Rush Explains All

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Had a hard time following all that Old Europe/New Europe stuff? Reader Michael Stack directs me to Rush Limbaugh's explanation, which begins with this priceless statement: "The French, Germans and Belgians have become pacifist nations, while all the nations who suffered under Hitler and the USSR stand with the United States."

Stack comments: "Wow. I guess France must have enjoyed Nazi occupation during World War II. Further, I guess you can't give Germany too much credit for suffering under Hitler (perhaps akin to smokers blaming the tobacco companies for cancer), but I would have thought that the residents of the eastern half of Germany would have had an issue or two with the USSR; apparently not. Mega dittos to Rush for clarifying the issue."

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  1. “Wow, I guess France must have enjoyed Nazi occupation during World War II.”

    They sure seemed to be having a good time on “Allo, allo!”

  2. Stack’s points are very close to what I said myself in my (belated) Hit & Run rebuttal to Vaclav Havel (see Havel on Iraq). I guess some people are always looking for simple explanations where they don’t exist.

  3. Rush is making himself irrelevant. The worst thing that could happen to his show was for Bush to win the election.

    I noticed he couldn’t resist taking another swing at Clinton, too. Two days after 911 the dittoheads were blaming the former administration. They have continued that stuff on the economy, on Iraq, on North Korea and on and on. Finally, about a month ago Albright, Holbrooke and Clinton started swinging back. I find it hard to blame them.

  4. What’s controversial about what Limbaugh said? If he’d said–as he certainly could have meant–that the nations supporting the war are those who suffered aggression from both Hitler and the USSR, that would neatly divide the two camps, since Germany can’t be said to have suffered the aggression of Hitler, and France can’t be said to have suffered the aggression of the USSR.

  5. I wonder what Michael Moore thinks about this issue? And Micheal Jackson? And Stone Cold Steve Austin? And Alf?

    Does anybody really see Rush for anything but an entertainer?? Who give a shit what he says.

  6. Alf says, “To reach the devil, use 10-10-666.”

  7. >> Finally, about a month ago Albright, Holbrooke and Clinton started swinging back. I find it hard to blame them.

  8. I’m confused by the phrase “the nations who suffered under Hitler and the USSR.” Since when did Russia and Germany become allies in World War II? I was always thought that Russia WAS one of the nations that suffered under Hitler.

  9. >> Since when did Russia and Germany become allies in World War II?

  10. I should clarify that what we draw different conclusions about are the applicabity of 1930’s Europe to Iraq and to the priority of military power (not that I’m agreeing with France and Germany across the board). My main point is that this who suffered and who didn’t issue is moot.

  11. fyodor:

    Thomas’s point (I think) is that Stack (and by posting Stack’s comments, Jesse) are attacking Limbaugh for a factual inconsistency that he does not make. France did not “suffer under Hitler *and* the USSR,” which makes Stack’s rant pointless. (At least that was going to be my point until I saw that Thomas had already posted it.)

    The point I was trying to make is that the lesson of Hitler and the USSR are the same: that collectivism (statism, communism, nazism, Baathism, etc.) is evil to the extent that it opposes individualism. Opposition to Hitler, communism, Saddam are of a peice. I agree that different people are drawing different conclusions. But it is relevant to point out that the nations more accutely aware of the dangers of collectivism, because of their recent history, are more supportive of removing Saddam by force.

  12. James,

    Yes, you are correct about what Thomas was saying, in a direct sense. However, for Limbaugh to have meant what Thomas claims he meant only makes sense if Limbaugh was saying that suffering under both regimes makes you aware of the dangers of totalitarianism while suffering under only one makes you pacifistic. So for Thomas to defend Limbaugh on those grounds would seem to indicate that he agrees. And if he doesn’t, then my satirical comment only applies to Limbaugh.

    And maybe to you, too?

