Thursday, June 22, 2006

THE PROBLEM WITH A MONOLITHIC VIEW OF HISTORY

It sometimes appears to me that some of President Bush's advisers believe in deterministic history as much as any Marxist ever did. However, while the Marxists viewed history as an inevitable march of the proletariat to ownership of the means of production, the Bushies appear to view the predetermined course of human history to be toward representative government, and personal freedom. This is inherently sensible to those of us raised with the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the United States Constitution. After all, we "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This is our civic Lord's Prayer. We may not agree on much across the political spectrum, but we all know and believe these words.

The problem with this is that it leads to interpretations of history that lose their subtlety. We see only the dimension we are looking for. Today, for example, the President said that the 1956 Hungarian Revolt should "inspire" Iraq. Indeed. That may be a problem. See, the Hungarians do not appear to have revolted because they wanted an American-style consumerist republic. In fact, the government during the revolt was a socialist government. Imre Nagy was not a democrat. He was a Communist who thrived in Stalin's 1930s Russia. Thus, maybe the Hungarian Revolt had more to do with Hungarians not being bossed around by Russians than about a free Hungary. This is one interpretation that is reasonable. It is not the only one. However, if the Iraqis so understand the Hungarian Revolt, they may be taking entirely too much inspiration from the Hungarians at this point.

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