World War One

On June 28th it will be 100 years since the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – Franz Ferdinand – was assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering the First World War. While I have over my life studied much history of war, I believe I have spent more time on the First World War than any other.  This is because there is something horrendously tragic about the whole thing – thought not, in my view, for the reasons most often given.

For most people with a cursory knowledge of the war, it is just a bloody, miserable waste.  Four years in the trenches with men being sent senselessly to their deaths by insensate commanders.  There is a bit of truth in that, but it does really get to the bottom of the matter.  In my view, our civilization committed mass suicide during that war – over a long period of time prior to the war, starting really in the 16th century but getting rolling in the 18th, we had stripped ourselves of that patina of Judeo-Christian morality which prevented us from doing really horrible things, while at the same time a false sense of security was created by the rising, capitalist prosperity (for some, not all).  We thought in 1914 that we had thrown off the shackles of a dead past and were moving inexorably into a bright future.  What we found is that we had lost our moral compass and were descending into a nightmare.

The men of 1914 went off to war singing.  In all the belligerent powers there was a sense of destiny and awe – we were going to have this thing out and then build a new world of peace, justice and prosperity. Listen to Rupert Brooke:

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Brooke ended up dying in the war – sadly, not in a heroic battle, but of blood poisoning.  But that doesn’t take away from the reality of what he did, and what he believed in. In his poems we see the whole spirit which animated all those caught up in the cataclysm. A few years on, Siegfried Sassoon wrote this:

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

That is quite a change.  One can put it down to the sheer horror of war, but it is more than that, it is the betrayal of an ideal.  It was an ideal of patriotism, of manly courage, of the surety that your nation was glorious and deserved dominion unchecked because of the good that was in it. That it proved a false ideal doesn’t make the betrayal of it any less an affront.  Indeed, it might make it worse.  Marching off to war the men thought one thing and found something very different.  What the found was that ideal was non-existent.  What they didn’t know – and most people still have discovered to this day – is that the ideal was wrong because it wasn’t founded upon a firm understanding of God.  To be manly and patriotic is a grand thing, as long as one firmly recognizes that God is Sovereign.  Solzhenitsyn said that the problem of the 20th century was that Man had forgotten about God.  Indeed – and in the searing abyss of World War One, men found that as they had not God, they had nothing and all the patriotism and manly courage in the world could not redeem the fact that 9 million men had died in battle, and victory had been bought so dear by the victors that it was indistinguishable from defeat.  The real pity of it was that people did not, on the whole, turn back to God.

Much is made regarding who started the war – who’s fault it all was. Most people blame Germany and, in a certain sense, the Germans did mess the whole thing up. But we should lay blame where it lies in all aspects.  The primary culprits were Serbia and Russia – it was Serb nationalists under the control of people in the Serbian government who did the deed, and it was Russians who encouraged the whole thing.  As to just why people wanted to play with fire, that will never be absolutely discovered. Sheer stupidity cannot be ruled out – especially as Russia simmered in pre-revolutionary turmoil and Serbia was both exhausted by a recent war and totally incapable of stopping a determined Austrian attack.  But people still turn to Germany and lay the blame there because the Germans approved of Austria taking vigorous measures – with war implied – against the Serbs.  I ask, what were the Germans supposed to do?  Tell the Austrians, “sorry your heir to the throne was murdered; can you just cool it, though?”. Germany’s real blame isn’t that she backed her ally in reasonable application of force against a hostile power, nor was Germany in the wrong to mobilize against Russia when Russian mobilized – quite unjustifiably – against Austria in support of Serbia.  No, Germany’s failure – Germany’s crime – was to insist upon attacking France, which had nothing at all to do with the issue…and by attacking France, also attacking Belgium, which brought in Britain and made it into World War One.

