The Donald Trump fascist experiment

Think the Trump-Hitler comparisions are exaggerated? Think again
Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Is Donald Trump fascist?

The knee-jerk reaction by his opponents makes this an easy answer: yes. He has made borderline racist comments about Mexicans, black people, Muslims, and as the recently leaked 2005 Access Hollywood recordings have made all but clear, is an appalling sexist as well (although this was pretty obvious back when he said he would date his own daughter who by his own admission is “a piece of ass”). But his defenders would cringe at the idea that he is an American Hitler. Hitler, after all, killed 6 million Jews (among millions of others) and launched a world war. Yes, Trump is a bully, a sleazeball, and a demagogue and seems to not care much about institutions as evidenced by his wanting to jail Hillary Clinton. But there is a pretty big gap between that and genocide. It’s kick the foreigners out, not murder them (at least yet).

Furthermore, even many people who dislike Trump feel uneasy by the fascist/Nazi/Hitler comparison. Godwin’s Law, for example, famously affirms that “as an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1”. Indeed, the left (and also the right) uses comparisons to fascism, Nazism, and genocide to such an extent that in many cases they have pretty much lost their value. It is an argumentative cop out for the simple reason that nobody in the history of humanity has been as bad as Hitler (except possibly Stalin or Mao but they mostly killed their own people which seemingly carries less of a stigma). Trump is not even in power yet, and he has not started a world war or a genocide.

Although Godwin’s Law has its merit, I feel in this particular case it is a very weak defense of what Trump would be willing to do and how far his supporters would be willing to follow. And there’s one very easy thought experiment to find that out. Just ask yourself the following two questions:

Would Trump have behaved any different to Hitler had he been in Hitler’s position in 1933-45?

Would Trump’s supporters have behaved any different to Hitler’s in 1933-45? Continue reading

On the atomic bombing of Japan

The bombs were justified, but this doesn't make it any less of a tragedy
The debate rages on 70 years later

The debate rages on 70 years later

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the first time that a nuclear weapon had been used in combat. According to the most reliable estimates, around 90,000 people – most of them civilians – were killed (70,000 died three days later when Nagasaki was bombed), and thousands more would suffer from the effects of radiation in the years/decades to come. The sight of a massive mushroom cloud over a completely pulverized city has since been etched into humanity’s collective consciousness, serving a terrifying reminder of the horrors of war and of the apocalyptic potential of nuclear warfare. But the most uncomfortable questions remain: was it necessary? Was it justified? These questions have divided opinions for decades. On one hand, there are those who believe that dropping the bomb was essential for bringing World War II to a quick end, thus saving countless more lives. However, there are those who believe that the use of such a powerful weapon against a defenseless civilian population is a crime against humanity irrespective of anything else.

Here is my view regarding some of the most common arguments.

The atomic bombings ended the war quickly and saved more lives

It’s quite hard to counter-argue this point. At the time of the bombings, the US and its allies had already planned a two-part invasion of the Japanese home islands, starting with Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu scheduled for November 1st 1945 (X-Day). The forces assembled for this operation dwarfed those that took part in the Normandy landings a year earlier: 42 aircraft carriers, 24 battleships, and 400 other warships would cover an invasion force of 14 combat divisions. Before this, the Japanese islands would be relentlessly pounded by air attack (aided by the re-deployment of many of the air forces based in Europe), increasing the devastation compared to what Japan had already experienced. In fact, the deadliest single aerial bombardment in history was not Hiroshima or Nagasaki but a conventional attack against Tokyo by 334 B-29 bombers on the night of March 9th 1945. The ensuing firestorm destroyed a large part of the capital and killed at least 100,000 people (and left a million homeless). Continue reading

The greatest aviation duels in history

Forget Top Gun, here's the best combat rivalries from World War I to today
Spitfire versus Messerschmitt in the skies above Britain

