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The Next European War

The Next European War

The notion that history has nothing to teach us is one of the most pervasive beliefs in modern industrial society.  It’s also one of the most misguided. Sure, we’ve got all these shiny new technological trinkets, and we love to insist to ourselves that this means we’re constantly breaking new ground and going where no previous society has ever gone before. Clinging to that fond delusion, we keep on making mistakes that were already old when bronze swords were high tech, and flailing helplessly when the usual consequences yet again land on top of us.

The shambolic end of the US occupation of Afghanistan earlier this autumn is a case in point. The self-satisfied gooberocracy that runs the United States these days talked itself into believing that the hard-earned lessons of the Vietnam war didn’t matter any more, and sent American soldiers blundering into a country that earned the name “the graveyard of empires” long before the United States was a twinkle in Ben Franklin’s eye.  It wasn’t just Vietnam that the slackjawed warlords of Washington ignored, of course.  The Russians had their own messy experiences in Aghanistan, so did the British, so did half a dozen great Asian empires, and so did Alexander the Great. None of that made any difference, because the political class in the US had convinced itself that the past didn’t matter.

Back when the invasion first happened, wags suggested that “Kabul” is how you pronounce “Saigon” in Pashto, and of course they were quite right.  Having refused to learn from their history, four US administrations duly repeated it, right down to the humiliating final scenes of helicopters on rooftops and victorious insurgents parading with captured US military hardware…

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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