History, used and abused
Archived Articles 14 Aug 2009  EWR
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Chris Patten. European Voice

In her book “The uses and abuses of history” the historian Margaret Macmillan tells a story about two Americans discussing the atrocities of September 11, 2001. One draws an analogy with Pearl Harbor, Japan's attack on the US in 1941. His friend has no idea what this means. “You know,” the first man replies, “It was when the Vietnamese bombed the American fleet and started the Vietnam War.”

Historical memory is not always as bad as this. But international politics and diplomacy are riddled with examples of bad and ill-considered precedents being used to justify foreign policy decisions, invariably leading to catastrophe.

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