The End Of Peace

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spike
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The End Of Peace

Post by spike » Thu Nov 21, 2013 1:11 pm

Margaret MacMillan, author of the block buster book Paris 1919, has come out with a new book, The War That Ended Peace. It Is about the first world war that ended the peace that had endured through most of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth century. However, I'm wondering how peaceful were things in the world if it ended in a world war?

One of McMillan's arguments is that WWI was not necessarily inevitable, that it didn't have to happen. Well, I don't think it was a random event or an accident. It happened for a reason. The world, especially Europe, had reached a tipping point centered around issues that nations were incapable of addressing in a peaceful or political manner. As a result unresolved tensions had built up. The result was a violent confrontation between nations and societies, like that of tectonic plates crashing into each other, releasing tension and eventually causing a seismic event.

Wars are made up of underlying currents like the weather, with a number of hidden factors converging into a major event. One of the main factors converging that initiated WWI was the old order in Europe that resisted change and wouldn't or couldn't reform, such as on issues of imperialism, patriarchal hierarchies, political nepotism, and economic disparities, some of the many stubborn intransigencies that wouldn't budge without force. The political will to change was not there. There was also an ingrained indifference and detachment among world leaders that needed upending. I believe there was a hidden tinderbox of factors that led to the war that haven't been properly examined. For instance, global politics was still in its infancy and poorly connected, perpetuating an order whose attitude and ability was not oriented to or keeping up with changing world events. In other words, because Europe and the rest of the world was still so politically immature, the inevitability was war.

I remember the same argument made about The Cold War, that it wasn't inevitable and could have been avoided. Again, I find that naive, for if it hadn't been a Cold War it certainly would have been a hot one, as some had tried to make it. Its political tension was a learning and discovery period for the world, a time of establishing a mutual world order on how it would eventually be governed. It was a cold war and not a hot one because of the lessons that had been learnt from the previous two world wars, that such wars are too catastrophic and untenable. Those wars not only helped forge the political skills of today but act as deterrents to future wars.

These stages in Civilization are development ones. The world has developed and progress through conflicts. Wars and conflicts are irrational but the world has rarely progressed through rational means. One of the rational exceptions was the creation of the United Nations and the world's participation in it. But that too was only after the fact of the world acting irrationally in two world wars.

When I think of war and politics I think of the idea that politics is war by other means. Politics is certainly preferable to wars. Politics can get mean and nasty but it doesn't take lives or draw blood like wars do. But wars occur because of an absence of meaningful political engagement. Such a void in meaningful and engaging politics, I argue, is what ushered in and permitted the first world war to occur. If the political engagement that transpired during The Cold War had been practiced prior to the first world war I don't believe it would have occurred. Engaging in politics connects people while engaging in war divides them.

The world has not completely rid itself of wars. There are still regional wars like those we see in the Middle East and in particular Syria. A major reason for these conflicts is that the region has not yet sufficiently matured for the modern world or developed the political gravitas or networks that have developed in many other parts of the world.

MacMillan is right, the first world war wasn't inevitable, by today's standards. But the world then was less sophisticated and less aware of itself. Today the world tries harder to deter wars through political, diplomatic means such as occurred recently with Syria in ridding it of chemical weapons in a peaceful manner rather than bombing into submission like some hawks wanted.

Recently I was reminded of something Winston Churchill said that is relevant here, “To jaw, jaw is always better than war, war”. He said that in 1954, addressing the growing adversarial relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. I think his words were influential in getting the United States to engage the Soviet Union in politics and detente rather than go to war with it, which at the time was a great possibility.

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