Is Military History Practicable?

History is considered to be "practicable" if it provides lessons, in particular illustrative examples of methods and strategies that can be specifically utilized in a current situation. It can be invaluable when demonstrating aspects of military principles as well as in helping officers internalize appropriate military values as well as a recognition of the uniqueness of our military history. The most valuable aspect of examining military history involves developing an understanding of why certain decisions made by military leaders were made. In this way, learning military history can instruct military officers on how, rather than what, to think.

The results of this process should allow the military professional to be able to develop his or her own creative solutions to complicated dilemmas in the here and now; these responses should take into account the particular details of that situation such as the environment, the climate, and the topography of where the battle is taking place. When military leaders simply take methods from the past and apply them to modern war theaters without considering the specifics of that environment, they are destined to fail.

According to the Luvaas article, the abuse of military history occurs when people take examples of past military efforts out of context; when the incident is taken out of its original circumstance in the retelling, it no longer provides relevant lessons for the modern warrior. One simply cannot apply historical precedence from one situation to another since no two battle situations are identical. Therefore, one must utilize strategies and thoughts of past military leaders while simultaneously adjusting those principles to the situation at hand. For example, one cannot simply apply lessons learned from the Vietnam War to our current military operations when the terrain in Afghanistan, for example, is completely hostile to a large number of ground troops. Military leaders engaged in that battlefield are tending to use airpower, including unmanned drones, because of the difficulty of negotiating battle on land. Winning the hearts and minds of the civilians was a goal in the Vietnam War as well as war in Afghanistan, but the methods used have needed to be different based on land conditions as well as more modern technologies available.

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