…are doomed to repeat it. A century ago, the philosopher offered that now too-familiar warning. Tragically, it’s just as absolutely true today, and applies to many other sad moments in recent history.
The latest example is following John Kerry’s recent return from meetings with smirking Iranian frontmen at the so-called peace talks. What was accomplished? The mullahs and their well-coached people are still on the streets screaming their old rant: Death to America!
Of course, in the too-familiar news photo, I softened the words of the signs now waving by typical Tehran street mobs. Unfortunately, the actual hateful banners continue to spew out the same incendiary anti-American rhetoric, as Iranian leaders are free to go on with their nuclear build-up and support of Middle East terror groups.
Looking back from today’s blunders, some familiar past examples remind us too clearly of Santayana’s words. In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came home after a session with Adolf Hitler, declaring “peace in our time”. A year later, and without warning, Germany invaded Poland, setting off World War II and the deaths of millions.
At the same time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was clearly aware that Japan had invaded China and was building up its military for further conquests. FDR’s flunked history lesson ended on December 7, 1941, when Japanese aircraft devastated the sitting-duck American fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
With yet another war, by the end of 1950, General Douglas MacArthur’s Army and Marine troops had pushed the invading North Koreans back to their border with China. He proudly announced an American victory. Then a million Chinese “volunteers” drove his troops into a no-win stalemate that still exists today.
Two decades later, and after ten years of frustration in Vietnam, that war ended in 1973. The American military effort dribbled out with no victory, and the North Vietnamese invaders took over the entire country. Today, the same familiar scenario may be happening four decades later in Iraq and Afghanistan, following a similar American no-win withdrawal.
Remember President George W. Bush in 2003, all dressed up in a Navy fighter pilot jumpsuit on an aircraft carrier? He strutted proudly in front of his victory sign, “Mission Accomplished.” Tell that to the terrorists who now drive around in hundreds of captured Humvees. They’re enjoying even more billions of dollars worth of abandoned American weapons and other equipment as they freely operate in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Mr. Santayana, those of us who have served in wars understand your warning words. Unfortunately, the brilliant politicians, mullahs and generals never stop rushing blindly into repeating history.