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Armistice Day

November 12th, 2012

After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a chance Australia might finally be at peace next Armistice Day. Most combat operations in Afghanistan will cease early next year, and we can hope that the final pullout will take place not too long after that. In my lifetime, Australia has been involved in three long wars, none of which have produced the promised results. In two of them, Iraq and Vietnam, the pretext for war was clearly fraudulent. The overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden, was plausibly justified on grounds of self-defence, but the conduct of the war, and particularly the decision to invade Iraq, ensured that the effort would end in failure, as it has done. The best that can be said about the wars of the last decade is that they have been less costly, at least in Australian lives, than was Vietnam.

What is really striking, looking at the recent past, is how much has been achieved by peaceful means. In our own region, Indonesia has been transformed from a dictatorship (generally seen as representing a long-term military threat) to a stable democracy, which has largely overcome the challenges of terrorism, religious violence, natural disasters, and the attempts of the military to retain its central role in politics and business. With the aid of Australian peacekeepers, East Timor has made a start on a difficult road out of poverty. Elsewhere in the world from Eastern Europe to South America to the Arab world, seemingly durable dictatorships have collapsed or handed over power, mostly without the intervention of foreign governments.

Saying that war should be the last resort sounds like a platitude. But it is among the most important lessons we learn from history. Those who choose war rarely achieve the outcomes they expect and usually bring disaster on themselves as well as others. War in self-defence is sometimes necessary, and there are rare occasions when outside intervention can prevent an immediate human catastrophe. Fighting wars for justice, or democracy, or national honour, or to prevent future wars is a path to ruin.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2012 at 07:15 | #1

    Point 1.

    Civil war is almost always exacerbated by foreign intervention. Though it might seem callous at first view, the best thing to do in most cases is to allow civil war belligerants to sort it out themselves. Outside interference usually increases the death and suffering.

    Point 2.

    I never could see the difference between Iraq 2 and Afghanistan. They were both unnecessary wars. Bin Laden (or one of his lieutenants) said that the US fell for the Taliban strategy when the US went to Afghanistan. His words were to the effect that “We provoke the US and they spend billions to come here and chase a few men with AK47s. This is how we will bankrupt and destroy the US.” And the US fell right into the trap.

    The Western “expeditionary” and colonial style of far-flung empire must be contrasted with Chinese “absorption” style of empire. China has been incrementally increasing its continental empire for about 2,200 years (with some intervening periods of splintering and colonial pressure).

    Now China sits back, develops and keeps its nose clean of any real conflicts while incrementally increasing its continental empire. Currently it is absorbing Tibet. In 20 or 50 years time it will be absorbing Mongolia and places along the Russian border. At the same time, China proceeds with its plan to become the manufactory of the world while US and Western industry continues its decline.

    “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” – Sun Tzu.

    China has no reason to love the West nor Japan after the “Century of Humiliation”.

    “The century of humiliation (simplified Chinese: 百年国耻; traditional Chinese: 百年國恥; pinyin: bǎinián guóchǐ), also referred to as the hundred years of national humiliation, and similar permutations, refers to the period of subjugation China suffered under imperialism, both Western and Japanese.[1] Starting with the rise of modern nationalism in the 1920s, the Guomindang and Chinese Communist Party used these concepts to characterize the Chinese experience in losses of sovereignty between roughly 1839–1949.” – Wikipedia.

    China is patient and will allow us to destroy ourselves as we are doing now with market liberalism and draining expeditionary wars seeking to hold on to vanishing empire. China will quietly help us on our way.

    “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu.

  2. Ernestine Gross
    November 12th, 2012 at 08:23 | #2

    @Ikonoclast

    I believe the Chinese people in general and their leaders are intelligent and they know it is impossible to be the manufacturer of the world for any significant length of time because they would have to starve large numbers of their people to death in order to produce goods for foreigners with nothing in exchange.

  3. Katz
    November 12th, 2012 at 08:28 | #3

    War is by definition the last resort because war vitiates all other resorts.

  4. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2012 at 09:10 | #4

    @Ernestine Gross

    As usual you are a little too cryptic for me. Perhaps you are just joking. You made the statement, “… they know it is impossible to be the manufacturer of the world for any significant length of time because they would have to starve large numbers of their people to death in order to produce goods for foreigners with nothing in exchange.”

    I am not sure that the consequence follows the predicate. There is no reason why a manufacturing nation cannot also be self-sufficient in food. (Or rather, the reasons will be other than the fact that it is a manufacturing nation.) China recently achieved or approached very closely to food self-sufficiency. There is some evidence that that position is now eroding slowly. The US (still a very significant manufacturer albeit declining relatively from its high base) is more than self-sufficient in food. In addition, export earnings from manufactures can be used to import food stuffs. How does your statement hold?