Why did the Germans do that?  Having no particular quarrel with France at the moment and France not at all keen to be dragged into war over a mess in the Balkans, why did the Germans decide they had to attack France, and thus Belgium?  The blame here is laid on the German war plan, which called for the destruction of France in about six weeks and then turn the German army upon the Russians.  But to blame a plan – as if plans can’t be changed – is nonsense.  The real blame lies in the minds of Germany’s rulers, civil and military.  They had calculated everything to a nicety.  They had done the math.  It was all worked out on paper – all they had to do was fight for six weeks in France, then maybe a few months in Russia and, presto!, Germany has won the war and thus absolute dominance of the European continent. They worked it out in a void – because they, like everyone else, had forgotten about God. To be sure, a nation is justified fully in defending itself – but the Germans had, over the previous century, schooled themselves in a series of un-Christian falsehoods.  Most notably that it is the right and duty of a nation to use calculated, aggressive war to increase the power of a nation. This was the lesson taught most grandly by Bismarck, who forged German unity under Prussian leadership by a series of calculated wars – and the wars being brought about by whatever means came to hand; lying, blackmail, treason, what have you. As to why Germany needed to be unified, or Prussia needed to dominate the nation, no one really ever even asked the question (on a smaller scale the same thing was done in Italy at the same by Cavour, using much the same methods as Bismarck – once again, no one ever asked why Italy needed to be united).

By 1914, a few voices in Germany were worried about Germany’s justification for entering war – especially against France and Belgium – but most didn’t care.  Victory would cover it all – why they started it won’t matter to the victorious side. But why one fights a war does matter; if not to those who start it, then to the Ruler of all things.  And, in fact, hardly anyone on either side was particularly interested in where right lay. The plain fact of the matter is that Serbia, as a nation, had done wrong and richly deserved exemplary punishment.  Everyone else should have stayed out. Had everyone done so, the war would have been a local affair and over in six months.

In the end, the Serbs were wrong, the Russians were wrong and the Germans were wrong – not in the wrong were France, Belgium and Britain, all fighting a defensive war (though, Britain, to be sure, slouched into war because the government was more fearful of overthrow than of anything else – in order to stay in office, Britain’s government hesitated on their way into the conflagration; an early and firm “no” or “yes” to war would have toppled the government..temporizing while the world blew up made certain the particular officer holders could stay in office).  Surely, then, these nations, unjustly attacked, would give a better account of themselves?  Not at all.  Infected by the same disease, they went on and did a lot of wrong things all on their own. As Churchill put it in his history of the war – The World Crisis – while Germany was ever in the van in bringing about new horrors, the allies followed them step by step and then did the crimes on an even greater scale than Germany had done. Churchill noted that by the end of the war the nations had only refused cannibalism and torture as means of making war – and these because they were of doubtful utility.  Of course, Churchill also described the warring parties as “scientific, Christian nations”. The problem is that while the science was there – and was used with great effectiveness to increase the slaughter – the Christianity was lacking.  In 1917, the former Foreign Secretary of Britain, Lord Lansdowne, observing with dismay that the war was destroying civilization circulated a letter which called for a negotiated peace with a return to the pre-war status quo. The Germans lied through their teeth and said they liked the idea while their real desire was to grab huge amounts of territory in Europe and around the world.  The allies, in their turn, heaped scorn upon Lansdowne – furious that someone could suggest something other than fighting to absolute victory. But Lansdowne was right – the war had reached a point where victory would not be worth the price.  Better to settle the matter like gentlemen – like Christian gentlemen.  But no one wanted that – they just wanted to hate and lacerate and kill and crush without mercy with the alleged notion being that out of a wasteland of utter devastation, a better would could be built.  A Progressive solution, as it were.

And so the war went on until everyone was exhausted, but the Germans just a tad more exhausted than everyone else.  And then a vindictive peace was imposed, old systems were destroyed and the arena was cleared for communism, fascism and Nazism.  Manifestations which had not merely forgotten about God, but loathed the very concept of God.

After the war, things just got worse.  Cold-blooded massacre of millions became rather the rule. The Russian communists with their GULAG, the German Nazis with their death camps – but the United States and Britain with their “area bombing” of German and Japanese cities – which blew up wondrous works of Man, massacred quite a lot of people and did precisely nothing to win the war.  Outside of the immorality of deliberately targeting civilians (and, yes, I realize that the Nazis started it – but, come on!, are we going to use what Nazis did as justification for what we do?), it was also a waste of ammunition. Something no great military captain would ever do – I feel it in my bones that if someone like Douglas MacArthur was Supreme Commander, he wouldn’t have allowed things like the fire bombings of Tokyo and Dresden.  He would have seen to it that the bombs were dropped on something useful – something which would actually curtail the enemy’s ability to fight. MacArthur did have a lot of faults, to be sure, but he was one of the rarities of the modern era: a Christian gentleman.  And such people don’t drop bombs on civilians on the off chance that it might harm military production – you’d drop ten times the amount on any target, if you thought it would shorten the war and bring victory…but if its just blowing up some poor person’s home, what is the point?  Why expend the lives of brave air crews on something like that?

