Tag Archives: World War I

The Great Switch: The Geo-Politics of Looming Recession, by Alastair Crooke

The US is switching roles from the world’s policeman towards unilaterally pursuing its own interests. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

Is the prospect of looming global recession merely an economic matter, to be discussed within the framework of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 – which is to say, whether or not, the Central Bankers have wasted their available tools to manage it? Or, is there a wider pattern of geo-political markers that may be deduced ahead of its arrival?

Fortunately, we have some help. Adam Tooze is a prize-winning British historian, now at Columbia University, whose histories of WWII (The Wages of Destruction) – and of WWI (The Deluge) tell a story of 100 years of spiraling; ‘pass-the-parcel’ global debt; of recession (some ideologically impregnated) , and of export trade models, all of which have shaped our geo-politics. These are the same variables, of course, which happen to be very much in play today.

Tooze’s books describe the primary pattern of linked and repeating events over the two wars – yet there are other insights to be found within the primary pattern: How modes of politics were affected; how the idea of ‘empire’ metamorphosed; and how debt accumulations triggered profound shifts.

But first, as Tooze notes, the ‘pattern’ starts with Woodrow Wilson’s observation in 1916, that “Britain has the earth, and Germany wants it”. Well, actually it was also about British élite fear of rivals (i.e. Germany arising), and the fear of Britain’s élites of appearing weak. Today, it is about the American élite fearing similarly, about China, and fearing a putative Eurasian ‘empire’.

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Dulce et Decorum Est, by Alexander Aston

We may be approaching a historical juncture as important as that of 1914, when World War I started. From Alexander Ashton at theautomaticearth.com:

“Dulce et Decorum est” is a poem written by Wilfred Owen during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. The Latin title is taken from Ode 3.2 of the Roman poet Horace and means “it is sweet and fitting …”. It is followed there by “pro patria mori”, which means “to die for one’s country”.

 

 

“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again.”

– Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August

Alexander Aston: If you have not read Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August you should do so, it is one of the great, accessible works of history. Tuchman details with great clarity the diplomatic failures, miscalculations and political logics that ensnared the imperial powers of Europe into the cataclysm of the Great War. It was the book that Kennedy drew upon when navigating the Cuban missile crisis. Just over a century since the guns fell silent in Europe, and nearly fifty years since nuclear holocaust was averted, the world is teetering on what might very well be the largest regional, potentially global, conflict since the second world war.

The United States is a warfare economy, its primary export is violence and it is through violence that it creates the demand for its products. The markets of the Empire are the failed states, grinding civil conflicts, escalating regional tensions and human immiseration created by gun-boat diplomacy. In true entrepreneurial spirit, the United States has repeatedly overestimated its abilities to control the course of events and underestimated the complexities of a market predicated on violence. However, since the beginning of the twenty-first century the American Imperium has proven itself as incompetent as it is vicious. After nearly two decades of intensifying conflicts, a fundamentally broken global economy and a dysfunctional political system, Washington has turned feral, lashing out against decline.

The points of instability in the global system are various and growing, and the only geo-political logics that the Imperium appears to be operating under are threats, coercion, and violence. It is at this moment, with the most erratic president in the country’s history, surrounded by some of the most extreme neo-conservative voices, that the United States has been belligerently stumbling across the globe. In the past few months we have witnessed a surrealistic reimagining of the Latin American coup, the medieval melodrama of Canadian vassals taking a royal hostage from the Middle Kingdom and British buccaneers’ privateering off the coast of Gibraltar. The Imperial system is in a paroxysm of incoherent but sustained aggression.

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The Last Death in a War Is 90% Backwash, by David Swanson

Even during World War I, someone questioned the “Glorious War” bullshit. From David Swanson at antiwar.com:

They say the last sip of a drink is mostly backwash. The last understanding of a war should be that every speck of it is backwash in the sense used by Ellen N. La Motte in her 1916 book The Backwash of War. La Motte was a U.S. nurse who worked at a French hospital in Belgium not far from a semi-permanent front line at which men slaughtered each other for no discernible purpose for months on end, and the mangled bodies from one side, plus the occasional civilian, were brought into the hospital to die or to be kept alive and – if possible – patched up and sent back into it, or, in some cases, patched back together well enough to be shot for desertion.

La Motte, whose book (newly republished and introduced by Cynthia Wachtell) was immediately banned in England and France, but sold well in the United States until the US had officially joined in the war, saw nothing good or glorious, but speculated that it must be out there. “Undoubtedly,” she wrote, the front has, “produced glorious deeds of valor, courage, devotion, and nobility. . . . We are witnessing a phase in the evolution of humanity, a phase called War – and the slow, onward progress stirs up the slime in the shallows, and this is the Backwash of War. It is very ugly. There are many little lives foaming up in the backwash. They are loosened by the sweeping current, and float to the surface, detached from their environment, and one glimpses them, weak, hideous, repellent.”

