America’s new belligerent engagement in Libya, along with its NATO allies, has led me to think of our old engagement in Libya, which inspired the U.S. Marine anthem, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.” Not only have most Americans never heard of that war fought during Thomas Jefferson’s administration, but today’s schools don’t even bother to teach it.
About a year ago, I visited a prestigious private school in Oregon and was joined at lunch by a group of the school's best students of high-school age. I assumed that they were well versed in American history. But to find out if I was right, I asked if they could tell me what was the first war the United States was engaged in after we had established an independent government under the new constitution. There was a moment of silence while they wracked their brains for the correct answer. "The War of 1812," they responded confidently. "No," I said. "That was not the first war we were engaged in." They seemed puzzled and disappointed. After all, they were the best students in the school. How could they be wrong?
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)