Tuesday, March 21, 2006

# Posted 12:00 PM by Patrick Porter  

SAGE ADVICE for historians, political scientists, governments or soldiers keen to interpret lessons from past or present wars:

The student, as Jonathan Shimshoni asserts, should use their record warily, to suggest problems, opportunities, potential avenues to solutions, and routes to advantage - an arrow towards consistently rejuvenated theories of victory...military history is a record of the past, to be used as a fund of the experiental and the interrogatory...

We must read with a keen awareness of the individual biases and institutional 'blinders' with which all history is produced; we must always realise the tentative nature of our conclusions; and we must remember that the past is gone forever, and that in trying to capture the essence of that past, we always run the risk of losing focus, of concentrating so hard on a paradigm or on a level of conflict that we limit our ability 'to adapt...to the utterly unpredictable, the entirely unknown,' which is so often a part of modern war.

(from Gary P. Cox, 'Of Aphorisms, Lessons and Paradigms: Comparing the British and German Official Histories of the Russo-Japanese War', Journal of Military History, 56 (July 1992), pp.389-402)

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