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Ignoring The Past
Short memory they have over there in Washington. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. writes in The New York Times of the folly of ignoring the past:

Three decades ago, we suffered defeat in an unwinnable war against tribalism, the most fanatic of political emotions, fighting against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests. Vietnam was hopeless enough, but to repeat the same arrogant folly 30 years later in Iraq is unforgivable. The Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna famously said, “Behold, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.”

A nation informed by a vivid understanding of the ironies of history is, I believe, best equipped to manage the tragic temptations of military power. Let us not bully our way through life, but let a growing sensitivity to history temper and civilize our use of power. In the meantime, let a thousand historical flowers bloom. History is never a closed book or a final verdict. It is forever in the making. Let historians never forsake the quest for knowledge in the interests of an ideology, a religion, a race, a nation.

The great strength of history in a free society is its capacity for self-correction. This is the endless excitement of historical writing — the search to reconstruct what went before, a quest illuminated by those ever-changing prisms that continually place old questions in a new light.

History is a doomed enterprise that we happily pursue because of the thrill of the hunt, because exploring the past is such fun, because of the intellectual challenges involved, because a nation needs to know its own history. Or so we historians insist. Because in the end, a nation’s history must be both the guide and the domain not so much of its historians as its citizens.

Posted by aalkon at January 6, 2007 9:58 AM

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Comments

Sure. I wonder when somebody is going to actually say Congress is shirking its plain Constitutional duty. I expect that about the same time Jane Fonda admits that Westmoreland's body count was correct, because of the tens of thousands of Chinese in the country.

I expect this about the same time that mouth-breathers recognize that police, not military action, is what is being demanded of our people.

Do any of you reading this know anyone who has actually been to Iraq? I do. At Savannah River Site, we have dozens of National Guard people who got called. None of them credit news agencies with telling the truth about the job they are doing there. It's just more slander, and more selling of Kleenex, and more whining about how America is to blame for everything.

Posted by: Radwaste at January 6, 2007 6:17 PM

Over the decades (five since I've been counting) Schlesinger has said two bright things and ten thousand silly things. And one of the bright things (during the Cuban missile crisis) is one we take on faith because we don't care enough to study that administration any more and call his bluff.

> to repeat the same arrogant folly

Viet Nam was for oil? (Excuse me, "oiiiilllllll?")

I hadn't heard. Whatevah. Did the Kennedy administration accelerate American participation in this shitty venture? I thought so. Thanks, Arty.

> A nation informed by a vivid
> understanding of the ironies
> of history

Arrrgh! A historian wants us to understand that history is "vivid"! Go back and reread that passage; it's OK if you throw up a little on your keyboard, because we're all at home with our computers and not really in each other's presence. so do whatcha need to do.

> History is never a closed book
> or a final verdict. It is forever in
> the making... ...Let historians
> never forsake the quest for
> knowledge in the interests
> of an ideology,

So what's the problem, Slesh-meister?

Us faux-academic types want very badly to like that man. But after all these years, he still can't let it happen.

Posted by: Crid at January 6, 2007 8:21 PM

radwaste do you undersand that any soilder still in the armed services is under legal obligation to keep their mouths shut and only say what they have been ordered to say?

If you what an honest opinion of what is going on over there why dont you go down the local VA find some vetreans of this war and talk to about fifty of them.

Posted by: lujlp at January 7, 2007 2:15 AM

"radwaste do you undersand that any soilder still in the armed services is under legal obligation to keep their mouths shut and only say what they have been ordered to say?"

Your source?

Let me be the first to say BS. If my six years on active duty in the Marine Corps doesn't mean anything, just look at the letters page of Stars and Stripes online.

Nothing critical of the military there, right?

You are entitled to your opinion, but not your facts.

Posted by: MarkD at January 7, 2007 6:44 PM

Hello. A National Guard soldier can make any comment he likes about media coverage of their action. Get a clue: they are not permitted to speak for the armed service.

And I don't have to go to the local VA. I'm Ex-Navy, as are hundreds of my co-workers, and Army and Marine Corps vets with Iraq experience work in my building.

Yes, this country only gives lip service to "supporting our troops" - especially when it's time to pay for their health care, their weapons programs or their actual combat training. No, the press is NOT reporting what our people are actually doing.

That's because dirt sells, and that's all. And your Congressbag sits there with an intern in one hand and page in the other, letting the War Powers Act carry the day so he/she/it can lie about working hard for "America".

Posted by: Radwaste at January 7, 2007 6:48 PM

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