Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Hit-and-Run World War II?

Gassing populations inevitably invites comparisons with Hitler and Jews in the 1930s. Headlines abound: John Kerry tells Democrats they face a “Munich moment” over Syria, referring to the 1938 British appeasement that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain promised would bring “peace in our time.”

In Britain, the Daily Mail features photographs of Kerry’s 2009 “cozy dinner” in Damascus with “Syria’s ‘Hitler’” before Assad’s regime was beset by revolution.

Can Americans today give Holocaust metaphors a rest in debating whether or not the US should attack Syria? As vile as Assad’s reported use of poison gas against rebels may be, it’s degrading to elevate that with the systematic murder of six million Jews in death camps.

Even if comparison is irresistible, how does a hit-and-run air strike compare with years and casualties it took to overthrow the Nazis? As someone who took part in that effort, I am offended not only for fellow Jews who were the victims but other American veterans who bled and died to stop it.

The Congressional debate deserves better than overheated rhetoric. As a New York Times editorial suggests, “Obama and his top aides will have to explain in greater detail why they are so confident that the kind of military strikes that administration officials have described would deter President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from gassing his people again (American officials say more than 1,400 were killed on Aug. 21) rather than provoke him to unleash even greater atrocities.

“They will also have to explain how they can keep the United States from becoming mired in the Syrian civil war--something Mr. Obama, for sound reasons, has long resisted--and how military action will advance the cause of a political settlement: the only rational solution to the war.”

For the moment, voters can be grateful that John McCain did not win in 2008. If he were in the White House now, our armed forces would be attacking Syria with “very serious” and not “cosmetic” strikes.

How many World War IIs would McCain and his followers have started in the Middle East over the past five years?

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