Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Putin Isn't Hitler, But His Justifications for Invasion Are The Same

The headline reads "Hillary Clinton compares Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler's in Nazi Germany".   Right away, that headline is misleading.  She did not compare Putin's actions in Ukraine to Hitler's in Germany.  She compared Putin's action in Ukraine to Hitler's tactics in Czechoslovakia and other countries.  Here's the quote:
"All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people, and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous."
Her historical analogy is accurate.  Both Putin and Hitler used similar pretexts to justify the invasion of another sovereign country, namely, protecting ethnic Russians and Germans respectively.  To her credit, Clinton rightfully avoided the trap of comparing Putin to Hitler.  She compared their justifications, not their character or policies.  Her point is that the given justification is dangerous and illegal.

Reading the comments from multiple news sources' coverage (always depressing), there are those who are criticizing her for:

  1. Disrespecting the Holocaust by even mentioning the Hitler analogy. (Citing Hitler as a historical analogy does not demean or disrespect Holocaust remembrance. Insisting that Hitler is off limits for discussion is a dangerous idea.)
  2. Disrespecting the Russians who died fighting Hitler in WWII. (Red herring.)
  3. War mongering.  (No calls for war here.)
  4. The US did the same thing in Iraq.  (Good point, but completely irrelevant.)

Quote Stanley:

But was Clinton right? Mostly no. It is true that Putin's justification for intervention in Ukraine is similar to Hitler's, that is, threatening to invade a sovereign territory to defend his ethnic brethren. But the situation is complex, and the historical comparison is tenuous at best.  After all, in the eyes of many ethnic Russians, it is the Ukrainian nationalists -- not Putin -- who are the Nazis. The Russians have asserted, quite accurately, that the revolution that overthrew a pro-Russian, democratically elected leader has resulted in the elevation of Russophobe fascists into key government positions...

We're not discussing who is most like the Nazis.  Clinton compared Putin's justification to Hitler's.  Stanley's tangent on ethnic Russians thinking Ukrainian nationalists are Nazis is a distraction from Clinton's point, and fails in any way to disprove it.