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What are they smoking at The New Republic these days? Whatever it is, it’s potent enough to delude some of its writers to make up history.

In a blog post challenging Joe Klein’s newly professed aversion to preemptive and preventative war–that “we should never go to war unless we have been attacked or are under direct, immediate threat of attack”–Jon Chait cooks up a pretty significant fact. Chait argues that if we apply Klein’s rule to U.S. foreign policy, then the U.S. would have had to rule out humanitarian intervention in Bosnia, the Gulf War, the Korean War, and “going to war against Germany in World War II.” As in, if we applied Klein’s rule, the Nazis would win! See, isn’t that a scary thought?

Except…Nazi Germany did pose an “immediate threat of attack.” On December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on the United States, citing the Tripartite defence treaty between Germany, Italy, and Japan. The United States only declared war after Germany’s declaration.

Now, there is a valid historical debate over whether President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration coaxed Nazi Germany into war by supporting the Allies (with programs such as the Lend-Lease Act), blatantly violating official neutrality, but there’s no question that it was Japan’s aggressions–followed by Germany’s threats–that led the United States into World War II.

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