Friday, August 23, 2013

On War and Peace

Want a more peaceful world? Humanity would do well to return to the idea of monarchy. This may be unlikely though since we little human beings have an unparalleled ability never allow ourselves to be confused by facts (don’t worry though, the modern world is hard at work to make sure that the very idea of “facts” will soon be erased from existence) since most continue to view the more monarchist past as a time of barbarity and bloodshed. However, this requires some pretty willful self-deception since the basic statistics do not lie. Sure, Attila the Hun was a pretty rough customer, Genghis Khan was not exactly forgiving toward his enemies and there were more than a few massacres perpetrated by Viking raiders. There was no Geneva Convention or rules governing war in those days but, even since such things have existed, they are frequently ignored. After all, it has been pretty well established that you only have to worry about breaking international law if your side loses the war. Getting back to the statistics, as violent as the Dark Ages might have been, there is no denying that the Twentieth Century was the most violent in all of human history. Warfare was never so terrible as when it became “popular”.

Sir Winston Churchill famously said, “Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings”. True words and easily proven so. In those backward, reactionary times of royal rule, wars tended to be fought for some specific aim. Enemies could meet on the field of battle while their rulers still held mutual respect for each other. Wars tended to end by negotiation. Capital cities were rarely taken and the physical destruction that accompanied war was limited to the battlefields themselves and the actual ground armies marched over. Compare that to the wars of the Twentieth Century in which whole cities, hundreds of miles from the front lines, were bombed to rubble. Sometimes even cities in neutral countries were bombed by mistake. Oops. In the past, when a negotiated peace was the aim of a war, it was usually necessary to have someone to negotiate with. After the wars of peoples took hold, in order to motivate an entire population to war, politicians had to enflame peoples against each other and nothing less than the total annihilation of the enemy and their government would suffice.

In the time of the wars of kings, not many national leaders met their end because of a war and those who did usually only lost power rather than their lives. In more modern times, even when a negotiated settlement is a possibility, it is made a very unattractive prospect due to the fact that the loser is usually brought before some sort of court or tribunal and then executed. In World War II the Allies actually did the Nazi Party a great favor by openly announcing that only an unconditional surrender would be accepted. The Germans had seen what happened when they were left at the mercy of their enemies and many who had wanted to get out of the war suddenly had Nazi propagandists saying, “I told you so” as the only options left to them were victory or death. Looking at the primary Axis powers, it took royal leadership to spare their peoples from total annihilation. Under Hitler, Germany was drowned in a sea of blood. In the Kingdom of Italy, on the other hand, when the Allies invaded Sicily, the King finally said enough was enough and that Mussolini had to go. Had the Allied handled things better, that might have been the end of the war on the Italian peninsula. Likewise, in Japan, the militarists were determined to fight on to the bitter end until the Emperor stepped forward and declared that the end had come.

World War I is an even better example though and I am sure some will already be thinking that there was only the second bloodiest war in the history of humanity and it came when the world was still a largely monarchist place. The truth, however, is not that simple. Among the major powers in Europe in August of 1914 there was not a single monarch that wanted war. Not one. Even the few who thought it might be necessary were certainly not pleased or enthusiastic about it. The Great War was a war of peoples rather than a war of kings, no doubt about it. The Tsar of Russia was extremely reluctant to get involved, the Emperor of Austria had to actually be lied to in order to get him to go to war and the German Kaiser actually ordered his troops to stand down at the last minute only to be defied by his top general. The British monarch had very little to say in the matter at all. Yet, despite this, not one monarch of the Central Powers was to maintain his throne when all was said and done. Given what came twenty years later, that certainly did not make the world a safer place.

