22 November 2008

Remembrance: Legacy and Peace

The Legacy of the Second World War

The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. As is blatantly obvious, it didn't exactly live up to that name.

The war changed the world, basically. The old European militaristic "glory of war" attitude was effectively destroyed for most people by trench warfare. Women got the vote, the class structure altered radically and the political structures of Europe were altered forever.

Of the countries in Europe most effected, Russia and Germany stand out for obvious reasons.

The Treaty of Versailles is rightly considered as a major cause of the Second World War. It made several crucial mistakes- being both too harsh and too soft on Germany.

General Pershing, despite his stupid decision to continue attacks on German troops after the Armistice had been signed (it was signed at 5am, but did not come into effect until 11am), commented that it should have been made abundantly clear that Germany had lost. If not, people could claim they had not- as Hitler did.

That said, blaming Germany for the whole of the war was wrong and its military should not have been limited in the way that it was (the Weimar Republic was already in breach of the military provisions before Hitler came to power). Germany should, as was done after the Second World War, been gradually reintegrated into the international community.

The biggest impact, which still resonates 90 years on, was the creation of the USSR. No USSR, arguably no Hitler, or at least no consideration of expansion. The support of the Western states of the anti-Bolshevik forces coloured Soviet perceptions of them for a long time, playing a factor in the Cold War and probably today.

Gavrio Princip's shots still echo today.


Someone once said, si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). President Theodore Roosevelt said "speak softly and carry a big stick".

I can't recall the quote, but someone once commented, in essence, that an entire peaceful nation would be a sitting duck for one with warlike intentions.

There are around 210 geo-political entities on this planet. Even if 209 were entirely peaceful, just one could cause serious problems.

Certain people on the left place much of the blame on the current world situation on the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Sure, they have to share some of the blame, but it does not all rest with them by any extent of the imagination.

"Al-Qaeda" (I use the term in speech marks when I refer to the entire movement on a collective level) and the Taliban are the source of much of the trouble in Afghanistan- for example firing from civilian-occupied buildings, a violation of the principles of war.

We cannot defeat these people solely by arms that fire bullets, but we also need to use arms that provide hugs. We must put major pressure on the Middle Eastern states to allow freedom of speech and democratise- allowing people to affect politics in other ways. We also have to wean them off their dependence on oil as a revenue source, just as we have to do it as an energy source. On a related note, selling Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia is a bad idea.

I have a saying- Perception is nine-tenths of a war. People start wars out of fear or because they misread others, more than anything. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 is an example of the latter- he thought the USSR would prevent UN action, which it didn't do.

We need to understand the cultures of others- and explain our own to them.

I don't imagine it will be easy by any stretch of the imagination- there will always be a few war-lovers, people who glory in causing mass destruction, out there. We just need to make sure that they are contained.

While this concludes this series, I want to explore certain aspects of this in my blog in the future.

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