History News Network | Letter to My Friends: Why We Can’t Expect to Win a Religious War in the Middle East

William R. Polk’s great advice at the HNN that we unfortunately won’t follow:

“Adding up these points, I argue that the more they are attacked, the stronger the salafis become.  Even if we kill their leadership, cut off their supplies of arms and food and overwhelm their followers, we cannot destroy their movement.  I believe that the history of religious movements proves two things:

The first it that, religious wars are never “won.” That is the “bad news.”

Second, the “good news” is that even violent, radical, ugly religious movements “mature.”  That is, they are forced by their followers and even by some of their leaders to become “civilized.”  This is a process, slow to be sure, we can see in all radical movements.

Thus, what we need to do, in my opinion, is to ease our pressure to enable internal changes — those that are beneficial to them and to us — to take place.

Admittedly that is a long-time strategy.  It is far less popular than attacking:  most people love war, soldiers like to win glory and promotion and arms dealers want to sell their goods.  So our leaders may not have the strength or the courage to try a long-term strategy, but I think it is far and away the most likely to accomplish our objectives.”

Please read his entire post at:

History News Network | Letter to My Friends: Why We Can’t Expect to Win a Religious War in the Middle East.

isis flag

Is Obama’s Pending Executive Order on Immigration Impeachable?

Two articles published today argue that Obama’s pending Executive Order on immigration is no different than what previous presidents have done:

“If Obama Faces Impeachment over Immigration, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy Should Have as Well” by John Dickson at the History News Network.

“Reagan, Bush Also Acted Without Congress To Shield Immigrants From Deportation,” by Andrew Taylor at the Huffington Post.


History News Network | The Instrumentalisation of History

I recommend that everyone read Dr Huw J Davies’ article on the misuse of history. Many draw false lessons from a superficial understanding of history. But even more pernicious is the intentional distortion of history to serve political or ideological ends.  Davies analyses some of the current abuses of history. He correctly points out that history can be valuable in understanding current events but “[d]eploying poorly understood historical parallels in order to justify or argue for a certain course of action only degrades the value of history.”

History News Network | The Instrumentalisation of History.

Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David

Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David

History News Network | Historians Should Honor Protesting Colorado Students

Students in Colorado protested against the conservative school board’s attempt to impose an ideologically driven U.S. history on students. One of the conservative school board members, Julie Williams, complained that the current Advanced Placement curriculum emphasized “race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing.”  In a History New Network article, Peter Dreier, the chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College, is calling on “The American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH) should honor these students for standing up to their school board’s effort to distort U.S. history around a blatantly political agenda.”

History News Network | Historians Should Honor Protesting Colorado Students.

see also this Associated Press article on the Colorado student protest.

colorado students protest conservative history 2014

A Challenge: Read Articles that You Disagree with on the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The History News Network (HNN) posted a list of online articles on the bombing of Hiroshima in honor of the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). This list is a great resource for anyone interested in this topic. It includes a variety of articles on both sides of debate, including the one I responded to in a previous post (see “The Bombing of Hiroshima”). I contemplated whether or not I should link to this list on my blog because I knew that most people would be tempted to only read the articles that support whatever position they already hold. But in the end, I decided it was worth posting anyway. However, I challenge anyone who decides to use this resource to read the articles that you disagree with. If the exercise is to be valuable you should also read them with an open mind. I believe that an honest assessment of the situation is much more valuable than the comfort you would receive from the satisfaction of confirming currently held beliefs that may be grounded in myth. And no matter what position you currently hold, I hope a review of these articles will at least show that the popular belief about the bombing (“The bomb was dropped to end the war quickly and save American lives”) is an oversimplification of the issue that obscures the complexities and leads to unjustified certainties.