    Well whatever. My larger point is that even if eastern Europe is more wary of Hussein because of communism, that still leaves open the question of whether their history has made them wiser or just more paranoid. And in fact, some in eastern Europe have used the “experience” argument in the opposite direction visa vi the U.S. In general, I’m skeptical that first hand suffering necessarily gives one greater insight or objectivity.

  13. It could be that Eastern Europe is more wary of Saddam because they live closer to him. But that would shoot the whole ideology theory to shit, wouldn’t it?

  14. Posted by: But then, the Arab nations that are yet closer to Saddam are quite opposed to our war. Further demonstrating the fallacy of facile explanations for why who thinks what!!

  15. Fyodor,

    You are ignoring the relevance of the timeline in your “1 = pacifist, 2 = freedom fighter” strawman. You are also ignoring the context.

    The opposite side in the debate keeps pointing out that “Europe” is opposed to action in Iraq. It is not unreasonable to point out that part of it does not. It is also reasonable to point out which side of the debate places more of a premium on individual liberty than the other.

    If you do not accept that the eastern Europeans have a firmer grasp on the importance of individual liberty, than the argument is not persuasive. But it is reasonable to try to make it as a counter argument to anyone who accepts the relevance of what Europe thinks.

    It is perfectly reasonable to use ad hominum arguments as a counter to an ad hominum argument.

    No one is suggesting that the United States go to war because Eastern Europe thinks it should.

  16. James,

    Re the “timeline” aspect. Since Limbaugh (and then Thomas) first brought up Hitler, it seemed relevant to point out that the so-called pacifists suffered just as much under Adolph. And it is only a strawman if neither Rush nor Thomas meant what I described. I still don’t know.

    If what *you* are saying (as opposed to anyone else) is simply that eastern Europe’s more *recent* experience with Communism per se is what is relevant, then I would gladly drop the Hitler part of the equation and refer you to my other comments on the topic.

    Regarding individualism, I agree (and more or less said so already) that perhaps those who have lived under a collectivist regime may have a better appreciation for individualism than those who have never had their individual rights taken away. (It’s very possible, but I wouldn’t want to bank on it; there’s always a myriad of reasons why any group of people believe the way they do.)

    But I wonder what the Iraq issue has to do with individualism? If anything, making war on Iraq is a crime against the individualism of those who are not responsible for Hussein’s crimes.
    In any event, I agree with you that it’s silly to paint all of “Europe” one way or another when various European countries disagree with each other so strongly.

  17. Not to mention all the disagreement within them. Lots of people marched against the war in the so-called “New Europe” countries.

  18. James,

    Re: No one is suggesting that the United States go to war because Eastern Europe thinks it should.

    I dunno, I think the implication of Rush (and Havel) is that eastern Europe is more aware of the dangers of totalitarian aggression and therefore we should listen to them, while France, Germany and Belgium have had it easy and therefore don’t understand the nature of evil and should therefore be ignored. As that an unfair characterization?

    Maybe that doesn’t mean we should go to war *just* because eastern Europe thinks so, but I think those who follow Limbaugh’s reasoning are implying that eastern Europe has a particularly good insight into the situation. And since they invoked Hitler, I’ve pointed out (as well as Walker) that that’s a bogus distinction between eastern Europe and France. I’ve also pointed out that their suffering doesn’t necessarily make eastern Europeans wiser on the subject than anyone who hasn’t suffered in the same way. Nothing more, nothing less.

  19. I should say that I don’t think Rush’s comments are thoughtful or useful in any way. I just expect more from Reason than this sort of attack. Picking one sentence out of a very short commentary (from Ruch Limbaugh for God’s sake!) which is obviously not pretending to be a comprehesive argument, then picking it apart for a rhetorical flaw which does not exist, is not useful either.