    China’s long term geostrategy is to concentrate the world’s heavy industrial manufacturing capacity in China and to remain close to self sufficient in food. Whether it can do both remains to be seen. China favours incremental expansion of its continental empire and a long range defensive war / border war strategy to support incremental expansion. It understands that the expeditionary war model and far-flung colonialism has always failed either short term or long term. Napoleon failed, the Third Reich failed and European Colonialism failed.

    What should the West do? Take a leaf out of China’s book. Incremental Western expansion is not possible in the geographic sense but consolidation and avoidance of draining conflicts is possible. Expansion must be into the humanist, scientific-technological arena. But I become too wordy.

  5. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 12th, 2012 at 09:22 | #5

    I posted this piece by Bertrand Russell on the Anzac Day thread and it is worth repeating.

    “But when the First World War broke out, I thought it was a folly and a crime on the part of every one of the Powers involved on both sides. I hoped that England might remain neutral and, when this did not happen, I continued to protest. I found myself isolated from most of my former friends and, what I minded even more, estranged from the current of the national life. I had to fall back upon sources of strength that I hardly knew myself to possess. But something that if I had been religious I should have called the Voice of God, compelled me to persist. Neither then nor later did I think all war wrong. It was that war, not all war, that I condemned.

    The Second World War I thought necessary, not because I had changed my opinions on war, but because the circumstances were different. In fact all that made the second war necessary was an outcome of the first war. We owe to the first war and its aftermath Russian Communism, Italian Fascism and German Nazism. We owe to the first war the creation of a chaotic unstable world where there is every reason to fear that the Second World War was not the last, where there is the vast horror of Russian Communism to be combated, where Germany, France and what used to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire have all fallen lower in the scale of civilization, where there is every prospect of chaos in Asia and Africa, where the prospect of vast and horrible carnage inspires daily and hourly terror. All these evils have sprung with the inevitability of Greek tragedy out of the First World War. Consider by way of contrast what would have happened if Britain had remained neutral in that war. The war would have been short. It would have ended in victory for Germany. America would not have been dragged in. Britain would have remained strong and prosperous. Germany would not have been driven into Nazism, Russia, though it would have had a revolution, would in all likelihood have not had the Communist Revolution, since it could not in a short war have been reduced to the condition of utter chaos which prevailed in 1917. The Kaiser’s Germany, although war propaganda on our side represented it as atrocious, was in fact swashbuckling and a little absurd. I had lived in the Kaiser’s Germany and I knew that progressive forces in that country were very strong and had every prospect of ultimate success. There was more freedom in the Kaiser’s Germany than there is now in any country outside Britain and Scandinavia. We were told at the time that it was a war for freedom, a war for democracy and a war against militarism. As a result of that war freedom has vastly diminished and militarism has vastly increased. As for democracy, its future is still in doubt. I cannot think that the world would now be in anything like the bad state in which it is if English neutrality in the first war had allowed a quick victory to Germany. On these grounds I have never thought that I was mistaken in the line that I took at that time. I also do not regret having attempted throughout the war years to persuade people that the Germans were less wicked than official propaganda represented them as being, for a great deal of the subsequent evil resulted from the severity of the Treaty of Versailles and this severity would not have been possible but for the moral horror with which Germany was viewed. The Second World War was a totally different matter. Very largely as a result of our follies, Nazi Germany had to be fought if human life was to remain tolerable. If the Russians seek world dominion it is to be feared that war with them will be supposed equally necessary. But all this dreadful sequence is an outcome of the mistakes of 1914 and would not have occurred if those mistakes had been avoided.”

    - from Portraits From Memory, 1956.

  6. Graeme Bird
    November 12th, 2012 at 09:24 | #6

    I’m wondering if I can ever support a war again. Its not that the official case (given what we thought we knew) was without merit. Its just that these lunatics never know when to bring the kids home.

  7. Ernestine Gross
    November 12th, 2012 at 09:49 | #7

    @Ikonoclast

    “In addition, export earnings from manufactures can be used to import food stuffs. How does your statement hold?”

    I’d say there is a difference between becoming a major manufacturing country and becoming ‘the manufacturer of the world’.

    What are these export earnings? IOUs – paper, electronic data entries? Hard to chew I imagine.

  8. Fran Barlow
    November 12th, 2012 at 09:58 | #8

    PrQ said:

    Those who choose war rarely achieve the outcomes they expect and usually bring disaster on themselves as well as others. War in self-defence is sometimes necessary, and there are rare occasions when outside intervention can prevent an immediate human catastrophe. Fighting wars for justice, or democracy, or national honour, or to prevent future wars is a path to ruin

    It’s hard to disagree, though one might add that the ruin is not always on those who proposed wars for justice, or democracy, or national honour, or to prevent future wars.

