History Is Un-American

W.J. Astore

Real Americans Create Their Own Futures

I was bantering online with an old friend and fellow historian and I hit him with my best shot: history is un-American. If you think like an historian, and especially if you think America and its future actions should be informed, or possibly even constrained, by history, you are clearly un-American. History is more or less bunk, Henry Ford famously said, and Americans can safely ignore it. We are like gods, creating our own futures out of nothing, imposing our will on everything around us.

Henry Ford, American god

This attitude, this hubris, explains much about the U.S. military’s woeful record since 1945. The French lost in Indochina? No matter. Americans will prevail in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia because we’re not the French. The Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan? No matter. Americans will prevail there because we’re not the Russians. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein and his minority Sunni government will unleash chaos that strengthens Shia forces in Iraq, aligning that country more closely with Iran? No matter. America will bring order and the blessings of democracy to Iraq at the point of gun or a Hellfire missile.

Karl Rove, a major player in the Bush/Cheney administration, summed up this hubris in this now-infamous passage:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

That man did not want for confidence.

Related to the idea of history being un-American is the business- and management-oriented nature of the officer corps in the U.S. military. To be promoted to field-grade (major or lieutenant commander), you almost have to have a master’s degree or be close to finishing one. But rarely do officers choose to pursue a master’s in history or any other subject related to the humanities. The master’s of choice is in business administration or some type of management.

By pursuing MBAs and management degrees, officers show their practical nature. They also set themselves up well for future careers once they retire or separate from the military. After all, who needs to know history, even military history? The U.S. military will simply act, creating its own realities, which feckless historians will then passively study as America’s real actors get on with the job of remaking the world in America’s image.

We live in the United States of Amnesia, Gore Vidal quipped, and history is part of that amnesia. Who remembers that America was at war in Afghanistan as late as 2021? It’s on to new “great power” struggles with China and Russia. Look forward, not backward, Barack Obama said when he became president, meaning there was no need to hold the Bush/Cheney administration responsible for anything, including torture and other war crimes. “We tortured some folks” — time to move on!

An expression I learned in the U.S. military is “analysis paralysis,” as in don’t overthink the problem. Act! But if America’s military record since World War II proves one thing, it’s that ignoring history because it’s “bunk” or less practical than another business or management course is a very unwise idea.

Acting should be informed by thinking. Dare I say, historically-informed thinking. Even for America’s wannabe gods.

23 thoughts on “History Is Un-American

  1. This is a great post! I hope you have plans on writing a book. You have the foundations there for one. Alas, a book won’t solve this problem. We seemed doomed to just keep repeating his brawn over brains process.


  2. New Years Eve in the AI article, I left a link to Redacted News interviewing Whitney Webb, author of ‘One Nation Under Blackmail’ volumes 1 & 2.

    She’s interviewed on Redacted News again Today with new discussions on Epstein, The Banks, Intelligence and government interactions at the 1 hour left point in the video. It’s a 33 minute interview, and I found it very interesting.


    For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.
    Luke 8


  3. It will be interesting to see how History judges this. And those who haven’t been following this need to while the opportunity still presents itself…:

    For those who haven’t been following, a compilation of one-paragraph summaries of all the Twitter Files threads by every reporter. With links and notes on key revelations by Matt Taibbi

    It’s January 4th, 2023, which means Twitter Files stories have been coming out for over a month. Because these are weedsy tales, and may be hard to follow if you haven’t from the beginning, I’ve written up capsule summaries of each of the threads by all of the Twitter Files reporters, and added links to the threads and accounts of each. At the end, in response to some readers (especially foreign ones) who’ve found some of the alphabet-soup government agency names confusing, I’ve included a brief glossary of terms to help as well.

    In order, the Twitter Files threads:

    Twitter Files Part 1: December 2, 2022, by @mtaibbi
    Continued at https://taibbi.substack.com/p/capsule-summaries-of-all-twitter


  4. My comment on this report, ‘The Everything Bubble Has Burst, The Great Crisis of Our Lifetimes Is Finally Here’

    Most Everyone knows what’s implied by the old adage, “The Writing’s on the Wall.”
    Most everyone may not know it’s an Old Testament record in the Book of Daniel 5.

    Ancient Biblical BABYLON is the record of the 1st Nation in that part of the World some 2800 years ago, reaching Military-Economic Superpower Status.
    The US being the latest, greatest of all the Nations in Human History reaching that Superpower Status able to set the Rules in the Rules Based Order the weaker, poorer Nations have to follow, but not the Superpower that sets them, being Exceptional.

