02 September 2006

Olbermann vs. Rumsfeld

A few days ago, Donald Rumsfeld spoke to the American Legion, working the ol' dolchstoßlegende.

1919 was the beginning of a period where, over time, a very different set of views would come to dominate public discourse and thinking in the West.

Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be accommodated, then the carnage and the destruction of then-recent memory of World War I could be avoided.

It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and nazism, they were ridiculed or ignored. Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated or that it was someone else's problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace, even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear. It was, as Winston Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.


I recount that history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. Today—another enemy, a different kind of enemy—has made clear its intentions with attacks in places like New York and Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, Moscow and so many other places. But some seem not to have learned history's lessons.


And that is important in any long struggle or long war, where any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong, can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC commentator, comments.

About Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism:” as he was correct to remind us how a government that 'knew everything' could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that ... though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism, indeed.

Follow the link and watch the Olberman video. Really, don't miss it.


Y'know, since Rumsfeld and Olberman both touch the war hawks' theme of “appeasement” and the shade of Neville Chamberlain, I realize that I'm long overdue to link Billmon's take on the lessons of Munich.

In the neocon wisdom tale, Munich is always about Neville Chamberlain and that scrap of paper. But that's only half the story—or not even half. Hitler might never have risen to power in the first place if the allies had dealt justly with Germany and the other defeated powers at Versailles, or if the Western governments of the 1920s and early '30s had shown one tenth the willingness to compromise with the democratic governments of the Weimer Republic that they later did to appease the Nazi regime.

The British and French only understand force, the would-be Furhrer shrieked. Germany must take what was rightfully hers, instead of going hat in hand to plead for concessions.

And of course, the allies proved Hitler right .... Weimar—and democracy—were discredited and disgraced in the eyes of millions of ordinary Germans long before they started flocking to Hitler's rallies.

And after the Nazis took power, the allies proved Hitler right yet again: They willingly gave him what they had refused the democratic governments of Weimer.

Billmon applies these lessons to the US and Iran, to chilling effect.

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