The guns of the war to end all wars fell silent on this day in 1918.
Well, all the wars except for the Spartacist revolt in Germany, the Russian Revolution, twenty years of JV struggles and interventions across central and south America, intercine communist/nationalist struggles across China, the second war to end all wars which ushered in the third world war that included just about every armed conflict between Korea 1950 to Vietnam to about three quarters of every post-colonial transition during the fifties, sixties, and seventies, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The last decade has seen the rise of Islamic fundametalism as a strategic threat to Western civilization and the arrival of narcoinsurgency as a political movement in Colombia and portions of other South American countries, along with the Golden Triangle in SE Asia.
What drives wars of aggression? Conventional wisdom long held that economic differences, post colonial envy, religious intolerance, population pressure, or Tribalism/Nationalism/Fascism/Communism/Capitalism all contributed to conflict.
I don't know. I have witnessed the history of the past forty years as a spectator and sometimes as a participant. My reading and interaction with older folks from around the world has provided windows into the past that are either too cloudy to buy at face value or are too maddeningly large to comprehend at even the third or fourth look. Will there always be wars, or rumours of wars?
I caught a news item about a new paper published by a researcher (a Fellow?) of the JFK School of Government that suggests that terror occurs most often on the cusp between autocratic and democratic forms of government. Read the article, please.
I buy his conclusions. My country finds itself leading a coalition fighting the fourth world war...and my country is the only nation on the planet that puts the freedom of individuals on a higher plane than the powers of government. We are called a violent nation by some of our self-declared 'enlightened' neighbors, but I would point out that what violence we do execute on each other is almost exclusively the product of abberant social behaviour and not the result of political friction. On the larger stage where the actors are nations, the cast memembers of conflicts since the end of the first world war have almost always represented despotism on one side and various levels of democracy on the other.
Freedom is not being dependent on government for subsistence or even more importantly, opportunity. Freedom is pursuing your hopes and dreams free of unreasonable government interference. Freedom is operating on the baseline assumption that the individual is the prime ingredient behind success in life and the corollary to that is a inherent respect for other individuals - the Golden Rule as a given. The moment an individual submits to external authority as the arbiter of his beliefs and actions the stage is set for violent conflict.
In spite of the worst waking nightmares of western Leftists infesting America and other western democracies, our government is controlled by our electorate and backstopped by our constitution. We prosper as we do not because our multinationals are more ruthless than their multinationals but because the combined results of millions of personal rewards for personal risks manifest themsselves as individual wealth and high standards of living. We maintain a paltry military when viewed as a component of our population, and it's a volunteer organization to boot. Yet we are by no honest measure an empire, and only by stretching definitions can you label us a hegemon.
We work. We aren't perfect. We aren't annointed - not by any stretch of the imagination. We have used the precepts of individual liberty, coupled with a healthy distrust of the potential for tyranny in ANY form of government, and arrived here in 2004 as the undisputed 'last' (titles are so fleeting) superpower. Why is that?
I propose that we are unconcious of any upper limit to what we may achieve as individuals and that that subliminal acceptance tends to discourage the kind of nationalism or tribalism that lends itself to state aggression. Our military exists to keep others from trespassing on our pursuits not to enforce our government's agendas. Our people serve based on contracts with clearly defined obligations, not under coercion. And again, it works well enough.
I believe that victory over Islamic fundamentalism will take decades and must of necessity be marked by more military preemption - Iran at the very least. I also believe that at some point the war will have to widen (either by diplomacy, economic maneuvers, or naked force) to address nations or any other transnational terror movements that still embrace forms of communism if we are to ever have a hope of declaring victory at all.
Yeah, China looms large in my mullings on the future.
This brings us back to wars, and rumours of war, doesn't it? We'll see where we are next year and speak of this again.
I'm off - time to put the Colors up.
UPDATE: 4:00 p.m.: And thanks, Vets, for all that you've given in the past and what you are doing today.