Reflections on WW I...

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Post by Rockhopper on Tue Aug 05, 2014 3:16 am

Scanned from a local paper.

Karl Marx famously wrote that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Yet when we look around nowadays, we can’t help but wonder whether tragedy will be followed by yet more tragedy. Here we are, at the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, and we find ourselves surrounded by cascading violence, duplicity, and cynicism of the very sort that brought the world to disaster in 1914. And the world regions involved then are involved again.

WWI began with a mindset, one based on the belief that military means could resolve pressing social and political issues in Central Europe. A century earlier, the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz had written that war is “a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.” Enough politicians in 1914 agreed.

Yet WWI proved Clausewitz tragically wrong for modern times. War in the industrial age is tragedy, disaster, and devastation; it solves no political problems. War is a continuation of political failure.
WWI ended four imperial regimes: the Prussian (Hohenzollern) dynasty, the Russian (Romanov) dynasty, the Turkish (Ottoman) dynasty, and the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) dynasty. The war not only caused millions of deaths; it also left a legacy of revolution, state bankruptcy, protectionism, and financial collapse that set the stage for Hitler’s rise and World War II.

We are still reeling today. Territory that was once within the multi-ethnic, multi-state, multi-religious Ottoman Empire is again engulfed in conflict and war, stretching from Libya to Palestine-Israel, Syria, and Iraq. The Balkan region remains sullen and politically divided, with Bosnia and Herzegovina unable to institute an effective central government and Serbia deeply jolted by the 1999 NATO bombing and the contentious independence of Kosovo in 2008, over its bitter opposition.

The former Russian Empire is in growing turmoil as well, a kind of delayed reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with Russia attacking Ukraine and violence continuing to erupt in Georgia, Moldova, and elsewhere. In East Asia, tensions between China and Japan – echoes of the last century – are a growing danger.

As was the case a century ago, vain and ignorant leaders are pushing into battle without clear purpose or realistic prospects for resolution of the underlying political, economic, social, or ecological factors that are creating the tensions in the first place. The approach of too many governments is to shoot first, think later.

Take the US. Its basic strategy has been to send troops, drones, or bombers to any place that would threaten America’s access to oil, harbours Islamic fundamentalists, or otherwise creates problems – say, piracy off the coast of Somalia – for US interests. Hence, US troops, the CIA, drone missiles, or US-backed armies are engaged in fighting across a region stretching from the Sahel in West Africa, through Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.

All of this military activity costs hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. But, rather than solving a single underlying problem, the chaos is growing, threatening an ever-widening war.
Russia is not handling itself any better. For a while, Russia backed international law, rightly complaining that the US and NATO were violating international law in Kosovo, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

But then President Vladimir Putin took aim at Ukraine, fearing that the country was about to drop into Europe’s pocket. Suddenly, he was silent about obeying international law. His government then illegally annexed Crimea and is fighting an increasingly brutal guerrilla war in eastern Ukraine, through proxies and, it now appears, direct engagement of Russian forces.

In this context, the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is terrifying not only for its brutality, but also in its sign of a world gone mad. At the time of this writing, those who aimed and fired the missile remain unknown, though Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine are the most likely culprits. What is certain, however, is that the violence unleashed by Putin’s war on Ukraine has claimed hundreds of innocent lives and brought the world a step closer to disaster.

There are no heroes among the great powers today. Cynicism is rife on all sides. The US effectively violates international law by resorting to force without United Nations sanction. It sends drones and secret forces into sovereign countries without their approval. It spies relentlessly on friend and foe alike.

Russia does the same, inflicting death on Ukraine, Georgia, and other neighbours. The only constants in all of this are the easy resort to violence and the lies that inevitably accompany it.

There are four major differences between now and the world of 1914. For starters, we have since lived through two disastrous wars, a Great Depression, and a Cold War. We have had the opportunity to learn a thing or two about the stupidity and uselessness of organized collective violence. Second, the next global war, in this nuclear age, would almost surely decimate humanity.

The third major difference is that today, with our wondrous technologies, we have every opportunity to solve the underlying problems of poverty, hunger, displacement, and environmental degradation that create so many dangerous flashpoints.

Finally, we have international law, if we choose to use it. The belligerents in Europe and Asia 100 years ago could not turn to the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly, venues where diplomacy, rather than war, can be the true continuation of politics. We are blessed with the possibility to construct peace through a global institution that was founded to help ensure that global war would never recur.

