Marx noted that history reoccurs, first as tragedy, then as farce. We seem to be living in a period where history remains unlearned yet is repeating itself well beyond farce.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Marx noted that history reoccurs, first as tragedy, then as farce. We seem to be living in a period where history remains unlearned yet is repeating itself well beyond farce. US foreign policy – in pursuit of making the world safe for democracy – has sunk to the level of politically motivated and publicly declared assassination: Taliban leader Akhtar Mansoor removed to be hopefully replaced by a more “moderate” leader now expected to perhaps choose peace. Putin is seeking to remake the Soviet Union out of paper mâché. The EU makes a cynical deal with the wannabe Turkish Caliph that leaves thousands of men, women and children dying quickly in the waves or slowly in the camps. Communist China is trying to impose its own updated versions of the Maginot Line (on its own people) and Monroe Doctrine (on its neighborhood). And the US may be on the verge of electing as President of the Free World an unpredictable but very clever demagogue who really wants to make America great again.
I have been writing here at TransConflict since 2009 when I suspended my old Outside the Walls blog. I started on Kosovo but thanks to the kindness of the TC editors, I was able to branch out to cover various international issues. (All these may be found here.) But the time has come for me to admit that I really can’t think of anything new that might be useful to say. Kosovo remains an unfinished project that the West fell into because it had no effective policy to deal with the end of Yugoslavia. The EU will extend its rule-of-law mission (EULEX) there – and the UN will have to stay as well – because the Quint still can’t leave the Kosovo Albanians alone. That won’t change for the foreseeable future.
George Bush II – with Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz – broke Afghanistan and Iraq and they remain broken, so much so that President Obama finds he must send in more troops to perhaps be able, some day, to remove them. Obama and Hillary Clinton broke Libya and nearly did the same with Egypt by helping to toss out Mubarak. Obama’s verbal encouragement of the Syrian opposition while setting Assad redlines he crossed anyway helped pave the road to Syrian chaos. Brünnhilde has not yet sung for any of these yet. The US Congress has blocked the closing of Guantanamo and the global war against terrorism – by whatever name – continues.
Meanwhile, Trump and Bernie Sanders have broken the free-trade habit while the Brexit gurus, European populists and German central bankers have brought the core concepts of the European Union into question. Africa has been left to find its own way into the 21st Century – and may be better off for it though the going will get rougher before it gets better. Non-gringo America will also have to wrestle with its demons alone, although accompanied by a chorus sung from Washington, even as the US itself becomes more and more non-gringo.
It may be possible to learn from history. Reading it would be a good start. The US National Archives (NARA) posts old diplomatic cables, as mandated by US law for automatic declassification of most material after 25 years. NARA is 11 years behind because the US Congress shorts its budget. (No one there interested in learning from history?) The State Department FOIA office posts material as well – including Hillary’s emails – and also allows requests online. I will continue to post cables (gained through FOIA requests) and other material from my own service as well.
What else to say other than to repeat myself? TransConflict will continue to provide other voices. (If anyone should be so inclined, I may still be found tweeting occasionally as @JerryGallucci.) Other than that, it’s over and out.
Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He has a PhD in political science, taught at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Arkansas, George Washington University and Drake University and now works as an independent consultant.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of TransConflict.