Understanding history is essential for wise and effective national security statecraft. Most senior decision-makers seem to implicitly appreciate this, judging by how frequently, even reflexively, they reach for historical lessons in approaching a policy challenge or decision. Yet efforts to use history by policy-makers frequently falls short, caused by factors such as lack of historical knowledge, poor analytic skills, or unchecked biases.
The fault for this can be found on all sides. Current and future policy-makers are not being adequately trained in how to use history in a sophisticated manner. And the vast majority of academic historians have neither the ability nor the interest in producing history that is relevant and accessible to a policy audience.
The Strauss Center is planning a new research program that will focus on the relationship between history, national strategy, and statecraft. It will focus in particular on diplomatic, military, and international history, all essential to national security policy. In addition it will develop methods and tools to help other faculty in the fields of diplomatic history and security studies who are interested in the relationship between history and policy.
The program on history and statecraft will develop a body of research on how policy-makers have attempted (with varying degrees of success or failure) to use the lessons of history, will offer specific recommendations on how policy-makers should (and should not) draw on historical insights, and will design and implement a course curriculum to train aspiring policy-makers in how better to study and apply historical thinking to national security decision-making.
For more information about the January 2012 workshop held at the Hyatt Lost Pines, please visit https://historystrategyandstatecraft.wordpress.com/.