    *My* original point is that there is an underlying philosophy to Reason, and most libertarians – that individuals should be free to live their lives as they see fit. With the exception of Ronald Bailey, I have not seen a treatment of war on Iraq on idealogical grounds at Reason Online. I was trying to frame the question of eastern vs western European support for deposing Saddam in terms of the idealogical struggle between collectivism and individualism. And wondering why the Reason Online editors never do the same for that or other questions about the Iraq situation.

    To answer your question, in terms of the individual vs collectivism, the libertarian cause would be advanced by the Iraqis who are able to live more freely in a post-Saddam Iraq, and injured by the dead and crippled the war creates. You could also reasonably argue about how much the war would advance the reach of the state which would ultimately be harmful, etc, etc. There are reasonable arguments for both sides. I just think its odd that I don’t see the question framed that way here.

  20. Note that Mr. Limbaugh used the conjunctive (“and”), not the disjunctive (“or”). French and Belgians did not suffer under both Hitler and USSR. True, the east Germans did, but they’re probably still on the debit side of the ledger. In any case, the rule of “de minimis non curat lex” would apply to the former East Germans.
    So Rush is essentially right.
    David Palmer

  21. Word up, girlfriend. Thats why I have glued my radio knob onto NPR, no pandering, just news for the common man.

  22. fyodor,

    What I think is that if you believe that eastern Europeans do have a unique insight into the nature of totalitarianism, than Rush’s statement is not so assanine as to merit pulling it out of context and pretending it falls apart on its own. If the statement by itself was ridiculous, then it would merit that kind of treatment.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that eastern Europeans have that kind of insight, based on their history. I also think that it is reasonable to not be convinced of it.

    It is also reasonable to believe, and I thought interesting to point out, (probably poorly,) that the schism between eastern and western European opinion on Iraq could be thought of as the diference between the lesson of “Hitler + USSR” is in fact different from the lesson learned by “just Hitler.”

    I don’t think Rush meant anything like this, I just think it was a carelessly written sentence.

    In other words, he was attacked for a point he was not trying to make, but which could be made. Which is silly.

  23. I think the problem with all this parsing of Limbaugh’s words, why it’s so wrenching to find their definitive meaning, is simply that the piece is not a painstakingly ‘written’ essay; it is the text of an extemporaneous monologue from his show. There are plenty of ways to hear it and know what he must have meant to say…or better, what he meant to mean…but there are bound to be inexactitudes (

  24. It seems to me there are basically 3 defenses of Rush’s quote: “Rush may have said it, but that’s not really what he meant”, or, “Rush was speaking off-hand, and may have made a simple mistake”, or “You all have misinterpreted what Rush said”.

    Clearly, Rush is trying to divide Europe into two groups of countries – those who know what it’s like to be oppressed by a dictator, and therefore support our desire to oust Saddam, and those “pacifist” countries who’ve never tasted dictatorial oppression, and therefore don’t truly understand what is at stake.

    His argument carries a certain amount of merit, until he mentions France. His inclusion of France can’t be considered an accident, or a mere slip of the tongue excused by the pace and length of his radio show. France and Germany represent the two largest European countries opposed to military action in Iraq. Listen to Rush’s show, and you’ll hear many mentions of both countries. France represents such an integral part of the opposing coalition that its alleged accidental inclusion is as likely as Rush mistakenly referring to an invasion of Switzerland when he really meant Iraq.

    Some posters have asserted that what Rush *really* meant is that France didn’t suffer under the burden of *both* German and USSR aggression. Even if we grant Rush such an unlikely interpretation, how much sense does that make? What, France was occupied by Germany for 4 years, but since they weren’t also occupied by the USSR, they haven’t tasted true oppression?

    Whether the general thrust of Rush’s argument is true is a point worth debating. However, when Rush attempts to buttress his argument with a point so patently false and ridiculous, it is difficult to take anything else he says very seriously.

  25. I got all cracked up at the end–it should read “miserable failure.” not “miserably failure.” Melancholy thoughts of being forced to turn to NRO blurred my vision and darkened my heart….

