This nice column ran last summer. Check it out. "As we all watched together, I realized that Tom and Jerry used no language. It was all physical humor. Then something magical happened: Tom smashed his face on something while chasing Jerry and we all instinctively laughed ... together."
I've long wondered if the names of the two characters referred to the English soldiers always fighting the German soldiers -- that is, the Tommies and the Jerries. If that is the case, perhaps the Tom and Jerry cartoon began as a kind of isolationist propaganda. It started in 1940, so may have been subtly making the argument that the British and the Germans would keep on fighting each other, futilely and endlessly, and that the United States should stay out.
BTW, in her book Persian Mirrors, Elaine Sciolino writes about the popularity of Tom and Jerry in Iran. No, I haven't read the book, but I just checked Google books -- I was browsing to see if anyone had ever analyzed the politics of Tom and Jerry.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.