    Ancient Biblical BABYLON is now called IRAQ. The TAIL struck the HEAD in the 2003 US WAR in Violation of the same International Law Putin/Russia is demonized for.

    As the story goes, the King of BABYLON hosted a State Dinner and invited 1000 of the Elite of the Kingdom.
    They drank wine and praised the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone.
    In other words, from then to now, in today’s language, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” and the Elites are still the Elites.
    More sources on the Left and on the Right, rich and poor, from ALL Nations are warning, The Writing’s On the Wall!



  5. Yep, history aint for us because we are better than everyone else who ever came before, ya know, and it is all unimportant ‘cuz it’s already happened, and so on and so on.

    Karl Rove’s quote was also used by one of the more obnoxious Nazi-inclined senior generals; can’t remember which one, prior to launch of Barbarossa. Happened to read it at about the time Rove said it, anonymously/unattributed, while reading Alan Clark’s Barbarossa and lo and behold, there it was, same as Rove almost exactly word-for-word, with a most unfavorable comment on it by Clark. Nobody in newsmedialand I contacted with this bit of information was all that interested in that information.

    If I don’t get too sidetracked, will send a copy of letter to New Yorker ‘s 12-19 issue on the Sheelah Kolhatkar article on Vivek Ramaswamy. He’s obviously got a political hard-on of the worst sort for major national public office. He was about 16 in ’01, and so has lived in a state of perpetual US war his entire adult life. New Yorker article is a most rare piece of in-depth long-form reportage, probing Ramaswamy’s beliefs and opinions on issues. Umm, not a word on the wars, Ramaswamy’s view of them, nothing. But why didn’t the reporter think to ask? My supposition is that she has her job because she is well-trained enough to not ask the wrong questions, and anything about the wars, or anything as unfavorable as A Major Political Personage like Rove quoting Nazis just is off-limits you know exclamation mark. That sort of servility in the brain trades is really the problem with us and history, methinks.

    Best— Dan

    Happy New Year! ________________________________


  6. Joni Mitchell in 1976

    I’m traveling in some vehicle
    I’m sitting in some cafe
    A defector from the petty wars
    That shell shock love away
    There’s comfort in melancholy
    When there’s no need to explain
    It’s just as natural as the weather
    In this moody sky today
    In our possessive coupling
    So much could not be expressed
    So now I’m returning to myself
    These things that you and I suppressed
    I see something of myself in everyone
    Just at this moment of the world
    As snow gathers like bolts of lace
    Waltzing on a ballroom girl

    You know it never has been easy
    Whether you do or you do not resign
    Whether you travel the breadth of extremities
    Or stick to some straighter line
    Now here’s a man and a woman sitting on a rock
    They’re either going to thaw out or freeze
    Strains of Benny Goodman
    Coming through the snow and the pinewood trees
    I’m porous with travel fever
    But you know I’m so glad to be on my own
    Still somehow the slightest touch of a stranger
    Can set up trembling in my bones
    I know no one’s going to show me everything
    We all come and go unknown
    Each so deep and superficial
    Between the forceps and the stone

    Well I looked at the granite markers
    Those tribute to finality to eternity
    And then I looked at myself here
    Chicken scratching for my immortality
    In the church they light the candles
    And the wax rolls down like tears
    There’s the hope and the hopelessness
    I’ve witnessed thirty years
    We’re only particles of change I know I know
    Orbiting around the sun
    But how can I have that point of view
    When I’m always bound and tied to someone
    White flags of winter chimneys
    Waving truce against the moon
    In the mirrors of a modern bank
    From the window of a hotel room

    I’m traveling in some vehicle
    I’m sitting in some cafe
    A defector from the petty wars
    Until love sucks me back that way


  7. And Karl Rove spoke with absolute confidence back then because ~ back then in 2004 ~ America WAS an Empire: the global, unipolar hegemon “acting again” [and again] and creating all those “new realities.”

    And now it is a flailing and failing Empire In decline, at best.

    I wonder, Bill: How would a group of Historians get together and write “The Rise, Reign, Decline, and Fall of the American Empire”? And which current Historians would be good to include on that Team? Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh; and in case You were wondering. According to the 04jan23 “The D Brief”:


    That’s according to the latest annual survey of worldwide threats published each January by the Council on Foreign Relations. More than 500 U.S. government officials, foreign policy experts, and academics contributed to the results, which focused on “30 contingencies deemed both plausible in 2023 and potentially harmful to U.S. interests,” according to CFR’s Paul Stares.

    New this year: “A cross strait crisis around Taiwan, escalation of the war in Ukraine, and instability in Russia.”

    Not new, but still on the list this year: “Nuclear weapons development by Iran and North Korea.”

