Thursday, March 5, 2015

History Repeats Itself. Or At Least Echoes Loudly.

Writing about World War I, before America entered the war:
Americans were horrified by the slaughter in the trenches in France. Not only had the Germans initiated submarine warfare against passenger ships, but they were the first to introduce poison gas. Hundreds of miles of the beautiful French and Belgian countryside were reduced to a hellish moonscape, a "no mans land" where rats fattened on corpses. The Germans used their powerful artillery to batter quaint towns and villages into rubble. "Big Bertha" was a forty-three-ton monster howitzer produced by the Krupp company and incongruously named for Gustav Krupp's wife. It fired a 2,200-pound shell more than nine miles.

The Germans also rained death from the air. Their hydrogen-filled dirigibles—called zeppelins after Count Zeppelin—dropped bombs on civilians in London. In all this, the kaiser's High Command consciously pursued a policy of schrecklichkeit ("frightfulness") to terrify their enemies.

[President] Wilson addressed the war in Europe in another controversial speech in 1916 in which he called for a "peace without victory" and offered to mediate. Germany spurned the offer. Once again Republicans and other supporters of the Allies were deeply affronted.
William J. Bennett, America: the Last Best Hope, vol. II
Sound familiar at all?

I was reading about Woodrow Wilson's presidency last night and kept having the a vague feeling that it somehow sounded familiar. It took specific examples during times of conflict to bring it into focus.

Here I thought that President Obama had taken neutrality and peace-seeking to new levels. Nope. He follows directly in the footsteps of a president from 100 years ago. Also, it was a time when the populace was sharply divided in their opinions about social and economic issues and about what to do about the armed conflict that did not yet directly attack America but threatened to do so.

Well, well. And here we are again.

As with the first volume, Bennett's history is even-handed and thorough, clearly written and engaging. One of the things that drew me to embarking on these books is reviews from people with widely diverse political views called these books fair and impartial. These days that ain't easy to earn.

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