Published Humanitas, Volume XXXIII, Nos. 1 & 2, 2020

In all spheres of human life decision making can be more or less well informed and prudent. Sometimes ignorance or the passion of the moment yields disastrous results. Sometimes wise, circumspect decisions avert catastrophe. In politics and especially in foreign policy, the consequences of either good or bad leadership are potentially far-reaching. Those charged with making big decisions need to be as prepared as possible to understand the circumstances in which they are operating and to estimate the likely outcome of their actions. The effects of ignorance, superficiality, and rashness can be devastating.

What best prepares foreign policy decision makers to carry out their duties responsibly is a topic of great importance. Here the purpose is to draw attention to one of the requirements for sound decision-making, that of understanding the extent to which the past, sometimes the ancient past, influences the present. A leader ignorant of that which came before may instead turn to a superficial or accustomed theory or set of assumptions, perhaps derived from a cherished ideology.

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