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