Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleventh Day Of The Eleventh Month

It is Veterans Day; a time of remembrance. While it is important to remember the men and women who serve and served, plus those who lie in hallowed ground, it is vital to also recall why we remember on this specific day. It is on this day, on the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of 1918 when one of the great insanities of history finally ended: the Great War of 1914-1918, World War One.

If one were to make a list of pointless, foolish, and ultimately disastrous historical events, World War One should be right at the top of the list. Few wars in history had so much effort placed in them, for such vague reasons, and for such a bad outcome.

For four years, the great empires of Europe engaged in a hideous struggle where the only certain outcome was more slaughter. On the Western Front, great armies churned over the same few square meters of ground, creating a hell on earth. Even today, if you visit the fields of Flounders and France the earth tells a mute tale of epic horror.

In the East, the war was one of great movement but of little results. The Germans advanced, the Russians fell back; rise, lather, repeat. By the last year of the war, Russia was prostate; done for, and Austria-Hungary was barely better off. The Germans had millions of hectares under their control, but to no good purpose. The “victory” in the east left them with a problem of how occupy all that land. They really could not spare one Pomeranian Grenadier in the struggle in the west, but they had to leave thousands of troops on the steppes of Russia. When the big push came, just prior to the US troops arrival, that shortage had an impact on the final failure of German Arms.

The Great War was one of the great wrecking balls of history. We still live in the rubble of that event. Four great Empires of Europe died in that war; a Fifth limped off the killing fields only to finally fall apart in the next European conflagration. Nation-States that have existed for centuries came to naught while other nations,  some lost for centuries, came into being. Nations yet to be born in the post-colonial reality of post the post World  War Two era were seeded at the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War One. And then there were other revolutions afoot.

The biggest revolution of the age was the Russian one. For eighty years, and then some, the whole world had to deal with the empire of the Soviets; the big Red gong, which echoed for four generations, sending political, economic, theoretical, geo-strategic, and religious disharmonies that rattled core structures to their foundations. And then there was the Near East.

The collapse of the Ottomans and the subsequent replacement of that empire with Turkey, plus some pointless colonialism by the UK and France, destabilized the region in multiple ways. When the UK and La Belle France finally skedaddled, the UK with alacrity, the French much more reluctantly, they left a ungodly mess that still has not been resolved.

>This all happened because the elites of Europe let it happened. There was no good reason to go to war over some odd-ball Austrian Archduke’s assassination. The leadership of Austria-Hungary, especially emperor Franz Joseph could not stand Franz Ferdinand, and truly detested his Morganatic wife. But the Archduke’s death was a good enough excuse for Austria-Hungary to pluck a thorn in its side; that thorn being Serbia.

We can mock these considerations now, but back then, that was good enough reason for entering a war. All the participants thought that a war between the powers was a good idea: better now, than later. That theme ran though all the great powers: better now, than later. War would be a good thing, a beneficial and cleansing affair, it would sort things out. Only after the fact, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, and with no end in sight did anyone reconsider; and by then it was way too late.

The lesson that should have been learned by all of this is that war should be a nation’s last option; not its first. Unfortunately, we have learned no such thing. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has been on a reckless, feckless victory lap. Two wars by the rivers of Babylon, an pointless careening about in the Grave Yard of Empires, a unfinished bit of sand castle building on the shores of Tripoli, and the odd drone kill in the badlands of Pakistan have been the main events. We seek out interventions the way an alcoholic seeks out rot-gut wine or a dope addicts seeks out their next high. Our elites seem more than willing to force seniors back into gut-wrenching poverty, and shred the entire social safety net, just so they get their military jones on. And to what end?

No good end dear reader. From Gulf War One to the present day we have been involved pointless military adventurism, just because we could. No true national interest has been served. No overarching National Security need has been on the line. It has been military adventurism run amok. It has been foreign policy carelessness that is mind blowing in its foolishness.  It has been the rampaging of an elite that has no concept of limits, and no check on its excesses. We have sacrificed so much for so little; from Reagan to Obama we have maimed and killed with abandon, we have intervened because, well, that is just what we do. We forgot all about Vietnam and have been rolling the iron dice since Jimmy Carter decided to push back against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In this, our veterans, our active duty military, are blameless. Even our brass hat commanders are mostly without stain. The military are only doing their job, and we should be grateful as a nation for that sacrifice. They have earned the laurels we have laid at their feet. Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, those who lay in hallowed ground, have earned their eternal rest. Let us recommit ourselves to the ideas that they gave their lives for. Let us ensure that no other brave man or woman is needlessly sacrificed in ill-conceived involvement far from our shores. The best thing we can do is return this nation back to its rightful rulers; we the people. It is the only real way to support the troops.
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