Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

The Allies negotiated with Hitler. And it was called ‘appeasement.’

Ukrainians in a bomb shelter

Ukrainian people seek refuge in a bomb shelter in Lviv during an air raid alert on April 20.

Gian Marco Benedetto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

I hesitated before approving the headline above.

So often the Hitler analogy is used when a person does something that is particularly egregious in the mind of someone with a differing opinion. It has been so overused, particularly in this highly charged political environment, that one tends to dismiss it as rhetoric deployed solely for the purpose of achieving a political advantage.

Yet today, as one watches the horrific events in Ukraine, and witnesses Russia’s indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians, including children, the comparison to Hitler is appropriate. The United States and our NATO allies must recognize who Putin is if they are to respond in a manner commensurate with the ungodly acts perpetrated by this evil man.

On April 20, Russia conducted a powerful anti-ballistic missile test with a warning from Putin to Western leaders that they better “Think twice.” He has also bragged about Russia’s nuclear arsenal repeatedly in the last month and has said the West would “face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if we support Ukraine with military action.

Yes, the West needs to think twice, but perhaps in a manner opposite to what Putin demands. Rather than be intimidated by the threat of nuclear weapons, the West must make it clear to Putin that no level of threats will deter us from putting an end to Putin's malevolent war. This is sometimes called the paradox of brinkmanship.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Some warn that to engage in a tit-for-tat saber rattling puts the world at the brink of nuclear catastrophe. However, the United States has used “maximum brinkmanship” before, during the Cuban missile crisis and the Berlin crisis in 1959. The option exists for the United State and NATO to publicly state a change in its nuclear posture in response. Of course doing so carries great risks – but doing nothing carries great risks as well.

And this is the crux of the dilemma facing the United State and NATO. We are horrified by the inhumanity we are witnessing but we are afraid to overreact because it might result in a world war in which an evil man might do anything, including use nuclear weapons if his back is against the wall. And of course Putin knows this and thus his calculated “think twice” threat.

While there is no evidence that Putin has taken any specific action like placing non-strategic nuclear warheads on airplanes or ships or sending nuclear-armed submarines to sea, his words have already started the thought discussion in Congress of an appropriate response.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, recently stated that a nuclear attack could force NATO allies, including the United States, to invoke their collective defense under Article 5 of the alliance's charter and retaliate against Russia — especially if nuclear fallout drifts over the Ukrainian border and kills or sickens civilians living in Poland or other NATO countries.

“As you detonate a nuclear weapon inside of Ukraine depending on what it is they detonate, even in a demonstration, that would spread radioactive material that would cross borders potentially," said Rubio.

"If radioactive material blows across the Polish border, they would argue they’ve been attacked,” he added.

“Radiation kills people; it certainly creates long-term health problems," he continued. "So we’re dealing in uncharted territory at that point. The danger in this process always is that … someone will do something that they don’t consider crossing the line. But the people they’re aiming at do consider it to be crossing a certain line. And that’s how you find yourself in escalations.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a decorated Iraq War veteran who serves on the Armed Services Committee, agreed with Rubio: “If any of the fallout from that drifts over, I mean, that could be considered to be an attack" on NATO allies.

The speculation is rampant as to what Putin might do if he were to feel cornered, and it is that uncertainty that plays to Putin’s advantage.

For the first time since the Cuban missile threat of the 1960s, the possibility of nuclear war is something our leaders must address.

“I think it would take us into a place we have not been since Nagasaki, where an actual nuclear device was intentionally detonated as part of a military campaign, even if it wasn’t directed at specific targets,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed recently stated. “So that’s crossing a huge red line. And I think the whole world would be not just shocked but convinced of the irresponsibility of Putin.”

Rubio has raised a question that we as a nation all must seriously contemplate:

“Their military doctrine that they’ve exercised anticipates that if they’re losing a conventional war against NATO, that they would detonate a nuclear weapon or even use one against NATO troops to sort of escalate and force everyone to the negotiating table,”

It is critical that our leaders continue to address these serious questions with the American citizenry. It is critical that we understand how to best deal with this existential threat to the world as we know it. In a world that now has nine nuclear states the old theory a mutual nuclear deterrence simply may not work, since with so many players there might not be an equal level of deterrence amongst the nine nations and different postures and responses might be needed.

While this writing has posed questions, few concrete answers have been provided. Yet as Albert Einstein once said:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask … for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Surely the answer will take more than five minutes, and deep analysis is required. As Thomas Jefferson stated “reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” The analysis and discussion must start now.

