George Santayana famously observed that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. To which I would add that a little, selective memory is a dangerous thing. Exhibit A in support of this corollary is George W. Bush's recent speech to the Air Force Academy in which he "called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a “great struggle” akin to World War II and warned anew against those who would waver in it."
Laying aside for a moment Bush's ludicrous but annoying habit of comparing himself to war leaders like Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman, a fuller, nonselective comprehension of history would locate the historical model for Afghanistan and Iraq in World War I.
John Quiggan writes:
[T]he absence of this most bloodily futile of wars from historical memory has been a huge boon to the war party. With a historical memory of war dominated by the “Good War” against Hitler and the Axis, it’s unsurprising that Americans have been much more willing than the citizens of other democratic societies to accept war as part of the natural order of things.
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Ignorance of the Great War also produces faulty historical understanding in other respects, as evidenced in the recent flap about appeasement (leaving aside its use by ignorant ranters who have clearly never even heard of Munich). For those without any memory of the Carthaginian peace of Versailles, the policy of appeasement seems to be simply a spineless failure to resist unprovoked aggression, starting with the repudiation of Versailles and the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. But by the 1930s the injustice and untenability of the Versailles settlement was obvious, and fighting a war to enforce it was unthinkable. The fact that merely redressing injustices would do nothing to contain Hitler only become clear gradually. The idea that the failure of appeasement in the 1930s shows that governments should never negotiate with hostile powers is simply silly.
It also seems to me that when we do, on those rare occasions, remember World War I, what we recall is often the romantic myth of the flying aces, those magnificent men in their flying machines who adhered chivalrously to the duello of the knights of the air. Seldom to we dwell on death in the muddy, disease-ridden trenches, or on the terrors of mustard gas, or on the futile infantry charges against fortified enemy positions. These horror of war seem quite similar to today's warfare by IED and suicide bomber.