Learning from History

In a comment yesterday Ursula wrote, “I was told – and still believe it – that history [is] being taught at school/uni so we’d actually learn something from the past.”

The trouble is different people learn different things from history. The hawks learned from Hitler and World War II — if someone had stopped Hitler in the early stages the war would never have happened. Most Americans think, “Yeah, sure. We’ve heard that argument before — before Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And look how they turned out.

China learned a similar lesson. In March 2011, China and Russia abstained from vetoing a Security Council resolution to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to protect Benghazi civilians from mass slaughter. The intervention went beyond that and led to the overthrow of Gaddafi. China wants stability in the Middle East and has learned, from the Libya incident plus Iraq, that U.S. intervention will just add to the turmoil.

And don’t forget, Obama at first tried to reassure the rest of the world that he wanted only a limited strike — to punish Assad but not to overthrow his regime. The resolution proposed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee goes far beyond that. Do they really believe that it could be a limited action? Are they fooling themselves or trying to fool everyone else?

Apparently the majority of Americans aren’t convinced. Over 167,000 people voted in a recent AOL poll: 13% were for intervening, 76% were against getting entangled. So take heart, Ursula, maybe a lot of people have learned something from history.

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8 Responses to Learning from History

  1. Rummuser says:

    I think that by and large, not only Americans, but the world has learnt from history. Particularly the history which involves American do-gooding. In our neighbourhood, what they have gone through because of the do-gooding, there has been quote collateral damage unquote on our turf.

    There is also the pervasive feeling that despite all the aversion, the USA will do something in Syria and the world will pay a very heavy price for it.
    Rummuser´s last blog post ..Have A Nice Weekend.

    • Jean says:

      Peggy Noonan has a great column about the mess in today’s Wall Street Journal. Among other things she says,

      There is the issue of U.S. credibility…. If we bomb Syria, will the world say, “Oh, how credible America is!” or will they say, “They just bombed people because they think they have to prove they’re credible”?

      And,

      Are North Korea and Iran watching? Sure. They’ll always be watching. And no, they won’t say, “Huh, that settles it, if America didn’t move against Syria they’ll never move against us. All our worries are over.” In fact their worries, and ours, will continue.

  2. Jean says:

    “Collateral damage” covers a multiple of sins.

  3. tammyj says:

    those of us that don’t want to get ‘entangled’ … even though 76% or more … have no voice. i liked the link you had that said we all agree that CONGRESS should be the ‘boots on the ground.’ send those pontificating politicians into the heat of it. seriously. one way to get rid of them! the best way probably.
    sick of them. sick of ALL of them. well… maybe not udall. i liked his dad too.
    but like ursula said … it’s hard not to despair.
    and … i dare say … what we’re saying here is being taken note of somewhere no doubt.
    tammyj´s last blog post ..happy birthday little peanut !

    • Jean says:

      “and … i dare say … what we’re saying here is being taken note of somewhere no doubt.”

      No doubt. :)

      In the old days of party lines when someone was listening in to the conversation, one of the speakers would say, “I hope they get an earful.” I haven’t thought of that in years.

  4. Evan says:

    Dear NSA, I am against blowing women and children to smithereens. If you feel this goes against your national interest I think there is a very great deal wrong with your national interest.
    Evan´s last blog post ..My mum is quite sick

  5. Ursula says:

    “The trouble is different people learn different things from history.” What a poignant statement, Jean. So true, so simple. Yet I keep forgetting it. Call me naive, idealistic or downright oblivious to human nature: My disappointment still palatable to me to this day when I realized (age 18 or so) that there is self serving bias the way history is taught. It literally shattered my belief that there was something ‘objective’ about our past – other than dates, obviously.

    Thanks for this post (and your readers) casting a rainbow.

    As an aside, and irony of ironies: Once upon a time I wrote an essay on the Vietnam war. My history teacher piling on the accolade, my faultless research and execution making academic grade. Not that I can remember a word of it now. Should have kept a copy to bathe in long ago glory.

    Guess what I wanted to study (at Uni). Yup, you got it in one. Maybe I had a lucky escape. Who knows. History being such a vast subject. And a mine/mind field. Add to it that, as the years go by, we pile more history on top of history soon each individual will have to specialize so much/concentrate on few segments it begs question how we’ll stitch it all together to make it into one coherent narrative.

    U
    Ursula´s last blog post ..Renee

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