For our Friday edification (and maybe warning) here’s another piece from the inestimable Dr. Victor Davis Hanson: War Clouds on the Horizon. Excerpt:
In the decade before World War I, the near-hundred-year European peace that had followed the fall of Napoleon was taken for granted. Yet it abruptly imploded in 1914. Prior little wars in the Balkans had seemed to predict a much larger one on the horizon — and were ignored.
The exhausted Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were spent forces unable to control nationalist movements in their provinces. The British Empire was fading. Imperial Germany was rising. Czarist Russia was beset with revolutionary rebellion. As power shifted, decline for some nations seemed like opportunity for others.
The same was true in 1939. The tragedy of the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was not that it had been too harsh. In fact, it was far milder than the terms Germany had imposed on a defeated Russia in 1918 or the requirements it had planned for France in 1914.
Instead, Versailles combined the worst of both worlds: harsh language without any means of enforcement.
The subsequent appeasement of Britain and France, the isolationism of the United States, and the collaboration of the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany green-lighted Hitler’s aggression — and another world war.
Could we be headed into a third global conflict? Dr. Hanson thinks there is a distinct possibility:
The ancient ingredients of war are all on the horizon. An old postwar order crumbles amid American indifference. Hopes for true democracy in post-Soviet Russia, newly capitalist China, or ascendant Turkey long ago were dashed. Tribalism, fundamentalism, and terrorism are the norms in the Middle East as the nation-state disappears.
Under such conditions, history’s wars usually start when some opportunistic — but often relatively weaker — power does something unwise on the gamble that the perceived benefits outweigh the risks. That belligerence is only prevented when more powerful countries collectively make it clear to the aggressor that it would be suicidal to start a war that would end in the aggressor’s sure defeat.
What is scary in these unstable times is that a powerful United States either thinks that it is weak or believes that its past oversight of the postwar order was either wrong or too costly — or that after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, America is no longer a force for positive change.
A large war is looming, one that will be far more costly than the preventive vigilance that might have stopped it.
Yr. obdt’s concern is this: America is weak, weaker than it has been since before the Second World War. While we still maintain the shell of military might – in the post-Cold War world America has known a degree of unchallenged military supremacy unknown since the fall of the Roman Empire – it’s only a shell. We can’t sustain it; we lack the industrial capacity or, worse, the will as a nation to sustain a lengthy struggle. Were the WW2 Pacific conflict in progress today, one can only imagine the evening news broadcasts and frantic web videos showing carnage in far-away places like the Solomon Islands and the cries to “leave the west Pacific to Japan” and bring our Marines home.
And there’s more; a third world war will proceed with catastrophic speed. One of the few constants in the history of war is that celerity has increased with technology. WW1 armies fought bitterly for months over a few miles of ground, while in WW2 Allied armies smashed from Normandy and the Caucasus to the gates of Berlin in a few months. Imagine a third world war fought in the modern world – where nonuniformed irregulars take advantage of commercial air travel and flow across porous borders with the greatest of ease.
America’s heavy industrial capacity is much reduced, and in a new world war, we will not have the luxury of time to ramp up. The oceans no longer provide a barrier to aggressors, and our borders have become a sad joke.
But Americans are far more concerned with the coming Sunday’s football and Kim Kardashian’s ass than with the legions of thugs across the world who want to destroy America and kill Americans. It’s Rome all over again, and too few of us see it coming – our political “leadership” least of all.