If you could go back to 1889 and strangle Adolf Hitler in his crib, would you do it? At one level, the answer is obvious. Of course, you should. If there had been no Hitler, presumably the Nazi Party would have lacked the charismatic leader it needed to rise to power. Presumably, there would have been no World War II, no Holocaust, no millions dead on the Eastern and Western fronts.Do you think a liberal on a major newspaper's op-ed page could get away with saying that maybe Hitler's rule had a silver lining? If a liberal columnist wrote this in order to set up the argument that one should be careful before rethinking a major policy blunder by a Democratic president, how long would it be before Drudge or Breitbart or Gateway Pundit or Twitchy had the screaming headline "LIB NY TIMES COLUMNIST SAYS FEMINISM, SOCIALISM JUSTIFY HOLOCAUST"? How long would it be before aging survivors of the camps or World War II combat were appearing on Fox to say that the columnist desecrated the memory of the six million of the men who died on Normandy Beach? (And no, I don't think it would be any help if the columnist, like Brooks, happened to be Jewish, if this argument was made in defense of a Democratic president or a liberal policy.)
But, on the other hand, if there were no World War II, you wouldn’t have had the infusion of women into the work force. You wouldn’t have had the G.I. Bill and the rapid expansion of higher education. You wouldn’t have had the pacification of Europe, Pax-Americana, which led to decades of peace and prosperity, or the end of the British and other empires.
History is an infinitely complex web of causations. To erase mistakes from the past is to obliterate your world now. You can’t go back and know then what you know now. You can’t step in the same river twice.
So it’s really hard to give simple sound-bite answers about past mistakes.
I realize that True Conservatives don't consider Brooks one of their own, and I know that Brooks says some negative things about the war in this column (though not nearly enough). But the Hitler bit is meant to defend the war, its architects in the Bush administration, and its onetime cheerleaders, Brooks included. So he's doing the right's bidding. That means this is non-controversial, in a way it wouldn't be coming from a liberal.
For an excellent parody of this column, go read Yastreblyanky.