We lack Christian warriors, we also lack Christian common sense. This lack manifests itself in war when in the First World War hundreds of thousands of men were sent to charge barbed-wire and machine guns, in the Second World War in pointlessly hideous aerial attacks and in the “peace” time, a complete inability to see things as they are. We’re watching outright savages brutally move across Iraq and we’re not really horrified, now are we?  Just the way things are, right?  A Christian woman is sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to abandon her faith.  What do we do?  Nothing.  Christian women are kidnapped and sold into slavery in Nigeria.  What do we do?  Nothing. Hash tag campaigns on Twitter don’t count as something, by the way. A people possessed of any sense of morality would have mounted a punitive expedition against miscreants who propose to behead people, hang them for apostasy, or sell them into slavery. We don’t.  Who really is more immoral: a German Emperor ordering an unprovoked attack on Belgium, or a pack of American cowards who won’t go to the rescue of women sold into slavery in Africa?

On this centenary of World War One, I think it good for all of us to reflect a bit.  Not just one World War One, itself. Not just on the deaths.  Not even just on the heroism (and there was plenty of that – men who by sublime acts of courage redeemed themselves from the muck and mire of a demoralized, dying civilization).  But on what it really all means – the death of a civilization is an astounding thing.  The last dregs of it which we are plumbing today are all prefigured in what we saw starting in 1914 – the cowardice, the greed, the ignorance, the cruelty, the indifference. They were there, they are here – we labor under them.  We continue the job of mass suicide.  Will we stop doing it?

As a Christian, I know we will – or, at least, that some small remnant of survivors will stop doing it.  It would be better – and far less bloody – if we were to stop before we’re reduced to a band of survivors. If we can recapture the Judeo-Christian morality, then even our wars won’t be a horror like World War One, and our peace will be real peace – not a mere willful blindness to facts while we sit rich, dumb and happy in front of our televisions. Time will tell when and where a halt will be called – but I fear that we’ve got a bit further down into the gutter to go before we can start to rise again.


24 thoughts on “World War One

  1. Retired Spook June 28, 2014 / 11:25 am

    The men of 1914 went off to war singing. In all the belligerent powers there was a sense of destiny and awe – we were going to have this thing out and then build a new world of peace, justice and prosperity.


    If you happened to catch the movie, “War Horse” a couple years ago, this phenomenon was realistically portrayed in the opening war scene with a British Cavalry charge on a German machine gun position hidden in a tree line. The afternoon polo match attitude of the Brits quickly dissolved into a battlefield littered with the dead bodies of British soldiers and their horses.

    I have a feeling the world is heading toward a major war again. It’s really the only way the world’s powers can get themselves out of the economic mess they’ve created..

    • M. Noonan June 28, 2014 / 1:37 pm

      Never saw that movie – but as a turn-about, I highly recommend Solzhenitsyn’s novel of World War One, August 1914…tells the tale of the Russian Second Army in the disaster at Tannenberg. Very moving.

      We are at more risk of a World War than at any time since 1945 – our weakness, Russian and Chinese ambitions, instability…and blindness, greed and stupidity are ruling the day. We may pay a high price for our failures over the past 50 years.

      • Retired Spook June 28, 2014 / 1:52 pm

        We may encounter a problem in the next war unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Obama has quietly gotten rid of several hundred senior officers with combat experience, and promoted lots (and I mean LOTS) of politically correct toadies with zero combat experience.. Those will be the flag officers in the next war, and that’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to actual warfare. I fear there’s going to be a complete and total disconnect between commanders and NCOs. We could actually see a situation where we hold a war and no one shows up to fight it — which, in reality, wouldn’t be all bad.

      • M. Noonan June 28, 2014 / 6:52 pm

        To be sure, all military forces are filled with men (and, now, women) who will do just about anything to get a star on their shoulder, so we can rely on it that after nearly 6 years of Obama, a lot of our senior commanders are people who were willing to go along with Obama military policies – which are often in direct contradiction of military common sense. And, thus, you’re right – a large war breaking out now would probably find us with a dearth of officers in the senior ranks who have a clue on how to fight…and that leaves out the Obama Factor; with a CinC like him, I suspect complete disaster would ensue. This is why I’m quite the peacnik right now – even at the cost of surrendering vital positions. The enemy can have anything he wants, short of American territory, as long as Obama is President…better to surrender until Obama is out of office.

