Foreign Policy

Spicer, Schmicer: Interventionist Hitler Analogies Are With Us Every Day

Interventionists will continue invoking Nazi Germany without a moment's interruption


Never forget! ||| Good Land Records
Good Land Records

Now that White House Spokesman Sean Spicer has apologized for saying yesterday that "Hitler…didn't even sink to using chemical weapons," that means that stupid Nazi analogies in the service of making political points about foreign policy are finally déclassé, right? Ha ha, (jumps out of window).

No, the real lesson of Spicernacht is that you have to package your even-Hitlerism with at least one layer of abstraction. Better to talk about Neville Chamberlain (the guy who appeased Hitler), or the Munich Agreement (in which Hitler was appeased), than rely solely on the H-man himself. Then you can get on with the real business, which is advocating that the U.S. military kill more people in the name of saving them.

Here's the skeezy Trump television apologist Jeffrey Lord, for example, writing in The American Spectator:

What President Trump delivered to Syria the other night was one of the oldest messages in human history, a message that unfortunately repeatedly gets forgotten. The message: There is peace through strength. And if a peaceful nation warns a bully to stop its bullying behavior — woe betide the peaceful nation if it doesn't carry through with its warning.

The most vivid example of this, of course, was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's repeated appeasement of Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

Or retired Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata, writing at The Hill:

In the wake of Tuesday's Syrian chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians, President Barack Obama will be remembered as America's modern day Neville Chamberlain, the infamous United Kingdom Prime Minister who appeased Nazi Germany in 1938 by signing the Munich Agreement, setting the stage for the holocaust. […]

If Obama's passivity in the face of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) deployed in Syria in 2013 lends to Chamberlain comparisons, President Donald Trump's military action against Syria this week compares favorably to Winston Churchill, Chamberlain's effective wartime successor.

Or Clifford May in the Washington Times:

In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and communists, enemies whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.

In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. If Mr. Trump has grasped that within his first 100 days, he's not off to such a bad start.

The world has thankfully seen no Hitler since Hitler, despite the worst efforts from the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, and the grotesque crime family in North Korea. Yet if we suspended Godwin's bogeyman from the national foreign policy lexicon, hawks would have to find some new language to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, advocate taking out Assad, or even lamely attempt to retroactively justify the Iraq War. As I wrote in this space 14 freaking years ago,

This is a real good book, BTW. ||| Harper

"Munich i.e., the consequences of appeasing fascist aggression in the 1930s was invoked in the late 1940s on behalf of establishing the containment of Soviet power and influence as the organizing principle of American foreign policy," former Armed Services Committee staffer Jeffrey Record wrote in a March 1998 Air War College paper entitled Perils of Reasoning by Historical Analogy: Munich, Vietnam, and American Use of Force Since 1945. "It was subsequently invoked on behalf of the Truman administration's decision to fight in Korea; on behalf of containment's militarization and extension to Asia and the Middle East; and on behalf of the Johnson administration's decision to intervene in the Vietnam War."

John F. Kennedy wrote his senior honors thesis on "Appeasement at Munich," and invoked the lessons learned during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The first President Bush, whenever he was on the verge of going wobbly about expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, relocated his spine by reading books like Martin Gilbert's The Second World War: A Complete History. "Nothing like this since World War II," he told interviewer David Frost on Dec. 16, 1990, as recounted in Bob Woodward's The Commanders. "Nothing of this moral importance since World War II."

Bill Clinton started as a Vietman Syndrome president, but ended as a notable Munichite. The turning point was the April 1993 opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. […]

[T]he Czech-born Madeleine Albright…made a point of telling reporters that "Munich is my mindset." Chamberlain's appeasement thus made a comeback during American interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Some of the same people busy mocking Spicer yesterday will now get back to their regular programming of redeploying Hitler in a never-ending game of keyboard Risk. If history is any guide, they will not feel even a moment's hesitation, let alone shame.

After the jump, the very best bit of even-Hitlerism: