The foreign policy community is big on name calling and (bad) historical analogies. You’re not really a villain in the West until someone calls you Hitler. The analogy is so misused as to be utterly meaningless–Bush is Hitler, Desmond Tutu is Hitler, ISIS is Hitler, Putin is Hitler (and these examples are just from the last two weeks).
Among many good points in a recent Stephan Walt piece for Foreign Policy is the categorical statement that
…Vladimir Putin is not the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, and it is not 1939.
Analogies are the default rhetorical vehicle for the lazy politician and the unimaginative pundit. Discussing a powerful state in decline? Trot out Rome. Disparaging a compromise? Mention Munich. Need a nickname for scandal? Add -gate to the word. Troopergate 2, Cablegate, Nipplegate, Gamergate. Talking about a military expedition in the Middle East? Crusade has a nice ring to it. Need something to call someone you don’t like? Hitler is a good name.
Rome was an empire long ago. Munich is a city in Germany. The Watergate is a hotel. The Crusades are so 1095. And there is no Hitler, but Hitler.
Analogies provide a frame of reference. They can be a lens which uses the past to help focus on the present. But using analogies in lieu of spending ink to explain context, complexity, and nuance is something only Hitlers should do.