“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s a cruel irony that perhaps the most famous warning of how dangerous it is to ignore what came before us is often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill and not to its true author, Spanish-born philosopher George Santayana. To Santayana, the phrase meant something very specific. Rather than insisting that we merely remember events that already happened, he was imploring us to retain the experience of our history. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s an important one, and to understand the peril in failing to distinguish between the two, we need look only at the legacy of World War II.
It’s hard to overstate just how consequential World War II was. It completely changed the political structure of the world. By removing Europe from the top of the international order, it gave way to the United States as a superpower and created opportunities for newly independent powers in Asia to rise. It destroyed Europea