Learning from the past

In Germany, it's popular to say "we need to learn from the past, remember the past".
Well, this is certainly true.

The problem with this is that the people who say this usually seem to mean only specific 12 years of the history of one (our) nation and with "we" they mean only Germans.

Well, that's silly. We have about seven thousand years of (partially) documented history, covering the whole world for at least a couple of hundred years.
There's no reason why we should focus on a small part of history - especially if we already live in a country that spent decades to study this part of history, draw lessons and do precautions. Many other nations are today in much more dire need of drawing lessons from that particular time than Germany (I better don't mention which, for that would distract).

Isn't it much more important to learn of other nation's experiences? Those experiences are much less likely to have resulted in lessons learned for your country. Those experiences are very relevant once your country changes its activities, enters new grounds and therefore acts without own experiences (as Germany with its engagement in peacekeeping).

Military history is in a poor shape in universities almost everywhere. It's less present in Germany than peace research. Peace research is fine - I wouldn't want to miss it. But I miss military history competence.

Military history helps to prevent old mistakes in military affairs. If military history was in good shape, there would probably have been more people in our parliament informed about Afghanistan's insurgency tradition against foreign forces. (Same for anthropology - someone should have told the parliament how different the Afghan society is in 2004 and that building democracy there was quite fallacious).
The European nations marched into Afghanistan although military history tells many stories about failures of such enterprises.

Now if we really want to remember and learn from history - shouldn't we fund the academics for it, adopt a full approach (international, all history) and listen to it when it's appropriate?

Sven Ortmann

No comments:

Post a Comment