    Also in the “top-tier risks” category:

    “A highly disruptive cyberattack targeting U.S. critical infrastructure by a state or nonstate entity”;
    “An acute security crisis in Northeast Asia triggered by North Korea’s development and testing of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles”;

    And “Increased violence, political unrest, and worsening economic conditions in Central America and Mexico, aggravated by acute weather events, fuel a surge in migration to the United States.”

    About that terrorism note: For the first time in the survey’s 15-year history, “the possibility of a foreign terrorist organization inflicting a mass casualty attack on the United States or a treaty ally was not proposed as a plausible contingency for the coming year,” Stares writes. THAT WOULD SEEM TO REFLECT A WIDER SHIFT TOWARD “GREAT POWER RIVALRIES,” INCLUDING THE CHALLENGES POSED BY CHINA AND RUSSIA. Read the full report at https://www.cfr.org/report/conflicts-watch-2023 .

    More of a comment than a question: The official last day of the U.S. military’s global war on terrorism seems to have passed without much fanfare. That’s according to a veteran who used Twitter to flag the formal dates for the Defense Department’s National Defense Service Medal, which untold thousands of American troops received automatically upon signing up after 9/11. THE LAST DAY FOR THAT CONFLICT IS LISTED AS DECEMBER 30, 2022.

    Source: https://link.govexec.com/view/632cde87e62c2e12f402d9cahy3zo.ym8/e7673c31 [EMPHASES added.]


    1. As i stated last March here on BV:

      America’s twenty year “Forever War” after 9/11 was, is, and ever will be a half-time show designed to keep the troops occupied, the defense contractors profitable, and the American people comfortably numb to protracted conflicts in places many of them cannot find on a map of the world.

      For now, Russia has recovered from the disintegration of European Communism and the USSR ~ and China has recovered from the madness of Mao ~ sufficiently for either [or especially both] to present viable, credible “threats” to America’s 30-year reign of global, unipolar hegemony since the end of Cold War I in December, 1991.

      For now looms Cold War II, with Ukraine, the South China Sea, and/or Taiwan set to kick it off in fine fashion.



  9. Something I started to compose but didn’t finish in 2006 with the Iraq debacle in full swing and the Afghanistan debacle simmering in the background. Now, sixteen years later at the beginning of a “new” year, with the NATO-Russian War in “Ukraine” raging and escalating almost weekly, perhaps I can put matters in a little more historical context with . . .

    Birds of a Cuckoo’s Feathered Nest

    Dim Dubya said the future’d prove him right
    so judging him must wait until he’s dead
    which puts some pointed teeth into the bite
    of claims that he has nothing in his head.

    For whispers softly entering his ears
    come out his mouth with little amplified
    and what goes in his eyes soon disappears
    with no connection made to lights inside:
    a starless void through which no echo steers;
    a slope down which the changing stories slide;

    a lifeless bulb left plugged into a lamp;
    a disconnected battery that died
    for never charging up a single amp.
    A Failure — present judgment certified.

    Successor presidents have also lied —
    and predecessors, too, as bad or worse —
    so easily that few have even tried
    to tell the truth. What for? The White House curse

    extends to each and any mortal soul
    who thinks himself “Commander” just because
    he finds himself atop the greasy pole
    in spite of anything he says or does.
    His owners who have placed him on the dole
    determine what he is and who he was.

    So Dubya, Barack, Donald, and now Joe
    like Ronald, George, and Bill fan Empire’s flame
    until the eagle looks like roasted crow,
    at least to those who see beyond the name.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2023

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent. Michael. Very, very well said. One comment: You left out The Peanut Farmer in Your catalogue of fanners of Empire’s Flame.

      “Remember, remember…” [and never, ever forget] that The Opening Act for this whole grand performance was the overthrow of the Shah and the USSR’s launch of its very own Vietnam, the year before Bonzo and Papa Bush ascended to the throne.

      On that basis, i term Mr Carter an “igniter,” and not merely a “fanner.”


      1. Thanks for the reply, JG. I have three things to say in response.

        (1) As a matter of poetic form, I had to fit my words into ten-syllable lines within alternating stanzas of four and six lines, respectively. This left me with room to list only the seven latest U.S. presidents: Deputy Dubya Bush, the three presidents before, and the three presidents after him. Given another format, I could have listed additional Imperial presidents, of course — and it grieved me not to mention LBJ (who threatened to draft me) and Tricky Dick Nixon (the S.O.B. who sent me to Vietnam) — but I considered the point adequately made.

        (2) I must respectfully disagree with your understanding of US-Iranian relations which went off the rails in 1953 during the Eisenhower administration and haven’t recovered yet. See How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days, NPR (February 7, 2019).

