History and futility

This is a profoundly nihilistic use of history:

Civil War guerrillas offer lessons for Army in Iraq

There is nothing like a "lesson" in this story.

Read it and note the painfully obvious nostrums mixed in with a general pessimism. The piece may not convey the essence of the staff ride it is describing, but this is as close to lessons as it gets:
"If you want to hurt the guerrillas, you have to win the hearts and minds of the populace. That's lesson number one."

"The guy who helped you during the day, don't close your eyes on him because he could be trying to kill you or put an IED out."
I'm glad someone got to recycle a few trusty Vietnam-era cliches, but you want the right historic examples - the closest match - to overlay your current war with examples of similar problems solved successfully.

Which brings me back to Vietnam and the uses of history during that war. There was a constant drumbeat of "History says you cannot..." History was this great reservoir of negative intelligence filled with incontrovertible evidences of things that could not be undertaken successfully. It was remarkable and utterly ahistorical - a step lower than pop history, if that's possible.

The staff ride through Civil War Missouri has a way to go before scraping the bottom of that barrel, but my, my does it bring back memories for me.