Those who won't learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.
I simply don't believe that history has any lessons, at least not any that are discernible to mortals.
Having made that bold statement, let me elaborate. Howard said in a recent post against the current policy concerning Iraq;
History’s lesson is that military force in the long run is useless against religious conviction. Remember that relatively few Christians eventually overcame all the Roman legions.
I have the opposite point of view concerning Iraq, so I might also point to history and say that the Christians did not overcome the Legions. Emperor Constantine found it politically useful to convert. But even if what Howard said were accurate, I would point out that in fact, the lesson of history is that military force is highly effective against religious conviction. We might take for example, the Roman destruction of the ancient Jewish nation despite the fact that the Jews of Masada were fervent enough to commit suicide rather than be captured. Simon de Beaufort destroyed the Cathare religion at Montseguer, despite the fact that they fervently chose death rather than conversion. Another case that immediately comes to mind is the stamping out of the Vaudois religion in the mountains of France by military action and repeated the action in the south of France when the Vaudois secretly established themselves there.
I'm not suggesting such a policy in Iraq. I'm simply saying that a lot of factors need to be taken into account before one can propose a general historical lesson in order to support or oppose a current policy.
Too often we create the lesson that supports our viewpoint and then pick and chose among historical data to "prove" the lesson. In science, it only take one contrary piece of data to discard a proposed theory. If the same rule were followed in the study of history, a single contrary example would negate the "lesson" proposed. In my opinion, history is so vastly complicated compared to science that finding it's so-called lessons is impossible. One only needs to look at the disagreements between stock market prognosticators to see that even in a narrow domain so-called lessons are useless. With respect -Joel