History's Repetitions: "Never Forget"

Earlier this week, the last surviving American World War I veteran died at the ripe old age of 110. Frank Woodruff Buckles enlisted in the Army at just 16 years old and was discharged in 1920. However, while working as a civilian for a shipping company in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese the day after they attacked Pearl Harbor and spent three and a half years in a prison camp until rescued in 1945.

In a statement issued upon Buckles' death President Obama stated, "...our nation has a sacred obligation to always serve our veterans and their families as well as they've served us." But what exactly does it mean to say that we have an obligation to "serve our veterans?"

While I would venture a guess that Obama was referring to ensuring they have proper medical care, assistance in finding employment upon returning home, pensions, and other social benefits, it seems to me that one of the best ways to serve our veterans is to honor their memory by understanding what drove a patriot like Buckles to hide his birth certificate and lie his way into the Army at just 16 years old. For, in this regard, Buckles is no different than all American patriots from George Washington and the men who fought for the country's independence to every volunteer in the U.S. military serving across the globe today.  Each and every one of these honorable and patriotic citizens recognized that freedom and democracy are worth their lives for the sake of humanity.

However, in serving our veterans, it is equally important to remember the atrocities committed in war, analyze how such violence occurred, and in doing so, prevent history from repeating itself. As a Jew, I was raised listening to the phrase, "Never Forget" and learning about the Holocaust. Yet, as Holocaust survivors become extinct and deniers' voices become louder, I fear that not only will the lessons of the Holocaust be lost on Jews across the globe, but the lessons and memories of World War II will become lost on future generations of Americans including the country's eventual leaders.

Even the lessons of 9/11 -- the worst terrorist attack on US soil that occurred just under ten years ago -- seem lost on many Americans more concerned with the politically correct way to search for, and deal with, terrorists than with the most effective way to fight a war begun by Islamic fundamentalists against Western civilization. And while it is a healthy attribute to be a resilient people and continue living life in the face of terrorist threats, the elected officials entrusted with the safety of American citizens cannot afford such willful blindness to reality.

And I fear that what we are witnessing in the Mideast and elsewhere in the world today is a repeat of history that is not only leading us into World War III, but that will entail a fight for survival for which the present U.S. leadership is not up to task. Our Commander-in-Chief has shown a complete lack of historical knowledge and insight, he has exhibited a complete lack of leadership and decision-making prowess, and he has shown he has neither the stomach for, nor ability to handle, the grave and immensely critical responsibilities handed to him when he entered the White House.

And one does not have to be a history buff to understand that it is time for this administration to rethink its policies to date, admit failure, and quickly develop Plan B, for not only are American lives at stake, but Western civilization and values are being threatened across the globe. World War I was supposed to be "the war to end all wars," however, the world was slow to learn its lessons. From World War II, the world should have learned from the failure of Neville Chamberlain's foreign policy that appeasement only emboldens one's enemy, not placates a foe intent on taking over the world a la Islamic fundamentalists in the 21st century.

Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi legislator, recently wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal comparing Qaddafi's murderous response to the Libyan uprising to the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein in 1991 when George H.W. Bush abandoned the Iraqi people. Chalabi recognized that "[t]he international community owes it to the Libyans to help them remove the tyrant and prevent history from repeating itself."

So why is it that Obama and his advisors plug ahead with either inaction and indecision or failed policy in the face of history having proven that such decisions fly in the face of reason? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that our President, a self-proclaimed student of history, thought that Austrian was a language, claimed that Emperor Hirohito signed the surrender of Japan to General MacArthur, asserted that Islam "has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality," or developed a Mideast policy based on the premise that if only Israel would cede Judea and Samaria to the peaceful Palestinians, the world would live in peace for eternity.

If our Ivy educated elitists in the White House cannot comprehend that their policies of appeasement and diplomacy are leading to disaster, how can we feel confident that later generations of Americans will understand the history of the world, grasp the necessity and desirability of strength rather than weakness, and acquire the means to lead the country and the Western world in the face of a determined and formidable foe?

My ninth grade son asked me recently why he had to learn history. He is studying "Cultures in Conflict" this year and is learning about the decline of Rome and rise of Christianity, the Islamic Empire and the Crusades, the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, the Spanish Conquest and Protestant Reformation, the rise of capitalism and private enterprise, and African cultures. I explained to him the importance of learning history in order to understand the world, create competent leaders and freedom fighters, and appreciate democracy and human rights.

But as I elucidated the importance of learning from prior mistakes in order to prevent them from reoccurring, it was difficult not to enter into a tirade explicating the ignorance of the Obama administration and complaining that if only Obama had studied world history from somewhere other than the knee of a devout socialist and institutions that indoctrinate rather than educate, the Mideast might not be in such disarray and the country in such decline.

It is certainly not too late to serve our country's veterans and ensure that not only do our future leaders respect the values on which this great country was founded, but that they appreciate just how great the United States is and ensure that no enemy is able to defeat our military or our resolve. We need to elect leaders who strive for greatness, not mediocrity, and who understand how to use our status as a superpower to defend human rights and protect freedom across the globe.

