For Hillary Clinton, as for many Republicans, it's 1938 or '39 and Hitler is on the March again. Only this time his name is Putin and he is marching in Crimea. In both time and place, Hitler angst is a moveable feast.
Russian President Vladimir Putin contends ethnic Russians in Ukraine need to be protected. Clinton, the former (in chronological order) lawyer for the Senate Watergate Committee, First Lady, U.S. senator, presidential candidate, and secretary of state, noted that Hitler claimed to be protecting Germans in other lands, such as Czechoslovakia and Romania, when he began moving his armies out of Germany in the late 1930's.
"Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s," Clinton said while speaking in Long Beach, California, at a fundraising luncheon for area Boys and Girls Clubs. "All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying, 'They're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people.' And that's what's gotten everybody so nervous."
Well, okay, that does sound suspicious. If "HitPutin" or "Putler" were really a peace-loving citizen of the world, he would send his troops across an ocean and use them to protect a people roughly 5,000 miles from his own land as the United States did in Operation Iraqi Freedom, even as we were, and continue to be, engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Though she lived and campaigned in regret of it, then-Sen. Clinton voted to authorize President George W. Bush to lead that invasion — er, liberation — that brought regime change to Iraq and the blessings that followed: civil war, anarchy, and an Iraqi regime with close ties to fellow Shiites in Iran. Just what we always didn't want. Well, you know, war is hell, so put on your asbestos armor and get ready to go there again.
Mme. Clinton's successor as secretary of state, John Kerry, who also voted for Operation Iraqi Freedom when he was for it before he was against it, has also warned of the danger to world peace and international law created by the movement of Russian troops into the Ukrainian province of Crimea. Making the rounds on the talk-show circuit last Sunday morning, Secretary Kerry said: "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext." He said that with a straight, even solemn, face. That's what a secretary of state does. A secretary of state gets paid to wear a solemn face and to have amnesia about his own country's aggressions and violations of international law. Diplomacy at such a high level will suffer no foolish consistencies that are the hobgoblins of small minds. We are, after all, what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called "the indispensable nation."
That, you may recall, was the same Madeleine Albright who told the world in a 60 Minutes interview in 1996 that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, which the United Nations said were the result of U.S.-imposed economic sanctions, were worth it if it would help rid Iraq and the world of Saddam Hussein at the seat of power in Baghdad. That must have won a lot of hearts and minds for Western democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. Secretary Albright was the appointee of that other Clinton, the one who shared the office and White House with Hillary, the one named Bill. We have had quite a run of secretaries of state over the last two decades. And I haven't even mentioned Madame Mushroom Cloud, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. The only one in the bunch that appears to have been at all rational is Colin Powell, and he got taken in by "intelligence" about Iraqi weapons coming from a variety of dubious sources, including the crucial details supplied by a man called "Curve Ball." To anyone not working for the government, the code name might have been a hint that maybe the guy wasn't telling it straight.
Who was our last good secretary of state, John Quincy Adams? It was he who, back in that 19th century that Kerry suggests was too warlike, told his countrymen that our mission was to be friends of freedom everywhere, but champions and vindicators only of our own. The United States, said the great John Q., "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." But two World Wars and the Cold War changed all that. Thanks to the recent book about the Dulles brothers, we know John Foster at State and little brother Allen at the CIA often went abroad, sometimes far abroad, in pursuit of monsters to destroy, and managed to slay a few. For those of us old enough to remember him, there may yet be an outbreak of nostalgia for that gentle, soft-spoken Georgian, Dean Rusk. That can't take, however, knowing as we do that notwithstanding his genteel manners, Rusk was secretary of state during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies, when "The Best and the Brightest" men in America became the architects of the Vietnam War—you know, the war that saved us from that Hitler of Southeast Asia, Ho Chi Minh.
Mrs. Clinton's Hitler comparison has been, not surprisingly, endorsed by that old warhorse John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona — not to mention Georgia, Ukraine, and the world. That gives us some idea what the debates in the 2008 presidential campaign might have been like if Hillary had won her party's nomination — a contest between the McHillaries, the Tarzan and Jane of warhoop foreign policy. Naturally, there are other "conservatives" in the bipartisan Washington, D.C., echo chamber to parrot the Putin-is-Hitler line, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. It has even caught on internationally, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada declaring, "We haven't seen this kind of behavior since the Second World War."
Ah, the Second World War. The "good war" for the Allies, who smashed fascism and showed the world aggression doesn't pay — unless you're Joseph Stalin, or the good guys wearing the white hats. I may have missed it, but have any of those Russian soldiers in Crimea killed anyone yet? And how many people died as a result of our "liberation" of Iraq? Is not 100,000 dead, plus a couple million refugees, considered a conservative estimate?
Some "progressives" such as Hillary Clinton align themselves neatly with the "conservative" war hawks when it comes to finding a Hitler behind every army. To those folks, Hitler has made more comebacks than Jaws, climbed out of more coffins than Bela Lugosi, and had more encores than Cher. Hollywood loves sequels, but no more so than Washington, D.C. We must be up to Hitler VI or VII by now. It's only a matter of time before we run out of Roman numerals.
But we won't run out of excuses, with, in Kerry's words, many a "trumped-up pretext" for intervening in the quarrels of other nations. Not until we run out of both money and manpower and our empire collapses, dragging our Republic down with it.