David Hines
Family feud is heck
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By David Hines
October 3, 2014

A century ago three cousins went to war. One might think that George, Wilhelm, and Nicholas might be able to work out their differences. But they were caught it a diplomatic web that set the world on fire.

The previous century had been one of relative peace. Since Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena, the European powers had worked to stabilize borders and prevent squabbles. There were a few flare-ups and some close calls but, overall, peace reigned. The Crimean War was long, mainly because of mismanagement and bad logistics. The Austro-Prussian War was essentially a seven-week civil war. The Franco-Prussian war, though disruptive to the French, lasted mere months. Following it was the belle époque, a time of cultural flourishing.

The US fought a brief war with Mexico. Our later internal struggle was long and bitter, followed by economic growth of the Gilded Age.

Overall, international belligerence was kept to a minimum. That all changed when the cousins went at each other, ushering in the bloodiest century ever. No longer were wars just between armies; they embroiled entire populations. Even small wars have been devastating to the populations of the weaker nations.

What is portended for the next century? Thus far it doesn't look peaceful. Belligerent talk from political leaders is rampant. Populations are prompted to view their foreign counterparts as incorrigibly hostile.

Formerly when wars were Habsburg family spats, ordinary people went about their lives, trading even across hostile borders. Now all persons are expected to worship the state and its belligerent goals. War has indeed become an affair of population against population.

Must it be this way? Need I hate somebody because politicians tell me to? If so, we can expect the next century to be even bloodier than the last.

There are countertrends, though. The Internet knows no borders. People communicate with each other. Americans balked at joining a war in Syria. Separatist movements are questioning the wisdom of central governance – Venice, Catalonia, Scotland, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Even Vermont and New Hampshire.

Politicians have recycled a century-old refrain – that war will make the world safe for democracy. It seems to be the opposite. Democracy tends to promote total war, and internal dissension in many places. War may at times be necessary, but this rationale doesn't hold much water.

In some quarters, war has become even easier to sell than when it was to defend the royal prerogatives of Habsburg cousins. Common people have adopted the royal "we" and send forth troops to enforce their wills. If the next century is to be less macabre than the last, there has to be a better way.

© David Hines

 

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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)

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