Will the next generation of leaders learn their history lessons through analyses of World War III or will they be spared future atrocities due to our present governors having acquired a working knowledge of world affairs to date? Will this administration continue to pursue a foreign policy based on ignorance, ideology, and obsessive fantasy rather than intelligence, reason, and realism? As events unfold at a rapid rate, I fear that we will know all too soon.
Earlier this week, the last surviving American World War I veteran died at the ripe old age of 110. Frank Woodruff Buckles enlisted in the Army at just 16 years old and was discharged in 1920. However, while working as a civilian for a shipping company in the Philippines, Buckles was captured by the Japanese the day after they attacked Pearl Harbor and spent three and a half years in a prison camp until rescued in 1945.

In a statement issued upon Buckles' death President Obama stated, "...our nation has a sacred obligation to always serve our veterans and their families as well as they've served us." But what exactly does it mean to say that we have an obligation to "serve our veterans?"

While I would venture a guess that Obama was referring to ensuring they have proper medical care, assistance in finding employment upon returning home, pensions, and other social benefits, it seems to me that one of the best ways to serve our veterans is to honor their memory by understanding what drove a patriot like Buckles to hide his birth certificate and lie his way into the Army at just 16 years old. For, in this regard, Buckles is no different than all American patriots from George Washington and the men who fought for the country's independence to every volunteer in the U.S. military serving across the globe today.  Each and every one of these honorable and patriotic citizens recognized that freedom and democracy are worth their lives for the sake of humanity.

However, in serving our veterans, it is equally important to remember the atrocities committed in war, analyze how such violence occurred, and in doing so, prevent history from repeating itself. As a Jew, I was raised listening to the phrase, "Never Forget" and learning about the Holocaust. Yet, as Holocaust survivors become extinct and deniers' voices become louder, I fear that not only will the lessons of the Holocaust be lost on Jews across the globe, but the lessons and memories of World War II will become lost on future generations of Americans including the country's eventual leaders.

Even the lessons of 9/11 -- the worst terrorist attack on US soil that occurred just under ten years ago -- seem lost on many Americans more concerned with the politically correct way to search for, and deal with, terrorists than with the most effective way to fight a war begun by Islamic fundamentalists against Western civilization. And while it is a healthy attribute to be a resilient people and continue living life in the face of terrorist threats, the elected officials entrusted with the safety of American citizens cannot afford such willful blindness to reality.

And I fear that what we are witnessing in the Mideast and elsewhere in the world today is a repeat of history that is not only leading us into World War III, but that will entail a fight for survival for which the present U.S. leadership is not up to task. Our Commander-in-Chief has shown a complete lack of historical knowledge and insight, he has exhibited a complete lack of leadership and decision-making prowess, and he has shown he has neither the stomach for, nor ability to handle, the grave and immensely critical responsibilities handed to him when he entered the White House.

And one does not have to be a history buff to understand that it is time for this administration to rethink its policies to date, admit failure, and quickly develop Plan B, for not only are American lives at stake, but Western civilization and values are being threatened across the globe. World War I was supposed to be "the war to end all wars," however, the world was slow to learn its lessons. From World War II, the world should have learned from the failure of Neville Chamberlain's foreign policy that appeasement only emboldens one's enemy, not placates a foe intent on taking over the world a la Islamic fundamentalists in the 21st century.

Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi legislator, recently wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal comparing Qaddafi's murderous response to the Libyan uprising to the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein in 1991 when George H.W. Bush abandoned the Iraqi people. Chalabi recognized that "[t]he international community owes it to the Libyans to help them remove the tyrant and prevent history from repeating itself."

So why is it that Obama and his advisors plug ahead with either inaction and indecision or failed policy in the face of history having proven that such decisions fly in the face of reason? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that our President, a self-proclaimed student of history, thought that Austrian was a language, claimed that Emperor Hirohito signed the surrender of Japan to General MacArthur, asserted that Islam "has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality," or developed a Mideast policy based on the premise that if only Israel would cede Judea and Samaria to the peaceful Palestinians, the world would live in peace for eternity.

If our Ivy educated elitists in the White House cannot comprehend that their policies of appeasement and diplomacy are leading to disaster, how can we feel confident that later generations of Americans will understand the history of the world, grasp the necessity and desirability of strength rather than weakness, and acquire the means to lead the country and the Western world in the face of a determined and formidable foe?

My ninth grade son asked me recently why he had to learn history. He is studying "Cultures in Conflict" this year and is learning about the decline of Rome and rise of Christianity, the Islamic Empire and the Crusades, the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, the Spanish Conquest and Protestant Reformation, the rise of capitalism and private enterprise, and African cultures. I explained to him the importance of learning history in order to understand the world, create competent leaders and freedom fighters, and appreciate democracy and human rights.

But as I elucidated the importance of learning from prior mistakes in order to prevent them from reoccurring, it was difficult not to enter into a tirade explicating the ignorance of the Obama administration and complaining that if only Obama had studied world history from somewhere other than the knee of a devout socialist and institutions that indoctrinate rather than educate, the Mideast might not be in such disarray and the country in such decline.

It is certainly not too late to serve our country's veterans and ensure that not only do our future leaders respect the values on which this great country was founded, but that they appreciate just how great the United States is and ensure that no enemy is able to defeat our military or our resolve. We need to elect leaders who strive for greatness, not mediocrity, and who understand how to use our status as a superpower to defend human rights and protect freedom across the globe.

Will the next generation of leaders learn their history lessons through analyses of World War III or will they be spared future atrocities due to our present governors having acquired a working knowledge of world affairs to date? Will this administration continue to pursue a foreign policy based on ignorance, ideology, and obsessive fantasy rather than intelligence, reason, and realism? As events unfold at a rapid rate, I fear that we will know all too soon.

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