Wars are made on enemies, not on ideas; wars have defined goals — usually forcing the enemy to capitulate — but a war on terror has no clearly defined end.
Professor of History, Oxford University, Toronto
author, Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History
Jonathan Yardley reviewed MacMillan’s recent book, Dangerous Games, in today’s Washington Post. MacMillan is also the author of Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. An excerpt from Dangers Games is posted on the author’s website.
The first two paragraphs of Yardley’s review are worth quoting in this post:
In this provocative examination of the ways in which we use and abuse history, Margaret MacMillan passes along a story originally told by the writer Susan Jacoby. She was in a New York bar on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, and eavesdropped on a conversation between two “bewildered” men. First man: “This is just like Pearl Harbor.” Second man: “What is Pearl Harbor?” First man: “That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War.” To which MacMillan responds:
“Does it matter that they got it so wrong? I would argue that it does, that a citizenry that cannot begin to put the present into context, that has so little knowledge of the past, can too easily be fed stories by those who claim to speak with the knowledge of history and its lessons. History is called in . . . to strengthen group solidarity, often at the expense of the individual, to justify treating others badly, and to bolster arguments for particular policies and courses of action. Knowledge of the past helps us to challenge dogmatic statements and sweeping generalizations. It helps us all think more clearly.”
In other book news, the Libary of Congress’s 2009 National Book Festival site is up. Here’s a list of authors appearing (to date) on the national mall on September 26 . The event is free and open to the general public.
Sabiha Al Khemir
Mary Brigid Barrett
Mary Jane Clark
Carmen Agra Deedy
W. Ralph Eubanks
Sue Monk Kidd
James L. Swanson
Ann Kidd Taylor
For more information, call (888) 714-4696, or email bookfest[at]loc[dot]gov.