Once again, President Bush amazes us with his unusual use of historical events to justify proposed policy.
A few weeks ago, he referred to the negative consequences of withdrawing from Vietnam after 50,000 American deaths as justification for continuing on in Iraq, where the death toll of Americans is now at about 3,900.
Now Bush compares Democrats who fail to support his anti-terrorist programs with those who failed to take action against the rise of Lenin and Hitler.
Historians have generally been critical of Western Europe's passive acceptance of Germany's invasion of Austria and Czechoslovakia and also critical of Stalin's agreement with Hitler to divide Poland. In the case of the pact between Stalin and Hitler, Stalin was buying time for the Soviet Union to become better prepared for the war with Germany that he knew was inevitable.
To some extent, Western Europe's policy of appeasement might have also have been the result of not being prepared to resist Hitler rather than a naive belief in Hitler's honorable intent. The American military prepared for likely involvement in WW II to the extent that the American public allowed it to. In hindsight, the preparations could have been more extensive, but mobilization for war was thorough and rapid once America was directly attacked.
It would be interesting, but we suspect not enlightening, to hear Historian Bush provide more details on how preemptive action should have been used to thwart Hitler.
The idea of lost opportunity to thwart Lenin is a bit more difficult to accept. He came to power in 1917 when Europe and the United States were engaged in all out war, the first world war. The industrialized nations of the world had quite a bit on their plates already without worrying about the Russian Revolution.
Perhaps Historian Bush was thinking that Lenin should have been stopped before he had any power, back when he was simply a philosopher promoting the idea of a workers' paradise (assassination maybe?).
That is where all this takes us, the gathering of intelligence in order to take preemptive action against people who oppose us. Some believe that in order to be truly effective, such preemptive action needs to be taken when such opposition is philosophical rather waiting for the opposition to become violent.
Some believe that Constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and guarantees of due process should be scrapped in order to fight terrorism. The Bush administration has either explicitly advocated or been ambiguous on such practices as wiretaps without warrants, indefinite imprisonment without criminal charges and torture as a standard interrogation technique.
Make no mistake; there will never be a time in the future when the possibility of terrorism ceases to exist, so any sacrifice we make in our Constitutional rights should be regarded as permanent.
Now Bush uses our loathing of historical dictatorships to scare us into becoming more