It is interesting to note that Cambridge questions can be ambiguous and to do well for such questions, it is crucial to spot these ambiguities and provide intelligent, original answers to them.

  1. Can history stop the next war?
  • ‘Can’ is an ambiguous word choice.
  • It could mean: does history have the ability to stop the next war? Obviously, by itself it cannot as history is the story that happened in the past.
  • So an appropriate interpretation is: can the lessons offered by history stop the next war? It seems possible, but the phrasing implies that it probably cannot.
  • Pessimists: People do not learn from their mistakes. The last hundred years have seen the most devastating wars. There have been many wars, large and small, since World War 2, such as the Vietnamese, Korean, Iran-Iraq and Gulf wars. The United Nations itself has overseen the initiation of some wars, such as the Afghan war, Kosovan conflict and the Iraq invasion.
  • Optimists: People learn the lessons from history and take steps to prevent the outbreak of war. The famous Marshall Plan helped to rebuild the war-torn economies and spread prosperity and stability. The establishment of an international forum though United Nations has allowed nations to air their grievances before taking to the declaration of war. The horror of the atomic bomb attacks on Japan in 1945 has led to the complete avoidance of nuclear war or even major warfare.
  • Ultimately, everyone learns their lessons from history in their own (different) ways. Some may put what they learn into practice while others simply want to advance their own personal agenda despite the lessons learned. The responsibility of preventing the next war does not fall on the shoulders of few individuals, but innumerable people. Compromise, collaboration and cooperation among myriad people are needed to avert the next potential war.
  • Therefore, it seems unlikely that lessons gleaned from history can ever stop the next war.

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