Stop the Hitler Comparisons
Published: March 20, 2014 (Issue # 1802)
In response to Russia's intervention in Crimea, a powerful anti-Russian discourse is spreading across Western media. Russia's actions are compared to those of Nazi Germany, which incorporated Austria in 1938 before breaking up Czechoslovakia and igniting a World War. The implication is that the West must not follow France's and Britain's 1938 example by appeasing an aggressive Russia and that only tough actions may stop President Vladimir Putin from further expansion into Ukraine or even beyond.
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In the U.S., politicians as different as Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have endorsed the appeasement theory. Those with nationalist Eastern European roots, too, have been vocal in applying the theory to Russia. For example, writing in The Guardian, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili darkly warned that "the cycles of appeasement usually get shorter with geometric progression" and that the longer Putin stays in power, the sooner he will be likely to "strike again."
We have watched this play before when those who stood in the way of U.S. hegemony were being compared to Hitler. First, it was former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic who refused to follow the U.S.-negotiated peace accord. Then came former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was accused of building nuclear weapons and conspiring with al-Qaida, none of which proved true. Unsurprisingly, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and Syria's Bashar Assad were also compared to Hitler. Each time, the vision of a "bloody dictator" and "murderous thug" was heavily publicized in the Western media with the implication that the U.S. must urgently confront the aggressor and save global civilization from horrors of another holocaust and World War.
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None of these dictators elicit any sympathy, of course. Yet in each case, the comparison with Hitler was vastly overdrawn. Far from being Hitlers, they were regional strongmen with ambitions to control their own country by suppressing opposition. Although their foreign policies had a potential to destabilize their regions, none had an explicit expansionist design. Although the U.S. has no vital interests in those regions, it should speak out against gross violations of human rights. But it should have employed concerted diplomatic actions to address them. Instead, a regime change strategy was adopted. As a result, democracy was associated with putting a U.S.-friendly regime in power rather than supporting democratic processes. As to those daring to oppose the U.S.' global agenda, they risked to be isolated at best — and killed at worst.
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