Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

History and its sad lessons

Something that's been nagging at me recently is this notion that terrorism is a new thing, dating to maybe the 1960's, and that before that, the world existed in a sort of happy state - oh, there were wars, of course. I mean, who didn't have to memorize all that stuff about the Civil War and all... And back then, of course war was between Nation-States... Only we didn't really recognize the CSA as a nation... Well, never mind about that, they thought they were a nation. The thing is that nobody was out there bombing for a cause... oh, except for some anarchists... and nationalists... okay, and communists... well, and Guy Fawkes, but the point is.. oh, dear, is it me, or did I just paint myself into a corner?


Okay, so Guy Fawkes was really ahead of his time... or not. The notion of killing civilians to show that their government can't protect them is actually pretty old. Anybody remember the speech Henry V gives at Harfleur in Shakespeare's play? That's slightly *cleaned up* from common methods of warfare of the time. The chevauchee was not a pretty tactic. And no, Sherman didn't invent the idea of destroying the ability to produce food. Sowing the land with salt is at least as old as the Bible.

The idea of two armies in uniforms fighting each other was supposed to be a way of limiting warfare and protecting civilians, a recognition that warfare was and is an ugly thing. And even then, there were folks who didn't don a uniform. Spies, irregulars, etc. were to be found even in "formal" warfare.

So why the idea that this is a new thing? I think it's an attempt to deny history. This enemy is *new*, so the lessons of history will be misleading. This tactic came out of nowhere, so noone will be safe until we (insert repression of your choice here). While not comparing Iraq with Vietnam has become a big issue for this administration, I think it's part of a larger wish to deny the lessons of history in general. If this war, this set of people to be scapegoated is *different*, then we should be frightened enough to turn over immense power to whoever will fight it for us.


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