America The Boastful

I like making jokes about how if it weren't for us, all those stuck-up French waiters and hoteliers would be speaking German as much as the next Yankee. But having a Presidential candidate respond to a question about why we're hated overseas by going on about how "our people have shed more blood for the liberty and freedom of other peoples ... than all the other countries put together" just comes across as weirdly defensive braggadocio. Particularly since - as Larison, scourge of American triumphalism, points out - it's probably not true:

Even leaving aside WWI, where the claims to fighting for liberty are a bit more strained (and where all other belligerents lost far more people than America), this claim is demonstrably false. It requires either an amazing ignorance about the past or contempt for American allies in WWII.

Britain and France entered WWII at least officially to safeguard the independence of Poland, which I think gives them some right to claim that they suffered their losses for the sake of the “liberty” of other peoples. In 1940 alone in a war fought on behalf of Poland, the French lost 90,000 KIA, and the British lost over 68,000. The British, Commonwealth and Free French soldiers who died during the war were certainly fighting at least in part for “the liberty and freedom of other peoples,” and the number of their fatalities and casualities was necessarily higher than that of the United States. Our casualties were on the order of 600,000 killed and wounded, while British and Commonwealth casualties (not including India’s 100,000) were approximately 915,000, which does not include civilian deaths in Britain and France. If we were to judge these losses according to the size of the populations of the different countries, the disparity would be even greater. Given how much smaller its population was, Britain’s losses were proportionally over three times as great as ours.

In Fred Thompson's defense, estimates of World War II casualties do vary a bit, and you could argue that his overall estimate looks a bit more accurate if you factor in Vietnam, Korea and Iraq. Except, as Larison says, for the pesky matter of World War I, where the Brits - whose defense of poor hapless Belgium gives them at least as solid a claim to have been fighting for the liberty of other peoples as Woodrow Wilson's "make the world safe for democracy" posturing - took eight times as many casualties as we did, and more than we took in the whole of World War II as well.

Obviously this sort of obnoxious mythologizing isn't confined to Fred Thompson, but it doesn't do him any credit either.