Even after the French Revolution gave the world the concept of the “nation in arms” we can still see how monarchist forces handled the aftermath of a conflict so much better than republican forces. After the Napoleonic Wars, rather than the farce of a trial, the enemy was shipped off into exile and the statesmen of Europe gathered to put the continent back together again. Talleyrand, former the Foreign Minister of Napoleon, was on hand to take part in the negotiations. Imagine that; France was actually included in the negotiations over what was to become of France. The end result was a period of peace in Europe. Compare this to the aftermath of the First World War in which the defeated nations were given no part at all in the peace process. They were simply informed of how they were to be carved up by the victors and expected to like it. The fates of Germany and Austria-Hungary were decided without a single German, Austrian or Hungarian taking part in the negotiations. The result was a brief respite of a couple of decades before an even more terrible and more widespread war devastated mankind. Even then, the aftermath was handled no better and the world might have seen a similar result yet again were it not for the fact that former enemies were forced together out of the shared threat of the Soviet Union in Europe and Asia.

World War II, the most devastating war in history and the biggest war of peoples ever fought, also ended with a great deal of what was simply shameful. Consider the case of Romania. It was on this day in 1944 that the young King Michael of Romania launched the coup that took his country out of the Axis camp and into the Allied camp. How was he rewarded? By having his country handed over to the Soviets to become one of their slave states. There was also the betrayal of the Chetniks in Serbia or the many crimes of the Soviets, who, by the way, were complicit in the “original sin” of the Nazi invasion of Poland. When the Bolsheviks took Berlin, any man with blonde hair was considered to have been in the SS and executed. Most men and boys of any kind were butchered and practically every German woman the communist forces could get their hands on was raped, often repeatedly. There was the enslavement of the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and a last-minute stab in the back of Japan. The Japanese had honored the non-aggression pact with the Soviets meticulously, even when their German and Italian allies were fighting on the Russian steppes and yet, when Japan was already devastated and had just had two atomic bombs dropped on her, the Soviets broke their word to grab what they could. And, in a way, the other Allies played a part in making the conditions for these outrages to happen and were also directly responsible for turning over anti-communist Russians, Cossacks and other minorities to the Soviet authorities, knowing full well they would be butchered.

The world had never been more violent and bloody than when the supposed champions and representatives of “the people” took power from the kings and princes. Even today, what peace prevails is mostly the peace of people who cannot be bothered to go to war over anything. Wars, in our democratic, republican age, have become a tool of politicians rather than a continuation of politics. We still fight, we still kill and bomb and destroy but we don’t call it “war”. We do so for vague reasons, against vague enemies and end up with vague outcomes. Wars no longer have a beginning and an end. Instead, we have interventions, escalations and they just go on and on until the public loses interest. But, we are ruled by politicians rather than monarchs so everyone thinks it is all okay. And that is the mentality that has produced the undeniable fact that no regimes in human history have been so oppressive and blood-soaked as those that have “people’s” or “democratic” in their names. Humanity would do well to consider that.


  1. "There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult - to begin a war and to end it."

    -Alexis de Tocqueville

  2. It should also be noted that the saner heads among the political classes do not seek proper 'war' or declare it as such because of that gigantic sword of Damocles hanging over our entire species' heads called nuclear arms.

    I have no doubt in my mind if the emperors and kings, Rajs Shahs, sultans and sons of heaven were still ruling, there would have been another one of those lovely congregations between the powers of the world to ban the use of nuclear arms in all future conflicts. For truly they are immoral and would be unnecessary in wars which had stated, often physical wargoals that would be rendered useless if destroyed. It simply would not be in the sovereing's interest to maintain that technology as a weapon of war since they almost never fought wars of extermination.

    But of course in our more democratic age, war is viewed as completely reprehensible and the worst of all evils, and thus should be carried out with as much destructive force so as to utterly crush a threat so that it may never be a threat again if it is to be fought at all. This absolute destructive view of warfare is the defining aspect of modern wars of ideology and peoples. First seen in the French wars of revolution and later the Napoleonic war (although Napoleon did limit himself somewhat), then the horrifying potential of industrialization in warfare was first realized in the American civil war, where the concept of 'total war' was invented over the flames of American southron cities, and justified the people themselves being used as just another resource of war to be denied to the enemy.

    The world is disgusting.


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