        Also: in any war, those who are in command positions in the beginning are usually those least equipped to deal with the war. Peace time service is vastly different from war time. If I were magically in charge at the start of a war I’d be looking over Colonels and Brigadiers for rapid promotion. You some times luck out and find an old general like MacArthur who knows what he’s doing, but often the oldsters are quite useless.

      • Retired Spook June 29, 2014 / 1:10 pm

        The enemy can have anything he wants, short of American territory, as long as Obama is President…better to surrender until Obama is out of office.

        And don’t think our adversaries don’t recognize that reality. The world’s geo-political landscape might be unrecognizable in 2-1/2 years. Hell, the political landscape in THIS country may be unrecognizable when this turd leaves office.

      • M. Noonan June 29, 2014 / 2:24 pm

        On the other hand, Obama is bringing to an end the post-WWII settlement and that may be a good thing – rather tired of the world being preserved in any semblance of a civilized state by grace of US power while everyone pretends that it is otherwise.

      • Cluster June 29, 2014 / 2:42 pm

        I think the days of leading men into slaughter are over. At least I hope they are. The savagery of todays enemy combatants, i.e.; Islamists, preclude that reality, and we should have learned that lesson from the last ten years when we were engaging in conventional, rules of warfare, and our opponent was engaging in beheadings, car bombings, etc. The romanticism of WWI is an era gone by. Todays warfare is much different. Defeating our enemy no longer means that they are defeated. These combatants are like no others. They regroup after defeat, they fight for no existing civilized nation and our approach towards this enemy requires a different, more decisive strategy. The only goal in a war is to win and as soon as possible, and if we are worried about the demographics that are killed in the battle, well then we have already lost and we should not even engage. We need to decimate the enemy and we have the technology and the weaponry to do that without boots on the ground, and in my opinion, that is how we should fight the battle.

        This enemy has already attacked our homeland and is broadcasting their intention to do so again, so those who think this is a middle east problem are fooling themselves. Therefore, our warfare should consist of the following. Using satellites, we can see where the enemy is, we know when they amass, and at those times we should use drones to attack and kill as many of them as possible. Using tactical atom bomb strikes we can take out cities and large areas they control in one fly over if needed. We need to use our technology and air superiority as forcefully as we can, and we need to send a message to the “moderate” muslims – if there are any – that their pacifism and reluctance to confront this cancer that infects their religion may very well result in their own demise.

      • M. Noonan June 29, 2014 / 5:26 pm

        My solution to terrorism, as such, is to not fight the terrorists, but fight those who sponsor it. Keeping in mind my other policy prescription – that of disengaging as far as possible from all Muslim nations – I’d make the Noonan Doctrine go like this:

        1. We will identify those nations which sponsor terrorism, directly or indirectly, and publish the list of these nations.

        2. Any terrorist attack upon the United States will be treated as an attack by all of these identified terrorism sponsors and this will result in a declaration of war upon all terror sponsoring nations. Only immediate and unconditional surrender will spare these nations invasion and occupation; it still won’t prevent them from suffering assessment of reparations and cession of territory, with local populations being exiled from the lands taken by us.

        To me, the State-sponsors of terrorism at the moment are Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, and the Gulf States…they either support terrorists directly, or provide fund for the various radical Islamist sects which provide the moral foundation for terrorist campaigns. Someone sets off a “dirty bomb” in New York City, I’d declare war on all of them – and once they are crushed I would insist upon making them pay reparations (10% of GDP for 25 years, that sort of thing) and cede territory to us, with their local populations from those areas exiled (in order to (a) get us away from having to control hostile local populations and (b) settle Americans on the lands, thus making them permanently ours).

        This is, I think, the only way to get past this problem – make those ultimately responsible for these things to pay the price for doing it. It would give pause to these terror sponsors – their only safety would be to demonstrably get out of the sponsoring business…including making statements that Islam is morally opposed to such actions in all cases, regardless of supposed provocation. And those who don’t do this – they are doomed. Eventually the monsters they have made will attack us – and then we’ll destroy them…and without States to provide back up, the Islamist groups who do the terrorism will wither on the vine…eventually to be no more than criminal gangs causing only minor trouble.

