Debate over Afghanistan is deja vu all over again

Joe Lieberman hates to say it, but Afghanistan is just like Nazi Germany

Published September 25, 2009 5:05PM (EDT)

Remember 2002 and 2003? Those were some pretty good times. Rudy Giuliani was knighted. “A Beautiful Mind” won Best Picture. The U.S. invaded Iraq.

In case you’d forgotten the basic tenor of the arguments of those years, Afghanistan is here to help you remember. As the Taliban has regained strength and the White House weighs sending thousands more troops, Afghanistan has lost its status as “the Good War.” Instead, the conflict is beginning to polarize American politics in a way that's all too familiar.

So, in an unsurprising move, today will send out an email calling for the president to withdraw from Afghanistan, echoing an increasingly prevalent position on the American left. Meanwhile, precisely on cue, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., yesterday made his case for maintaining an American presence in the country. Said the senator:

It's more like, and I hate to use the analogy, it is like the Second World War. Shortly after it was over, if the Nazis began to form again and tried to take back Germany from a new democratic government, what would we have done? We would not have stood by and let it happen!

I’m sure it’s just killing Lieberman, this duty to say these things. Just like it did on May 15, 2008, when he said that President Bush’s use of the word of “appeasement” to describe Democrats was “exactly right." Or three days later, when Lieberman took to the Wall Street Journal to accuse his fellow Democrats of betraying their party's noble Hitler-fighting lineage.

Beginning in the 1940s, the Democratic Party was forced to confront two of the most dangerous enemies our nation has ever faced: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In response, Democrats under Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy forged and conducted a foreign policy that was principled, internationalist, strong and successful.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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