Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Trumpet Hearlds the Need for the Return of History

The trumpet is a metaphor for a call from a military officer urging the return of the study of history to add another avenue of ideas to sound out a clear strategy about the conduct of current and future wars. Army Special Forces Major Grant Martin, who is currently serving in Afghanistan penned an essay posted by the editors of Small Wars Journal. Major Martin, begs the indulgence of David Brooks upon whose March 25 New York Times op-ed he builds his thesis.
As I was reading David Brooks’ March 25 New York Times op-ed, The Return of History, I couldn’t help but play a game I have come to enjoy ever since reading Eric D. Beinhocker’s book The Origin of Wealth. What I do is every time I come to the word “economist” when reading a work on economics, I substitute the words “military theorist” in my mind, and every time I come to the word “economics” I replace it with the words “the study of warfare”. Since the switch seemed to fit so well with Beinhocker’s book, I was not too surprised when it seemed to fit Brooks’ article as well.
At the risk of appearing to plagiarize and with apologies to Mr. Brooks, I have replaced most of the words in his article below that dealt with economics with a word or words that had more to do with warfare. I have left his words in italics, except for the title of books, and put my words in regular font.
Read More:
The Need for the Return of History:Why Studying History and Human Motivations is the Key to the Future of Warfare.

Major Martin's independent voice, joins the voices of many who have questioned the logic of marginalizing history both at the secondary, post secondary, and graduate level institutions, as well as in the service academies where management and systems management has trumped the focus of history and particularly military history. The fact that many voices have been raised in the past two years holds merit that the pendulum is finally beginning to gradually swing back, pushed along by the concerted efforts of many whom have come to realize that it is time for the return of history. This blog and its author, and many of my blog friends, have been active in promoting the importance of history and understanding it's consequences and lessons.

The warning also sounds from the direction of West Point, courtesy of Tom Ricks Foreign Policy Blog who posted this, a  West Point faculty member worries it is failing to prepare tomorrow’s officers . This officer is defining the total systems managment approach of cover your A-hole and keep your Pie-hole shut to avoid rocking the boat. That makes another officer at West Point who has the guts to speak his mind.

Recently Thomas Barnett called attention to why he wrote an 85 page of history of America supporting the thesis of his book Great Powers: America and the World After Bush, during a recent book review. For
anyone interested, this is one of the most concise one chapter histories of the U.S. describing the really important themes and characters that made our world today possible. I wish Barnett would consider writing a more extensive history of the United State for his next endeavor, given his ability to gin up themes and link them altogether in a seamless narrative.

The drums and trumpets across the blogs, have been sounding a clarion call to academics to heed the warning before we march over a another cliff, blinded by our hubris or self loathing naval gazing. We must stop and counsel with the historians and teach our young the value of knowing the road traveled, before charging blindly ahead. We must measure our progress by looking to our past with its glories and it's warts, then re-energizing ourselves in the fields of business, economics, war and diplomacy, so the security of the institutions and the nation is not blind to the folly of not being aware of the past.

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