Originally posted by Nonpartisan on 02/01/07
As you may or may not have guessed by now, we at ProgressiveHistorians advocate adding a little history to our politics and, in some situations, a little politics to our history. The second proposal is pretty controversial, but the first is, I’m guessing, fairly widely accepted. Wouldn’t it be nice if those in power used a healthy knowledge of history to inform their actions and judgments? Well, maybe…if they were wise enough to use it properly!
So, without further ado, let’s go to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where an eloquent and sharply-worded debate is shaping up over — guess what? — the war in Iraq. In order to appreciate this frame, the only thing you need to know about politics is that Joe Biden (at right), the new Democratic Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, talks a lot. And I mean, a lot. Observe, for instance, the Congressional Record…(fade to black)
(Full text of the History Carnival on the flip…)
The scene: the Senate chamber.
Sen. BIDEN: Good morning, and welcome to the Foreign Policy Committee meeting. I’ll keep my opening remarks short. If I’m still talking in three hours, stop me, k?
Presently, our country faces an impossible choice. Rather like The Impossible Choice of Elias Boudinot, in fact — there’s a moving profile of the Cherokee leader at Walking the Berkshires. The situation in Iraq is complex and intricate, which reminds me of Omnilingual – Antikythera Mechanism Revealed, a post by Michael McNeil at Impearls revealing some of the secrets of a fascinating and mysterious object discovered on the sea floor. Teasing out the various natures of this conflict, at length, is for me, a labor of love. Speaking of labor, check out An Unorganized History Post, where Elle, ABD discusses labor history in the context of modern workers’-rights issues. But I digress. Often.
Do you believe America is guilty of misconduct in Iraq? Is There Such a Thing as an Innocent Nation? Owen Miller of Frog in a Well’s Korea Blog believes there isn’t, marshalling a battery of historical and intellectual evidence to support his argument. Therefore –
Sen. FEINGOLD: Oh, come on, Joe! Don’t you know this war is just another example in the long history of Eliminationism in America? David Neiwert’s written the eighth part (out of ten) of this excellent series at Orcinus on American historical atrocities against underprivileged groups; this one’s about Chinese and Japanese victims of American xenophobia.
Sen. BIDEN: Listen to Russ Feingold, the loony leftist from Wisconsin! Russ is so far out there, I’ll bet he believes in dragons.
Sen. FEINGOLD: I do NOT believe in dragons.
Sen. BIDEN: Well, maybe you should! Kaye at Zing Things has a delightful post up called Delighting in Dragons, discussing both dragons in folklore and the historical narrative that Disney’s Mulan was based on. It’s an excellent and informative read.
Now that I’ve got the floor back, I’m going to keep talking. Nobody minds, right? Right then. When I look at a situation like Iraq, I like to make comparisons deep into historical memory. Aaron Barlow at One Flew East has written about military historian John Keegan’s take on pro-war intellectual Carl von Clauswitz, a discussion which explains the appeal of warrior culture to American thinkers in the twentieth century. Going back even further, political thought in the Roman Republic can be instrumental in ordering our thinking on the present. For an introduction, just read Gracchus’ review at Westminster Wisdom of Fergus Millar’s The Roman Republic in Political Thought. I have no idea how any of this is relevant to Iraq, but talking about it makes me look smart.
Sen. VITTER: Joe, you really should let some of the rest of us talk, you know? You’re beginning to sound like you’re the author of Process Notes: How Change Happens. Except you’re not — that’s Sara at Orcinus. And if you knew anything about process, you wouldn’t be talking so much. This isn’t the Joe Biden Show.
Sen. BIDEN: Sorry. (turns to Sen. ISAKSON) Hey there, Johnny, you’ve been awfully quiet lately. What do YOU think about the Iraq resolution?
Sen. ISAKSON: I dunno.
Sen. BIDEN: Oh, Johnny, you’re such an enigma.
Sen. ISAKSON: Enigma? Did you know that the Enigma was the name of the machine used by the Germans in World War II to send secret information in code? Chris Dolley‘s got an excellent post up about it called The Enigma Machine: A Startling Discovery. It’s a fascinating discussion of how Dolley discovered that his father was one of the men who captured the famed Enigma later used at Bletchley Park to decipher the code.
