Everyone now knows that the Iraq War was wrong. Everyone now knows that we were fortunate not to have deployed ground troops in the Syrian mess. Not so many people mention the anarchy in Libya. It's best not to mention Afghanistan, but the point is the same, everyone knows after the fact that we were wrong to involve ourselves in countries which most of us can just about locate on a map.

Iraq was not the first time that we had the chance to learn this lesson, and then promptly ignore it, that came much earlier in a country which is synonymous with American failure: #Vietnam.

'What fools we are...'

Whenever the importance of learning history is discussed, someone will invariably quote George Santayana to point out that we will repeat the mistakes of the past if we do not learn our history. They are right, but it does not matter in #Britain and the #United States because our leaders will carry on regardless.

You would be forgiven for not noticing the interesting ten-part Documentary on BBC4 called The Vietnam War, I came upon it by chance while changing channels - but if you get the opportunity to watch it you must. It is not a dry historical documentary, but one that really catches the mind on a war that is not regularly taught in British schools, which is to our disadvantage.

I won’t go into the details, for there are others who can do it much better than I can, but the short story is that it was an unmitigated disaster for the Americans. They poured substantial amounts of resources and young men into that sorry country and were forced out by the determined Communist forces. From that point forward every politician around the world should have learnt Otto Von Bismarck’s adage: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes.

The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

Alas, they haven't. Tony Benn gave a speech to the House of Commons in 1998 regarding arming Saddam Hussein's regime (interestingly this was the same regime that just five years later had to be destroyed), in which he said "What fools we are to live in a generation for which war is a computer game for our children, and just an interesting, little Channel 4 news item".

What fools, indeed.

War is hell

I'm not a pacifist, war has been necessary many times in history and it is imperative that we be able to defend our shores with a strong navy, air force and army. That does not mean, however, that I have a thirst for death. I do not want to see 179 British servicemen dead because Tony Blair was with President Bush "whatever". I can not imagine how many have died and continue to die because David Cameron felt it necessary for Britain to join in the destabilisation of Libya. How lucky we are that public pressure stopped him getting his way in Syria, which we now know that we would have blundered into in support of 'moderates' (your guess is as good as mine) that we've not heard much of since.

We have a serious choice to make the next time a polished politician comes to us to sell another war. We can ignore the lessons that we and the Americans have learnt in such a terrible way. Or we can decide that the lives of other people's sons and daughters are not ours to throw away in the pursuit of utopian ideals. Assad, Gadaffi, Hussein and all of the other dictators that rule, or have ruled, so much of the world are not nice people, no one could argue otherwise, but it is none of our business. We are not a superpower anymore, we can not just walk into these petty despotisms and demand the abdication of their monstrous leaders, we must stand back and accept that the world is not a nice place like we do with China, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Watch the documentary, it will probably be one of the best things on television for quite a while, but, most importantly, it will teach you that it does not matter how much money and how many guns and people you throw at it, the world cannot be remade in our image.