Rumsfeld’s History

I make it a point not to engage in political commentary on this blog. One reason is that most of the people who read my posts are probably not interested in what I have to say, but the main reason is that there are plenty of other people who know much more than me – on both sides of the debate. That said, I do want to comment on what I find to be a disturbing trend in the administration’s justification for what the United States is supposedly doing in Iraq. This weekend I listened to Donald Rumsefeld address the troops in Iraq. In an apparent attempt to reassure the men and women listening that what they are doing is important he told them that some day in the future their children and grandchildren will bring home their history textbooks and in it there will be a section on the Iraq war. Rumsfeld glowingly suggested that they will be able to sit down with that child and say, “I was there.” Now I have no doubt that Rumsfeld was imagining a scenario where everything turned out in a way that was favorable to the United States and the gradual spread of democracy around the world (whatever that means). What troubles me is the way in which R’s justification hinges on luck. Don’t get me wrong I am a realist when it comes to foreign policy; there is an element of luck in getting it right. That said, is that the best the secretary can do when he is standing in front of people who are putting their lives on the line every day of the week? I can just imagine Rumsfeld addressing newly recruited black soldiers in early 1864: “Years down the road, you and your children will be able to look at the pages of any history textbook and feel pride in the fact that your sacrifice made it possible.”

It’s not just Rummy that is utilizing this weak excuse of a justification; just turn on C-SPAN for Scott McClellan’s White House briefings and it is amazing to me how many times he responds to a legitimate question with the response that we will have to wait and see what the historians have to say. Is it just me or is this simply a way to skirt the question. What is even more disturbing is the apparent lack of any historical context for what is transpiring in Iraq. I can’t remember a time when a foreign policy was constructed without any apparent regard for serious historical reflection; it is almost as if we are operating in a vacuum. It is ironic that on the one hand we have to wait for history’s judgments, but right now we can safely ignore it.

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