Category Archives: War

How 1914 – 1930 Changed the World

World War I killed, lost, and wounded over thirty-five million people.  Civil wars and insurrections killed many more.  Disease killed fifty million.  Millions of people lived in poverty.  Millions more were under imperialistic rule.  Empires fell.  Nation-states were created.  Capitalism, colonialism, and democratic liberalism were in question.  International insecurity and competition led to rivalries and alliances.  Five empires fell during this time, the Qing, the Ottoman, the German, the Hapsburg, and the Russian.  The empires that survived faced opposition from the colonies as well as economic unrest at home.  World War I and its aftermath left the world searching for new economic and societal formats.

The alliances that were formed assured that when rivalry led to war, others would join.  Because of these alliances, a single terrorist attack in Sarajevo, Bosnia triggered a war that soon engulfed most of the world.  When Serbian terrorists killed the Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Bosnia, Austria blamed Serbia and declared war.  Germany was allied with Austria.  Russia was allied with Serbia.  The Russians declared war on Austria and the Germans declared war on Serbia and Russia.  France was allied with Russia so Germany initiated a pre-emptive attack on France that required German troops to travel through Belgium.  England was allied with Belgium and declared war on Germany.  Japan was allied with the British so they invaded German holdings in China and German held islands in the Pacific.  The Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and declared a holy war on England and France.  The United States entered the war on the side of Britain and France.  Britain and Germany extended the war into the colonies.  The colonies, particularly India and Africa, contributed resources, labor, and millions of lives for the benefit of their rulers.  The outcome of the war hinged on access to sustainable wealth.

Industrialism and colonial holdings provide that wealth.  Military buildup before and during the war meant increased wealth for the industrialized economies.  Science and industrial innovation created new tools for war and improved industrial capabilities enabled their mass production.  Colonial societies benefitted from increased exports.  Empires with holdings outside Europe and access to shipping lanes had the greatest chance of surviving.  Hardship and poverty because of sacrifices for the war effort led to dissatisfaction at home.  This brought about revolutions in Russia, Germany, Austria, and the Ottoman Empire.  The war ended when nations and empires ran out of money or lost the willingness to expend more lives and treasure.  Nor were the victors exempt from troubles at home.  Revolutions demanding independence or economic equality sprang up in the colonies.  Civil unrest, labor strikes, and revolutionary uprisings occurred in Canada, the U.S., Russia, and throughout Europe, East Asia, India, Africa, and South America.

Even more tension was created when the winners of the war divided the spoils arbitrarily, ignoring political, cultural, and linguistic divisions.  This created new rivalries and political unrest within the colonies.  Twenty-five million people found themselves to be minorities.  Colonial subjects fought for independence and the ruling parties fought to retain control over their subjects while fighting with one another to defend and expand their territorial holdings.

The end of the war brought home an increased work force as demand for industrial goods rapidly decreased.  Colonial subjects could no longer sell the commodities they had been forced to produce.  A worldwide economic depression followed the war.  Alternative philosophies were explored.  Italian Fascism, German Nazism, Russian Communism, Latin American Corporatism, and Japanese Militarism gained popularity.  Authoritarian rule began to look more capable than liberalism of responding to economic crises due to its ability to respond quickly.  Various forms of socialism and communism were presented as alternatives to capitalism.  Unfortunately, the more socially focused economic models that espoused various forms of central control were combined with authoritarian regimes that ruled through nationalism, propaganda, and violence.  These conditions combined to create even more unrest.

The Great War, the War to End All Wars, set the stage for the wars and political unrest that plagued the world for the next thirty years.  Liberal nations in Europe and the Americas were forced to implement more aggressive government interventions in the economy to reign in capitalism.  Both the authoritarian and liberal governments instituted social programs in an effort to alleviate suffering.  Inequalities plagued all.  The world still had not learned to create a society that could work for all.  The world was more unsettled than ever with many questions left unanswered.


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Filed under War, World History

Ye Shi – Abandoned Principles

Here is a quote from Ye Shi, writing in the late 12th early 13th century when foreign invaders held the north, referring back to a text from the Warring States period.

“One maintains a country with principles, with proper roles, and with the ability to change according to the circumstances. For the Zhong guo (the “Central country”) not to govern the Yi di (tribal peoples) is principle. For the Zhong guo to be the Zhong guo and for the Yi di to be Yi di is the proper role. We are in control of both. Therefore if they come to pillage then we go to war with them; if they come to submit then we receive them; to order them according to their reasons for coming is the ability to change according to the circumstances…The reason the Zhong guo is the Zhong guo is simply because it has these three thing. If we cast aside the tools by which we will necessarily be victorious and merely rely on deceit and force than we will have transformed ourselves into Yi di…However, although the Yi di are unprincipled, they always expect good faith and principle from the Zhong guo. The Zhong guo regards the Yi di as unprincipled and thus responds to them without employing good faith and principle. It does not understand that this is the reason it is the Zhong guo. Basically it cannot abandon something because the Yi di lack it.”

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Filed under China, Conditions of War and Peace, War, World Culture, World History

Capitalism May Prevent Nuclear Holocaust

Capitalism will prevent a hegemonic war between China and the United States.  China is a rising power relative to the U.S., both economically and militarily, but a war between these nations is not likely.  Profit and economic stability are the goals.  China has just over 10% of the nuclear warheads as the U.S., however, the estimated 300 they do have is more than enough for Mutually Assured Destruction.  Money, not military deterrence, will prevent this war.

China bases its decisions on foreign policy at least partly on mutual respect, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful coexistence, equality, and mutual benefit.  Moreover, China says it “never seeks hegemony”.  A United States cost/benefit analysis would obviously favor peaceful trade with China without disrupting the U.S. imperialist pursuits in weaker and unprotected countries.  China will not threaten their biggest trade partner and the U.S. does not want any trouble because the import/export exchange is mutually beneficial and China is a major source of lending for U.S.  Therefore, peace is in the common interest.

As 21st century political values tend to put more emphasis on profit and the major military powers refine their military capabilities (deterrence), economic cooperation will become increasingly important.  We have insured peace by creating a system of mutually assured economic interdependence.

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Filed under Capitalism, Conditions of War and Peace, War