It's entirely possible -- even probable -- that a hundred years from now, people will look on the America of today as being full of cowards and villains. But not for the reasons usually offered by those who already think America is an evil nation.
Those people, overwhelmingly on the left, think America has been wrong pretty much whenever and wherever it has done good in the world. To them, the Iraq war was just the latest example of imperialism and cynicism on the part of greedy and/or racist elites, and, therefore, the brave American men and women who risked, or gave, their lives to topple the Iraqi regime were on a fool's errand.
Those who hold this view, though, are the real fools, and not worthy of serious attention. No, what I mean is that in a century, maybe two, people will ask why America didn't topple more regimes, destroy more armies, protect more people the way we did in Iraq.
The philosopher R.G. Collingwood once said, "Every new generation must rewrite history in its own way." This may sound like moral relativism, but he was right. New events change our understanding of the past.
Sept. 11 forced us to look at the history of the Middle East in a new light, while the fall of the Berlin Wall made the Bolshevik revolution recede in relevance. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism was once background noise, but now it's the drummer setting the beat for a new age in global affairs.
But, like the dog who didn't bark, it's sometimes worth asking what else we're not paying heed to. The loudest din we aren't hearing is in Africa. Over the last decade, a symphony of suffering has been playing, and we've been almost entirely deaf to it.
In the last five years, 3.3 million Africans have died in the Congo from warfare. In Sierra Leon, children have their arms hacked off in order to teach political lessons. In Rwanda, a country about the size of Maryland, a million people were slaughtered, mostly with machetes in nearly the blink of an eye.
Every day more Africans die from AIDS than perished in the Sept. 11 attacks. According to a BBC documentary, every day a teacher in the Ivory Coast dies from the disease.
In almost every respect, Africa is in a different time and place than the rest of the world, and is getting worse every day. In 1970, 76 percent of the world's poor lived in Asia while a mere 11 percent lived in Africa. Now, it's the other way around: Two-thirds of the world's poor live in Africa while 15 percent live in Asia.
The life expectancy of a child born today in Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zimbabwe is less than 40.