Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A serious question ...

Or so it appears. The quotation is not his, though I think that the following thoughts with his question that I think are legitimate to note.

The type of war that might lead to civilizational destruction depends very much on who is doing the fighting. If Britain had conquered the United States in the War of 1812, it certainly wouldn't have been an optimal outcome but it would be a very different animal from say, conquest at the hands of Nazi Germany or the USSR. I'm also quite skeptical of the notion that modern wars are really that much more inhuman or destructive than those of the past because of technology. Relatively few nations consider it acceptable sack cities anymore and both the Rwandan Genocide and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia seem to have been carried out through relatively low-tech means. I would also note that the level of documentation available to us for contemporary conflicts simply speaking did not exist in previous centuries. Chemical and biological weapons are really just more sophisticated versions of poisoning and plague that were amply used by the ancients. With regard to nuclear weapons, they have only been used twice and even the crazy nations that possess them (a la North Korea) are primarily interested in doing so for deterence purposes. If nations started firing nuclear weapons off like firecrackers, this argument might hold far more weight with me, but for now everyone seems to recognize that these weapons are to be used as last resorts.

I'm also not certain what "civilizational destruction" would look like in the modern era. The two examples that float immediately to mind are the wars of the Reformation that shattered Christendom and the Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire. Both of those took nearly a century to fully unfold. Given how diverse "Western civilization" is these days, I have little to no idea how such a thing might occur. Even according to the best case scenario in the al-Qaeda game plan, converting the entire planet is still expected to take 20-50 years. So in other words, if civilizational collapse occurs, it would be a long time in coming.

12 comments:

Donald R. McClarey said...

"With regard to nuclear weapons, they have only been used twice and even the crazy nations that possess them (a la North Korea) are primarily interested in doing so for deterence purposes."

This is an unwarranted assumption. North Korea, for example, propaganda notwithstanding, understands that it faces no prospect of invasion. It uses its nuclear weapons in order to extort aid from the West. I fear additionally that it will also sell one or more nuclear devices to a terrorist group or another nation in exchange for a large amount of hard currency. I could easily imagine for Iran, with which North Korea has a close relationship, coming up with a billion dollars. One wonders if the nuclear tests in North Korea last year were a marketing technique as well as sabre rattling.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you - the bloodiest wars in history have generally been lower-tech. The Thirty Years War probably killed a third of the population of Central Europe, the Peloponnesian War took an astonishing toll on the population of Athens, Mithridates slaughtered 80,000 Romans in one day, The Battle of Cannae killed more people than did Hiroshima. To paraphrase the NRA, "Technology doesn't kill people, people kill people".
Tschafer

torquemada05 said...

Don:

One of the reasons that the West does not regard an attack on North Korea as a viable option is because of the regime's nuclear capability. Moreover, even if North Korea did sell nuclear weapons to terrorists or Iran it would still want to retain enough for deterence. That said, I understand and agree with your criticism.

Tschafer:

As I noted, those figures are just the closest estimates we have for these ancient battles. I expect that if we put them under the same level of scrutiny as we do modern conflicts, we would find a lot more death and destruction that is every bit as nasty as anything we've done today. I agree that WW1 and WW2 were more destructive than previous conflicts, but I think that these are more an issue of scale (i.e. they were world wars) than of technology.

Anonymous said...

Very true, especially when you consider the percentage of the population killed. After all, historians are still arguing about exactly how many died in the World Wars - what are our chances of knowing how many REALLY died in the Peloponnese War, or The Hundred Years War? And as for brutality, there are episodes from the Thirty Years War that are still hard to read about, even at this remove. We moderns have no monopoly on destructiveness or brutality.

Tschafer

Victor said...

If Britain had conquered the United States in the War of 1812, it certainly wouldn't have been an optimal outcome

*cough, cough, cough*

Anonymous said...

If Britain had conquered the United States in the War of 1812, it certainly wouldn't have been an optimal outcome

Parliament ROCKS! Congress SUCKS! Long live the Queen!

Anonymous said...

Those who suggest that the war was conducted primarily for Israel's benefit have to contend with the fact from the mid 90's onwards the Israelis have always identified Iran as the far greater threat to their existence than Iraq. Now why would the ZOG people want to destroy the such an effective counterweight to the mullahs? On the one hand we are told that the devious Zionazis are operating behind the curtain to control everything. On the other these guys it seems cannot appreciate a simple dictum like "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". How then can we entrust the future of the empire to these clowns?

Ivan

Phillip said...

It seems simple. Mark has become a functional pacifist. Now any that argue that some wars are just will be deemed by Mark to be non-Catholic.

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