So Many Hitlers
February 27, 2003

by Joe Sobran

     A witty reader with a long memory likens American 
foreign policy to Joe Louis's boxing career. Joe Louis, 
the Brown Bomber, was the heavyweight champ before and 
after World War II who, having destroyed all his worthy 
opponents, proceeded to take on, with unbecoming 
frequency, a lot of unworthy ones. Sportswriters 
derisively nicknamed these hapless unworthies "the Bum-
of-the-Month Club."

     The United States seems to have a Hitler-of-the-
Month Club. As the Soviet Union waned and collapsed, a 
new series of enemies began to emerge, each in turn 
likened to Hitler as a global threat: the Ayatollah 
Khomeini, Muammar al-Qaddafi, Manuel Noriega, Saddam 
Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, and now 
Saddam Hussein again. Globally, these were equivalent to 
Joe Louis's bums, but U.S. propaganda has dignified them 
as Hitlers.

     Just as the United States has had its 9/11, even Joe 
sometimes got a rude shock. In 1942, I believe it was, 
Tony Galento, a roly-poly slugger from New Jersey who 
trained on beer, landed a punch that knocked Joe on the 
seat of his trunks, but by round four Tony had been 
rendered unconscious. (The history-minded will note that 
he later took bit parts in movies like ON THE 
WATERFRONT.)

     Today Joe's legend has faded; he is best remembered 
for beating Max Schmeling, Hitler's boy. Today, in fact, 
Hitler still defines just about everything, one way and 
another. His name is invoked to settle all arguments. You 
want war? So did Hitler. You don't want war? You're like 
the people who appeased Hitler.

     Hitler was not only bad, but infinitely bad. No 
price is too great to pay for vanquishing a Hitler -- 
even a metaphorical Hitler. Thus Andrew Sullivan, urging 
war on Iraq in TIME, points out, "The war against Hitler 
killed millions -- but it was just."

     Was it ever! Not only did World War II cost 50 
million lives, it gave Stalin a huge swath of Europe and 
brought the world into the nuclear era. But it was all 
worth it! We got rid of Hitler!

     Once Hitler is introduced into the conversation, and 
he usually is, any sense of measure disappears. All-out 
war becomes imperative, and it's petty to ask what the 
consequences may be. When you're budgeting for Hitler, 
cost is no object.

     This might not be a problem if we were dealing with 
one supremely evil figure who died in 1945 (despite 
rumors that he'd survived and legged it to Argentina). 
But there are so doggone many Hitlers, every one of them 
a threat to world peace. Uncle Sam has to be quick on his 
feet to stamp 'em all out as fast as they spring up.

     Next week will mark the 50th anniversary of the 
death of Stalin (and of Sergei Prokofiev, the great 
Russian composer, if anyone cares). Stalin killed several 
times as many people as Hitler, but he had one redeeming 
virtue: he was against Hitler! True, he formed what might 
have seemed the beginning of a beautiful friendship with 
the German dictator, but Hitler, by turning on him, saved 
his reputation.

     Soon Stalin was a chum of Winston Churchill and 
Franklin Roosevelt again, as liberals cheered. He even 
wound up as sole proprietor of Poland, which he'd thought 
he'd have to share with Hitler.

     Today even liberals agree that Stalin was a bit of a 
stinker, all things considered, but "Uncle Joe" is by no 
means the symbol of evil Hitler has become. Though he too 
could be rough on minority groups, he talked the talk 
about democracy, equality, and diversity, so he can be 
excused for not always walking the walk; and the sort of 
minorities he wiped out weren't the sort who trouble the 
Western conscience overmuch anyway. (Who cares about 
Estonians, for Pete's sake?)

     So, to this day, there is no Stalin-of-the-Month 
Club, and though he has had numerous imitators, including 
some very able ones, none of them has been designated "a 
new Stalin" against whom it behooves us to make war. 
Nobody remembers Enver Hoxha nowadays. Even Fidel Castro 
seems more like a relic of the sunny Kennedy era than a 
Stalin.

     Kim Jong Il is the genuine article -- indeed, a 
rather flamboyant Stalin -- but, after all, he is no 
Hitler! We can live with him. He even brings out the 
coquettish side of Madeleine Albright.

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