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SEPTEMBER 2014 REPORTS
'14-18': "the War to end all Wars"; World War Two;
The Cold War; The Brittle Peace;
Prospects for the Future of War
‘14-18’: “the War to end all
This specific ‘never again’ phrase, was the last word and probably a spurious
justification of WWI. But could it have been intended as a solemn undertaking by
the nations’ governors, or just the best that could be suggested to bring about
individual/family/national closure? The facts show that industrialised warfare
on this early 20th century scale, because of the price in blood to be paid was
simply unwinnable- a case of everybody loses.
It was a war which required citizens of all nations to be wrenched from their
families and normal lives, brutalised as recruits and quickly fashioned into
warriors to be sent to the frontline to live in trenches. There they were led by
generals of questionable ability, many completely out of their depth whose
experience was from the 19th C, on whom elected politicians entirely depended
for advice on the important decisions of conducting a war.
Yet the days of successful massed infantry and cavalry charges, in the face of
machine guns and rapid-firing accurate artillery, had gone for ever. That should
have been a no-brainer, obvious from the lessons of the American Civil war half
a century before, which military observers from all European nations had
witnessed, plus the first hand experience of the short but decisive
Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
And what was the ‘14/’18 war all about? A series of treaties, trip wires to
restrain any aggressive single or collection of powers, becoming over-powerful,
compared to their neighbours. This was the theory and the old European formula,
whose powers were constantly fighting between themselves, and were at the hub of
Unlike any previous war in human experience the rulers of the countries
involved, knew or should have known, that they had failed their citizens by
sleepwalking (as they were later accurately accused) into this man-made and
completely avoidable hell.
The horror included mass mobilisation in all the participating nations so it was
no longer a matter of small professional armies. Now nearly every family of each
of the warring nations had members drafted into uniform, at risk of life and
limb, with a high probability of not surviving [....]
World War Two
In East Asia without any declaration of
war or warning, in the summer of 1939, a large Japanese army attacked a
similarly large Soviet army, at a point near to the Mongolian frontier: Kalkhin
Gol – Mongolia being a Soviet protectorate. The battle involved on both sides,
the most modern tanks, aircraft and artillery.
The outcome was a stunning victory for the Soviets – General Georgy Zhukov,
later Marshal, one of the most brilliant battlefield commanders of WWII, came to
prominence here. The reason so few people have even heard of this pivotal event,
was because the conclusive part of the battle, the final victory, took place
over two days in September 1939 when virtually all of the world’s media were
entirely focused on the German invasion of Poland, and the nail-biting
Anglo-French ultimatum for them to withdraw – the outbreak of WWII no less.
This battle in faraway Mongolia was perhaps as strategically important as any of
the more celebrated later battles of the war.
The victory enabled Moscow thereafter to concentrate its forces and its
resources on the German war and its western frontiers, in the knowledge that
they were now no longer threatened with invasion from their rear, in the east.
The Japanese army threatening Mongolia abandoned its plan to invade Russia and
went elsewhere. For nearly five years, the two nations maintained an uneasy
armed peace, until a few days before the end of WWII, when Russia invaded and
swept the Japanese forces out of North Korea, Northern China and Manchuria, at
the very end of the land war.
In Europe in September1939 the invasion of Poland took place within days of that
faraway battle in Mongolia between the USSR and Japan –the result of which, had
it gone the other way, forcing Russia to divide its forces to face both east and
west, might have given Germany victory, instead of the crushing land defeat that
in 1943 the Soviet armies were able to inflict on them at Stalingrad, and all
the way back to Berlin.
Back in 1939, Europe’s two larger democracies – France and the UK, allies and
joint victors in WWI, had both been badly damaged in many respects by the world
war, yet the looming threat to them and to the other democracies was clear cut.
The Cold War
The world now divided by the two opposing
systems of Democracy and Communism, also had a sizeable, less developed group of
nations remaining uncommitted to either camp, including some giants, as in
heavily populated India and Indonesia, and African powers that maintained
relations with both the US and USSR, but committed to neither.
The supreme fear following 1945 was whether the political/military rivalry
between the USSR and the USA and allies, would itself precipitate yet another
such titanic struggle but this time both sides having armouries of
nuclear/chemical/biological, ‘ultimate’ weapons. Into this post- WWII period has
entered another superpower, China now has the capacity to rival anyone. But
China has done this by becoming a massive economic force and that has allowed
them to compete with everyone else by peaceful means. The Russian Federation,
the successor of the USSR has the advanced weaponry, but it has deserted ‘the
failed god of communism’ and itself become a major economic force by its control
and sale of massive amounts of gas and oil, particularly to Europe.
But even after two bloody and destructive world wars, warfare itself was not
finished, although its character was changing.
The biggest outbreak was in East Asia in 1950, soon after the ending of the
world war, with a serious war resulting in the liberated territory of North
Korea occupied for years by the Japanese. [....]
The Brittle Peace
Shortly after the US’s miserable
experience in Vietnam, from which they pulled out in 1975, incredibly very soon
afterwards, the USSR who must have seen it all happening, made the identical
mistake of invading a poor, remote, but proud nation, in their case Afghanistan,
from where, after ten miserable years, large casualties and little in the way of
military success, they eventually withdrew. Although both Vietnam and
Afghanistan are poor nations, in both countries the population were not prepared
to accept the rule, yet again, of bullying foreign soldiers and rulers in their
countries : Americans, Russians, superpowers or whoever, and there was clearly a
willingness to die, rather than to accept it.
The US was never subtle about controlling its backyard in central and South
America. They organised a coup in Chile, murdering the elected left wing
president Allende, in an army conducted anti-communist witch hunt, where any
kind of social reformer was at risk from being labelled a communist –and
therefore ‘the enemy.’ There was a subsequent purge where many outrages took
place, the Chilean army being the vehicle for this –torture being commonplace,
usually ending in extra-judicial killings. It is estimated that 3000 such
still remain unaccounted for.
Next door, Argentina’s military were doing the same thing with the full
knowledge of US Security services and the record is full of crimes, carried out
against anyone suspected of left leanings. It was a dark time for human rights
and the democratic values that the US champions in its own land. [....]
Prospects for the
Future of War
A hundred years of the wars from the
immediate past –this account of recent history, obviously refutes the claim that
1914 /18 would see the end of war, a slogan also reused for another generation
during WWII. It was always an absurd hope, wishful thinking, never a
possibility, as can be seen just by looking at the causes and prolixity of these
A vast number are localised in area and issues. Generally such as these could
only really be halted by supranational agencies and that calls for a unity of
purpose which started well with the UN, but has subsequently withered on the
With a high degree of hypocrisy, ‘the Powers’ have been more interested in
initiating conflict in pursuit of some national objective of the moment - the
USA invading Vietnam and Iraq, fomenting civil war in Nicaragua, invading Cuba
by proxy; Russia invading Afghanistan; the Crimea; suppressing independence-seeking Chechnya and Dagestan; Israel’s invasion /occupation of Lebanon, or in
supporting their various client states, than in stopping the bloodshed per se,
in favour of moderated outcomes following negotiations.
Indeed the last century, as we can follow from the record has witnessed new and
worse developments, particularly involving civilians - not now as peripheral
victims, but as primary targets - witness the wholesale murder of civilians of
the ‘wrong’ faith in the current ‘wars of religion’ in the middle east and in
Central Africa. [....]
OF SOUTH AMERICA