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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who's the next Hitler? (Not who you think!)

How many times have you heard somebody dub an unpopular world leader "The Next Hitler?" These days, seems like there are as many Next Hitlers trotting the globe as there are Next Jordans in the NBA.

Granted, there are good reasons to keep a close eye on any upcoming Fuhrer. Considering just how many opportunities there were to stop Hitler early on without much difficulty or expense, it seems like every watchdog wants to play the prophetic Churchill to the world's shortsighted Chamberlain — because ideally, identifying The Next Hitler can prevent The Next World War II.

When sniffing out The Next Hitler, it's important not to focus too much on the mass murder of the 1940's. Horrible as his six-year romp through Europe was, the world was already far too late by the invasion of Poland in 1939 or even the annexation of Austria in 1938. The seeds of the Third Reich were planted years before, when a mass feeling of betrayal and resentment steered a powerful nation ready for a scapegoat and a hero.

So the question is, which current world leader best fits the path Hitler was on in the 1930's? Who has the potential to lead his country to globally disastrous ends?

Let's take a closer look at some popular choices:

Kim Jong-il, North Korea. He's an out-of-touch loose cannon with nuclear potential, a large standing army and an invasion-worthy neighbor, but North Korea is no Nazi Germany. Limited by less-than-nil resources and a starving, backward population, Kim's delusions of grandeur are reduced to little more than poorly planned blackmail.

Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda. If by The Next Hitler you mean The Next Big Villain, then sure, Osama's it. But besides a few overlapping items of ideology, they have very little in common. Dictators who run countries have to deal with countless phony votes, bullshit treaties and irresponsible governance that independent terrorists need never worry about.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran. Now this guy's not too far off. With his consistent flouting of "international law and order," Ahmadinejad is certainly steering Iran down a path of high risk and high reward. But for as scary as a nuclear Iran may be, it commands nowhere near the power Nazi Germany had relative to the rest of the world.

Fidel Castro, Cuba. The only people who consider Castro a potential Hitler are Florida congressmen on an election year.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela. Sure, he's loud, volatile and likely to stir up some trouble for the US, but it ends there. Chavez is nothing without bigger, stronger allies to back him up — kinda like that little shit with the big brother on your block growing up. In other words, Mussolini.

Saddam Hussein, Iraq. Saddam only makes this list of "world leaders" because A) he still considers himself the president of Iraq, B) he has followers on the street who believe the same, and C) he's still alive, so anything's possible. But Saddam's always been a self-styled Stalin, right down to the moustache.

George Bush, United States. This is the one that gets everyone all riled up, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Yes, Bush commands a scary amount of power, and yes, he uses it in ways that the majority of the world — and his country — opposes. But our democracy (damaged as it may be) is not nearly a dictatorship, racial profiling at airports is not genocide, and the war on terror doesn't even count as a war compared to what the world saw 60 years ago. You hate and/or fear our president? Fine. But he's not remotely Hitler, so take it down a notch.

Vladimir Putin, Russia. Bingo. He leads a broken country that was once a global empire. He's consolidated power and now has near-total control over the media and local government. He's also a leading partner in the war on terror — much like Hitler was a bulwark against Communism — so we let him get away with a lot, particularly in Chechnya. Russia's half-assed capitalism has done nothing to curb corruption, so when the Russians have had enough humiliation and poverty, they'll follow anyone who'll promise their empire back; and unlike Hitler, Putin has a UN Security Council seat and a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons to fall back on.

So there you have it. In five to ten years, when Russia starts making claims on Georgia and Uzbekistan and Ukraine and Latvia, don't say I didn't warn you.


Blogger kevin said...

A very thought provoking post, It may be premature to assume our World War days are behind us. But what about China? They have the economy, the population (and then some)and the military strength. I've often wondered if China isn't using capitolism as a temporary tool to build up thier military to American standards.

Blogger Chance-86 said...

I think you're right-on, Mero. And I must say that, when I frist read the title, I automatically assumed that you were headed straight to the Whitehouse. I was glad to see a sensible comment about Bush. I personally think that everyone has given him far more credit than he deserves in a great number or our botched foreign affairs. I hear a lot of conservatives talking about what great fore-sight he had, and I hear the liberals talking about what an evil master-mind he is. I don't believe that he EVER could have come up with the WMD argument and pulled it off. Please! Have you evr heard the guy speak a coherent sentence? He has the IQ of a Cantelope. I think he bought into bullshit because it suited what he wanted to do. That doesn't make him a Hitler, it makes him niave. Thank you for not giving him the ridiculous credit that eveyone else does.
And you are dead-on about Russia. They are a sleeping giant, and anyone who thinks they aren't is going to be wildly surprised when Putin become's Time Magazine's Man-of-the-year for 1939...Oh wait, bad flash-back.
I have to give Kevin some credit for pointing to China...but I think China's threat is not a single "Hitler." I think China's threat is their sheer size and influence on a Global Economy. Their new-found friendship with Capitolism is a two-edged sword. It can (and will) bring their military up to speed...but it will also make them fat, lazy, McDonalds-addicted Gamers. Hell, we'll all be one big obese family in another generation or two...but lets not overlook that ominous shadow in the mean-time.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are way off. How can we possibly ignore the existence of Jeff Brook?