Sen. BIDEN: Wow, Johnny. I’ve never heard you string so many words together before. What on earth possessed you to do that?
Sen. ISAKSON: I dunno.
Sen. BIDEN: Let’s ask Jim DeMint here — he’s from the South, he should have some strong opinions on Iraq. Jim, I was under the impression that the South venerated war; after all, Robert E. Lee is virtually your patron saint down there, isn’t he?
Sen. DeMINT: Joe, I take a great deal of offense at your assertion that our love of Lee down South translates into a love of war. In fact, people of all stripes have been misinterpreting Lee for political reasons for years. In It’s a Celebration: Lee’s 200th, posted at Civil War Memory, Kevin Levin bemoans this situation, and I agree with him. You should be a little more subtle in your historical comparisons.
Sen. BIDEN: Whatever. I’m still right.
Sen. LUGAR: Oh, tut tut, Joe.
Sen. BIDEN: Tut? Did you say Tut? As in King Tut? You know, you really should read Shimshon Ayzenberg’s excellent piece King Tut and the 18th Dynasty of Egypt over at Justice, Truth, and Peace. It’s an in-depth discussion of the discovery of Tut’s tomb which segues into an equally fascinating summary of the 18th Dynasty and its historical significance.
Sen. LUGAR: Um, thanks, I’ll look into it.
Sen. CORKER: (yawns and stretches languidly)
Sen. BIDEN: Feeling a little stiff there, Bob? Just be glad you’re not actually a stiff! (Groans can be heard from the gallery) Vanessa Ruiz has a great site called Street Anatomy where she posts things like Interlude: Medical Visual. Any piece that starts off with the sentence, “Excuse me, your exquisitely detailed skeleton is blocking my view of the rhinoceros,” has got to be good, right? Right?
Sen. CORKER: (not paying attention)
Sen. BIDEN: Um. Yes, Barack?
Sen. OBAMA: Thanks, Joe. I’d like to begin my discussion of this conflict with a rhetorical flourish. Four score and seven years ago–
Sen. BIDEN: Now stop right there, Barack. This whole thing where you compare yourself to Lincoln — it’s just bad history. Speaking of bad history, Jonathan Dresner’s got an excellent takedown over at Frog in a Well’s China Blog of the notion that the US should learn from the Mongols about how best to occupy a foreign country: Bad History: Mongols Good, US Bad? It’s worth a read.
Sen. OBAMA: Humph. I’m still going to announce for President in Springfield, Illinois.
Sen. BIDEN: Have it your way, then. But you know, if you really want to go with the symbolism thing, why not go the whole hog and announce at Monticello? Jennie Weber of the American Presidents Blog took a trip there recently and wrote it up as My DC Trip…Part II: Monticello. He’s got some nice photos, as well as an excellent writeup of the tour. While I’m on the subject of travel, check out Israel: A Song of Degrees, in which Brian Ulrich discusses his experiences traveling in Israel within a fascinating historical and political context.
Sen. OBAMA: That’s nice, Joe. Can we stop talking about me now? I’m really not that important. It’s not like I’m the guy who caused Nixon’s resignation or something.
Sen. BIDEN: Maybe not, but did you know Leftvet, the real guy who caused Nixon’s resignation, posted about his experience at ProgressiveHistorians? It’s titled, appropriately enough, History You Never Knew: How I Caused Nixon’s Resignation. In the same vein, Jon Swift, in a magnificent piece of satire, would like to know Who Killed E. Howard Hunt?
Sen. NELSON: Speaking of satire, you know what this discussion needs? A little more humor.
Sen. BIDEN: More humor? You can’t be serious, Bill. Why, I’m the funniest thing since Art Buchwald. By the way, David Kaiser’s written a fantastic retrospective of Buchwald, Death of a Giant, at History Unfolding.
Sen. BOXER: Now Joe, this is all very fascinating, but CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE WAR?!?
