Bad historical analogies for current events are the stock and trade of lazy writers and ax-grinders, and all the more pestiferous in a media environment in which any historical knowledge before about 1980 is a bit of a pleasant surprise. We’re now in the midst of an epidemic of really, really bad “Munich” analogies for the new “first step” agreement with Iran. At Reason’s Hit & Run blog, Matt Welch compiles the authors of “Munich” comparisons nicely: Bret Stephens, Ben Schapiro, James Carafano, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, John Bolton, Daniel Pipes, Tom Cotton—in other words, a predictable bunch.
Welch makes pretty short work of the substance of comparing Iran to the Nazi Germany of 1938:
As long as we’re doing historical comps here, it’s worth noting that 2013 Iran is to 1938 Germany what a flea is to a Tyrannosaurus Rex….
And then comes the entirely appropriate snark:
Sure, Hitler demanded—successfully!—that whole swaths of other countries be ceded to him without their consent, and yes, if Iran tried that with a neighbor it would be blown to smithereens by history’s most powerful military, but that Rouhani character participated in a rally!
Now it should be obvious that the willingness of so many conservative worthies to fulfill Godwin’s Law and lurch over the line into Nazi analogies so soon is attributable to the cover they think they enjoy thanks to Bibi Netanyahu’s hyperventilation over the Iran deal on behalf of Israel.
Who’s going to object to comparing the Iranians to the Nazis if the Nazis’ principal victims are sounding the same way?
But all Israelis don’t agree with Bibi’s frantic objections to the “first step” deal, and in any event, the Munich analogy fails even if you think the Iranians are as evil or even more evil than the Nazis. It fails because of Iran’s weakness and the relatively small concessions they are obtaining; giving them back control of some of their own frozen assets isn’t remotely comparable to turning over Sudentenland, much less the whole of Czechoslovakia.
So before conservatives start publishing cartoons with Obama brandishing Chamberlain umbrellas, let’s get a grip, folks. The taboo against Nazi analogies exists for a reason. And in this case, there’s no reason at all to defy that taboo other than opportunism.
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