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The Lies That Form Our Consciousness and False Historical Awareness, by Paul Craig Roberts

Write the past—history—and you can often control the present and future. From Paul Craig Roberts at paulcraigroberts.org:

My generation associated dystopias, such as George Orwell’s 1984, with the Soviet Union, a country in which explanations were controlled and criticism of Stalin would land a person in the Gulag.  We thought of the United States and our life here much differently. But with the passage of time the difference between life in the Soviet Union in the 20th century and life in the Western world today is disappearing.  Today, the journalist Julian Assange is undergoing the same kind of state terror and torture as any Soviet dissident, if not worse.  The Western media is as controlled as the Soviet media, with print, TV, and public radio serving as a propaganda ministry for government and the interest groups that control government.  Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter are systematically denying their platforms to those who express views not supportive of the ruling order and its agendas.  It has turned out to be easy to get rid of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech as the media have neither the ability nor the intention of exercising it.

It was a mistake for my generation to associate Orwell’s Memory Hole and falsified history only with fictional or real dystopias.  Falsified history was all around us.  We just didn’t know enough to spot it.  What living and learning has taught me is that history tends to always be falsified, and historians who insist on the truth suffer for it.  It has been established that many of the ancient historians are unreliable, because they were “court historians” who sought material benefit by writing to please a ruler.  In my time many an historian has written for income from book sales by enthralling the public with tales of glorious victories over demonized enemies that justified all the sons, grandsons, brothers, fathers, uncles, husbands, friends, and cousins who were sacrificed for the sake of capitalist armaments profits.  No publisher wanted a truthful account that no one would buy because of the stark portrayal of the pointlessness of the deaths of loved ones. Everyone, or almost so, wants to think that their loss was for a noble cause and was “worth it.”

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Remembering the Christmas Truce of 1914: (Questioning Christian Participation in War), by Gary G. Kohls, M.D.

What if the naive young men that sinister old men con to fight their wars for them decided to swap stories and Christmas gifts from the home front with the “enemy,” instead of bullets and bombs? It happened once, in 1914 during World War I. A wonderful film, Joyeux Noel, was made about the Christmas truce, and it’s great Christmas viewing for the whole family. From Gary G. Kohls at lewrockwell.com:

“…and the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame;
And on each end of the rifle we’re the same”– John McCutcheon

104 years ago something happened in the fifth month of the “War to End All Wars” that put a tiny little blip of hope – which was cruelly and rapidly extinguished by the pro-militarism powers-that-be in both church and state – in the historical timeline of the organized mass slaughter that is war.

The event was regarded by the professional military officer class to be so profound and so disturbing that strategies were immediately put in place that would ensure that such an event could never happen again.

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The Broken Clocks’ Minute, by Robert Gore

Sometimes the reasons you’re wrong turn out to be the reasons you’re right.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Old Wall Street adage

Anyone who has consistently sounded cautionary or outright bearish notes during the last nine years of relentlessly rising equity markets has been cast aside. Wall Street is bipolar. You’re either right or wrong, and wrong doesn’t buy mansions and Maseratis. Like that broken clock, the so-called permabears have had a couple of minutes when they were right, far outweighed by those 1438 minutes when they were wrong.

Or maybe it’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s the last nine years that amounts to two minutes. In geologic time nine years isn’t even a nanosecond. Perhaps even on time periods scaled to human lifetimes and history, the last nine years will come to be seen as an evanescent flash that came and ignominiously went.

Markets don’t listen to reasons. They’re exercises in crowd psychology and crowds are emotional and capricious. That doesn’t mean that reason is a useless virtue in market analysis, quite the opposite. It’s reason that allows the few who are consistently successful to separate themselves from the crowd and capitalize on its emotion and caprice.

Reason identifies rising stock markets as one symptom of a sugar high global economy. Since 2009, staring into the abyss of debt implosion, central banks acting in concert have promoted furious debt expansion as the finger-in-the-dike remedy. Governments expanded their fiat (aka out of thin air) debt, and central banks monetized that debt with their own fiat debt. Not only did that create loanable reserves within the banking system—private debt fodder—it drove interest rates so low that yield-deprived investors were herded into the stock market. Borrowers won, savers lost.

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Wilson’s Great War, by David Stockman

Why the world would have been better of if the US hadn’t entered WWI. From David Stockman at antiwar.com:

Read part 1 and part 2

The Great European War posed no national security threat whatsoever to the US. And that presumes, of course, the danger was not the Entente powers – but Germany and its allies.

From the very beginning, however, there was no chance at all that Germany and its bedraggled allies could threaten America – and that had become overwhelmingly true by April 1917 when Wilson launched America into war.

In fact, within a few weeks, after Berlin’s Schlieffen Plan offensive failed on September 11, 1914, the German Army became incarcerated in a bloody, bankrupting, two-front land war. That ensured its inexorable demise and utter incapacity in terms of finances and manpower to even glance cross-eyed at America on the distant side of the Atlantic moat.

Likewise, after the battle of Jutland in May 1916, the great German surface fleet was bottled up in its homeports – an inert flotilla of steel that posed no threat to the American coast 4,000 miles away.

As for the rest of the central powers, the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires already had an appointment with the dustbin of history. Need we even bother with any putative threat from the fourth member of the Central Powers – that is, Bulgaria?

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