Condemned to Repeat History

Submitted by Amisha Upadhyaya

As a writer, you write about the times; the greatest, report on their time periods with incredible insight. As a person, as a politician, it’s dangerous to discount history otherwise we will be condemned to repeat it.  As I write a historical romance for Random House, I am shocked at how much India has forgotten or warped its history.  In the US, we are on the same path.

The founding fathers created a nation unlike any other mainly because they didn’t want to become like any other nation.  They carefully culled from the history of the greatest civilizations and empires, from the greatest philosophers and economists on how not to become fundamentalist or monarchal or a religious state as countless other civilizations became.

But we are increasingly forgetting our history.

With increasing nail biting I — and millions of others — have noticed the increasingly evangelical nature of a country whose founding fathers were deists.  They knew the Catholic Church’s stranglehold on Europe during the Middle Ages. They knew ritual and superstition could cause entire civilizations to fall.  They descended from the Puritans who had fled religious persecution.  “E Pluribus Unum” (From Many, One) was the original motto adopted by the Union in 1782.  The motto “In God We Trust,” was only placed on the 2-cent coin during the Civil War when war-ravaged citizens demanded it.

Every man “ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.” (George Washington in a letter to the United Baptist Churches of Virginia, 1789)

And even more relevant:

Article XI, Treaty of Tripoli

As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen [Muslims];… it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. (Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams, 1797)

There’s an increasing fear of “the other” that runs alongside a crumbling education system out to create an impassable elitist class in a country.  This in a land where the founding fathers embraced the teachings of the greatest minds from other cultures to create a nation with unprecedented social mobility.  They knew the power of education and the necessity of it if a democracy was to work.

I think by far the most important bill in our whole code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness… The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.” (Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe, 1786)

And even after every expert has said time and again, regular old military operations will not win a war in Afghanistan, it looks inevitable that more soldiers is exactly the answer the President will give.  President Obama, as an astute student of history, should know about the history of ideological wars, such as Vietnam or Iraq — they fail rather than ones with direct aims, like topple the Nazis.

The British defeated at the Battle of Maiwand, 1880

In relation to Afghanistan, history screams unmissable lessons.  The British tried three times between 1839 and 1919 to subjugate Afghanistan, and each time they failed.  In fact, Afghanistan has the extraordinary history of never being defeated no one, including by Alexander the Great, whose endless victories in conquering the world stopped at the Khyber Pass.

He has at hand cultural experts on the region, must read the same op-ed’s or else hears from those experts directly in which all advise investing in the locals so they will ensure the Taliban’s topple, to provide minimal military protection so the Taliban don’t kidnap, rape, pillage, tear down schools, bridges, hospitals and with it, their kids’ futures.

Yet, the strategy in Afghanistan seems doomed to follow a military strategy with more troops who will be sent inevitably.

It’s history which more people should read judiciously.  High school classes cannot carry you through life and neither can newspaper and most def not Wiki.

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