Op-ed: “Past Abusers: for the sake of peace, leave history out of politics”
News from May 18, 2015
In the South China Morning Post this month, Professor Klaus Segbers, the Director of Center for Global Politics, published an article titled “Past Abusers: for the sake of peace, leave history out of politics”.
In this article, Professor Segbers argues that since in politics, history is often dressed up and trotted out only to justify current policies and actions, we should leave it well alone when seeking to resolve conflicts.
Professor Segbers specifically mentions that we should pay attention to the politicians’ motivations when using historical analogies, “it's necessary to consider the purpose: in most cases, reaching out to past events means that someone is looking for justifications for ongoing issues and interests.”
To elaborate his argument, Professor Segbers firstly reviewed two typical examples of Russia and China. In Russia’s case, he argues that the ongoing series of attempts of Russian governments to contextualize current Russian military actions within the broader lines of 20th century history clearly serve its purpose of legitimizing current rule violations. “While Chinese official ceremony on the end of Second World War indicates leadership wants to keep pressure on the Japanese leadership, especially its intention to become more active and assertive in foreign and security policies.”
Professor Segbers also cited the case of Greece, which seeks war-related compensation from Germany to deflect pressure to pursue economic and social reforms, and many civil wars fought in last decades to further explain how governments and intellectuals are trying to take advantage by resurrecting history in a certain way.
In Professor Segbers’ opinion, historical interpretations always need to be framed and, “as a rule, no one frame lasts forever. So, many historical narratives are resurrected, defended and contested to serve current interests”.
“If you really want to solve a current conflict, forget about history, focus on the pragmatic steps that can be achieved”, Professor Segbers concludes.
Read the full text.