms. Mayo.
The Marshall Plan, named for Army Gen. George C. Marshall, was a financial aid package that led to Europe's economic recovery after the war and facilitated a democracy in Germany.
"Occupation is always expensive, and the cost of the Marshall Plan represented 3 percent of the gross national product," said Conrad Crane, director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute.
In current dollars, the United States gave nearly $90 billion to war-torn Europe between 1948 and 1952. At least $8 billion went to Germany.
The Korean War started in June 1950 and ended with an armistice three years later that split the country in two. Since then, about 37,000 U.S. troops have guarded the border to deter communist North Korea from invading the South.
Estimates of the cost of rebuilding Iraq range from $30 billion to $100 billion, and some say the task could take a generation to complete.
The U.S. Army provided Korea with more than $181 million between 1946 and 1948 alone. Total U.S. aid to South Korea between 1946 and 1978 exceeded $6 billion.
"The devastation of Korea was phenomenal," Mr. Crane said. "Iraq's infrastructure is in much better shape than Korea's after the war."
By Orrin G. Hatch
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