      • Amazona June 29, 2014 / 5:22 pm

        “The enemy can have anything he wants, short of American territory, as long as Obama is President…better to surrender until Obama is out of office.”


        First, we have already given up American territory—take a look at the National Park given over to drug cartels in southern Arizona. This does not count the property given over to illegal aliens flooding our borders thanks to the implied invitation from the Executive Branch.

        We may not be able to do anything about it while Obama is in office, but I strenuously object to using the word “surrender” in any context regarding any of this. We need to make it absolutely abundantly clear that these are all hostile takeovers against the will of the American people, sanctioned only by a rogue administration we have chosen to tolerate rather than unseat because we believe it will end soon.

      • M. Noonan June 29, 2014 / 5:29 pm

        It is a strong term – but I wanted to make it clear that I don’t want any war while Obama is President. I don’t trust him – not only is he stupid and ignorant, he’s also dishonest and cowardly. A war with him as CinC would be more disastrous than just letting the enemy have what he wants, short of cession of American territory.

      • Amazona June 29, 2014 / 5:33 pm

        I think that the purging of conservative officers in the military is not quite the same thing as purging officers who know how to fight. In a few years, this might be the case, but the ages of those at flag rank indicate that they came into military life when the military represented certain things—-strength of national defense, defense of the Constitution, and so on. Those remaining may be rather spineless, may have read the signals and decided to adopt whatever political identity is necessary to advance, may not be the best and the brightest, may represent the worst of the system, but they are not necessarily stupid or cowardly or inept.

        The thing about those who go along to get along is that their allegiances shift according to circumstance, so if the nation were to be in the position of fighting for its very life I think many of them would realize that they have to step up, even if it means stepping away from political correctness.

        I agree that the future is bleak, militarily speaking, but this phenomenon is fairly recent, and if reversed quickly enough can be corrected. We have, hopefully, only a couple more years of this kind of erosion of military integrity and focus, and a solid reorganization of our military forces based on serious evaluation of military skill and knowledge, winnowing out the placeholders who are where they are because they spouted the right nonsense and kissed the right (which is to say ‘left’) asses and maybe even opening up the ranks to returning reservists who got caught up in the purge could go a long way to fixing what is breaking, if we get to it before it is broken.

      • Amazona June 29, 2014 / 5:51 pm

        I agree with Cluster. Our enemies, while not actual nations, are still representing nations in one way or another, and have been quite diligent in making it clear that the only way to deal with them is to eliminate them.

        President Bush got a lot of grief from the Left for saying “If you are not with us you are against us” but he was right, and we need to keep that in mind when dealing with Islam. I am all about freedom of religion, but when a religion has a distinctly political nature, when it contains such strong elements of conquest and domination of nations and elimination of those who do not follow it, I think it has to be treated more as a political movement than a belief system based upon personal redemption. When salvation is dependent, according to a religion, on the destruction of other people, cultures, nations and civilizations, that religion can’t be given the same considerations given to those which simply focus on personal relationships with a Higher Being, on kindness to their fellow man, and on doing good works and becoming better people.

        We are reaching a point where we may have to tell all followers of Islam that if they do not denounce the violent nature of the religion and walk away from it they will be treated the same way as those who actively pursue this violence. If that means living in a city which is bombed to ashes because it is a center of radical violent Islam, so be it. People choose their religions for personal reasons, and I believe that it is the vicious and violent core of Islam that attracts people, and its promotion of hatred and genocide, no matter how many piously intone their claims that it is a “religion of peace”. Just because they are not willing to stand up and admit that “I am a Muslim because it gives me permission to hate and destroy people who are not just like me” doesn’t mean that this ugly aspect of their personalities is not what makes them what they are. All the false modesty of veils and head coverings and lowered eyes and so on only try to disguise a conviction of moral superiority that gives permission to indulge in viciousness against others.

      • Amazona June 29, 2014 / 6:07 pm

        “1. We will identify those nations which sponsor terrorism, directly or indirectly, and publish the list of these nations.

        2. Any terrorist attack upon the United States will be treated as an attack by all of these identified terrorism sponsors and this will result in a declaration of war upon all terror sponsoring nations. Only immediate and unconditional surrender will spare these nations invasion and occupation; it still won’t prevent them from suffering assessment of reparations and cession of territory, with local populations being exiled from the lands taken by us.”

