Some comparisons between the U.S. and Nazi Germany have been appearing for quite some time within the left-wing lunatic fringe, and even occasionally in the mainstream media, and it?s time to put the comparison to the test ? is Bush another Hitler? Is the U.S. the new Nazi Germany?
When the cogent left (as opposed to the loony one) makes the comparison, they aren?t proposing that the Bush administration is the perfect parallel to the Nazi?s, only that there are some striking similarities. For example, the left doesn?t compare Hitler?s notoriously effective public speaking skills to Bush?s; nor do they claim that Bush has attempted to "nationalize" U.S. industry, ban specific books or films, physically strong-arm political opponents, write any racist tomes about American superiority, ideologically alienate a segment of the population, or call for the extradition or internment of Muslim-Americans.
So what does the left mean when they compare Bush to Hitler? Well, the coherent ones are referring to the conditions that led to the end of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi Party, when the militant right-wing pundits and activists accused the German left of being "soft," and of promoting a liberal, welfare-state mentality that would strip Germany of its national pride and historically powerful role in international affairs.
The reasoning is that, like 1920?s Germany, the U.S. is becoming increasingly polarized. On the one side are the liberals, who want peace and prosperity for Americans and the rest of the world. On the other are the right-wing warhawks, intent on forcing the U.S. into an imperialist role in world affairs. The rhetoric, say the modern leftists, is very similar ? they cite examples of Bush?s tendency to paint issues in black and white, to divide the world into good and evil, and to prefer the use of military force over diplomacy.
Bush?s use of military force, specifically in Iraq, is central to the modern leftist?s comparison of Bush to Hitler. The idea that we must "take the fight to the enemy," smacks of Hitlerian expansionism to them ? only slightly less blatant than annexing Poland. In their view, Hitler?s reasoning was similar, if not identical ? these "soft" neighboring states posed and ideological and political threat, and in order to protect themselves, Germany had to undertake a thorough political remodeling of Western Europe (and ultimately, the world). Likewise, Bush has called for the remaking of the Middle East in our image, and has tasked our military to carry it out.
The leftist pundits of today claim that the Bush Doctrine is based on the same type of reasoning as Hitler?s. They may disagree with one another over whether Bush is driven by greed, conspiratorial Jewish cabals, racism, or that he?s simply a moron ? the two things they agree on is that the Bush Doctrine is misguided and that it will do more harm than good.
So the comparison boils down to this ? Bush is like Hitler because he uses language that appeals to our militant instincts, paints his liberal political opposition as soft or weak, and makes the enemy out to be utterly evil (and ourselves as utterly good by default); and because he is too eager to use military force against a vaguely-defined, largely hidden enemy.
Unfortunately for the left, this analysis is problematic. Germany, circa 1923, was reeling from the worst military defeat in its history and some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed on a vanquished foe. Despite the sanctions, however, there was no monitoring of Germany ? no occupation that would have given the German populace the realization that they were well and truly defeated. Nazism was born in a breeding ground of unemployment, poverty, besmirched national pride, bitterness and envy. There was a power vacuum in 1920?s Germany, and the Nazi?s rushed in to fill it, promising a salve to all the ills and national glory on the horizon.
The Bush Doctrine, on the other hand, was born in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th, and bears far more similarity to the Democratic Party platform of the 1950?s and 1960?s than it does to fascism. Compare John F. Kennedy?s understanding of the role of the United States in international affairs:
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."
? to Hitler?s reasoning:
"And I can fight only for something that I love, love only what I respect, and respect only what I at least know."
The recession the U.S. suffered through for the past three years was one of the shortest and least severe in our history, and it followed an unprecedented 20-year economic boom. The middle class in the U.S. had grown steadily, as had the nation?s GDP, for more than half a century. The economic conditions of post-WWI Germany and post-9/11 America could hardly have differed more.
Furthermore, what many on the left fail to grasp is that the United States has never and will never tolerate anything resembling fascism for very long. It is antithetical to our psyche, and it is purely a product of Europe ? European history, European culture, and European psychosis. No matter how many movie tickets Michael Moore sells, Americans on the whole are smart enough to tell the difference between a proportional response to the horrific attack on 9/11, and imperialistic land-grabbing.
Finally, Americans also understand the distinction between patriotism and jingoism. Unlike many on the left, they don?t consider the terms synonymous. Americans sent hundreds of thousands of young men to Europe so that they could die protecting it in two consecutive world wars, never questioning the rightness of our cause ? and yet the nation shuddered at the hawkish, post-war remarks of George S. Patton, and promptly demanded his resignation.
The most significant difference between the right and the left today is that, unlike the left (and unlike their allies in Europe), the right has faith and confidence in the judgment of the American people.