Let’s Get Those Moroccan Bastards!!!

It is still relatively common these days to hear people arguing that we should not be in Iraq because they had nothing to do with 9/11. In light of this, I thought it might be a good time to bring up one of the most eloquent and solid discussions I have ever come across as to why we are over there. Steven Den Beste, in his excellent 2003 essay Deadly Mushrooms, starts off with an interesting question:

[W]hy was it that the first nation that the US invaded in WWII was Morocco? Certainly the Moroccans had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.

Morocco was actually a French colony and was under control of Vichy France, and was defended by French troops. While it was technically true that Vichy France was an “ally” of Germany, and in theory also therefore of Japan, the Japanese had already conquered Viet Nam by that point which had also been under control of Vichy France. It’s clear that Vichy France didn’t represent a danger to the US and certainly Vichy France had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. So why did we attack Morocco?

It’s because we were fighting a war, not a battle, and because we were removing danger to us, not retaliating. It is far more difficult to get Americans to reach the point of being willing to fight a war than most people acknowledge, but when it does happen the general American idea is that you fight to remove all of the dangers, and to clean up the entire situation. If you fight, you fight to win. And you make sure that you completely finish it so that you don’t have to fight that particular war again.


Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, but American involvement in WWII had nothing to do with revenge. Yes, many individual citizens were motivated by revenge, and on a political level that is what made war possible. But the US government got involved in the war to remove the danger we faced, and the primary danger was Nazi Germany.

Which is why we invaded Morocco. Morocco had nothing directly to do with the war, but it was a necessary first step. US forces invaded Morocco so that they could move through it to attack German forces in Tunisia while the British attacked from the other side coming out of Egypt. We fought in Africa to kick the Germans and Italians out of there, so that we could use Africa as a staging ground for an attack on Sicily, conquest of which permitted an attack on Italy proper, which eventually knocked Italy out of the war and made it change sides and forced Germany to send more troops there because they could no longer rely on Italian forces (not that they were ever very reliable). Continued operations in Italy tied down large amounts of Germany forces and supplies which were therefore not available to use against the USSR or to hold France, and Italy was also used as a staging ground for an assault on southern France which took place shortly after the Normandy invasion. Once that happened, Germany had too many fronts to fight on and couldn’t be strong everywhere; the Soviets launched a major offensive in parallel with the Anglo-American offensive in France and after that things went very badly for Germany. And it all started with Morocco.

Taking Morocco had nothing to do with anything that the people or government of Morocco had done. It was a strategic step, an individual battle in a much larger war. To try to analyze the Torch landings in Morocco in a vacuum, without that larger perspective, would make it seem completely nonsensical. And attempting to make sense of the attack on Morocco by assuming that it was directly inspired by Pearl Harbor would lead you to believe that we were insane.

But we weren’t. Japan was dangerous, and we were fighting against Japan too. But Germany was the bigger danger. Once the US was in the war, we applied two thirds of our strength to the European theater. Pearl Harbor was what it took to get the US into the war, but once that happened America fought to remove all the major dangers facing it no matter where they were[…].

That’s the same kind of thing which is happening here. To demand that our battle for Iraq be justified in terms of Iraqi involvement in the attacks against NYC and Washington is similar to demanding that the attack on Morocco be justified in terms of Morocco’s involvement in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Obviously it wasn’t involved, so obviously there’s no justification for the Torch landings. But that argument is based on a fallacy: it assumes that we’re only permitted to respond directly to actual provocations and must leave alone other dangers we face, no matter how serious they are, until and unless they too directly attack us.

One of the problems here is that a lot of opponents of the war are trying to deny the idea that this is even a big war. So let’s make something extremely clear:

We are fighting World War IV. World War IV began on September 11, 2001. And like the other three world wars, this one will be fought everywhere on the planet and will involve most of its nations and peoples in one way or another before it’s through.

al Qaeda is an enemy, but it is not the true source of danger to us. al Qaeda is like a deadly mushroom; it sprang up and killed some of our people. But mushrooms come from a buried bed of mycelia, from hidden rot. You can get rid of mushrooms when you see them, but as long as the mycelia mass is still there, others will appear.

Now that we have made the transition to being willing to fight this war, again because of a direct attack on us, we will not just fight against the individual group which was responsible for that attack. We will work on eliminating the overall danger which faces us. In this case, that means not just getting rid of mushrooms; it means eliminating that mycelia from which they spring. For if we remove the al Qaeda mushroom, more like it will spring up and kill more of us. Now that we’re fighting, we have to fight to really finish this war so that we don’t have to fight it again.

That was, believe it or not, an excerpt. They don’t call him the father of the essay blog for nothing! I wish he were still blogging about substantive things; but fortunately his old arguments hold up remarkably well after over three years.

Something to keep in mind as we head into elections, and hear all the defeatists demanding that we redeploy pull out.

Update: Thought I’d repeat the URL — You can read Den Beste’s entire essay here: http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/03/Deadlymushrooms.shtml

Comments are invited and encouraged

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