Monday, December 27, 2021


 In many historical accounts the emphasis is on wars--who won them and the consequences.  Others declare that historians overlook the more important cultural developments.  Margaret MacMillan contends that wars have shaped us in ways that deserve serious study.  To run an organized military assault (or defense) requires organization that came after the Agricultural Revolution.  Ironically cultures both transfer organization to military powers, but also receive many cultural items from military experiences.  One example, Norman Bethune developed blood transfusions during the Chinese Revolution.

Society is pulled in different directions by warfare.  There are many factors encouraging war, but there are also many counterpoints.  Margaret has studied both sides. 

 Margaret quotes Carl von Clausewitz for a definition,  "War is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."

Warfare advanced as civilization advanced.  Mankind discovered how to shape metals and tamed horses for our ends.  Many developments boosted our ability to kill others.  Horse stirrups provided a more stable platform to inflict killing.  Napoleon marching at night caught the enemy off guard. The  Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb was the most intensive use of science for military goals.  

Strategies include developing superior weapons, more effective discipline and as Sun Tzu declares, "All War is based on deception."  That reminds me of a book title "The Name of the Game is Deception" describing basketball, but in reality could be used for almost any sport.  All sports could be considered preparation for warfare which is leveraging your resources effectively.

Reasons for war are many, but they boil down to greed and fear and include religion.  In reality it the ruling class who sees an opportunity or is fearful.  They then attempt to persuade the citizens that the cause effects them war can break out.

Frederick the Great felt "A soldier must fear his officer more than the enemy."  All procedures to reinforce obedience were critical.  In contrast the author has Tim O'Brien tell us "Man killed and died because they were embarrassed not to.  It was what had brought them to war in the first place  Nothing positive, no dreams of glory or  honor just to avoid the blush of dishonor."  On the other hand some men developed fighting skills and would hire themselves out.

Women played a variety of roles.  Unfortunately prostitutes followed the armies--the term hooker comes from brothel prostitutes that followed the army of General Joseph Hooker.   In the last century or two many women filled in for the men gone to war leaving factory jobs more important than ever.  Women gradually picked up roles closer to combat such as nurses, ambulance drivers, clerical support.  By the time of the WWI they were no longer ready to go back to their old roles with many countries opened up the vote for women.  Too often women are affected in another way:

Legalities are difficult to get nations to agree to and even more difficult to enforce.   Agreements were made for prisoners of war civilians, women.  Flame throwers were legal, but not poison   The Nuremberg trials were intended to make war criminals accountable with following orders not acceptable as an excuse.  One irony was that one activity not indicted was mass bombings.  United States does not accept judgments from the International Criminal Court (but would quote findings for their own purposes)

Manufacturers benefited from warfare.  Eisenhower warned the American public about the military industrial complex and we can see today that their lobbyists are very successful in boosting military budgets in many nations.  Alfred Noble invented more effective explosives, originally for the mining industry, but realized the military increased his profits.  His guilt feelings led to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Newspapers and the media profit from increased attention.  Winston Churchill was a correspondent during the Boer War and like many war correspondents supported "patriotic" efforts.  

The Arts have been involved with wars.   They have been used to glorify and spur, but also to protest.  Censorship has been used to control critical information and also to mislead.

 Marching music is not only used to recruit, but also to move troops in battle.  A wide variety of orders can be communicated with drums and bugles over the battle sounds.

Photography was used for the American Civil War.  Most of the early photography could be controlled through censorship, but as both the size and price of cameras came down it was more difficult to control the distribution of photos.  Vietnam photos turned off the American pubic convincing many it was unjust and unwinnable.

Paintings have been used to commemorate and glority.  Picasso's famous "Guernica" was used to denounce war and the arttist refused to let it go to Spain until democracy restored.  As of 1981 it sits in Madrid.   It is said that a Gestapo official visited Picasso in occupied France and upon seeing a photo of "Guernica" asked if Picasso had done it and the reply was, "You did."

Wars create heroes or you might say they churn them out.  Incentives are used to lure recruits such as money, glory, travel, learn a trade.  On average it is easier to attract the poor.  For the wealthier glory is used.

 As a youngster G. A. Henty adventure stories fascinated me.  Not conscious that I was being indoctrinated, but looking back Margaret was right to point out the indoctrination was deliberately encouraged.

Costa Rica is one country that decided to dispense with a national army so they could apply that expense to boosting literacy for its citizens. The ancient Chinese glorified scholars more than warriors.

All groups make decisions. President Dwight Eisenhower had a quote that behooves us to weigh more carefully.  "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."   

The future of warfare seems likely to be cyber warfare  Get ready as it will change things all over again.  Already attacks have taken place

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