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History Demands Respect

Reader comment on item: A Neo-Conservative's Caution

Submitted by Daniel W. Weil (United States), Mar 9, 2005 at 17:43

When Lyndon Johnson early in the Kennedy presidency told Speaker Sam Rayburn how impressed he was by the people being appointed (later termed the Best and the Brightest), the Speaker famously replied he would feel more comfortable if one of them had served time as a county sheriff.

The same may be true of the Bush II presidency, except rather than sheriff, I would substitute the term historian, or at least someone respectful and knowledgable about history. Your comments in this article point out a fatal flaw in how foreign policy is being handled by the President (and I strongly believe that he, not his advisers, drive policy initiatives).

The examples you cite have a thousand years and more of what can be termed redundancy - beginning perhaps with the Athenian experience with democracy, and the short lived post-Czar pre-Bolshevic Russian attempt and, of course, the liberation of Cuba.

To paraphrase that great philosopher, George Gershwin, democracy is a some-time thing. Americans generally and their leaders and commentators in specifict, tend to forget that the American experiment with democracy had over a hundred years of awesome and painful development. Like a tree with beautiful branches and enticing leaves, what makes it what it is are the roots. Democracy, I suggest, can't exist without roots and the elements needed to nourish them.

Of special significance is the point you make regarding alternatives. This administration seems to sometime forget that it is fundamentalism which is our greatest threat. And the heart of fundamentalism, of course, is totalitarianism - as so well described by Jeanne Kirkpatrick in her seminal article, "Dictatorships and Double Standards."

The second prong that requires intense concern is unification or conscious parallelism by fundamentalists in different lands.

And lastly, history teaches that Americans have little tolerance for long term hostility - a fact Dean Rusk said was the greatest mistake he made (in the sense of overlooking) when overseeing the Viet Nam conflict. President Bush doesn't quite seem to understand that the body bags will soon define policy in the Middle East - and that Congress will reassert itself if the American public makes known its displeasure.

I am sure that those in the know read or are informed of your writings. What is of concern is whether they really understand what is being said.

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