As citizens of the world, our job now is to demand peace through diplomacy, and through global, regional, and national initiatives to address the scourges of poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. On this hundredth anniversary of one of the greatest disasters of human history, let us follow tragedy not by farce or more tragedy, but by the triumph of cooperation and decency.

Tim.
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Post by Lenzabi on Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:51 am

And yet money to help the people in the poorhouse and medical bills and education is rather spent on wealthy corporates and tax breaks the rich never needed and 30 yrs of more increases in military spending that outstrips 10 of our neighbors on this world twice over, and then more military money earmarked for allies to buy more ammo for their war machines. Those who forget history are oft doomed to repeat it.

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Post by Mordae on Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:08 am

Aye...while it's great that the message from the commemoration seems to be "always remember", it'd be nice if the term "learn from the mistakes" came into it as well.
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Post by Stirky on Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:48 am

My son who is 10 put a sign on his door last night, it reads:

100 years ago was the first world war

Remember them


I thought it was so sweet of him.
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Post by Rockhopper on Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:28 am

Reminds me of a poem by Johhny Cace.

When I was a young man I carried a pack,
And had the free life of a rover.
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback,
I waltzed my matilda all over.

In 1915 my country said "Son, no time for roving there's work to be done".
They gave me a tin hat and gave me a gun and sent me away to the war.

The band played Waltzing Matilda as the ship pulled away from the quay,
Amidst all tears, flag waving and cheers, we sailed for Galipoli.

How well I remember that terrible day when our blood stained the sand and the water.
And how, in that hell they called Sufa Bay, we were butchered like lambs to a slaughter.
The Turks were waiting they'd primed themselves well,
Showered us with bullets and rained us with shells,
In one crazy day nearly blew us to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

And the Band played Waltzing Matilda as we stopped to bury the slain,
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.

For those of us left just tried to survive, in a mad world of blood, guts and fire,
For 10 weary weeks I kept myself alive as the bodies around me piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I awoke in the hospital bed, I saw what it had done,
And wished I was dead, and I knew there was worse fates than dying.

No more I'll go waltzing matilda, out through the bush far and free,
For to get some tent pegs, a man needs his legs,
No more waltzing matilda for me.

They collected the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And shipped us right back to Australia.
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane,
Those brave wounded heroes of Sufa.
As the ship pulled in to Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And I thanked Christ there was no-one waiting for me, to mourn or to grieve or to pity.

And the Band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the gangway,
Nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared and turned all their faces away.

Now every April I sit on my porch and watch the parade pass before me,
I see my old comrades, how proudly they march, reviving old dreams and past glories,
But the old march slowly, bones stiff and sore, tired old men from a tired old war,
When a young person asks, "What are they marching for?" And I ask myself the same question.

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda and the old men still answer the call,
Year after year more old men disappear, soon none will go marching at all.

Tim.
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Post by Rockhopper on Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:34 am

@Mordae wrote:Aye...while it's great that the message from the commemoration seems to be "always remember", it'd be nice if the term "learn from the mistakes" came into it as well.

Good ideal Mordman but we never do that's why we keep on repeating the same mistakes!

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Post by Agartha on Wed Aug 06, 2014 4:10 am

@Mordae wrote:Aye...while it's great that the message from the commemoration seems to be "always remember", it'd be nice if the term "learn from the mistakes" came into it as well.

^^ I was just about to say practically the same.

I do remember the young soldiers that gave their life for the conflict, just like I do with those that fought in WWII (my grandfather included).......but conflicts are all wrong, wars are all wrong......no matter the reason.

Stirky: Callum is a sweetheart!
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Post by Rockhopper on Sun Aug 10, 2014 5:56 pm

A different concept about WW I.

Mick says 'If World War 1 was a bar fight...'
Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.
Austria demands Serbia buy it a complete new suit because there are splashes on its trouser leg.
Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.
Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.
Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.
Russia and Serbia look at Austria.
Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.
Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.
Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in compelling it to do so.
Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that this is sufficiently out of order that Britain should not intervene.
Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?
Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action.
Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.
Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.
Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.
France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.
Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there. Turkey punches Russia in the back of the head when Russia isn’t looking. Britain and France tell Turkey that’s not on and once they’ve sorted Germany out Turkey’s next. Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.
Australia (and New Zealand) punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings though because Britain made Australia do it.
France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.
Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.
America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.
By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault. While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

Tim.
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Post by Mordae on Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:50 pm

Shocked Damn Tim, that's so tragic its funny  Laughing 
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Post by Lenzabi on Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:58 pm

But overall, pretty accurate depiction of how WW-I went.

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