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

In response to Kevin,

I'm glad you brought up China. Though I'm the last one to underestimate China's rising power (my power rankings have them at #2, just behind America), I don't yet feel that they pose a Naziesque threat to the world. Notably lacking is a power-hungry leadership (if anything, the Chinese government is slowly easing off), and there are certainly no published claims in favor of land-grabbing or ethnic cleansing.

And yet, you're probably right that it may only be a matter of time before they get what they want out of capitalism before entering a "Phase III" stage of power. Keep an eye out for any increased land claims in Mongolia or the southeastern lands (Laos, Cambodia, etc) that would indicate they're ready to come out of their shell.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

In response to chance-86,

Glad you see it my way. I don't know if Time has a Russian equivalent, but if it did, Putin would have been Man of the Year for about five years in a row now...

As for Bush, I've always viewed him less by his personality and presence and more by the company he keeps. Four years ago, the Rove-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz quartet hid nothing about how they viewed the world and what they felt had to be done. And whether you believe Neoconservatism is dead on or way off, it's not a half-baked theory pushed by loonies and devils—it's a worldview that reflects a drastic raising of the stakes, and as a result understandably scares the shit out of a lot of people. But Nazism it's not.

Blogger Buck B. said...

Are you kidding me? Neoconservatism is "not a half-baked theory"? If the past three years have taught us anything, it's that the essential principles on which neoconservatism is based have absolutely no relation to the real world:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

This doesn't sound half-baked to you? Even if it sounded sort of cool at the time, it's since been bitch slapped by the "real" reality.

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

It's times like this I turn to the Good Book (which is what I call Wikipedia):

"In the context of United States foreign policy, neoconservative has another, narrower definition. Critics define it as interventionist with hawkish views on foreign policy. Supporters define it as advocating the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones."

As you can see, it's a worldview that allows for muscle-flexing, and therefor attracts a strong following of shoot-first-ask-questions-later cowboys, many of whom have the ear of the President.

But Neoconservatism is just as commonly born out of frustration for the existing methods of enforcing international law and order. If pre-emption and unilateralism ticks you off, then flipping off the Security Council should make you equally upset.

In other words, just because Operation: Iraq was such a failure, doesn't mean that the Committee on Iran will fail any less spectacularly. And that means there's a place in this world for Neocons, even if that place is not the White House.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have to agree that Putin is the logical choice. However, he does not have a radical agenda as of yet. As a former KGB agent he is as weary of the West as we are of the East. You have to remember that they were as inundated with propaganda as we were. Russia is a country that has always been the bastard step-son of the world. They always meant well for their people (its not like Lenin was evil in trying to spread the wealth) however going back to the Czars they have always done things differently then everyone else to prove their worth. Imagine doing things in a way for over 70 years in the face of adversity only to have those dreams fail on a global scale due to incompetence only to be bailed out by the country that they were taught to believe was inherently greedy and evil. Thats a big pill to swallow. Russia may be doing some things not on our agenda but they need some time to get out of old habits.

-Scott K

Anonymous Anonymous said...

*wary, sorry about the typo sis

Blogger Gordon the Gnome said...

Scott makes a good point about how bad the Ruskies have had it. Talk about a country that's been through hell and back... it's no wonder they're ready for something better. So while Putin doesn't yet have a motive for drastic measures, it may only be a matter of time—unless we do something first.

If America wants to reduce a potential growing threat from Russia, we need to somehow find a way (without being preachy or condescending) to show them our way of life can work. In fact, we may need to do that before we try it in the Middle East. If quality of life can't improve in Moscow after fifteen years of democracy and capitalism, than what can we possibly do in Baghdad?

Blogger Chance-86 said...

Damn man, you are RIGHT ON about making it work in Russia before we stick our nose into the Middle East! USSR was hungry for change, and they made the steps of their own volition. If we are going to spend billions of dollars to help make a fledgling democracy work, Russia would have been a far more fruitful venture.

Blogger Buck B. said...

Speaking of Adolf...

The Hitler vs. Coulter Quiz. See if you can correctly attribute the quotes.

Blogger Spek said...

No one should/can be compared to Hitler. It's a disgrace to those who persihed in World War II to say Hitler and Goerge W. Bush's name in the same page.

Blogger Lally Gartel said...

This is very, very true and I write about it all the time.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you all suck balls jk

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott walker?

Blogger jack reynolds said...

History tells us their will always be charasmatic leaders who believe one thing or another and convince the poor that they have an ideal solution that they should give their lives to achieve.
It will never change and the United States is the only power in history that has actually done positive things to improve world conditions.
No intelligent person believes that U.S. policies are anything more than self serving for those who create them.
If you are safe in your enviornment decide who to thank. The rest of any discussion is academic.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well well, he got the Ukraine prediction right... and within 10 years...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

USA backs down from a stronger foe every time. Look at iraq when they went to war for assuming they had wmds and much stronger militarily north Korea launching missiles over the pacific at us and we do nothing but talk. Do you really think in the modern age we as the united states can take losses on a ww2 scale 250000 or more dead. If you think about it every world war we come a little late to the party. Japan was fighting in the 30s with the Chinese and germany started in 1939 for world war 2. So if we start another war with an modern country such as north korea china or russia we might suffer losses in the millions there will be no victory in total war mothers would lose to many sons.

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.