Friday, December 30, 2005

Success seen as failure 

I like to go on about how the average person's lack of historical knowledge is pathetic, but in fact it seems that it can even be dangerous to the health of the republic:
What explains this paradox of public disappointment over things that turn out better than anticipated? Why are we like children who damn their parents for not providing yet another new toy when the present one is neither paid for nor yet out of the wrapper?
One cause is the demise of history. The past is either not taught enough, or presented wrongly as a therapeutic exercise to excise our purported sins.
Either way the result is the same: a historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments — and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle.
VDH goes on to list many forgotten events in history that make Iraq look like a nice Sunday picnic, and even points out that our inner cities can be very, very violent, but imperfection in Iraq is seen as failure, instead of an unchangeable characteristic of real life and not idealization. I agree. History provides perspective, and perspective is necessary to evaluate situations well and make good decisions. Without perspective decisions are based on little more than emotion, and that's not a good way to run one's life, let alone a nation.

Mr. Hanson concludes with a call for people to see more clearly and have not only some perspective in world history but to even just remember how dramatically expectations have changed in the last four years due to our great successes abroad:
The result of this juvenile boredom with good news and success? Few stop to reflect how different a Pakistan is as a neutral rather than as the embryo of the Taliban, or a Libya without a nuclear-weapons program, or a Lebanon with Syrians in it, or an Iraq without Saddam and Afghanistan without Mullah Omar. That someone — mostly soldiers in the field and diplomats under the most trying of circumstances — accomplished all that is either unknown or forgotten as we ready ourselves for the next scandal.
Precisely because we are winning this war and have changed the contour of the Middle East, we expect even more — and ever more quickly, without cost in lives or treasure. So rather than stopping to praise and commemorate those who gave us our success, we can only rush ahead to destroy those who do not give us even more.
Read the whole thing. And remember, imperfection and tactical failure does not mean that overall success has not been achieved in a large part, both in Iraq, Afghanistan, and more.

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