Bibi Netanyahu as a modern-day Churchill? Close, but no cigar – Paul Mulshine – NJ.com
Anyone familiar with comments on the internet must sooner or later come across Godwin’s Law.
This is a rule invented in 1990 by a lawyer and internet pioneer by the name of Michael Godwin regarding comparisons to Adolf Hitler in comments threads. It is generally understood to mean that “once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress” according to one formulation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law
Let me propose a corollary to Godwin’s Law: Anyone who compares a modern-day
politician to Winston Churchill should just shut up.
We heard many such comparisons after the recent American visit and election victory of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. All are complete claptrap, as is any argument equating the current era to the pre-World War II era.
Americans like to look back at the World War II era as a simpler time when it was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. This is nonsense. In fact, the ideological struggle in Europe at that time was every bit as complicated as the struggle today in the Mideast. If you doubt that, consider this statement of praise for Italy’s fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini:
“If I had been an Italian, I am sure I should have been wholeheartedly with you in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism.”
The speaker? None other than Churchill himself. I found that quote in a book of essays from the early 1940s by George Orwell titled “My Country Right or Left.” (Read one such essay on the topic of Mussolini. Pay attention, boys and girls; this will be on the exam.) If I were a dictator, I would force everyone who compares Netanyahu to Churchill to read it.
They would learn that England at the time was divided between the pro-fascist upper classes and the pro-communist lower classes. Here is where a realistic comparison between Churchill and Netanyahu is instructive.
Churchill’s success stems from his decision in the late 1930s to turn on his fellow Tories and take the anti-fascist side. This stemmed more from his hatred of Germany than any love of freedom. But it worked out and he is recalled as a hero.
We have no idea how the current contretemps in the Mideast will work out. But so far Netanyahu keeps doubling down on a strategy that has been disastrous for Israel. At the moment he looks a lot more like Neville Chamberlain than Churchill
Through his bungling, Chamberlain managed to alienate key allies, among them the United States. Meanwhile his foreign-policy choices actually strengthened Germany.
Netanyahu also has managed to alienate the United States while bolstering the position of his assumed enemy, Iran. He did so by enthusiastically backing the efforts of the so-called “neo” conservatives to overthrow two secular dictators, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Bashar Assad in Syria.
The former permitted Iranian-based political parties to take over Iraq. The latter led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS.
Here we get to the true parallel to the 1930s. Instead of communists and fascists fighting for control of Europe, we have Shia and Sunni fighting for control of the Mideast.
Who are the good guys? That’s exactly the question this Churchill comparison is designed to duck, as did Netanyahu with that assertion to Congress that “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy.”
Nonsense. If it’s “appeasement” – as the violators of Godwin’s Law like to say – for the U.S. to refrain from bombing Iran, then it is appeasement for Israel to refrain from defeating ISIS, something its military could easily accomplish.
If both are our enemies, then we should attack both. But Netanyahu has decided the Shia are the enemy and the Sunni his ally.
He seems to think that’s in Israel’s interest. But when it comes to the U.S., the Sunni are clearly a bigger threat. There are a billion of them and they’re all over the world. The Shia make up a small minority of Muslims trapped in a small space surrounded by hostile Sunni.
Unlike ISIS, the Shia militants are capable of mounting only fraction of the threat posed by Sunni forces to Europe and the U.S. To put it in WW-II terms, it’s as if the Israelis had sided with the communists and the U.S. with the fascists – or vice-versa. No matter how you look at it, we are on opposite sides of the Iraq/Syria issue.
We traditional conservatives saw that coming years ago. But now even the Democrats are beginning to understand it. Even the neocons may get a clue eventually.
Perhaps Netanyahu has some Churchill-like trick up his sleeve that will make this all work out for him. If not, he might consider changing his nickname from Bibi to “Neville.”
ADD: There is one valid comparison between Netanyahu and Churchill. Right before the March 17 election, Netanyahu declared he would never permit the people in the occupied territories to have a state. Right after the election he took the exact opposite position.
Similarly Orwell writes that Churchill once switched parties – a practice called “ratting” in England – and then later switched back.
“Anyone can rat,” Churchill quipped, “but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”
It does indeed. Churchill was a uniquely witty and persuasive politician.
As for Netanyahu, he is more on the level of the crowd I see in the Statehouse. He’s just another slick politician trying to put one over on the boobs.
As the saying goes, you can fool some of the people some of the time. And there were a lot of Americans who bought into the sense of panic he was trying to sell about the possibility of the Iranians getting a nuke or two.
But all the experts in nuclear nonproliferation I know tell me Israel has about 300 nukes. They say that getting rid of them should be the No. 1 priority if we want a nuclear-free Mideast.
You are a trusting sort indeed if you can watch a politician get up and rant about a covert nuclear weapons program while he heads the country that has been running the most successful covert nuclear-weapons program on the planet for half a century.
But if you’re a bit more cynical, you will see that Netanyahu is trying to goad us into war against Iran. But as I noted above, he outsmarted himself in that regard. Iran is now our best ally against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We can’t afford to alienate the Iranians, so Netanyahu and the neocons will not get this war.
That’s because of the blunder he and the rest of the neocons made in backing the overthrow of Assad. Every time such a dictator loses control in the Mideast, the Islamic fundamentalists take control. The rise of ISIS was entirely predictable – and as you can see from my past writings here, plenty of us conservatives predicted it.
Why didn’t Netanyahu? And why doesn’t he have his army and air force solve the problem by taking out ISIS?
Those are the questions we conservatives are asking. Don’t expect any answers from Netanyahu
In the meantime, ponder this quote from former CIA agent Bob Baer that ran in my column four years ago when I asked him about armchair general Rick Santorum’s call for the overthrow of Assad.:
“Who does he propose supporting in Syria?” Baer said. “Anyone with any common sense knows it’s the Muslim Brotherhood that would take over. There are no white hats in Syria.”
You could call the guy who backed that Syria strategy a lot of thing, but a modern-day Churchill is not one of them.
SOME ALLY: The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that Israel spied on our nuke talks with Iran:
Israel Spied on Iran Nuclear Talks With U.S.
Ally’s snooping upset White House because information was used to lobby Congress to try to sink a deal
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.
Bibi Netanyahu as a modern-day Churchill? Close, but no cigar | Mulshine | NJ.com.