Tag Archives: ad hiterlum

You justify your war with the analogies you have

Believe it or not, this is an argument for attacking Syria:

World War II began 74 years ago Sunday when German troops invaded Poland. The invasion conclusively discredited the concept of “appeasement” as a foreign policy for, well, the next 74 years. But if the U.S. Congress opposes authorization of the military mission to Syria that President Obama has now handed off to it, and if Obama uses that as an excuse to back further away from enforcement of his “red line,” the “A” word will likely come to dominate the international debate once again.

And Barack Obama, who in his first term was known as the vanquisher of Osama bin Laden, could come out of his second looking more like Neville Chamberlain.

I don’t want to overstate things. Bashar al-Assad, a tinpot dictator who is fighting only for his own survival, is no Hitler. He’s not set to overrun an entire continent. And the “lessons of Munich” and the dangers of appeasement are generally overdrawn. But, after all, it was Secretary of State John Kerry who lumped Assad with the Fuehrer on the talk shows Sunday, saying that he “now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] have used these weapons in time of war.” (Technically, Hitler’s only use of gas was not on the battlefield but to kill millions in extermination camps.)

Gee, if “appeasement,” “Munich,” and “Hitler” are terrible analogies to the civil war in Syria, why use them?  My advice would be not.  But that’s why I don’t make the big money.

But in all seriousness, all the talk of Hitler and Munich and such  is really just to set up the mother of all slippery slopes (for those keeping track at home, that was a reference to Saddam Hussein of Gulf Wars I and II fame–he also used to be Hitler):

Yet that international order is what is now in some danger, 74 years later. After all, it was just this kind of war weariness that created Neville Chamberlain, and his foreign policy of “positive appeasement” as he called it, in the years after the terrible bloodletting of World War I. If one becomes unwilling to strike dictators and mass murderers, all that remains is to appease them.

Come to think of it, this is also a false dichotomy: there’s “appeasing” (giving in to expansionist and genocidal demands–here Assad has none that I’m aware of) and military strikes.  I can imagine one or two other possibilities.

Not the way to conduct reasonable political discourse

It is very hard to have an adult discussion about distributive justice when the very notion sends some people’s minds sliding down slippery slopes to Hitler and Stalin (see yesterday on the ad stalinem).  A recent exchange illustrates this point.  Last month, fellow Chicagoan Harold Pollack wrote a reply to Greg Mankiw’s defense of the 1 percent.  Pollack argued for some version of distributive justice.  This prompted the following comment from John Goodman, health care policy person:

In some ways this is all very surprising. After all, the 20th century was the century of collectivism. It was the century of communism, socialism, national socialism (fascism) and the welfare state. Each and every one of these isms was devoted to taking from some and giving to others. After all these years and all that misery you would think that someone, somewhere would have perfected an argument for forcible redistribution of income. And yet what we find today at the leftwing blogs is truly pitiful.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. The left is intellectually bankrupt. It has been that way for almost a half century.

Sorry, but this is moronic and just a bit insulting, as Pollack himself notes in a comment on the post:

“In some ways this is all very surprising. After all, the 20th century was the century of collectivism. It was the century of communism, socialism, national socialism (fascism) and the welfare state. Each and every one of these isms was devoted to taking from some and giving to others. After all these years and all that misery you would think that someone, somewhere would have perfected an argument for forcible redistribution of income….”

Having grown up with refuseniks and the children of holocaust survivors victimized by the first three isms you mention, I find this crude paragraph especially insulting. Social democracies and liberal welfare states–whatever faults they may have–should not be likened to to criminal authoritarian regimes. That’s not the way to conduct reasonable political discourse. Harold Pollack

That bolded sentiment is exactly right.  Goodman, ever clueless, responds:

Harold makes a point that deserves a thoughtful response.

I do indeed see all the collectivist isms of the 20th century as forming a continuum. Some were more brutal than others in practice of course — a lot more brutal. But ideologically speaking, the differences among them are differences of degree, not of kind.

This is how people in the 20th century also saw things. Roosevelt, Stalin and Hitler all believed they were more ideologically similar to each other than to classical liberalism. In fact for all three, the principal philosophical enemy was liberalism. This is also how Woodrow Wilson and other progressives thought. (See Jonah Goldberg’s lay history of the early 20th century progressives for a very readable summary.)

Also, this is the way they thought in the universities.

It’s a slippery slope, he insists (also, Jonah Goldberg, seriously?).  Pollack replies:

My last comment on this unfortunate thread. The distinction between the first three isms and the rest resides in institutions which respect political liberty, the rule of law, checks and balances, and other features of constitutional democracy. The U.S., Sweden, Britain, France, and year-2013 Germany have these institutions, laws, practices, and political norms. Nazi Germany, the USSR, and many other authoritarian regimes of the right and left did not.

That was nice of Pollack to try one more time, but Goodman’s entire approach is a textbook slippery slope to Communism and Hitler.  I don’t know if any more refutation is necessary.

You know who also voted in high numbers? Nazis, that’s who.

Here is George Will on why the Obama administration’s attempt to make voting easier (i.e., to remove various local impediments to voting) is not desirable:

In 1960, 62.8 percent of age-eligible citizens voted. In the 13 subsequent presidential elections, lower turnouts than this have coincided with the removal of impediments to voting (poll taxes, literacy tests, burdensome registration and residency requirements). Turnout has not increased as the electorate has become more educated and affluent and as government has become more involved in Americans’ lives. There are four obvious reasons for nonvoting.

One is contentment. Americans are voluble complainers but are mostly comfortable.

Second, the stakes of politics are agreeably low because constitutional rights and other essential elements of happiness are not menaced by elections. Those who think high voter turnout indicates civic health should note that in three German elections, 1932-33, turnout averaged more than 86 percent, reflecting the terrible stakes: The elections decided which mobs would rule the streets and who would inhabit concentration camps.

Third, the winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes in 48 states — an excellent idea, for many reasons — means that many state races are without suspense. (After their conventions, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigned in just eight and 10 battleground states, respectively.)

Fourth, gerrymandered federal and state legislative districts reduce competitive races.

Even if you disregard the Godwinism (which you really shouldn’t, by the way), the idea that high voter turnout correlates with lack of civic health doesn’t square with the facts.  Check out Sweden, or just about any other advanced democracy; their turnout is largely higher than ours.  I know what you’re going to say: but Sweden is in Europe, and didn’t Hitler come from Europe?

via Balloon Juice.

See also Alex Pareene, on the Washington Post’s op-ed page.  Here’s a taste:

When George Will isn’t being dishonest, he’s usually being wrong. He lies about climate change. He claims that anti-voter suppression efforts are actually about mandatory voting, something few liberals and no elected Democratic leaders support. George Will decided that college football is “liberal” because he doesn’t like football and he doesn’t like liberal things, so things he doesn’t like must be liberal. George Will said that if Obama won it would be because he was lucky enough to be black, and Americans didn’t want to look racist by voting against him. That was another entry in his long history of worrying that America was being too nice to black people. Will also predicted Romney would win 321 electoral votes and that Minnesota’s marriage amendment would swing the state Republican.

Read the whole thing.