Remembering to Forget WWII
When we invoke such a narrow historical memory of World War II and apply it to any modern conflict, we do so at our own peril. It personalizes issues that cannot be fully understood when personalized. It reduces complex issues into matters of good and evil, and thus it ignores the conflicts of interest around which most international disputes arise and by which most are resolved. If every problem is a nail, every solution is a hammer. If every adversary is Nazi Germany, every fight is existential. If every person you disagree with is Hitler, then every argument ends without compromise. Indulging in a reductio ad Hitlerum or a reductio ad World War II every time a problem arises is not remembering the past, it is invoking archaic tropes to avoid dealing with complicated questions. Learning the lessons of the past isn’t the same as living in the past.