Which only means “we” are doomed to repeat these….
I have begun to read a book that examines the history that led to the Great War. This period has always been of interest to me as I have not found satisfying explanations as to why Europe decided to consume itself so completely (and deal its suicide blow). Toward this end, I came across The Lost History of 1914: How the Great War Was Not Inevitable, by Jack Beatty.
From a review at Amazon:
Augmenting the literature on the origins of WWI, Beatty dwells on domestic political situations in the initial belligerents, plus the U.S. According to him, but for those particular arrangements and specific events, war might not have erupted in August 1914.
Beatty examines the internal politics of the several belligerents: Germany, Russia, England, The United States and Mexico (examined together), Austria-Hungary, and France. I have only read a few pages, yet have found a couple of items worth touching upon – timely for today, given current events, hence my desire to capture these outside of a more general review of the book (and incorporation of dozens of dates for my Timeline to War).
War is Improbable
One most likely feature regarding NATO’s actions toward Russia in our time is that none of the leaders of this eastward-advancing military force believe that their actions will ever lead to full-scale war. I find this both risky and nonsensical, but no one of any importance or influence asked me.
It turns out that the same was true during events leading up to the suicide blow of the West – the Great War:
Regarding war as improbable, Holger Afflerbach hypothesizes, leaders took risks that made it possible. Armageddon happened because men believed it could not happen.
We know improbable shortly thereafter became certain. Until the eve of war, the reality of war – and especially such a completely devastating conflict – was not considered probable.
Given the risks of confrontation with Russia today, I find only two possibilities behind the actions of those leaders who are pushing those risks: 1) they do not believe war is probable – Russia will not react violently no matter the provocation, or 2) they are suicidal (and homicidal) maniacs.
“All of the above” is also an acceptable choice.
They Never Saw it Coming
In reference to the revolutions that consumed Tsarist Russia, Beatty writes:
Reviewing twenty-six international crises between 1898 and 1967, the political scientist Richard Ned Lebow concludes, “These case histories suggest the pessimistic hypothesis that those policymakers with the greatest need to learn from external reality appear the least likely to do so.”
Despite the countless signs – strikes, warnings from more prescient advisors, etc. – those who were the ultimate decision makers were oblivious to the realities that were soon to consume the Tsar, his family, and millions of Russian citizens; one of the bloodiest revolutions known to man boiling right under their noses, and most missed all signs.
They live in a bubble; they see the only reality that they know. This is one failing of the elite and their mouthpieces and opinion-shapers. They couldn’t see Trump coming, they couldn’t see Brexit coming, etc., etc., etc.
If they were gods, the elite would not have this problem. Human elite are characterized by hubris, not omniscience; intelligence, not wisdom.