Ukraine and the Continuities of War
Questions: It is recognized that history repeats itself. Yet, as a hopeless optimist and despite the seemingly cyclical nature of things, I do see bits of progress. Consider the transformation of Germany and Japan from sworn enemies to deeply cherished allies. Or even the cessation of war between Britain and France, the unification of Italy, etc. What caused these miracles to happen? More importantly, since we cannot predict new mechanisms of diplomacy, how can we create environments in which such "miracles" are more likely to arise? Much respect Mick. The fact that the west has so many wonderful philosopher military leaders is a true godsend and deeply comforting.
Thank you very much, General, for this interesting essay and also the several links to worthwhile references for further reading.
I am somewhat surprised, though, by your characterization of the search for technological advantage as mere pursuit of a chimerical silver bullet. It is most likely correct, especially when standing alone, that technology will not eliminate or replace the inevitable and necessary continuities of other domains in the historic practice of war that you have described.
However, it seems reasonably supported that well-employed or novel technologies can provide a significant multiplier-effect, giving amplification and leverage to those other critical continuities - at a minimum. With a technical advantage in battlefield optics, extended range munitions, targeting precision, reliable and secure communications, etc., a military force so equipped will see better, reach farther, and hit harder -- and all with greater coordination and resulting lethality.
So even if not immediately decisive, these fruits of techne nonetheless produce disrupting elements of unexpected friction to which the enemy must adapt, if possible, while at the same time enhancing one's own capacities for surprise, unity of will, steady leadership, and such.
I look forward to the next installments and trust they will be as thought provoking as this one.
“However, the reality is that this war would be entirely recognisable to a soldier from the eastern or western fronts in Europe in World War Two”. A lot differentl actually and exponentially so if Putin splits an atom or two.
You write, "Despite the best intentions of such writings, the reality is that our future is more likely to resemble the past. "
Apologies, but I have to argue with this also.
In the past we could create all kinds of chaos, then clean up the mess, try to learn the lessons, and proceed from there with more progress. This was possible because of the limited scale of the tools and weapons involved. That era is over. It ended at 8:15am on August 6 1945 over Hiroshima Japan.
As example, in WWII we could toss conventional explosives around with wild abandon, and it didn't collapse civilization because conventional explosives are horrible, but not of sufficient scale to end everything. WWIII would be very very different, as many have commented. The difference is obviously the scale of the weapons involved.
An accelerating knowledge explosion will be delivering ever more powerful tools and weapons to all of us, including violent men. We're either going to solve that problem and meet that challenge, or there isn't going to be a future worth living in.
The future is not going to be like the past. We can't just keep on doing what we've been doing, because we live in a very different environment today.
You write, "In every age there are those who will seek to make the case that humans now, unlike their predecessors, are more enlightened and less likely to stumble into war. "
Apologies, but "humans" are not the problem. Male humans are the problem. Any honest observation quickly reveals that the overwhelming vast majority of violence at every level of society is committed by men.
This simple fact contains within it some very good news. Being able to pretty precisely identify the source of the problem helps us craft what could be a very effective solution. A world without men.
There's another pretty simple observation we can make. Conventional thinking which is generally considered realistic and reasonable, approved by experts, comfortable to the group consensus etc, has utterly failed to deliver the peace we want for many thousands of years. If we can face that fact honestly it should then become clear that the most promising place to look for solutions to violence is in the realm of unconventional ideas.
That obviously doesn't mean that therefore a "world without men" is the best unconventional idea. But it does mean that we should probably be looking at ideas of that scale, and ideas which the group consensus will at first reject with some enthusiasm. This is very simple. If conventional ideas could bring us peace, we'd already have it.
I'm up to page 13 on an article series on this very topic, a world without men as a path to world peace. Input and challenges are most welcome and appreciated, but only from those who can demonstrate that they've read at least some of the article series which they wish to comment upon.
Humans are not the problem. Weapons aren't the problem. Men are the problem.
As of Hiroshima and the dawn of the nuclear age, world peace is no longer optional. World peace has become a do or die mission, and we ignore that reality at our great peril.
Thanks for listening.
Thanks, Mick, for this useful sorting out of 'there's nothing new under the sun' and 'a new thing has come to pass'.
Perhaps there are a few typos :--
on this plant. It may recede at times, such as in the wake of the Cold War. But
-- for 'this plant' read 'earth' or 'this planet'
Throughout history, clever tribal leaders and statemen have increased their
-- for 'statemen' read 'statesmen'
soldier from the eastern of western front in Europe in World War Two. Many
-- for 'of western' &c. read 'or western front in Europe during the Second World War'
recognisable to soldiers must further back in time.
-- for 'must' read 'much'
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