It's a cliche of journalism -- hell, it's a cliche of blogging; I've done it, and if you're a blogger you probably have, too: you tick off a few details that seem to describe a contemporary situation and then say, "Contemporary Situation X? No! Event from History Y!" And everyone ooohs and ahhhs at the heretofore unrecognized parallels.
But before proceeding, you do want to make sure your parallels actually exist, and exist in a meaningful way.
Unless you're Ralph Peters. If you're Ralph Peters, you just dump a half-baked column like this into the New York Post and trust that your right-wing readers will oooh and ahhh and gasp, "Why, yes! Dubya is a lot like Lincoln, isn't he?"
Here's how he tries to show that the Civil War was really a whole lot like the Iraq war:
The liberation of millions goes ignored.
Stop right there. Was the toppling of the Saddam regime and the Saddam statues ignored? Did I hallucinate all that TV coverage back in April?
Democrats attack the Republican president over a continuing conflict, insisting it cannot be won....
Who says it can't be won? I think the conventional non-Republican wisdom is precisely that it can be won if we act like grown-ups and acknowledge how much time, money and effort we need to put into Iraq.
The president acts vigorously in response to a threat to our national survival....
Or, in the contemporary case, something that can be gussied up to look an awful lot like a threat to our national survival.
A retired general is one of the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination,...
There are nine candidates for the Democratic nomination. Wesley Clark is not one of them yet, and he may never be. McClellan actually won the Democratic nomination in 1864, while Clark almost certainly won't in 2004.
... although the Army realizes it's winning and continues to support the president.
Yeah, there's nothing but unwavering support evident here and here and here and here and here.
Continental European powers, especially France, tacitly back Washington's enemies, jockeying for financial advantage....
What financial advantage? France opposed the Iraq war knowing full well that the U.S. would topple the Saddam regime and seize the country's assets, and undoubtedly realizing that the vindictive U.S. administration would reserve the spoils of war for its own nationals and, perhaps, those of Britain.
...The media attack the president savagely, making fun of his lack of sophistication and even his appearance. Cartoonists lampoon the man even more fiercely than his policies. Leading newspapers and journals insist that his policies are disastrous and that he is unfit to lead the nation.
I've seen a lot of "Bush = chimp" stuff on the Web, but where is it in the print or broadcast media? And what's Peters's point, anyway? That anyone who's mocked for his looks in the press is another Lincoln? If so, let's build a Nixon Memorial in D.C. right now. And if being denounced in the press as "unfit to lead the nation" makes you Lincolnesque, then the most Lincolnesque president of the past quarter-century is Bill Clinton.
...The president's secretary of state is accused of failure and ineptitude....
The reaction to Colin Powell is decidedly mixed. We grumbled about the UN presentation, but at least he had the decency to leave the Niger nonsense out if it.
The verdict of the intelligentsia is unanimous: This president is leading the nation into disaster.
So, none of those Bush supporters at National Review, The Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, The Washington Times, and Fox News, not to mention the Regnery and Crown Forum and talk-radio crowds, are members of "the intelligentsia"?
Yet, the people continue to support the man....
Less and less.