Doomed to Repeat

doomed to repeat I spent a thoroughly happy morning at Northwestern Hospital waiting for my wife during a medical appointment at a Starbucks on Huron Street downtown Chicago. Of course, I am the ‘Awake’ hot tea, and she is the green tea latte. The Starbucks is in one of the hospital’s waiting room’s at street level, with many tables, great chairs, and customers’ that are mostly doctors, nurses, and people trying to chill out after visiting their ‘loved ones.’ If you’re looking for a place to spread out, this is the place. It is quiet, warm, and has the expanse of a large library without the stacks, and if you go to the second floor and take a short walk to the next building, there is a food court – “get the gyros.”

TO keep me company I had Bill Fawcett’s book DOOMED TO REPEAT. Fawcett has series of books with titles such as HOW TO LOSE THE CIVIL WAR, HOW TO LOSE THE WAR, and HOW TO LOSE A BATTLE.

DOOMED TO REPEAT is compelling in many comparisons he makes with the modern world and the

The opening paragraph starts with a familiar quote:

“Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

He spends most of the book showing how this is true in war, politics and business.

He brings forth a question: If Alexander the Great tried to bring the Afghan tribes under control and his efforts were fruitless, why didn’t the English, Soviets and the American’s learn anything from a repetitive historical cycle of trying to accomplish what Alexander could not? Why do nations continue to think that they can do better? In simpler terms if the English got their asses kicked, if the Soviets got their asses kicked, then for god sakes why did the Americans think they could overcome generations of tribalism?

The book explores each attempt, and goes on to look at the Romans and modern society in regards to employment and taxes.

“Today, American workers are not competing with slaves, but they too see their jobs being offshored…”

There are many ‘warnings’ that creep up in the book that can make you uncomfortable, and wonder are we heading down the same road as Rome in the ‘destruction of the middle class.’

I have long thought the real weakness of American society does not come in from a lack of military or economic prowess, but our inability to see beyond 4 to 8 years in our planning for the future. I do not believe the ‘Chinese’ have this problem, but WE do.

As thought provoking this book was, my wife joins me after her appointment. She is well. That is the best news so far. I hope the future is flexible enough that we can change course. That is the attraction of the future. It’s unpredictability. Things change, sometimes, people change. Sometimes a slight miscalculation, a slight thing in the course of man changes the inevitable. Like a typhoon (‘divine wind’) when a Mongol Navy heads for your shores (check Japanese history). Like the V-12, piston aero engine, of 27-litre (1,650 cu in) capacity. Rolls-Royce designed and built the engine which was initially known as the PV-12: the PV-12 became known as the Merlin and true to its name was placed in the Spitfires that defended England against invasion. Like those ‘darn’ Americans during the Battle of Midway that broke the Japanese code (and managed to keep it secret) to ambush with dive bombers the four Japanese aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor just six months earlier.

It’s fine to depend on a typhoon, on technology and stealth, but at the moment of reading this book, I want those in the NOW and the FUTURE to lay the foundation of our “pursuit of happiness” for those who come after me.

Footnote * I’m proud to say my brother Jeff was at Glenview Naval Air Station and met Ensign George Gay the lone survivor of a devastator squadron who was shot down by the Japanese. While floating in the sea he witnessed the battle about him and the sinking of the Japanese aircraft carriers. I bring this up for one reason, and one reason only: you may not know it, but history surrounds you.



  • Vkane · March 31, 2014 · 3:36 pm

    You said: “I have long thought the real weakness of American society does not come in from a lack of military or economic prowess, but our inability to see beyond 4 to 8 years in our planning for the future. I do not believe the ‘Chinese’ have this problem, but WE do.”

    I wouldn’t be so confident of Chinese prowess on seeing beyond 4 to 8 years. They are about to enter a demographic ‘black hole’ based on their one-child policy that’s going to have an enormous negative impact on their economy; cheap labor–their great advantage–is going to evaporate as the present generation retires and upcoming generation will be smaller and that smaller labor pool will demand higher wages. That means the advantages foreign firms get from producing there will dwindle. The Chinese have a serious conundrum awaiting them.

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