        How would you handle the problem of citizens or natives of countries such as England, or the United States, hiding behind the disguise of “religious freedom” to foment and plan and execute violence? All civilized countries allow madrassas to flourish in their midst, too sensitive to “religious freedom” to step in and call them what they are. These people do not represent any of the sponsors you mention.

        Are you saying if a mosque in New York City receives money from Pakistan, and some of its members set off a bomb in the United States, we then go after Pakistan, and/or the other named sponsors? I am not arguing with this approach, just want to make sure I understand it. What if they are funded by Americans?

        I look at Islam the way I look at some brain cancers, which are so entwined in the brain itself they can’t be removed. While it would be impressive to wipe out sponsor states, I don’t think that would do much to deal with domestic terrorists, who flourish in our midst. We know the teachings in their mosques but we are too sensitive to the idea of “religious freedom” to interfere.

        It is a very dicey subject but as Islam continues to send the message to us that it is us or them, and they are willing and even eager to destroy every one of us, I have to think that the war will have to eventually come down to a war on the religion itself. If it brands itself as toxic and dangerous to people, cultures, civilizations and nations, it has only itself to blame if it calls down destruction upon itself. And that would mean addressing it in every city, in every state, and eradicating it. It would mean publicly identifying its ugliness, and no longer pretending that it is a legitimate religion but really just a political movement masquerading as a means to salvation.

        At this point I believe I would support a Constitutional amendment defining any movement which preaches the destruction of people who do not subscribe to it as not qualifying as a religion, and therefore not being under the protection of the Constitution and its right to freedom of worship.

      • M. Noonan June 30, 2014 / 1:43 am

        Even supposing the whole terrorist outfit which hit us was native-born American citizens – I’d still have us declare war on Iran, et al. They are still ultimately responsible for it. Those religious bodies in the United States which are Islamist are, after all, largely funded by Muslim States, either officially or unofficially. They have exported poison to the United States and if that poison harms us, I want to go after the maker of the poison. This also gets us entirely out of religious freedom issues…but I’m quite certain that when the cash dries up, so will local Islamism.

      • Amazona June 30, 2014 / 11:12 am

        Given the hair-on-fire shrieking about invading Iraq when Iraq was not directly connected to 9/11, I think attacking Iran, etc., after an attack on US soil by US citizens would be even more divisive. I agree that drying up the funding would shrivel activity, but as long as we allow seditious preaching, anti-American preaching that promotes violence against this country, we are asking for trouble.

        Of course, we are a nation which has richly rewarded people who overtly stated their intent to overthrow the government, and who set off bombs with the intent of killing as many people as possible, so it’s hard to tell what people in this country will do.

      • M. Noonan June 30, 2014 / 1:07 pm

        Ah, but the seditious preaching is funded by the terror sponsors. Also, I’m of the view that the problem with our war making is not the war, itself, but the amount of time we spend on it. If we’d stop landing half-blows and dithering with the UN and other such nonsense and just get on with it, we’d win so fast and decisively that there wouldn’t be time for either extensive insurgencies or anti-war movements to gain traction. Remember, the anti-war movement during Vietnam took several years to really get rolling – had we just done the logical thing in 1965 (ie, secure southern Laos and blockade Haiphong), then the war would have ended in 1966 or 67, long before the peak effectiveness of the anti-war movement. So, too, with the Iraq campaign – has we bounced from Baghdad to Damascus and then threatened Iran in the same way, this thing would have ended in 2004; 2003 if we hadn’t fussed around with the UN through 2002. Celerity of movement is vital in war – especially wars fought by democratic nations.

      • Amazona June 30, 2014 / 1:24 pm

        After I wrote this: “Of course, we are a nation which has richly rewarded people who overtly stated their intent to overthrow the government, and who set off bombs with the intent of killing as many people as possible, so it’s hard to tell what people in this country will do.” I ran across this on the Fox News web page, about an interview with Bill Ayers by Megyn Kelly.

        ” Most of the reporters did not bother to detail how Ayers’ own girlfriend died with two others while building a nail-filled bomb intended to rip through a dance hall filled with U.S. soldiers. Nor did anyone dig into the fact that Ayers’ own wife, once at the top of the FBI’s most wanted list, claimed credit for a series of attacks that included bombing the house of a federal judge while he, his wife, and their 9-year old son were inside.

