Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I know this was the ridiculous part of the latest David Books column, the part Scott Lemieux called "stoned-dorm-room stuff," rather than the truly meretricious part, which rewrote of the history of the Iraq War, but I think Brooks is lucky he can get away with it, because I don't think a liberal would:
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.

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.
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.)

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.


Bill said...

Good grief. Forget Hitler, I kinda want to strangle Brooks.

Ken_L said...

I think Brooks gets a free pass because practically everyone agrees he's a jerk. Taking him down would therefore not serve as a proxy blow against political opponents in the way taking down George Stephanopoulos would.

Philo Vaihinger said...

DB's question is "If you could go back to 1889 and strangle Adolf Hitler in his crib, would you do it?"

He deliberately chose something no one at the time would have had good reason to do and asks whether we, with our knowledge of the century since then, might want to do it if we could go back in time.

But GW's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing like that.

The decisions for war were bad choices at the time, given information available at the time, as many people insisted at the time and about every day since.

And now, looking back, with our knowledge of how things turned out, we can say things have indeed gone about as badly as expected as a result of those choices, and if we could go back in time and correct them, preventing those wars, we would, leaving aside the interesting qualms you mention about that change involving changes in who does or does not get to exist, etc.

DB is one of those who think we won the Cold War. We didn't. In a nutshell, the Russians got tired of communism and threw the bums out.

Blinded by their exaggerated notions of the efficacy of state power to control minds under totalitarianism, no one, absolutely no one, in the American classe politique thought such a thing was even possible.

But it happened before our eyes and the American conservatives have been lying about what happened, what we SAW happen, ever since.

We should call them on that lie every chance we get.

Philo Vaihinger said...

BTW, what made the "Pax Americana" DB so proudly refers to?

Russian occupation of half of Germany and nearly all of Europe south and east of their half of Germany.

In other words, a peace far more Carthaginian than the peace of Versailles American CW blames for WW2 and blames on the French, when in truth French post WW1 demands for a more extensive and lasting demilitarization and occupation of Germany were shot down by that fool, Wilson.

And French efforts to enforce compliance with the treaty right up to and after 1933 were undermined or ignored rather than backed by America.

In the interests of endless military interventionism and globalism, our political classes tell whopper lies about WW2 to make ourselves heroes who saved the world.

It was a "Pax Sovietica," not a "Pax Americana."

petrilli said...

Brooks argument is dissembling of the highest order. Who strangles babies anyway? Even Hitler babies. Put me in a time machine. I still won't strangle baby Hitler. So beside the point. "Strangle Baby Hitler" arguments obfuscate the fact that plenty of people warned the world early enough about fascism to neuter the movement. They were ignored. Adult Hitler was a solvable problem if the right arguments had been taken seriously enough, early enough. Likewise, Man-child Bush's ambitions were solvable enough at the time as well. Re-arguing the Iraq war might not win Democrats votes. It might even lose a few. It's still an argument that needs to take place if this country ever can ever hope to start venerating people who are right and vilifying people who are wrong about stuff like this.