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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / December 3, 2001

Page 7 of 7

Continued from page 6

Putzel said the information overload of the current era has turned every whisper to a scream. There is often too much information to control.

"I think one of our problems is the desire to broadcast everything. When we have a national commitment to deal with an enemy or a potential enemy there ought to be some reasonable limits on the information," he said. "Saddam Hussein or bin Laden or you name it is looking at the same broadcasts we are."

Americans have lived in such an open society that they are oblivious to the enmity triggered by the United States' paramount role as the economic, military, and cultural behemoth of the world, Putzel says.

"We seem to feel we can relax in our environment. But there's a huge part of the world that is anti-American," said Putzel. "It is so easy to get the public unduly excited. It has caused the American public to be edgy and it's a perfect time for groups to erode morale."

Rather than just relying on Washington, state and local leaders should be doing more to strengthen a soft society's ability to face its fears, says Putzel, a former mayor of Naples, Fla.

"I think a lot of lessons in World War II could be of great use now," Putzel said. "But several generations of individuals come along, and to many of them, the Second World War is no different than the War of 1812."

That 19th-century conflict offers an example of how Americans have rebounded from attacks on their homefront. The 40-year-old United States survived the rematch with the British empire even after the enemy had set fire to the Capitol and the mansion of President James Madison. First Lady Dolley Madison wouldn't get into her getaway stagecoach until grabbing the portrait of George Washington.

Though the presidential mansion was badly damaged, it was rebuilt on an even grander scale. The exterior smoke damage was covered with heavy coats of white paint. Hence the nickname, the White House. The painting of Washington still hangs.

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