Monday, September 02, 2013

Finally, Bashar al-Assad is officially our new "Hitler"

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has taken a dubious place in history, noting the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians outside Damascus on Aug. 21.

"Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein who have used these weapons in time of war," Kerry said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
- from Nick Gass, Kerry: Case against Assad the same Politico 09/01/2013

Of course! The US never goes to war against anybody but "Hitler."

Never mind that the thing that made Hitler "Hitler" was that he was an enemy that couldn't be appeased or deterred in his aims for external aggression, and was in command of the world's most powerful military (after Germany took over the Skoda arms works in Czechoslovakia that were ceded at the Munich Conference).

Syria's government is none of those things. So, other than everything that made Hitler "Hitler", I guess we could say that Bashar al-Assad is "Hitler" too.

One of my most popular posts here has been Jeffrey Record on appeasement 10/16/2013. It discusses a paper by Jeffrey Record in which he warns about the dangers of making every potential opponent into Hitler:

The problem with seeing Hitler in Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Saddam Hussein is that it reinforces the presidential tendency since 1945 to overstate threats for the purpose of rallying public and congressional opinion, and overstated threats in turn encourage resort to force in circumstances where deterrence, containment, even negotiation (from strength) might better serve long-term U.S. security interests. Threats that are, in fact, limited tend to be portrayed in Manichaean terms, thus skewing the policy choice toward military action, a policy choice hardly constrained by possession of global conventional military primacy and an inadequate understanding of the limits of that primacy.

If the 1930s reveal the danger of underestimating a security threat, the post-World War II decades contain examples of the danger of overestimating a security threat.
See also my posts, Review of The Specter of Munich by Jeffrey Record:

"Munich", "Munich", go away! 05/15/2008

Review of Making War, Thinking History by Jeffrey Record 11/18/2006:

No more "appeasement" 07/23/2008, which looks at Record's article, Retiring Hitler and "Appeasement" from the National Security Debate Parameters (Summer 2008), in which he says:

It is high time to retire Adolf Hitler and "appeasement" from the national security debate. The repeated analogizing of current threats to the menace of Hitler in the 1930s, and comparing diplomatic efforts to Anglo-French placating of the Nazi dictator, has spoiled the true meaning of appeasement, distorted sound thinking regarding national security challenges and responses, and falsified history. For the past six decades every President except Jimmy Carter has routinely invoked the Munich analogy as a means of inflating national security threats and demonizing dictators. Presidents and their spokespersons have not only believed the analogy but also used it to mobilize public opinion for war. After all, if the enemy really is another Hitler, then force becomes mandatory, and the sooner it is used the better. More recently, neoconservatives and their allies in government have branded as appeasers any and all proponents of using nonviolent conflict resolution to negotiate with hostile dictatorships. For neoconservatives, to appease is to be naïve, cowardly, and soft on the threat du jour, be it terrorism, a rogue state, or a rising great power. To appease is to be a Chamberlain rather than a Churchill, to comprise with evil rather than slay it. ...

If the 1930s reveal the danger of underestimating a security threat, the post-World War II decades and post-9/11 years contain examples of the danger of overestimating such threats. [my emphasis]
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