In his novel, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, Spike Milligan describes waiting for the train to take him to his first military posting during WWII. His commanding officer hands him a picture of Hitler labeled: This is your enemy. "I searched every compartment," writes Milligan, "but he wasn't on the train."

In a way, we are still searching for the Führer. Hitler is the archetypal enemy, whose badness virtually all can agree on, which is why his name often crops up in discussions about contemporary world leaders. Opponents of Saddam Hussein, Ariel Sharon, and Robert Mugabe have drawn comparisons between their respective nemeses and the Führer. It is a forceful, albeit lazy, way to clarify the muddy moral waters of modern international politics.

The same argumentative tactic is used in discussions surrounding other tricky issues. Since starring as the lead villain in Rachel Carson's seminal environmentalist...

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