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Archive for January 18th, 2007

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

JOHN KEEGAN ON THE GREAT WAR

Not the “Long War” but on the importance of the now dimly recalled, First World War:

” Yet it [ WWI] damaged civilization, the rational and liberal civilization of the European Enlightenment, permanently for the worse and through damage done, world civilization also. Pre-war Europe, imperial though it was in its relations with most of the world beyond the continent, offered respect to the principles of constitutionalism, the rule of law and representative government. Post-war Europe rapidly relinquished confidence in such principles.They were altogether lost in Russia after 1917, in Italy after 1922, in Germany in 1933, in Spain after 1936, and only patchily observed at any time in the young states created or enlarged by the post-war settlement in Central and Southern Europe. Within fifteen years of the war’s end, totalitarianism….was almost everywhere on the rise.”

- John Keegan, The First World War

It is questionable, to my mind, if Europe has ever recovered from the Great War that broke her spirit, followed by the Second World War which broke her power.

The EU is itself, arguably, an attempt by European elites to refashion the common sense of identity and weaken the primary loyalties of their fellow citizens. If so, they have had but limited success in that regard beyond the circles of the governing and media classes; and that progress must be set against the countervailing rise of disturbing, ethnonationalists, like LePen, whose xenophobic ideas found few if any admirers in the immediate postwar decades (and whose followers would be of infintesimal size were it not for the EU and its bumbling immigration policies).

Here’s an interesting question, at least to me. While a number of public figures have referred to the Long War/GWOT as ” World War III or IV” or have drawn comparisons with WWII (Pearl Harbor, Appeasement, Axis etc.), perhaps the current struggle bears a better comparison with WWI ?

Not in the area of kinetics, certainly, but in the sense that this war, like the First World War is occurring at a time of an epochal shift in economics, power relations and modes of living. A war that if it does not represent a ” clash of civilizations”, at least is noteworthy for it’s civilizational discontents and the anxieties they produce in the public mind.

ADDENDUM:

At HNN, Lawrence Serewicz, a longtime fellow member of H-Diplo, describes the struggle in Periclean terms.

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