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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 28, 2005 / 21 Tammuz, 5765

The past as politics

By Victor Davis Hanson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | History is evoked more and more these days, even as fewer of us read it.

That apathy explains why when public figures turn to false historical analogies for political purposes, they're often given a free pass to exaggerate or distort. Take, for example, filmmaker Michael Moore who once compared terrorists in Iraq to our own minutemen, or Yasser Arafat who implied that the taking of Jenin was as brutal as the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad. Even Sen. Dick Durbin recently likened the conditions found in Guantanamo Bay to those in Nazi death camps.

So, the next time someone quotes philosopher George Santayana for the umpteenth time that "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," just assume that what follows will probably be wrong. Having a Rolodex of cocktail party quotes to beef-up an argument is not the same as the hard work of learning about the past.

Thus, we are now warned that the war against terror is failing because it has lasted as long as World War II — as if the length of war, not the cost, determines success.

Yet the nearly 2,000 U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq, while tragic, are a fraction of the 292,000 American battle deaths in World War II — about .6 percent, in fact.

On July 21, Arianna Huffington, on her Huffington Post blog, drew on her Greek heritage to warn us that Iraq is like the Athenians' 415 B.C. disastrous attack on the Sicilian city of Syracuse. So, she huffs, "Maybe someone should send Karl Rove a copy of Thucydides."

She should, instead, carefully reread her own copy of the historian's work. The Athenians attacked a democracy larger than their own. Yet Thucydides implies that Athens still could have taken Syracuse had its generals and the people back home not bickered amongst themselves. Perhaps if the United States attacked India and lost, Ms. Huffington's analogy might make sense.

The mantra "Bush lied; thousands died" charges that the president altered his reasons for the war from the original worry over weapons of mass destruction. But, aside from the fact that the U.S. Senate voted for the war on 22 additional counts, wars, rightly or wrongly, have often had a variety of changing public explanations. Lincoln led the North into the Civil War emphasizing that it was a struggle to preserve the Union, not outlaw slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was not passed until January of 1863 when enough Union progress allowed Lincoln to publicly redefine a practical struggle of restoration into one of sweeping idealism.

Woodrow Wilson ("He kept us out of war") and Franklin D. Roosevelt ("Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars") won re-election by promising noninvolvement in Europe's fighting. Yet, when voted back in, they both prepared for war, convinced that there was no living with either Prussian militarism or Axis fascism. Since America entered World War I without first being attacked, should we conclude "Wilson lied, thousands died"?

Sen. John Kerry intoned of the Patriot Act he voted for, "We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night." Though, so far, that mild statute pales before exigencies of past liberal wartime presidents who really did jail innocents, night and day, without warning or sometimes even justification. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. During World War I, under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, Woodrow Wilson detained citizens without trial and made it a crime to slander the United States. Franklin Roosevelt convicted and executed saboteurs through military tribunals, and sent thousands of Japanese Americans to relocation camps.

We're constantly reminded of the regrettable intelligence lapses from Sept. 11 onward, but they seem almost minor in light of prior blunders in the fog of war. Thousands of Americans perished at Shiloh, Pearl Harbor and during the Battle of the Bulge because commanders like Ulysses S. Grant, Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel and Dwight D. Eisenhower didn't have a clue what the enemy was planning.

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In our confusion during this war, why do we often ignore history or twist its details to fit our own particular needs?

First, in our schools, formal study of the past has given way to the more ideological agenda of the social sciences. Mastery of historical facts is seen as passť, while the less educated instead "do theory" to prove preconceived notions.

Second, good intentions don't always equal good history. Being politically correct often makes us plain wrong, relegating history to melodrama and negating history's power to put tragedy into context.

Third, we're in thrall to the present affluent age, convinced that our own depressing experiences are unique, naturally dwarfing all prior calamities.

But history is not a parlor game used to prove a political point. Instead, at its best, history should offer us solace that we are never really alone.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and military historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Comment by clicking here.


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