Read More

Can George Washington inspire Biden to greatness?

Clancy is co-founder of Citizen Connect and board member of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund. Citizen Connect is an initiative of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, which also operates The Fulcrum.

King George III reputedly said George Washington was the greatest man in the world for voluntarily relinquishing power. The indisputable fact is that Washington’s action remains remarkable in human history. And he actually did it at least two times.

On Dec. 23, 1783, Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army and returned to Mount Vernon. He did it again when he declined to run for a third term as president by publishing his Farewell Address on Sept. 19, 1796. In June 1799 Washington was yet again urged to run for president and declined.

His reasoning on each occasion was a complex mix of the personal and political, but the bedrock was an unwavering commitment to put the good of the nation above personal gain and the factions that would ultimately become our toxic party system.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joe Biden at the debate

After his disastrous peformance at the debate, President Biden needs to exit the race, writes Breslin.

Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

Getting into the highest offices is hard. Getting out is harder.

Breslin is the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair of Political Science at Skidmore College and author of “A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law.”

This is the latest in “A Republic, if we can keep it,” a series to assist American citizens on the bumpy road ahead this election year. By highlighting components, principles and stories of the Constitution, Breslin hopes to remind us that the American political experiment remains, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, the “most interesting in the world.”

Getting into America’s highest political offices is hard. Getting out is harder.

President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate performance has intensified calls for him to step aside. Not even 24 hours after his poor showing, The New York Times took the extraordinary and unprecedented position that the sitting president should immediately pass the torch to a more energetic and electable candidate. “The greatest public service Mr. Biden can now perform,” the editorial board declared, “is to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Donald Trump on stage at the debate

Donald Trump's emphasis on the power of negative information gave him an advantage at Thursday's debate.

Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

How harnessing the power of bad helped Trump win the debate

Assari is an associate professor of public health and Internal Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. He is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.

On Thursday, we witnessed a debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. What captured most of the audience's attention were Biden's occasional stumbles and Trump's numerous statements inaccuracies. Biden appeared humble and policy-focused, while Trump was loud, assertive and well-spoken.

However, another significant aspect was Trump's rhetoric, which was often filled with threats, fear and loss, especially on topics like immigration and crime. In contrast, Biden's points were primarily centered around policies and statistics aimed at benefiting Americans overall, with a particular focus on the vulnerable.

Keep ReadingShow less
John Roberts at the State of the Union

Chief Justice John Roberts

Photo by Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

The supreme hubris of John Roberts

Simson is Macon Chair in Law and former dean at Mercer Law School, professor emeritus at Cornell Law School, and a member of the board of directors of Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

You don’t have to be a big fan of Chief Justice John Roberts to concede that he wouldn’t dream of jet-setting around the country at a conservative billionaire’s expense or hanging outside his home a favorite flag of 2020 election deniers or Christian nationalists. But then why, you must be wondering, was he so unwilling to even meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee when invited in April 2023 to discuss Justice Clarence Thomas’ seemingly conscience-free jet-setting and when invited last month to discuss Justice Samuel Alito’s perhaps even more ethically challenged flag-hanging?

One thing’s for sure: You won’t find the answer in either of the letters the chief justice wrote declining the committee’s invitations. Of course, he wasn’t so impolite as to give no reasons, but the reasons he gave were all stated in such a cryptic or conclusory way that they seemed designed mainly to send the message, “I’m not coming, and I don’t even have to convince you I’m right not to come.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Presidential debates generally don't matter. This Biden-Trump face-off could be different.

People watch the final 2020 presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden outside Cowell Theater in San Francisco.

Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty Images

Presidential debates generally don't matter. This Biden-Trump face-off could be different.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and the host of The Remnant podcast. His Twitter handle is @JonahDispatch.

I've changed my mind: This week's presidential debate matters.

Before I continue, a quick recap: Last month, I expressed my long-standing view that presidential debates aren't very meaningful and are very stupid. They are pseudo-events, the historian Daniel J. Boorstin's term for manufactured media spectacles that feel significant because we imbue them with significance.

My opinion on this as a historical matter is unchanged. Even debate lovers concede that John F. Kennedy won the first presidential debate in 1960 because he was telegenic and Richard Nixon looked like he woke up in a motel room after a bender. In other words, the debates have always been about style over substance.

Keep ReadingShow less