Thursday, September 22, 2005

Russell Baker on our Can't-Do Government

The eerily prescient Russell Baker wrote in 1982:
Can you imagine any Government of the present age getting itself in shape to win the Battle of Midway six months after Pearl Harbor and to land an army of invasion in North Africa five months later?
I can't. Nowadays, I suspect, we'd need at least a year just to decide how big a tax break to give corporations for converting to ship and tank construction, and another five years to find out why the ships and tanks weren't quite ready for battle.
I don't think you'd really have to offer the enlisted men tax incentives for agreeing to take part in the Battle of Midway, but there'd be a lot of pressure for it on the home front, and everything would probably be slowed down while Presidential candidates tested public sentiment in the next New Hampshire primary.
Meanwhile the Government would be scolding the public for impatience, and reminding it that Rome wasn't built in a day, and telling it to remain hard-nosed toward the enemy, and show plenty of will, and be prepared for great tests of endurance.
I think the Japanese would have set up shop in Detroit forty years ahead of schedule.*
As previously noted, the U.S. won WW II in less than four years after Pearl Harbor. It has now been four years and eleven days since al Qaeda attacked us. Four years and eleven days after Pearl Harbor, our soldiers, sailors, marines and aviators were on their way home to start making babies, go back to school on the G.I. Bill, setting up homes in the suburbs and designing cars with tailfins.
*"Getting on with It" from There's a Country in my Cellar, p. 104


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