A commonplace states that history rhymes rather than repeats. But as the length of a coastline will vary according to units of measurement, what history does will depend upon the breadth of the criteria by which it is judged. Expressed in miles, the coast from Maine to Florida is a tiny fraction of its length in the millimeters capable of tracking so much more of its every crinkle, bend, and cleft.

If apprehended widely, in Shakespeare’s “gross and scope,” history does indeed repeat itself. Though vegetarian madmen with brush mustaches will not invade most of Europe, we are watching now as destructive forces rise in familiar form and are shielded by the mystic blindness that allows succeeding generations to recapitulate the tragedies of their forbears.

After the twin shocks of the Great War and the influenza pandemic, revanchist dictatorships established themselves in Europe and Asia, just as today. Despite immense superiority in position, armaments, population, and material wealth, the democratic nations in despotism’s sights lost heart, courage, and, just as today, good sense. Time after time—in Ethiopia, China, the Rhineland, and Munich—the West lurched backward in gratuitous retreat, boasting that forbearance and surrender signified strength. As if on cue, we have done the same in the South China Sea, the Crimea, Ukraine, Afghanistan, submission

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