Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity â€” the stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture. Three decades ago, we suffered defeat in an unwinnable war against tribalism, the most fanatic of political emotions, fighting against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests. Vietnam was hopeless enough, but to repeat the same arrogant folly 30 years later in Iraq is unforgivable….
A nation informed by a vivid understanding of the ironies of history is, I believe, best equipped to manage the tragic temptations of military power. Let us not bully our way through life, but let a growing sensitivity to history temper and civilize our use of power….
The great strength of history in a free society is its capacity for self-correction. This is the endless excitement of historical writing â€” the search to reconstruct what went before, a quest illuminated by those ever-changing prisms that continually place old questions in a new light.
History is a doomed enterprise that we happily pursue because of the thrill of the hunt, because exploring the past is such fun, because of the intellectual challenges involved, because a nation needs to know its own history. Or so we historians insist. Because in the end, a nationâ€™s history must be both the guide and the domain not so much of its historians as its citizens.