Stop. Krauthammer Time.
by David Weigel
My approving link to Brendan Nyhan's Charles Krauthammer takedown has inspired e-mails like this:
Oh, c'mon! Read again what Krauthammer said: he didn't compare anyone to Hitler. Since you seem to have missed the point, here it is:
There are those who think that every problem can be solved if everyone will just get together and talk. However, there are some extreme cases, such as when dealing with a real nutcase like Hitler, when such an attitude is just foolish.
I was definitely a little glib in the original link: Krauthammer didn't directly compare all those foreign leaders to Hitler. What he did is best explained by Ross Douthat's brilliant Wall Street Journal column of a few weeks back, which grouped schools of thought on foreign policy into five categories, based on what year people thought the current crisis could be compared to.
Over the last year, though, many conservatives have been peeling away from ism, joining the "1938ists" instead, for whom Iran's march toward nuclear power is the equivalent of Hitler's 1930s brinkmanship. While most '38ists still support the decision to invade Iraq, they increasingly see that struggle as the prelude to a broader regional conflict, and worry that we're engaged in Munich-esque appeasement. This camp's leading spokesmen include Michael Ledeen, Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich. If you hear someone compare Ahmadinejad to Hitler, demand a pre-emptive strike on Iran, or suggest that the Hezbollah-Israel battle is a necessary overture to a larger confrontation, you're listening to a 1938ist.
The point I took from Nyhan's Krauthammer compilation is that the columnist goes several steps beyond his fellow 1938ists. He does not simply see Iran as a gathering storm and people who would deal with Iran as appeasers. He thought the same of Iraq. And North Korea. And China. And...