Sen. BIDEN: Why, Barbara, you sound like something Straight Outta the Newberry: Giant Uppity Women, Alexander, and the Danaides — which, by the way, is about some of the fascinating stuff Eileen Joy discussed at the University of Chicago’s Newberry Library, and subsequently wrote up for In the Middle.
Sen. BOXER: You wear hair implants. And also, you need to shut up and listen.
Sen. BIDEN: (stunned)
Sen. BOXER: That’s better. Now, I’m curious as to what impact our foreign-policy strategies will have on the Kurds in the region. Midtowng at ProgressiveHistorians has an excellent three-part series on The Kurdistan Problem (two three), tracing the troubled history of the region from the fourteenth century to the present. And you know, Joe, while we’re on the subject, wouldn’t it behoove us to know a little more about Islamic history before we pass judgment on the future of the region? Jonathan Dresner, guest-blogging at Chapati Mystery has an in-depth roundup of the searching historical analysis presented at several American Historical Association panels — Islamic History at the AHA.
Sen. BIDEN: Wow, Barbara, I didn’t know you read history blogs.
Sen. BOXER: You bet I do, Joe — where do you think I get all my information from?
Sen. MURKOWSKI: I’d like to say something.
Sen. BIDEN: Go right ahead, Lisa — just let me say this really quick. Actually, I have three, no, four things to say. First, Barbara, you may read history blogs, but I’m willing to bet you don’t know the answer to the question, Was Hawaii Queen Liliuokalani Really Like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi? That’s because you haven’t read Ken Conklin’s guest article at The Dougout, which argues persuasively that the Queen was a somewhat less-beneficent figure than the other two notables. Second, I’m guessing you don’t know how to train to become a top-of-the-line Buddhist monk, which means you haven’t read about Shaolin Training at Kung Fu Artistry. Third, I’m pretty sure you don’t haven’t read Sex and the Queen: An Irresistible Title, an excellent review of the eponymous book by Kate Brown at the World History Blog. Fourth and lastly, unless you’ve been on a farm in China lately, you probably don’t know anything about Pigs, Shit, and Chinese History, or Happy Year of the Pig, which means you haven’t read Charles Hayford’s wonderful post at Frog in a Well’s China Blog on the history of the pig in Chinese culture. And in conclusion, Barbara, I know everything, and you know nothing, so there!
Sen. BOXER: Do not!
Sen. BIDEN: Do too!
Sen. BOXER: Do not!
Sen. BIDEN: Do too!
Sen. BOXER: Do –
Sen. MURKOWSKI: I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY! (Silence) Geez, you guys — isn’t it obvious you’re Divided by a Common Passion? Academic and non-academic historians are, and they shouldn’t be, or so sayeth Mark Grimsley at Blog Them Out of the Stone Age, complete with many fascinating links.
There, that’s better. Now look, folks, I’m from Alaska, and we in Alaska like to do things the old-fashioned way. And that includes history. You see, History Ain’t What it Used to Be. David Parker at Another History Blog argues that’s a good thing, but I disagree. I don’t like the new electronic media, for instance. I don’t like it when professors post their syllabi online, like Jonathan Dresner at Frog in a Well’s Japan Blog and Alan Baumler at the same site’s China Blog. And I don’t like reading about how students should be allowed to use newfangled technology like Wikipedia to write their history papers, which is probably the reason T. Mills Kelly at Edwired is having to explain Why I Won’t Get Hired at Middlebury. I prefer writing my letters on parchment, thank you very much. What is Parchment, and Why Won’t it Email? If you don’t know already, you’re part of the problem. Thank goodness Jarod Kearney does know, and has given us a complete history of that ancient writing material. (pause) Any comments?
ALL: Get her!
(The meeting dissolves in turmoil as the other senators throw paper airplanes and gum wrappers at Sen. MURKOWSKI. The last audible words on stage come from Sen. BIDEN:)
Sen. BIDEN: But I DIDN’T GET TO FINISH WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY!
Well, that’s all for today, folks. If your name is Joe Biden, then I’m very, very sorry about all this. Otherwise, thanks for reading — and be sure to check out all the wonderful posts “Joe and friends” dredged up!