Friday, August 23, 2013
On War and Peace
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.
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.
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.