More on the "U.S. as Nazi Germany" idea

My turn.

Modern political discourse is way “over-Hitler'ed” and “over-Nazi'ed.”

Common usages of the Hitler-Nazi thing are as follows:

Saddam as Hitler/Iraq as Nazi Germany.
Bush as Hitler/U.S. as Nazi Germany (old version from the 1960s and 1970s – LBJ/RMN as Hitler/U.S. as Nazi Germany).
Ahmadinejad as Hitler/Iran as Nazi Germany.
Omert (or formerly, Sharon) as Hitler/Israel as Nazi Germany.

Less frequently, but in a serious context, I have seen:

Putin as Hitler/Russia as Nazi Germany.
Blair as Hitler/U.K. as Nazi Germany.
Kim Jong Il as Hitler/North Korea as Nazi Germany
Hu Jintao as Hitler/China as Nazi Germany.

The whole Hitler-Nazi thing has become a rhetorical device, name-calling intended to diminish the person/nation so-ascribed. It has become so bad that when police officers wear polished shoes, let alone if some federal agent monitors a phone call from a U.S.-based person named Mohammed to the old homestead in Kandahar, they are now "Nazi storm troopers" or the equivalent. Cutting any slack, let alone engaging in civil (and necessary!) diplomacy with the likes of Iran, Hamas, HezbAllah, North Korea, China (on certain hot-button issues), etc., is now "appeasement." So, the political dynamic is gridlocked, and the policy makers are hamstrung by the inability to make their case through the noise of "Hitler-Nazi" catcalls.

Go back to my favorite book "As We Go Marching," by John T. Flynn. It’s a study of fascism, published in 1944 during the hardest hears of you-know-what. If any American author can claim to have grabbed the handle on understanding fascism in Germany and Italy, it was Flynn.

In his book, Chapter one was about the rise of fascism in Italy, with syndicalist roots going back to the 1860s, long before Mussolini was born. Chapter two was about the rise of fascism in Germany, with syndicalist roots going back to the 1860s, long before Hitler was born. Chapter three was about what had happened in the United States since the inauguration of Herr Woodrow Wilson, and a fast-forward to the 1930s and early 1940s of FDR. Flynn implied, but did not come right out and state, that "it might happen here." Flynn's thesis was that the U.S. political dynamic kept the country from tipping over into fascism, but it was a close call. The United States was adopting the syndicalist, big-government approach to governance, and would the "fascism" follow in due course?

So fast-forward 60 years. Are we there yet? Big government, big taxes, big spending, big regulation – big control is prevalent. But still, can you see a distinction in motive, let alone in strategy, between the United States in Iraq, and Germany in Russia? If you cannot, then get your eyes checked. The United States in Iraq IS NOT Germany in Russia. Different strategy, different national motive, different conduct of warfare and desired end state. Or, closer to home, can you discern a distinction between the inconvenience we have to deal with at airport TSA screens, and the Gestapo-control in Berlin in 1941? Really, c'mon. If you cannot make the call, then get your brain checked.

I think that Geroge Bush, 43rd U.S. president, has been horribly ill served, and certainly ill advised, by a bunch of his senior advisers, as Thomas Ricks's new book "Fiasco" makes perfectly, painfully clear. The U.S. strategic approach to the Middle East, to Iraq, to energy issues at home & abroad, has been horribly bungled and blundered to the point of "political malpractice." But absent impeachment, trial and removal of the Chief Executive (hardly a quick or painless or consensus-form of solution) in the U.S. political malpractice is only actionable at the voting booth.

The problem with the Hitler-Nazi name-calling is that it just diminishes the ability of political debate to influence or sway, let alone change opinion. Back to "Fiasco" for example. Ricks does not call Bush a Hitler, nor the U.S. a Nazi-style country. But he dissects the history of the run up to the Iraq war, the planning therefore, the conduct thereof, and the insurgent aftermath. You come away convinced that Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Wolfie, Feith, Rice, Tommy Franks, and Paul Bremer are a bunch of total strategic dumb-shits. And Ricks does not even call them strategic dumb-shits. He just lays out the evidence, and lets you make your own conclusion. My conclusion is that the top planners acted like a bunch of strategic morons, which is another way of saying strategic dumb shits. But they are not Nazis, or Hitler-clones, or anything like that. Strategic dumb-shits, yes. Nazis, no.

And the U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq? Mostly, a brilliant tactical and operational performance in the face of strategic dumb-shits giving the big orders and making the big policy decisions (disband the Iraqi Army and "de-Baath"ing Iraq…utterly stupid mistakes). Are there exceptions to tactical and operational brilliance? Yes, of course. For example, Abu Graib, and over-reliance on indiscriminate artillery and bombing, etc. Fog of war. Friction. All the usual Clausewitz stuff.Yes, sad facts of life and war, but the U.S. Army in Iraq is not the Wehrmacht or Waffen S.S. in Russia. Not even close.

Will the result of the U.S. foray into Iraq become a strategic disaster? Is Iraq "America's Stalingrad," as William Lind has argued (see the implied "Nazi" comparison?) I guess we just have to wait and see. One of the great virtues of strategy is that you can re-boot the system on occasion when things are going south on you. In Iraq, initially the United States fought the battle it wanted to fight. And then, that war ended and the other war began. That next war was the battle that the other side wanted to fight. Three years later, it has dawned on even the strategic dumb-shits of the world that that is what happened. Time for a strategic re-boot? We can only hope so.

But not to belabor the point…Hitler? Nazi? It is absurd. It is mostly useless name-calling. It diminishes the debate. Lose the Hitler-Nazi analogies. Get serious. Talk about something that matters, like Peak Oil.

Best to all…


The Daily Reckoning