This is why I love history. And historians.

WaPo – Past perfect political. By Victor Davis Hanson

History is evoked more and more these days, even as fewer of us read it. That apathy explains why when public figures turn to false historical analogies for political purposes, they often get a free pass to exaggerate or distort.

Take, for example, filmmaker Michael Moore who once compared terrorists in Iraq to the Minutemen in our own War for Independence, or Yasser Arafat who implied the taking of Jenin was as brutal as the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad. Even Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, recently likened the conditions in Guantanamo Bay to those in Nazi death camps.

So, the next time someone quotes philosopher George Santayana for the umpteenth time that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” just assume what follows will probably be wrong. Having a Rolodex of cocktail party quotes to beef-up an argument is not the same as the hard work of learning about the past.

Thus, we are now warned the war against terror is failing because it has lasted as long as World War II — as if the length of war, not the cost, determines success.

Yet the nearly 2,000 U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq, while tragic, are a fraction of the 292,000 American battle deaths in World War II — about six-tenths of 1 percent, in fact.

On July 21, Arianna Huffington, on her Huffington Post blog, drew on her Greek heritage to warn us Iraq is like the Athenians’ 415 B.C. disastrous attack on the Sicilian city of Syracuse. So, she huffs, “Maybe someone should send Karl Rove a copy of Thucydides.”

Oh Huff. Don’t mess with a military historian.

In our confusion during this war, why do we often ignore history or twist its details to fit our own particular needs?

First, in our schools, formal study of the past has given way to the more ideological agenda of the social sciences. Mastery of historical facts is seen as passe, while the less educated instead “do theory” to prove preconceived notions.

Second, good intentions don’t always equal good history. Being politically correct often makes us plain wrong, relegating history to melodrama and negating history’s power to put tragedy into context.

Third, we’re in thrall to the present affluent age, convinced our own depressing experiences are unique, naturally dwarfing all prior calamities.

But history is not a parlor game to prove a political point. Instead, at its best, history should offer us solace that we are never really alone.

Oh! I love it. Read the whole thing. It’s one of those articles that makes you feel like you’re sitting in the stands surrounded by friends on homecoming night watching your bitterest rival get slaughtered on the field.