        No one cataloged the other bombings, armed robberies and murders committed by other members of Ayers’ group, the Weather Underground. Nor did they bother to note the fact that Ayers’ wife, his “soul mate,” publicly reveled in the sadistic murders carried out by the Manson Family, proclaiming “The Weathermen dig Charlie Manson.” No one, that is, until now.”

        Ayers rose quickly to the heights of Liberal acclaim and approval, was an honored professor and lecturer, and started Barack Obama’s political career in his home in Chicago. He and his lovely, murderous, “soul mate” just happened to be in India at the same time the Obamas were there, giving virulently anti-American interviews. This is the creature who had run around making the sign of a fork, with index and pinky fingers extended, gleefully celebrating the Manson murderers’ stabbing of a 9-months pregnant Sharon Tate’s unborn child with a fork, calling the torture “groovy”.

        Forget the old FOB—“Friends of Bill”. These are the new “FOB”—-“Friends of Barack”. And, evidently, the Left in general. As Ayers himself gloated, after his oligarch daddy got him freed on a legal technicality, “Guilty as hell and free as a bird”.

      • Amazona June 30, 2014 / 1:29 pm

        Mark, I agree that when we go to war we need to GO TO WAR, not flail around with hands flapping like Pee Wee Herman. We need Rules of Engagement that do not coddle the enemy or let him hide in civilian clothes or behind women and children. We have to be decisive, and not give our enemies encouragement by kind of maybe fighting a war, in fits and starts, with our own people at home harassing us from behind.

        As you point out, decisiveness and forcefulness end up with fewer casualties and clearer outcomes, while spineless dithering only prolong the conflicts and lead to ambiguous endings.

      • Amazona June 30, 2014 / 1:40 pm

        I think we need to look at the millions of dollars sent to Northern Ireland by well-meaning (for the most part) Irish-Americans who supported and financed the terrorism there because of loyalty to the cause and simmering resentment of the British. If we don’t think the same amount of money, if not more, can and will be raised right here in the United States, without the need for outside funding, to foment anti-American terrorism from Islamists, we are forgetting the lessons of history.

        All we have to do is change the calendar date and a few names to see the utter foolishness of our complacency. Instead of 2014, make it 1938. Instead of a mosque, make it a German Lutheran church. Instead of a congregation of Muslims, make it a congregation of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. Instead of an anti-American imam preaching the overthrow of this nation and the butchery of its citizens, picture a Hitlerian figure speaking about the need to take over the United States and remake it in the image of Nazi Germany, killing all non-Aryan people. Instead of a president with a Muslim name and heritage, say the president is named Gerhardt Schmidt, and his entire cabinet and cadre of advisers are high-ranking Nazis or at the very least loudly sympathetic to the cause. We would not have tolerated this for a moment. The dangers of allowing such activities in this country would have been so obvious, anyone would have recognized them.

        Not today. Today we have a population hypnotized by entertainment media, ignorant of history, and brainwashed into thinking “tolerance” is the most important characteristic they can have. So we harbor vipers in our midst, and give them free rein to do what they want, protecting them from scrutiny and sheltering them behind the facade of religious freedom.

  2. bardolf2 June 30, 2014 / 2:21 pm

    “On June 28th it will be 100 years since the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – Franz Ferdinand – was assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering the First World War. ” – Mark

    There was no single cause for WW1 so any simple ‘triggering’ notion is simplistic, leading us to believe we can easily understand complex situations. Certainly the market had no idea of the implication of the assassination so most historical theories giving single causes are just theories.

    The problem with these easy explanations is they lead people into believing that if their wisdom is/was followed everything would be swell. Iraq would be fine IF only Bush Sr./Bush Jr./Obama had done X. The war on drugs is winnable if only the DEA does Y.

    • Amazona June 30, 2014 / 5:41 pm

      “Triggering” is not the same as “causing”.

      I don’t think anyone has ever said that WW 1 was CAUSED by the assassination of the archduke. Mark pointed out that this was just a trigger. A nudge. A tipping point. Sparks flare up and become conflagrations.

      • bardolf2 June 30, 2014 / 7:20 pm

        Trigger: An event that is the cause of a particular action, process, or situation:

        Oxford English Dictionary.

        If Mark meant a catalyst he would have used the word catalyst. My high school US History teacher amongst others said exactly that WWI was caused by the assassination. One can find thousands of links online to claims that WW1 was CAUSED by the assassination.

