This is not 1939.
President Bush is not Winston Churchill.
Our Islamist enemies are not Adolph Hitler.
Your political critics are not Neville Chamberlain.
You are not Audie Murphy, or Ike, or Ernie Pyle.
There was only one "Greatest Generation," and the rest of us don't get to play rhetorical piggyback on their story.
This is not the eve of World War II, even though some of us clearly wish it were, conveniently forgetting the horror and devastation caused by "The Good War." Viewed across a gulf of more than 60 years, it all seems rather cinematic now -- archetypal, clean -- and our tendency to find parallels to its storylines is understandable. World War II shaped our modern military, vaulted the United States into the role of superpower and reinvented our sense of national identity and purpose. It was our defining moment in the 20th century, and we yearn for its clarity.
We miss the black-and-white moral choices of that conflict, the obvious targets, the stand-up fights against a uniformed enemy. We want its mantle, its righteous cause, its sense of shared sacrifice (not the actual sacrifices, mind you, but the sense of them). We want the blessings of history, the trappings of heroism.
This isn't that.
It's been said that the longer an argument goes, the likelihood that somebody will invoke Hitler approaches zero. Considering that we've been fighting the War on Terror longer than our grandparents fought the Axis, I suppose this current obsession with WWII was inevitable. But we need to resist it.
"Refighting the last war" is a classic military blunder, an occupational hazard for generals. It's worth remembering that this is also true for armchair generals. Success demands that we recognize the reality now, and confront it with tools that match the job.
Comparisons of our current troubles to those of 1939 are comforting to some and profitable to others. But the blessings of history will be on those who see things as they are, not as they once were.