        (3) As for the hapless President Carter, he got his presidential candle snuffed out by (a) the formation of the hyper-inflationary OPEC cartel, (b) Fed Chairman Paul Volker’s ruinous interest rate increases, and (c) the U.S. military’s bungled “hostage rescue operation.” Had he simply sold weapons to the Iranians, as The Raygun did, he could have gotten the embassy hostages back in any event, since the Iranians had no intention of harming them, only using them as leverage for getting the U.S. installed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, returned to face justice for his brutal reign in the service of the CIA and British Oil interests who installed him in 1953.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. My understanding of US-Iranian relations, Michael, is that ~ as far as those calling the shots in DC were concerned ~ when we overthrew the democratically elected government and installed the Shah in 1953, relations between Tehran and Washington could only get better and better for the next 26 years until 1979 and his termination.

          And there was a lot more involved in the Inflation that Carter was dealing with than just OPEC price rises; most notably, artificially low interest rates, significant government deficit spending throughout the 70s, and an equally significantly increased amount of newly printed cash and magically created credit being put in circulation by the Fed. That is the ultimate, root cause of virtually every Inflation that America has suffered since the Fed was created in 1913; and Carter’s was no different. Nor is today’s Inflation any different.

          And what options did Volker have OTHER than raising interest rates to deal with the Inflation that Nixon’s Wage and Price Controls and subsequent efforts out of DC only worsened? And more importantly, what was the Inflation Rate two years later after Volker’s “cure”?

          And finally, Carter had little, if anything to say about selling weapons to Iran. Decisions like that were ~ and still are ~ made far above his [and every President’s] zone of control.


  10. Sharing is Caring and I just shared this on my FaceBook page.

    It’s important to be informed on what’s happening in the Jewish-/Palestinian/Muslim conflict heating up in the Middle East under the shadow of the US WAR with Russia over Ukraine in NATO so the US could have boots on the ground right on Russia’s border. Americans wouldn’t like it one bit, if Russia had their boots on the ground in CanaDa.

    Most everybody knows what’s implied by ARMAGEDDON, 1st mentioned as a word in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
    It was derived from Tel Megiddo during the Roman Occupation of Palestine when The Christ walked the Earth some 2000 years ago.
    TODAY. Tel Megiddo still exists as a physical place now located in Israel recreated from the BIBLE after an absence of some 2700 years.

    This 2nd Occupation of Palestine continues to this Day, and the latest LEADING INDICATORS show this World may finally be on the Path as it’s written, “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. (FAKE religion whether it be Jewish, Christian or Muslim)
    For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth (Pope, Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs and other IDOLS of the People) and of the whole world, (WE, THE PEOPLE) to gather them to the Battle of that Great Day of God Almighty […] And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

    Jonathan Cook lived in Nazareth the place where Jesus lived. He’s very familiar with the dynamics in the Jew-Palestinian conflict on the Path to Escalation.



  11. Our blog proprietor’s chosen quote from Karl Rove — “Bush’s Brain” (or, “Turd Blossom,” as Dubya himself named his chief political advisor) — comes from Without a Doubt, an article by Ron Suskind in The New York Times Magazine (October 17, 2004). All very true about political actors and their studied creation of a public perception they label “reality,” but which I prefer to call Manufactured Mendacity and Managed Mystification.

    In regard to this political perception management and its target audience, Mr Suskind describes the fanatical evangelical base of the Republican party as follows:

    And for those who don’t get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. “You think he’s an idiot, don’t you?” I said, no, I didn’t. “No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don’t care. You see, you’re outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don’t read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what those folks don’t like? They don’t like you!” In this instance, the final “you,” of course, meant the entire reality-based community. [emphasis added]

    I found this article by Mr Suskind of particular value as it set off a period of eighteen years wherein reading something like the above would set in motion a stream of metaphorical associations arranged in various verse formats, like the following (from Boobie Political Science):

    They like the way he “points,” they say
    They like the way he “walks,”
    Despite the fact that no one can
    Decipher how he talks.
    And when he mimics “standing tall,”
    The stupid Boobie gawks.

    Again, an extremely worthwhile article of lasting value, even for aspiring polemical poets.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. History is a lie agreed upon – Napoleón Bonaparte

    Assuming that quote is even real, there is a huge problem with it: there are two types of history. There is the popular narrative that shapes public opinion (and policy), and there are the unpopular narratives that only the particularly curious individuals are even aware of. The former is indeed bunk, it is the lie agreed upon, the latter is where we find the truth.

    My favourite lie by far is the oh-so-sacred narrative of WWII.


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