Don’t Know Much About History

TPM Reader ND is pulling her hair out:

Is former Asst. Secretary Sauerbrey representative of the historical ignorance now pervasive in former Republican policy hands?

Obama is a moderate liberal committed to the democratic institutions of this country, so nothing could be more ludicrous than he being accused by these historically unaware poseurs of being both an economic fascist and a communist. I guess us academics — the learned elites and therefore unreal Americans — have dedicated our lives to studying tyranny and dictatorship world wide erroneously thinking that there were actual ideological differences between Communism and Fascism. Was WWII just one big ooops of ideological confusion? Stop the presses and notify the British, French, Italians, Russian and Germans. I am sure they will want to know about it so they can alter the historical record to reflect au courant Republican thinking.

Didn’t we engage on something called the Cold War for decades on the conviction that there is actually a real difference between Fascists and Communists, and although not the same category but also in a parallel fight, right wing dictators and left wing ones? And weren’t Republicans the principal endorsers of a foreign policy based precisely on that distinction (see Jeanne Kirkpatrick under Reagan and the widely held belief that right wing dictatorships in Latin America were ok because although not free and engaging in some forms of economic fascism as Sauerbrey would describe it, they were against the reds so they must be inherently be supported while all left wing dictatorships in Latin America were bad?)

But what is most insidious in Ms. Sauerbrey’s comparison is that by putting Peron and Hitler in the same policy universe she is now identifying Hitler solely for his economic policies, which is not exactly what made Hitler infamous, right? The Lebensborn was not about economic fascism, but something completely other than economics. So let that just sink for a minute — what was wrong with Hitler, according to Sauerbrey, is that like Peron he engaged in economic policies that were fascist. I would fill this email with expletives to express how enraging and disrespectful to those who suffered under Hitler this is, but I think saying that I am speechless is probably the more appropriate and accurate response.

Finally I should also note that Sauerbrey is completely wrong about Peron. Although Peron had his start within the Argentine military in a group that had proto fascist tendencies, his political career took off because he was a left wing populist not a right wing one. He is most widely recognized, and thought of as infamous by conservatives world-wide, by his left wing populist policies.

I teach Latin American studies and have a pretty deep knowledge of right wing and left wing economic populists and I can tell you that were Ms. Ellen Sauerbrey my student that comment of hers would earn her an solid F. Not just because of her mistakes about Peron, or her utterly dangerous misunderstanding of Hitler, but for her obtuseness in confusing being a minority party with being under tyrannical oppression.