Today marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, a global cataclysm.
Like many I was watching the Televised remembrance ceremony at Cenotaph in London. It stuck me ( without any disrespect to those that lost their lives. Millions and millions dead.) that perhaps we are remembering the wrong thing.
What we realty should be remembering today, a century later, is the unfathomable, gory, wasteful and mad catastrophe that ended growth and left a de-globalizing world economy in the hands of statists or worse.
By setting it apart as uniquely awful we are blinding ourselves to the reality of not just WW1 but war in general. We are also in danger of belittling the experience of soldiers and civilians caught up in countless other appalling conflicts throughout history and the present day.
When World War started on July 28, 1914, every nation fighting thought it knew why. England, France, and Russia blamed Germany and Austria-Hungary, while the latter blamed the former. Socialists blamed imperialists, pacifists blamed warmongering leaders, and Americans blamed the Old World for succumbing to its usual barbarism. It shattered the old world in Europe and paved the way for Stalin, Hitler, and, in 1939, the second World War. Historians today often call 1914-45 a single crisis spanning 31 years.
The wars united modern science and the horrors of the Middle Ages.
A century on we still live with the consequences – and some feel global chaos in the air again. An old, familiar order teetering.
To day war has evolved away from big groups of nations fighting other big groups of nations. Now we have bands of violent groups with no specific affiliation with any country at all.
The global political shakeups that stretched from the Middle East to Asia that are now familiar to most of us. Afghanistan has allowed jihadists to portray us as infidel occupiers, a potent casus belli that has arguably made Britain’s streets less safe than before departure may well plunge the country back into civil war – in which case, all our blood and treasure will have been for nought.
The financial costs are no less startling. Since 2006 we have spent at least £15m per day to maintain the British military presence in Helmand. By 2020, the UK will have spent, at a conservative estimate, £40bn in Afghanistan, 90 per cent of it on the military, equating to £650 for every resident of the UK, or more than £2,000 per tax-paying household. And for what? Successive prime ministers (but especially Gordon Brown) have told us that this war directly safeguarded Britain’s streets; it was a necessary evil in which we “fought them over there so that we didn’t have to fight them over here”. But this was true only immediately after 9/11, when Bin Laden was still hiding on Afghan soil.
Syria is currently the world’s most lethal and overall “biggest” war, with an estimated 170,000 deaths in the past three years, of which fewer than half were battle-related deaths but those made up a majority of the world’s total battle deaths in 2013. (The subset of battle deaths is more reliably counted through time, but does not include some categories such as bodies mysteriously dumped in the street or deaths from disease.) In 2014, fighting spread into Iraq, where Sunni insurgents control considerable territory and where in 2014 the most radical militants declared an Islamic State in Syrian and Iraqi territory they control. The war is internationalized by its spread into Lebanon where bombings and clashes happen regularly, and by the presence in Syria of both Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian revolutionary guards fighting for the government and on the other side Sunni jihadists from many countries.
So perhaps We shall remember them needs the word learn added.
“We shall remember them and learn.” would be more potent.
Consciously or unconsciously, the Great War should be in all our hearts before any call to arms with God on our side.
Religions are the scourge of life. How strange they preach peace,but promote violence. And people still believe in these religions as the one to follow for the answer to peace…My God! Are we a gullible species.
As Alexander the Great said once at war ” The will to fight. Nothing else matters in war. Not weapons or tactics, philosophy or patriotism, not fear of the gods themselves. Only this love of glory, which is the seminal imperative of mortal blood, as ineradicable within man as in a wolf or a lion, and without which we are nothing.
To day we have:
10 wars, 8 serious armed conflicts
(26 Countries and 166 between militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups involved)
Hot Spots: Central African Republic (civil war), Democrati Republic of Congo (war against rebel groups), Egypt (popular uprising against Government), Libya (war against islamist militants), Mali (war against tuareg and islamist militants), Nigeria (war against islamist militants), Somalia (war against islamist militants), Sudan (war against rebel groups), South Sudan (civil war)
(16 Countries and 138 between militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups involved)
Hot Spots: Afghanistan (war against islamist militants), Burma-Myanmar (war against rebel groups), Pakistan (war against islamist militants), Philippines (war against islamist militants), Thailand (coup d’etat by army May 2014)
(9 Countries and 71 between militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups involved)
Hot Spots: Chechnya (war against islamist militants), Dagestan (war against islamist militants), Ukraine (Secession of self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic)
(8 Countries and 187 between militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups involved)
Hot Spots: Iraq (war against Islamic State islamist militants), Israel (war against islamist militants in Gaza Strip), Syria (civil war), Yemen (war against and between islamist militants)
(5 Countries and 25 between drug cartels, militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups involved)
Hot Spots: Colombia (war against rebel groups), Mexico (war against narcotraffic groups)
Its time to change and to declare war on Inequality,Greed, Climate change if we are to learn anything.