Tuesday, December 08, 2015

ELIOT A. COHEN: History Doesn’t Take Sides

 History sides with no one but Historians do judge. People fond of claiming History's favor forget that and will face some pretty harsh judgement.

Read Eliot Cohen's History Doesn't Take Sides.
Invoking History is a way of avoiding hard truths. It is a hollow phrase because it is supposed to soothe, not arouse, rally or inform. More importantly, it is simply not true. It presumes that the good guys win. Not always—just ask Rwandans, Cambodians, or surviving family members of Mao’s seventy million victims. Furthermore, the bad guys think the same thing, particularly Marxists, who shortly before their doctrines imploded were supremely confident that they knew in which direction History was marching. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev famously said to Western ambassadors at a reception in Moscow, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side.” What he said next, depending on which translation you prefer, was “We will bury you.” Less than 35 years later, the Soviet empire collapsed into ruin. It was a useful warning for lazy politicians: Believe too strongly that your country has a destiny guaranteed by History, and you may ensure that it doesn’t have much of a future. A public that hears the phrase has a right to be skeptical—and nervous.

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