Bacevich in Chronicle: Misreading the Past

November 1, 2015


Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, said that misreadings of American history had disastrous consequences for current foreign policy discussions.

Bacevich made his case in an Op-Ed published Nov. 1 in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “History that Makes Us Stupid.”

From the text of the Op-Ed:

The ostensibly usable past has become a straitjacket. Finding solace in its familiarity, Americans remain firmly moored to the [History That Matters narrative]…hence the innumerable comparisons of Iran to Nazi Germany and Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain, along with predictions of Israelis marching compliantly off to death camps, inspired by the Iran nuclear deal.

The prevailing version of the usable past is worse than unusable. In the United States, it obstructs serious debate over the use and misuse of power. No less than was the case in the 1920s-30s and 1960s-70s, the times call for revisionism. The task for historians this time around is to reframe the entire 20th century, seeing it for the unmitigated disaster that it was and recognizing its profound moral ambiguity without, however, succumbing to moral equivalence.

You can read the entire Op-Ed here.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Bacevich received his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins. Learn more about him here.

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