Before World War One, the philosopher George Santayana was quoted as saying, ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ After World War One, Winston Churchill is said to have echoed this thought when he said, ‘those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.’ Perhaps today we can update this notion by saying, simply, ‘those who fail to learn from history are doomed.’
We have come a long way since the world of Santayana and Churchill. Once, men of goodwill worried about losing peace and tranquillity because of tyrants like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Today, Hitler and Stalin are gone. We no longer worry about powerful dictators controlling large armies; we worry instead about powerless terrorists. We no longer worry about an iron fist enslaving Europe. We worry about religious fanatics glorifying their god by killing hundreds, even thousands, with the contents of a knapsack.
In case you haven’t noticed, our world—and our worry—has changed.
To deal with such change, we can learn much from the last century. History has lessons for those who would defend our tranquillity. Indeed, we learn everything we need to know from World War Two: the causes of war are few--appeasement, accepting lies as truth, giving evil men power and maintaining silence in the face of that evil.
The lessons of history are before us and many will agree: peace requires a combination of moral absolutes, military preparedness and the courage to stand up to evil; war comes when moral and military responsibilities are abandoned, allowing evil to fill in the vacuum. Evil feeds on appeasement. Sometimes, you have no choice but to fight; and when that time comes, you not only know it, but you also know that the longer you wait, the bloodier it will be. Peace does not come from avoiding war at all costs; it comes from giving the bully a damn good bloody nose—and the sooner that happens, the better it will be for all.
Read history: if you do not stand up to the bully, you lose.
Throughout history, the man who turns the other cheek usually gets slapped twice, then three times. He has no peace until he fights, leaves or dies.
Religious hate never brings peace. Peace comes only when good men silence hate —not the other way around.
Do you understand these lessons? Many have died because we ignore them.
Today, we stand on the threshold of a religious war that involves bus bombs and nuclear weapons. With such threats, we lose the luxury of appeasement and delay. Today, appeasement and delay will not lead to a bloody war on someone else’s land. That war will come to us. The blood will flow on our land because those who aim to kill have learned their own lessons: how to energize the rage of followers, how to kill innocent people and then use propaganda to create enough sympathy that the victims invite the killers into their own back yard. Our refusal to learn history’s lessons will mean painful schooling by killers. War today will not mean your neighbour’s son could die in some faraway battle; it means your brother and my sister die right here in town. The tranquillity we lose will not be a political abstraction; it will be the tranquillity of our own neighbourhood. Today, the risk of ignoring history’s lessons is not just another war. The risk is war on our own street. If we ignore history, we will not simply be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. We will be doomed.
We face this existential threat because the war we confront is not simply a war over land. Listen to Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. Listen to the Muslim Waqf of Jerusalem. Listen to Arab TV. The war we face is a religious war with a religious goal—the destruction of Little Satan (Israel) and Big Satan (America). This is not just a war over territory or borders. This is about religion. It is about G-d.
Perhaps G-d makes you uncomfortable. That’s too bad because this war gives you only two choices: you either stand for G-d or wait for madmen to create nuclear weapons.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Although history teaches that land is often the cause of war, it also teaches that land is not the only cause of war. In fact, history presents a cruel reality: when land is not the only cause for war, land is not the goal of war; and when land is not the goal of war, death and killing do not end when land is captured.
History is simple but brutal: ignore the lessons of your past and you will have no future.