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What did you do to prevent the war?

April 18, 2008

I’m a history nut, and today I read an article that brought together my work at FCNL and my zest for the past. In What Have We Learned, If Anything? Tony Judt frets that the United States is trying to forget the past century, a time during which the rest of the world because intimately acquainted with the devastation of war.

According to Judt, the U.S., because we haven’t had war on our soil, and don’t understand the tragedy of civilian casualties, took a very different message away from the last hundred years of the millennium:

“For many American commentators and policymakers the message of the twentieth century is that war works. Hence the widespread enthusiasm for our war on Iraq in 2003… For Washington, war remains an option- on that occasion the first option. For the rest of the developed world it has become a last resort.”

So what are we to do to change the paradigm of militarism and war that rules U.S. society? Judt argues, as I, the history enthusiast would as well that,

“Far from escaping the twentieth century, we need, I think, to go back and look a bit more carefully. We need to learn again—or perhaps for the first time—how war brutalizes and degrades winners and losers alike and what happens to us when, having heedlessly waged war for no good reason, we are encouraged to inflate and demonize our enemies in order to justify that war’s indefinite continuance. And perhaps, in this protracted electoral season, we could put a question to our aspirant leaders: Daddy (or, as it might be, Mommy), what did you do to prevent the war?”

Well, what are we doing to prevent war? How can we get people to understand the costs of war? Will take the U.S. going through the destruction and decline that comes with war to finally get it? If that is the case, we might not learn the lesson until too late.

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