  26. Michael Stack, I don’t think it was a ‘mistake’ when Limbaugh seemed to say that France is a country that didn’t suffer under Nazi-ism. au contraire; he was probably implying that, due to their quasi-willful, complimentary and timely surrender, they were spared the horror that befell those communities that dared to resist the bastards.
    Many many brave and heroic French were in “the Resistance”; but just the fact that we call ’em “The French Resistance” shows where most of ’em where: grazing in the soft green fields of civil apathy.

  27. The political elite of France, Germany and England all want regain their former glory. The UK sees attaching itself to the US as a path to this, while France and Germany want to use a united Europe under the EU as their path. The best way to demonstrate their new power is to put themselves in opposition to the current reigning power – the US. Eastern Europe realizes it will never be a Superpower, atleast not in this part of the century, so it’s main goal is to check the power of France and Germany – hence its support of the US. No one expects Eastern Europe to provide any soldiers or money, so their support is really just a way to knock France and Germany down a peg or two.

  28. It’s worth pointing out, I think, that not only did France suffer less under Nazism (and for only about 4 years) than many other nations, but it was also France who played a role in allowing Nazism’s military rise. If their attitude toward Hitler (of all people) was one of appeasement, then their intransigence toward a war in Iraq should come as no surprise. (Assuming directly commensurate attitudes between past and future Frenchmen, which may be a stretch, given the passage of time.)

    Further, not only was Eastern Europe only freed of its communist yoke very recently, it also bore its authoritarian burden for far longer a time span than any country suffered Hitler. That, coupled with the fact that the former members of the resistance against the communists now have majority control in their nations, could explain some of the difference.

    Also, both France and the burgeoning democracies of Eastern Europe are trying to jockey for position in a rapidly changing continent. France has its ambition of becoming a stronger military entity, and through that a stronger force in general. Eastern Europe’s countries are small and powerless and stand to gain much through their support of Washington. (Although I believe there is a genuinely positive sentiment toward the U.S. in these countries.) So, in the end, there are social reasons for the actions of France and Eastern Europe, but also very pragmatic, self-interested ones.

  29. geophile,

    You make a good point that eastern Europe suffered under communism for much longer and until much more recently than France suffered under Hitler.

    However, I return to my point of: so what? Do victims of a particular evil automatically become experts about how to deal with that evil?

    My sister is a social worker who has worked with drug addicts. When I argue for drug legalization, she loves to claim that the drug addicts she worked with WANTED drugs to be illegal!! Legal drugs would be too much of a temptation!! How “expert” should we consider these people’s unique perspective?

    I also think there’s a veritable plethora of reasons why any one person adopts any particular position on any particular issue, and which is no less true when you’re talking about an entire nation of people. To reduce it all to one reason is…well, Reductionism!!! Geophile makes mention of other possible reasons for the differences between various European nations on Iraq, and I applaud him for that.

  30. Enough. It was a stupid comment, which seems to distract from the real reason (hint, hint, I’m trying to read Rush’s mind…) that the Eastern European view was brought up in the first place, to show that the US government isn’t alone in its views. Considering the fact that I recently heard a peace protester mentioning how much she admired France for standing up to a ‘unilateralist US’, Rush needs to shout out his rantings as much as he can. I got news for you: the debate is over. I doubt an anti-war protester will ever get enough proof or enough countries to satisfy them; I would assume at a Reason site we would all realize that. I assume that the more intelligent protesters realize that an Iraqi civilian won’t feel any better getting hit by a green bomb marked “USAF” or a nice shiny blue bomb marked “UN”.
    I used to like the libertarian side because they attacked all the tired old static crap equally with reason: Hit and Run is a miserably failure on this part. The best part of this blog is the comments section.

  31. Regarding France, the Vichy Government seemed to enjoy German occupation. They exceeded their quotas regarding sendign Jews to be exterminated.

    You know those trees along the Champs Elysee? I think they were planted so that Hitler could walk in the shade.

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