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So, I have a question that is related to the currently (Feb 24 2022) ongoing military events in Ukraine. It would be titled as "Why are the casualties on both sides in the Ukrainian war so low compared to past full-scale invasions?, but the specifics don't matter much, you can consider this question in general.

The thing is, it literally started yesterday, so while technically it's history, it's also not quite that. Yet, I feel that this site is a good place to ask it: the answer would need historical knowledge, a strategical and circumstantial comparison between Ukraine and the wars of the past, like the Gulf War or WW2 Blitzkriegs, and the event itself is no doubt of historical significance. In a few decades, I feel this would be a perfect question.

But can we ask such questions about ongoing events of historical significance? Such questions are mostly asked on Politics.SE, but I feel this one would be a poor fit. There's no politics in Ukraine, there is war, and my question is about strategy, tactics and circumstances. In my opinion, this site is more well-equipped to answer this question, but would it welcome it?

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We've examined this question several times before, including one that is particularly relevant

The answers to those questions may be useful.

In my opinion (see #include below), a question is a historical question if you use historical sources and methods for analysis. We don't have any reliable sources from the current conflict. (and, as an aside, I wonder if future historians will need to adapt historical methods to compensate for current trends in mis/dis/information?) I'd also argue that historical methods aren't well suited for analysis of dynamic, evolving situations (that isn't to say that it is impossible to use them; just that there may be other tools that are better).

The distinction between politics and history is a bit like the distinction between dance and movement; the more skilled the performer the more obvious the distinction. I move, but I wouldn't call myself a dancer (one of the few opinions I hold that would meet with nearly universal agreement). History, like dance, is a verb.


#include T.E.D's standard diamond disclaimer slug.

this is just my view as a user who's been on this site a long time, and made more than a few mistakes. This site is run by users, not me. That includes most moderation decisions. So if I'm off base here, I'm counting on some of our other users to point that out.

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    While you bring up an interesting point about future historians, I think its fairly well understood that a lot of our sources for ancient and medieval battles are quite one-sided and unreliable, so this isn't exactly something novel.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Feb 24 at 22:35
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    Impossible to know, but I am willing to examine the hypothesis that there a qualitative difference between ancient propaganda and modern propaganda/mis/disinformation. modern misinformation quantitatively dwarfs anything ancient, and actively conceals the origin, manufacturing information corroborating sources on a scale that our ancestors quite literally couldn't have imagined. But I've now used up all my hyperbolic adjectives for the day, so I must stop.
    – MCW Mod
    Feb 24 at 22:42
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I'm quite glad you asked this question, as feelings are running quite high on this matter right now.

One thing that may not be obvious at first sight is that initial reports are quite likely to be far different than the data historians find once the dust has settled and they get a chance to take a full and complete look at the available sources. This goes particularly for this event, where there's sadly rather a lot of cynical propaganda out there masquerading as legitimate news or internet discussion.

This is a prime reason why I'd argue that the Politics site is much better equipped to deal with that kind of question. The users there are much more accustomed to dealing the pitfalls of looking at fresh unprocessed data than we are.

Now someone I suppose might be inspired by current events to ask a question about history (for example historical casualty data for other invasions). We've had those in the past. But it would be really tricky to phrase without somehow pushing the narrative that "casualties right now are really low". That is pretty darn close to a propaganda statement, and should rightly earn a one-way ticket to a "promote or discredit" question hold.

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  • FYI, this is just my view as a user who's been on this site a long time, and made more than a few mistakes. This site is run by users, not me. That includes most moderation decisions. So if I'm off base here, I'm counting on some of our other users to point that out.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Feb 24 at 21:55

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