Spitfire versus Messerschmitt in the skies above Britain

Aviation has captured the imagination of humanity since the Wright brothers took to the skies for the first time in 1903. But like every other great human invention, it would not take long before some military use would be found for it. When World War I began in 1914 most air forces consisted of a few scouts, but by the time it ended in 1918 the air arsenals of the great powers would be composed of thousands of fighters and bombers. World War II would see air power reach its full maturity; the war would see the first battle waged entirely in the skies (the Battle of Britain), thousand-bomber raids over Europe, the first jets, and most ominously, the dropping of an atomic bomb by an aircraft. Air technology expanded by leaps and bounds during the Cold War as each of the two superpowers strove to achieve a technological edge over its rival. By the end of the 20th Century, air technology would finally make it possible for a war to be won by air power alone, as shown by the 1991 Gulf War in which a US-led air armada laid waste to Saddam Hussein’s vaunted armies, which had once been considered the fourth most powerful in the world.

Despite the destructive nature of air power, it has nevertheless been romanticized throughout the years as evidenced by the glamorous image of the fighter pilot. So much that the US Navy set up recruitment booths outside movie theaters following the success of Top Gun back in 1984! But Tom Cruise’s heroics on the silver screen pales in comparison to reality. So without further ado, here are the 10 most legendary true air combat rivalries in history. Continue reading

Israel’s denial of history

Why the Middle East's longest conflict won't be resolved anytime soon

“Everyone has their Jews. For the Israelis they are the Palestinians.”

– Primo Levi (author and Auschwitz survivor)

History seems to have been forgotten in the rubble of the latest Gaza assault

History (and common sense) seems to have been forgotten in the rubble of the latest Gaza assault

It’s been a while since social media exploded with such fury as I have witnessed over the past month regarding the outbreak of conflict in Gaza. Perhaps what has been new (to me at least) has been the vitriolic response by the pro-Israel crowd, which in the past has appeared more muted and drowned out by the voices of Palestinian supporters. For as long as I can remember, the Palestinian cause has been one of the calling cards of the left, be it because leftists typically gravitate towards the underdogs but also because Israel has been able to count on the unconditional support of the US: the perennial enemy of the Chomsky-worshipping, capitalism-hating crowd. Turning the old adage around, the friend of my enemy is also my enemy.

I am a bit uneasy about taking sides myself. As I will explain below, the conflict is fundamentally religious in nature and being an antitheist (that’s one step above atheism btw), both sides are equally “wrong” to me in the grander scheme of things. I also find it hard not to feel considerable sympathy and admiration for a nation (Israel) surrounded by mortal enemies that decided to build a liberal democratic state, educate its people, become a technological powerhouse, and achieve a level of prosperity that puts it well within developed nation status. In those same 70 years, Israel’s Arab neighbors have remained as monarchies, dictatorships or unstable factionalism-ridden democracies, squandered their resources on inept militaries and corrupt regimes and in the most extreme of cases (Syria) have made a total mess of their existence. A cynical (and ignorant) leftist will say that Israel did this thanks to US support which is partly true, but during the Cold War the Arabs received an equal amount of Soviet aid and did little to show for it. Israel has made the desert bloom; the Arabs have made it bleed.

Despite this, ultimately I am disgusted by the way that the pro-Israel crowd has ignored history to support an absolutely appalling and unjustified military operation in Gaza. My Facebook feed has seen a non-stop flow of disinformation that appears far more fitting for a Stalinist propaganda machine that from educated people that should have the common sense of knowing when their government has crossed a line. After all, when practically the entire Israeli (and Jewish abroad) population supports an unprovoked war with the death toll consisting mostly to innocent civilians, you get a feeling that some tiny bit of humanity has been lost to modern Israeli society, all the more sad considering they know better than any other people on earth what it is to be the oppressed.

So here goes my attempt at debunking some of the “arguments” (I say this very loosely because the bar has been set quite low by both sides) of the pro-Israel crowd, in the hopes that they can see the responsibility that their leaders have had in creating this mess, and that blindly supporting their military actions will not make Israel safer in the long run. Continue reading