Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Why, Look You Now, How Unworthy a Thing You Make of Me!
This Hitler mania has many pernicious implications. First, and most obviously, seeing Hitler and appeasement everywhere risks plunging the United States into endless war. By representing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, for example, as Hitlerian, one stymies debate about policy. (Are you opposed to confronting Hitler?) It is particularly bizarre that those who view American power as having an almost magical ability to transform the world also believe that any number of two-bit dictators measure up to the threat posed by Hitler.
In truth, the gap between a Saddam Hussein or an Ali Khamenei and Adolf Hitler is enormous. All of the supposed modern day Hitlers have presided over sclerotic economies and led states with barely a hope of defending themselves, let alone overrunning an entire continent or the world. Hitler, by contrast, existed in an entirely different environment. The military balance in 1930s Europe made it far from irrational for Hitler to think that it may be possible for Nazi Germany to consolidate control over the continent. [...]
As Jeffrey Record of the Air War College observed in his book The Specter of Munich, "no post-1945 foreign dictatorship bears genuine comparison to the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler." Record argues that "the problem with the Munich analogy is that it reinforces the presidential tendency since 1945 to overstate threats for the purpose of rallying public and congressional opinion, and overstated threats encourage resort to force in circumstances where nonuse of force might better serve long-term U.S. security interests."
All of which brings us back to Iran. Another AEI scholar, Michael Ledeen, has argued that there is a danger that Washington may decide to "surrender" to Iran's desire to "create a global caliphate modeled on the bloodthirsty regime in Tehran." But how would this would this work, exactly? Do we have reason to believe that anyone -- the Russians, or the Chinese, to say nothing of ourselves -- are going to somehow acquiesce to Iranian domination of the world order? It's never spelled out.
When you hear the specter of Hitler, Munich and/or Chamberlain being evoked in the context of a foreign policy discussion, bells and whistles should go off. The speaker is almost certainly engaging in a cynical excercise whereby an analogy to Hitler is used to vastly inflate the threat posed by the new "Hitler" and cut off rational debate surrounding possible ways of confronting that leader/entity.
In other words: the Hitler analogy is used by proponents of military solutions who are not confident that they can make a sound case for war on the merits, and so instead go for cheap scare tactics and rank pathos. But if such pundits and policymakers can't make a sound case for war without employing deeply flawed historical references that are chosen to maximize emotional, fear based reactions, then there most likely isn't...a sound case for war.Something to keep in mind, especially considering the Hitler du Jour who's all the rage.