What products of historical working are considered valuable and/or critical to be considered as part of the process of creating political strategies that deals on an international level?

In other words, what is the benefit of retrospective analysis for dealing with the future on a political level?

  • This question might be nice, but it's written very messily, a rewrite would definitely help. – o0'. Nov 27 '14 at 14:03
  • I certainly do not consider my wording as chiseled in stone, but i need suggestions how to rewrite it. – meireikei Nov 27 '14 at 14:12
  • It's a good and interesting question, but not one that can have a definitive answer, which is why it's a poor fit for a Q&A. I don't think rewording it will help because it's so open. It's not a bad question at all, by the way. – Ne Mo Nov 28 '14 at 19:00

Ever heard the phrase 'generals are always fighting the last war'? It's poignant applied to France and Britain's strategy during the Second World War, when they assumed, based on WW1, that the advantage would always be to the side using a defensive strategy. That's why they constructed the 'Maginot Line' and refused to attack Germany.

Have you heard the proverb 'the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there'? This has the opposite lesson to Hegel's dictum which was posted above: that you can't just assume that the present is 'like' the past and use it to teach you lessons about what to do.

I can't give a definitive answer to a broad question like this: In other words, what is the benefit of retrospective analysis for dealing with the future on a political level?

It varies. A lot. Someone who draws the wrong lessons from history may suffer as much as he who learns nothing from it. How do you know for certain what lessons are wrong? I wish I knew.

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  • for instance, Niall Ferguson pointed to the similar situation between modern china and germany of the 1910s and its application for estimating the future. Well, he said "many possible futures", but based on good guess and known outcome of the analogy one might get the idea the database of historical events and situations should not be neglected as a ressource for planing. – meireikei Nov 27 '14 at 12:06

"Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, daß Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben." (Hegel)

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    Are you downvoting Hegel? – fdb Nov 27 '14 at 10:37
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    +1 for the quote, but I notice this has been flagged. Perhaps adding a translation would help. – Semaphore Nov 27 '14 at 12:43
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    To paraphrase (for the benefit of our monolingual friends): "The one thing that history teaches is that nations and governments have never learned anything from history". – fdb Nov 27 '14 at 13:04
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    "doesn't speak German" != "monolingual" – o0'. Nov 27 '14 at 14:14
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    Hegels style of writing would be considered by a modern native speaker of german as pretentious, even in academic wording. I try to capture his style somehow into English: But what the experience and history teaches us is this, that people and governments neither learned from history nor acted in accordance with the inference from the lesson. – meireikei Nov 27 '14 at 14:27

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