Ruminating on War and the XXth Century

The more I study WWI the more it seems to still have current ramifications. It helped solidify part of our national character and national fairytale. This was the era when Western Civilization courses became Anglo-American in curriculum. It seems that we tossed out French, Spanish & Italian, along with German literature. America became nationalistic and interventionist: the outcomes so far are generally unsatisfactory.

The Presidency/Executive branch began its aggrandizement of power. Wilson claimed more power was needed by the executive branch than that wielded by Lincoln during the civil war. And so it goes, each executive claims more power on thinner ground. And finally loyalty is directed to a man, instead of the constitution or country. Why is it that Americans get so irate when Nixon or Clinton misuse their office for some tawdry personal purpose but just let it go when Reagan or Bush commit illegal or unconstitutional acts in support of their policies?

There was no threat to the U.S., by the Central Powers that I can deduce. To be sure Germany sank our vessels, because we traded with Britain and France, but not with Germany. U.S. Financial interests were imperiled, as they had foolishly and greedily advanced so much money in loans to the Anglo-French that victory became necessary for those powers to repay their loans, it was thought. The powers that be knew the public would not support a war to save banks and lenders, so there was sold instead the notion that we were fighting for democracy: people bought that and still do.

In point of fact, it seems, the whole war really came out of an extravagant accumulation of capital in a time of rapid productive increase. The quest for capital that ignited during the renaissance would seemingly have been achieved. Therefore one could reasonably conclude that this capital could have been used to uplift all the citizenry of the nations as a whole: roads, bridges, canals, schools, medicine. That’s quite a huge missed opportunity. Why do people accept government intervention to protect capital, and resist government intervention to help actual people?

The Central Powers were starving by the end of WWI. Yet they controlled huge agricultural territories. Why couldn’t they feed themselves when the territory under their control was so vast? There seems to be terrible mismanagement on their part. And once again we see that the military alone cannot secure victory.

In the wake of that war revolution spread across Europe. And while that resulted in changed circumstances, I’d say that Revolutions seem a poor way to deal with issues of national character. It is an arguable point to say that the Russian people were better off after the revolution, but at that time perhaps, one had to hope that the Czar alone was the problem: same for Austria-Hungary, and other countries. To find that it was national character and human psychology that was the chief obstacle to prosperity and happiness is quite a sad thing.

We Americans find ourselves now with a decent standard of living and a poor quality of life. 150 years of industrialization, and 100 years of interventionism have left us feeling insecure. Though we have the greater part of a continent, two placid neighbors, and four seas surrounding us, the highest national military budget in the world with troops on every populated continent we have some primal, inarticulate fear that we are in a fight for our lives.

Just ruminating. Seems we could use a new government.


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