George W. Bush’s recently published memoirs, Decision Points, is in many ways a book of contradictions, where Bush unintentionally demonstrates his readiness to say one thing but do the complete opposite without realising the obvious discrepancy.
One of the more surprising aspects of the book is how Bush stresses his great love for of history and how widely read he is about that subject. But in an article in Klassekampen today I highlight how this is another of those discrepancies, for as one reads on it becomes more and more obvious that Bush himself learnt next to nothing from history.
He tells us how he was aware that wartime presidents tended to “overreach” – and then goes on to do so himself, without realising it. He recounts the mistakes made by the Soviet Union when they occupied Afghanistan – and then made most of the same mistakes (last Saturday was the day when the USA and NATO had been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Union).
He also accidentally reveals that neither he did learn much from the history of which he was himself part, as some of the mistakes made in Afghanistan were repeated in Iraq with disastrous consequences. And one cannot help noticing the contrast between how he stresses his admiration for his father’s achievements as president and how he obviously did not learn anything from it and therefore went on to make several of the mistakes his father was clever enough to avoid.
These discrepancies are almost a red thread through Bush’s autobiography, which clearly shows how the professed lover of history learnt very little from the lessons of history. Perhaps Napoléon I was right when he supposedly said that history teaches us that one learns nothing from history?