WASHINGTON — V-E Day plus 60 years ... Vietnam plus 30 years ... now Iraq ...
One stares at the calendar and searches for lessons to be learned. One lesson is the danger of falling into the "analogy trap" ... making new mistakes while trying to avoid repeating old ones.
Guided by analogies, we have lurched from syndrome to syndrome.
A generation of hawks was nurtured on the "no more Munichs" syndrome. Its symbol was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the man with the umbrella who tried to satisfy Hitler's appetite by feeding him Czechoslovakia. Mr. Chamberlain promised "peace in our time," and his blunders led the world into total war in his time.
A generation of Americans who grew up on "no more Munichs" confronted Stalin, who replaced Hitler as the symbol of totalitarianism. These were the "best and brightest," collecting around President Kennedy, who had to live down his own appeaser father (Joseph Kennedy, who was the US ambassador to Britain from 1938 to 1940).
The "no more Munichs" syndrome - meaning block Soviet expansionism - gave us everything from Korea to the Bay of Pigs disaster to the Vietnam disaster.
Under the banner of anti-appeasement, America undertook to keep the dominoes from falling in Europe and Asia, and even in Guatemala and Nicaragua.
But it didn't work. There was no communist monolith, and Americans paid heavily for the slogan "no more Munichs."
Next, we had the "no more Vietnams" syndrome, a constant fear of being dragged into some quagmire. The "no more Vietnams" syndrome inhibited the US from acting in Somalia, Rwanda, and, for the first few years, in Afghanistan.
But not in Iraq. History may record that the Bush "Axis of Evil" syndrome marked the end of the "no more Vietnams" era.
An administration determined to transform the Middle East and foster democracy had no hesitation about invading Iraq on dubious grounds. Public support for that war seems now to be waning in the face of an insurgency of unexpected dimensions.
It may be too early to say, "No more Iraqs." But not too early to say that it may be time for a "no more syndromes" syndrome.
• Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.