One problem with the linear passage of time is that you don’t have an opportunity to revisit alternative possibilities. So, for example, had we not gone to Vietnam, where would we be with respect to Southeast Asia today? Had we in fact attacked Russia, rather than simply fighting the cold wars we did, what would the outcome have been by the time 1980/1982 rolled around? Had we not invaded Afghanistan, or Iraq, where would we be 5 to 10 years from now? We make our choices based what we understand at the time. And it’s only history that shows us the outcomes. Even then, however, we don’t know what the alternate outcomes would have been had we chosen a different path.
If we look back on history, it shows us various routes which have been taken in the past and it shows us various outcomes of those. And sometimes, that history shows to be correct a decision which was seen at the time as completely incorrect. But we are human. And we are in this world. And this world is denoted by the linear passage of time without the opportunity to recreate those same circumstances. And anyone who comes in to tell you we have made a mistake needs to do so tempered by the respect of knowing that there is not necessarily a right answer; there are only outcomes and consequences. And those outcomes and consequences do not necessarily show up for decades or more.
Original writing date: September 13, 2006