Or rather, what have we learned? Forty-seven years ago, a man from an island sixty miles from the United States, came to the United Nations General Assembly to lay out his determination to seek a better life for his people.
That man, Fidel Castro, is still the leader of his country, notwithstanding the attempts of nine American Presidents to topple him. Meanwhile, the ideology that he later espoused has been replaced, on the American radar, by another one , which will be represented this month in a speech to the U.N. by the president of Iran.
Like Castro many times before him, Ahmadinejad will declare that his country poses no threat to the world, and that there are good, objective reasons for his policies. (However different the ideologies of Communism and Islamism may be on the surface - the former being atheistic - both gain strength from inequality and greed.)
As with Castro, most of the leaders assembled in the great hall will more or less grudgingly admit that the Iranian president's case is reasonable. Failure on the part of the United States to support Castro's initially reformist policies led, three years after his rise to power, to the Cuban Missile Crisis, still considered to be the closet the world has ever come to World War III.
At the very least, we could have learned, in the forty-four years since, that no ideology is forever, and no ideology is worth blowing up the world for. As the Democrats prepare to fight accusations of being soft on terrorism in the mid-term elections, they would do well to start by pointing out that the search for common ground with potential enemies is a sign of wisdom, while only mindless bullies use the weapon of fear.
Failure to separate our obligation to apply the Non-Proliferation Treaty without discrimination to Iran, under reasonable scrutiny, from Israel's refusal to make a better bed for itself in the Palestinian house, could make World War III a reality.