Thursday, January 21, 2010

History Revisited

Someone once said, "If we do not learn from history we are bound to repeat it." I am getting close to the end of a book titled "The March of Folly" by Barbara Tuchman. In the book she traces three periods in history and how countries or governmental agencies continued to act with folly in the face of what appears to be evidence to the contrary. I found the first section of her book to be of little interest, it seemed her point was made early and why read on. However when you get to the section about Europe in the Middle Ages it becomes interesting.

Tuchman covers a period of time from 1470 to early 1500's. It seemed that the Catholic Church had a number of Popes who were more secular than spiritual. Lavish spending, mistresses, debauchery and the building of grand edifices seemed to characterize the period. During that time there developed a lot of pressure from other religious persons decrying the immorality of the church hierarchy. It eventually lead to the rebellion of Martin Luther and the break away religious sects many that exist to this day. The selling of dispensations to the wealthy to fund the Popes lavish styles and building of grand cathedrals was common place. Bishops positions were sold to royalty. In the face of growing and active resistance to the use of church assets for individual aggrandizement Pope after Pope seemed locked in to the course without consideration of how change would fundamentally alter the face of religion in the Western Hemisphere

The next period she writes about is Vietnam. Now this period I have some knowledge of. I was in the army from 1967 to 1971 during the growth of civil unrest in the United States. Once again it appears we did not learn the lessons of history. In the face of the French experience of frustration and inability to control the country we simply picked up where they left of and had no further success than they. I found the book infuriatingly accurate and I've not heard anyone in years say anything good about Vietnam. We required a whole generation of men to go and fight in a war we could not win. They did not return from Vietnam in honor but were spate on by their countrymen. It is a period of shame, government deceit, a president getting caught in political expediency and not being able to extricate himself from the war that was pulling him down.

What about today. We are in Afghanistan. The reason, the threat of terror against our citizens. Russia expended considerable assets trying to break the war lords of Afghanistan and ended up fighting a war similar to Vietnam. It became a heavy economic toll and unpopular among their citizenry. Oh, we are using a little different argument. We don't intend to take the country over, we just want to develop a democracy with a stable government that will handle the terrorists for us. Ain't gonna happen.

We ended up in Iraq due to the arrogance of our leaders and their bellicose beliefs that we are entitled to control the rest of the world. That has been thrown in our face and as a country we are despised in other parts of the world for our arrogance and belief that we are owed. I do not support the war in Afghanistan. The billions we are pouring in to the loss of American servicemen could better be spent on developing technology that prevents terrorists from entering our country and killing our citizens. Either that or just destroy the country, make it inhabitable for 10,000 years and don't worry about a home for terrorists in that place. History has shown that you shouldn't be where you are not wanted. We on the other hand, take the position that we will help you develop a democracy in an country that has no history of it, nor do I know of any movement or agitation by the people to develop a democracy. But no, let's have it the American way.

Bush started us on another road of folly, Obama is going to perpetuate it. Unless he does what he said at the end of a year and that is give a serious reevaluation to the effectiveness of our effort. In the meantime there will be American mothers and fathers lamenting the death of a loved one in a country that doesn't want their presence. Afghanistan is lead by men who have a history of corruption and self-service. We are mired again in a war we should not be in.

When will we ever learn?

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