On a number of occasions here, I have remarked on the lack of proportion shown by almost everyone with respect to the current state of the world. President Bush has already compared the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism to Nazism or Communism, and few, if any prominent politicians have taken this comparison on. But today, teaching a class on Hitler and the origins of the Second World War, certain problems with those comparisons became clear to me.
There are, it seems to me, two real aspects to the fundamentalist threat. The main one is political. More widespread Islamic fundamentalism will be bad for the people of the region (although that remains their choice, not ours, to make), and more importantly, it could substantially de-stabilize a good deal of
Despite everything, one simply cannot compare the perils we face with those of the 1930s. By 1937 two substantial states,
In Politics and War: European Conflict from Phillip II to Hitler, I analyzed what Europeans were fighting about in four critical eras from the sixteenth century through the first half of the twentieth. In two of the four—1559-1659 and 1914-45—I concluded that their goals were unachievable, not worth the cost of pursuing them, or both. (It is intriguing that civilization made the greatest advances from the late seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.) The end of the cold war has probably left military establishments far smaller proportionally than they had been since the mid-18th century, and that is a very good thing. We still are not threatened by major war, but partly as a result, we are involved in an endless, though small-scale, struggle for the future of what remains a relatively poor, though populous, area of our world.