If history is the story of human civilization, then historians must be the storytellers of this rich and intricate narrative.
Like any other artisan, the historian uses raw materials to build his handicraft---ancient symbols on a cave wall, delicate rolls of papyri, embellished texts locked away in a monastery, yellowed newspapers, and any other bit of written evidence of mankind's past. The art of creating history takes many decades---perhaps centuries---to produce. First, the historian must rid herself of all personal bias (which proves near impossible). Second, all of the evidence that isn't lost to natural disasters or war must be gathered. Third, the evidence must be stitched together in seamless strokes. And fourth, any mistakes in the fabric must be meticulously cut out. It is a long and difficult process.
Concerning the War in Iraq, the raw materials of this historical event are still being gathered. The pattern for the fabric is under construction and it will be many years before a final product can be produced. And so, the current situation in Iraq may seem bleak, but the ultimate outcome is still being decided.
Recent articles in the Washington Post and Newsweek have made me realize that hope remains in Iraq. (And I'm always a sucker for hope.) So even though I think we've entangled ourselves in a horribly messy war, I am still hopeful that the final outcome will be a success---a democratic and stable Iraq.
But who knows? For now, I will sit back and wait as history continues to be recorded. Trying to analyze the "goodness" or "badness" of the war is a futile effort without knowing all of the consequences it brings. It's like trying to write a movie review when all you've seen is the first fifteen minutes. Or summarizing a book when all you've read are a smattering of pages in the first three chapters.
Honestly, did anyone really think that the assassination of an Austrian archduke would lead to World War I, which consequently led to World War II, which then brought on the Cold War and Vietnam? Just to think...the life and death of Franz Ferdinand II would shift world history and consequently effect the lives of billions! Curse that Serbian assassin!
Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, the War in Iraq will not bring such awful consequences. And hopefully, our progeny will not look back at this war and say "If only they knew what we know now."