A great historian died today. Arthur Schlesinger studied history and was part of history. I think the current grave circumstances of American foreign policy should require that any politician who participates in government or has anything to do with foreign policy should be required to also at least have studied history. The maxim "those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it" cannot be more appropriate.
Back in the early 1980s, I read Schlesinger's book, the Cycles of American History, just because the title intrigued me. As events in Iraq unfolded, I couldn't help but pull the book out of storage and re-read it. The unfolding events sounded familiar and it could more or less predict everything that has gone on the last few years. That is because it happened before. Not just because it happened before in Iraq (see the British) or (God Forbid) Afghanistan (see Russians, British and any other invader you chose), but it has happened in America.
Schlesinger's book descirbes a "Neo-con" (the term is anachronistic) plot that plunged a Cold War into a deep freeze as thawing relations between Eisenhower and Kruschev soured with the Gary Powers U2 spy plane incident. I am sure that the motivations of the intelligence officers who flew the plane before critical talks were well intentioned as were those who got us into Iraq with malformed intelligence, but the constant push and pull between Multi-lateralism vs. Unilateralism is and will be a recurring factor in American politics. There is a current of "we can go it alone" vs. "we are part of a larger world". This unilaterist phase that we are currently in correlates to the isolationism of the past.
Schlesinger's book also predicts the coming activist backlash that will result, which I am not necessarily looking forward to. These times can grow into the chaotic periods of the late 1960s that bring change, but also antagonism and unease that can last for decades. The blue states vs. the red states could be come a lot uglier. These cycles wlll come and go with each generation and the only thing that will change that is the pace of birthrate. Schlesinger's book was written in the Reagan era, but it rings true today. I can't remember Schlesinger's formula for predicting the period, but buy the book and figure it out for yourself.
Let me be upfront. I respect George HW Bush and the coalitions he built, but I think George W. Bush is an idiot and his disregard for the lessons of history cannot be more obvious. Whether you agree with Schlesinger or not, let's have our leaders take a test to see if they know anything about what they are about to engage us in. Forewarned is forearmed.