By Ed Krayewski
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.