The Myth of an Endless War, Colltalers
There was a common denominator in most stories about the 100th anniversary this past Saturday of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, by a Serbian teenager, which sparked the beginning of World War I a month later, on July 28th, 1914: few can point exactly why it happened.
The war that’s only identified as the first now because it was followed shortly after by the second, turned Europe into cinder, killing over 8 million and wounding another 20 million, and changed forever the continent’s inner borders, while erasing entire empires from its map.
As it was not restricted to Europe, it’s ironic that such grim milestone happens just as pressure for a third military intervention in one of those countries it indirectly ‘bred,’ Iraq, is being rehashed by Pentagon and congressional hawks as the only response to recent events on the ground.
More of Iraq in a moment, but the killing of an arguably useless heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which would not just pulverize that powerful empire within years, but take with it Europe’s political stability, continue to puzzle historians for the sheer destructive power that its 4-year carnage unleashed. Also for the profound and still very much open wounds that it inflicted within the core of some of the region’s key nations.
Chief among them, of course, sits Germany, which unlike the empire, was still standing when it was finally defeated in 1918. Many see that humiliating defeat setting the ground for its renewed nationalist drive to dominate Europe politically, which caused the even more catastrophic World War II, and the horrendous ‘final solution’ it devised to accomplish its hegemonic goal.
As wars usually ignite long dormant racial hatred, the depressing division of the continent’s booty that followed the end of the first one only aggravated the same old intolerance among the ancient ethnicities that form present day Europe, and may be again fueling contemporary conflicts.
Except for the crucial difference that such conflicts are no longer being fought on European soil, the same old enemies continue doing battle in most of the Middle East, Asia, and north of Africa, with not coincidentally some of the most ancient nations fighting the newest ones, ‘tailor-made’ after the war to serve the Western powers’ interests that created them. Sadly, at the end of the day, most of the blood spilled was wasted.
Thus the question about WWI may be not so much why it started, and got so viciously out of hand, but at what ends and to whom it ultimately served. What separated then the few countries that declared war on each other, from the dozens that got involuntarily involved, may be more or less the same factors that keep them apart today, and a quick look at their GDPs goes a long way to show which ones are the real winners.
The causes for the war that pretty much determined the existing political organization at the time the baby boomer generation was born were by then almost irrelevant, for a much sharper conflict, in terms of reason and effect, was already taking place by then: the WWII.
As for the ancient conflicts mentioned, if anything, history has proven that they will remain active as far as the only way for those with power to intervene is if their own underlying economic interests are at stake. Once they decide to step in, there’s usually only one possible outcome that they’ll pursue relentlessly, even if that involves quickly losing sight of the needs of those that called upon them to mediate in the first place.
Speaking of Serbians, the relatively recent conflict in the Balkans in the early 1990s may serve as a good example. Even though the multinational forces enlisted to help did manage to stop the undiscriminated ethnic cleansing, as soon as that was accomplished, Bosnians and Croats and all other minorities that had been forced to co-exist within the former Yugoslavia, were left to fend for themselves.
In other words, the process of empire partitioning along ethnic lines, that started at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, was designed to generate small and impoverished nations, whose welfare never seemed to have been central to the alleged motivations for the war.
On the other hand, the same aforementioned ‘Western powers’ continue to dominate the world, the same way they did, some more than others, right after the second decade of the 20th century. With the potential exception of China, things may not change much looking ahead.
Which brings us to what also doesn’t seem to change much, and that’s not only the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, once again gearing up in Iraq, but the resolve of some dominant forces within the U.S. government to prove that military failures should never be prevented from being repeated, no matter how many lives and costs and resources and political duplicity it may take in order to re-stage them.
Once again, the underlying reason why the powers that be are so willing to sink billions of dollars and risk thousands of American and Iraq lives for the third time around is nowhere to be discussed in the established media: the ruthless and impossible dream of cheap oil.
The same media that’s once trumpeted the lies about the Saddam Hussein regime and its supposedly mass destruction arsenal that the Bush administration was feeding it, is now reopening its prime time slots to the same warmongers that led the U.S. into that unjustified war.
Fortunately, such factor has been hammered everywhere else, and it remains to be seen how eager the American people is to swallow a not so different rationale for another military intervention in the Middle East, after over four thousand troops lost their lives, uncountable civilians were also sacrificed, and a whole country was completely wrecked. Specially since that dream of cheap oil is ever more unattainable.
There are encouraging signs that it may be considerably harder to convince Americans that a religious conflict that started in the 7th century, between ancient tribes, really spells trouble to the national security of the U.S. Problem is, if there’s another way to serve a constructive purpose for the region, without committing troops and weapons that will likely be used against us, it’s still completely off the table at this point.
Lacking any better solution – which is startling since we’re talking about a country that lacks almost every ‘amenity,’ such as potable water, 24-hour power, and sanitation, in great part because war made it all impossible to function – it’d be advisable not to incur in the same, arrogant premise that it’s within the U.S. the power to ‘fix’ the situation. What, it’d be in fact criminal to even consider dealing it such a hand again.
But that seems to be a mystery wrapped in a puzzle and sold as a solution, just like the precise reason why the killing of an egomaniac ruler to be, one hundred years ago, caused so much harm for those who could as well have lived longer hadn’t been for the likes of him.
What this whole false debate, about whether to commit troops to a region where humanitarian support would be way more necessary, does is to distract us from the meaningful conversation this nation was finally having about the extreme inequality of contemporary America.
Once again, issues about the environment, immigration, job opportunity, social promotion, education costs, and free universal health care, that could really unite and strengthen the American society, got bounced out of the room, and in came the war drummers and profiteers.
We need to kick them out of the conversation for good, for listening to their deranged worldview hasn’t really worked out to anyone but themselves. Or risk not even being able to spend another century of war ‘celebrations,’ since waging them may as well kill us all. Now back to our regular World Cup programming. Have a great July. WC