Using History to Make Policy

Twenty years ago a book titled The Uses of History by Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May was published based on a course at Harvard’s Kennedy School . Some considered that this approach illustrate how “the ‘obvious’ has too often been ignored, with unfortunate results.”  In other words, there may be a historical analogue to every current situation0–but we must analyze the similarities, differences, and implications.

It appears that we still haven’t learned much–speaking specifically about the Ukraine crisis.  (Andrew Bacevich explains.)

Policymakers and foreign policy leaders need more training in history, according to Stephen Walt:

U.S. President Barack Obama (and his successors) would be better off with fewer policy wonks, pollsters, and lawyers in their inner circles, and with a few more well-trained historians instead. (I’m a political scientist, by the way, so I’m not promoting my own discipline here.) And if I had a magic wand and could transform how aspiring foreign policymakers were trained, studying lots of history would be mandatory while some of the other subjects students are now forced to study would become optional.

My advice: If you have your heart set on a career in international affairs, reading plenty of history and learning how historians think would be excellent preparation. Given the paltry comprehension of history currently on display in Washington, D.C., such knowledge would make you nearly unique, and thus uniquely valuable.

via Condemned to Repeat It.

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