        But that is besides the point. My contention is that claiming to understand complex situations when in reality, such understanding is shallow at best, leads to interventionist policies with untold consequences. The US should have refrained from entering WW1 as Wilson (THE WORST PRESIDENT IN HISTORY) had promised just as it should have stayed out of Iraq (and not overthrown the democratically elected government of Iran for that matter). Also the US should get out of the drug war and stop giving military surplus to local law enforcement as National Review contends.

      • M. Noonan July 1, 2014 / 1:06 am

        Oh, for Pete’s sake – ok, let’s change it to, “the assassination allowed various actors on the European stage to move along a course of events, partially dictated by positions taken up in the past and this eventually led to the outbreak of the First World War”.

        As for Wilson – he certainly did it wrong. If there was a case for the US to enter the war in 1917, it was just as good as it was in 1914; turn it about, if it was wise for us to stay out in 1914, then it was equally wise for us to stay out in 1917. We should have gone in early or not at all – early would have ended it by 1916; not at all would have forced a compromise peace; getting in late just ensured a late German defeat by nearly-defeated allies. Worst of both worlds.

      • Amazona July 1, 2014 / 11:12 am

        Beyond the nit-picking of the meaning of “trigger”, I agree about Unintended Consequences. We tend to leap, or rather lurch, into poorly thought-out actions, and when they don’t work we don’t scrape them off and start over but just slap bandaids on them, each of which has its own set of Unintended Consequences (see IRS code for perfect example) until we have a teetering, incoherent, internally contradictory mess.

        I have agreed about legalizing drugs, not because I think they are harmless (quite the contrary) but because the War On Drugs has done absolutely nothing to curb drug use but has wasted trillions of dollars and created a scenario promoting American gangs and Mexican drug cartels. However, once Colorado legalized marijuana I have seen other problems arising. (See “Unintended Consequences”, above) What is happening here is that the message that pot is legal carries with it the message that pot is safe, and that there are no penalties for its use or possession. Friends with kids in middle school are telling me that kids are bringing pot to school, and explaining “It’s legal now”. The state passed the law without any backup legislation regarding how to deal with stoned drivers, how pot proceeds can be banked as banks refuse to handle pot money due to federal regulations, and so on. There was basically no education, very little publicity about the penalties for providing it to minors, etc. On top of this is a problem that might be specific to pot, which is the lack of any measurement of potency or designation of legal potency.

        Colorado pot growers have moved beyond hiring agriculture people to help them grow it, into hiring scientists to help them grow more and more potent strains. The pot sold in Colorado now is nothing like the pot smoked by hippies in the 60s. It is like selling 1000 proof alcohol. There have been pot poisonings and deaths due to immense marijuana intoxication, such as the guy who leaped off a roof. It is legal to sell ingestibles, but they are so strong it is ridiculous. When the guy who jumped off the roof was found to have eaten, among other stuff, a pot-laced cookie, the seller pointed to the label, which stated that a normal dose was one-sixth of the cookie. Really? 1/6 th of a cookie? Who EVER eats 1/6th of a cookie, even if he is not stoned? Children are eating pot cookies, pot gummy bears, and so on, and ending up in the hospital. It is a massive mess. It was poorly thought out, if it was thought out at all.

        The biggest problem that I see with Colorado’s law is that it sends the message that there is nothing wrong, or dangerous, about smoking pot. And there isn’t, or wasn’t. For decades, smoking pot for many people was like having one or two beers at night with friends. It was very much analogous to alcohol, in that some used it responsibly and some abused it. But now what I am seeing in my state is a rapid spin into pot-mania, with pot becoming so potent that even one or two puffs is like slamming down several shots, along with a subliminal message that it is safe, and OK to use.

        I am rethinking my old belief that legalizing drugs would not contribute to more drug use but would just solve other problems. From what I am seeing now, it would contribute to more drug use, and the idea that it would solve other problems might be naive. In a nation which has officially rejected the concept of personal responsibility, unlimited access to drugs would be a recipe for chaos and many would die as a result. I still think it would level off after a few years, with the overall benefits outweighing the negatives as gangs disintegrate without the income from drug sales and the novelty of easy drug access becoming no big deal, but I can now see a very chaotic and dangerous interim period of adjustment. And clearly simply passing a law saying “it’s legal” is just plain stupid.

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