Of the Bourbons, restored to the throne after the French Revolution, the guillotining of Louis XVI and the Napoleonic interlude, Talleyrand said, they had "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."
Unfortunately, so may it be said of our own George II.
Last week, at Czermin Palace in Prague, George Bush delivered his latest epistle on democracy as mankind's salvation, as though he had learned nothing since ordering the invasion of Iraq -- to bring the blessings of democracy to Mesopotamia and the Middle East.
President Bush began by paying tribute to the founding father of Czech democracy. "Nine decades ago, Tomas Masaryk proclaimed Czechoslovakia's independence based on the 'ideals of democracy.'"
Well, that may be what the Masaryk said, but it is not exactly what he did. In 1918, he did indeed proclaim the independence of Czechoslovakia, confirmed by the Allies at Paris. But inside the new Czechoslovakia, built on the "ideals of democracy," were 3 million dissident Germans who wished to remain with Austria and half a million Hungarians who wished to remain with Hungary. Many Catholic Slovaks had wanted to remain with Catholic Hungary. Against their will, all had been consigned to Masaryk's Czech-dominated nation.
Query for Bush? If 3 million Germans were put under alien rule without their consent and against their will, and they wished to exercise their right of self-determination, as preached by Woodrow Wilson, did they not have a right to secede peacefully and join their German kinsmen?
Because that is what Munich was all about.
Between 1938 and 1939, dissident Germans, Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians and Ruthenes -- abetted by Berlin, Warsaw and Budapest -- broke free of Masaryk's multinational democracy. Rather than let them secede from Prague, Churchill thought Britain should go to war.
Was Winston right, or were the Sudeten Germans right?
In 1945, liberated Czechoslovkia solved its dissident German problem by wholesale ethnic cleansing.
"Freedom," declared the president, "is the design of our Maker and the longing of every soul. ... Freedom is the dream ... of every person in every nation in every age." Interesting.
Did Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao, Fidel, Uncle Ho and Pol Pot long for freedom in their souls? Did Churchill long for freedom, as he fought to preserve the British Empire and British rule in India?
"Expanding freedom," said Bush, "is the only realistic way to protect our people in the long run." That is another way of saying that, if we abandon the Bush crusade for global democracy, we can never be secure.