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Between Hitler And Mugabe

When an aging pop starlet implicitly likens an American presidential candidate to notorious global dictators, is it in anyway relevant to national security? On the surface, one feels inclined to respond resoundingly, “No.” Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

In the September 15th, print edition of National Review, readers are enlightened to some fairly jaw-slackening political imagery from Madonna. According to NR:

During a recent performance by the chlorine chorine, McCain’s photograph was juxtaposed with images of Adolf Hitler and Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe. Barack Obama’s mug, in contrast, was appropriately included in a series with John Lennon, Al Gore, and Ghandi, three global celebrities who sought to transcend traditional politics while offering sometimes-loopy policy prescriptions.

There we have it. John McCain, an eminently mainstream American politician and a man who eschewed early release from a prisoner of war camp, is apparently in league with two of the 20th Century’s most vile despots to some ambiguously defined degree. 'She sure as heck doesn’t speak for me,' many of you might be thinking. Mercifully, Madonna does not speak for all Americans. On the other hand, and quite tragically, she does speak for some Americans.

What does it all mean, and what does any of it have to do with national security?

First and foremost, none of this should be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of John McCain’s candidacy or an end-around rejection of Barack Obama’s. Both are reasonable men and neither project even a hint of despotic inclinations, much less despotic inclinations coupled with genocidal ambitions in the case of Hitler. Yet, to a vocal and often influential segment of Americans, equating the political leaders of the United States with global tyrants past and present makes perfect sense. Particularly those deemed to be on the “right” of the ideological spectrum.

And therein lies a dangerous precedent. If at least one of our guys (in this instance, John McCain) is to be perceived as just as bad as their guys (such as Mugabe or Hitler), who are we Americans to then pass judgment on unsavory international actors? That they might threaten American security seems irrelevant to the this line of thinking.

From an increasingly uncooperative Russia, to China’s military expansionism to the threat of Islamic extremism, the forces aligned against Western democracy symbolized by the United States have been gathering strength. One of the best and perhaps the best instrument for security at our disposal is the ability to actually decipher the good guys from the bad guys.

Stunts like Madonna’s, and those who would support the intellectual dishonesty behind them, cloud our collective ability to recognize legitimate malevolence in the world at a time when Americans need unity, not more division born of disingenuous moral equivalence.