    The overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden, was plausibly justified on grounds of self-defence

    No, it wasn’t plausible. There was never any real evidence that this would buttress the defence of legitimate interests of United States citizens. It was almost entirely about “wag the dog” considerations, and to some extent an attempt to divert attention from the failings of that wacky Bush appointee for A-G — John “Born Again” Aschroft. As I’ve pointed out — there was a standing offer from Mullah Omar to hand over OBL to the ICC for examination.

    The Bush regime was not interested, for obvious reasons which I’ve outlined before. It’s likely the overturn of the Taliban regime has prejudiced the safety of westerners (and the locals there) and in other places where violent Islamism has resonance. In addition, it certainly offered a political context in which the chest-beating right winf libertarians were rendered silent as 50 shades of repressive state intervention were visited on the US population. The Islamists might “hate {our} freedom (sic)” but the Bush regime thought it almost entirely expendable — chump change in the business of a second term. Could OBL, assuming he really was a player in all this, have asked for a better President than G W Bush? Probably not.

    It’s almost always true that in practice, war is inferior to the alternatives, from the POV of the interests of working humanity and those depending on them. The working folk are always at best collateral damage in such enterprises. That war persists reminds us that society is not run in the interests of working people but rather, in the interests of a tiny elite — those popularly called the 1% — though perhaps it’s more like the 0.01%.

  9. November 12th, 2012 at 11:51 | #9

    The Fat Man And The War

    ‘Magnet’

    They sing of the pride of battle,
    They sing of the dogs of war,
    And the men that are slain like cattle
    On African soil afar.

    They sing of the gallant legions
    Bearing the battle’s brunt
    Out in the torrid regions
    Fighting the foe in front.

    They sing of Mauser and Maxim,
    And their doings across the foam,
    But I hear none sing of The Fat man
    Who sits at his ease at home.

    And a fat little time is coming
    When the turmoil has settled down,
    And the dogs of war are silent
    And the veldt is bare and brown.

    When the sun has licked the blood up
    And the brown earth hid the bones,
    His miners will go out seeking
    For gold and precious stones.

    Nothing he knows of fighting;
    He never was built that way;
    But the game of war is exciting,
    When the stakes worth more than the play.

    Like a ghoul from the reeking shambles
    He grubs out his filthy pelf,
    Reaping a cursed harvest
    Where he daren’t have sown himself.

    Now, this is one man’s opinion,
    And I think it is fair and right,
    If he wants the land of the Dutchman,
    Let him go like a man and fight.

    If African mines have treasure,
    And the Fat Man wants a bone,
    Let him go by himself and find it,
    Let him trek to the front alone!

  10. JB Cairns
    November 12th, 2012 at 12:16 | #10

    WW! the war to end all wars.

    Only an arrogant human being would even think such folly

  11. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2012 at 13:37 | #11

    @Ernestine Gross

    Export earnings can be exchanged for real produce and real goods while the global trade and foreign exchange systems function. If these systems cease to function for whatever reason then large nations with large manufacturing, resource and agricultural bases are best equipped to survive in an autarkic fashion or form blocs to survive. Think of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

    China’s plan is to hollow out the industrial base of the rest of the world. Nations with no or little industrial base become powerless in geostrategic terms. I think the Chinese understand they don’t have to take the US on directly, ever. They understand the self-destructive and maladaptive nature of the late-stage US system. The US will very effectively dismantle itself without overt outside pressure.

  12. Graeme Bird
    November 12th, 2012 at 13:42 | #12

    As far as war is concerned I’m a fan of the Duke Of Wellington and Reagan. I’m no fan of Clauswitz. I think that we train our people for shock warfare, have excellence in submarines, and gain the high ground in space and dogfighting. ((((I like what Mao said about digging tunnels everywhere and storing grain and I think we can work this advice in with plans to have the best infrastructure in the world.)))))))

    But if we are smart we never use these capabilities and instead our people wind up doing logistical work in support of proxy war. That is to say if someone intimidates us, sooner or later they will conflict with a third party, and here is our main warring, in that we are slowing down a potentially hegemonic power who can avoid our materiel-contributions by the simple expedient of PEACE. (Nothing wrong with peace.)

    I could imagine us training and arming the non-Pashtun Afghanis, so as to carve out a place of peace for them in territories that they don’t have much trouble holding. But I cannot handle us being there when American allies are arming goat-herders for our guys to kill by the bakers dozen.

    We’ve got to take some overall responsibility for the shape of this war. I take a paternalistic attitude towards our troops. So I’m not saying that its their fault that they are slaughtering transplanted goat-herders (essentially and as an over-simplification) by the hundreds. Its our fault. When we are no longer smashing serious weapons of war, or killing regime leadership we must come home. It is wrong for us to stay beyond those activities. Mostly it is wrong for our national interest to do so.

    It is our fault that our soldiers are dying and our fault that they are involved in killing many thousands of people who really wouldn’t have concerns beyond the next mountain range; People who are really only there to make $10 a day rather than $1 a day. This is disgraceful that we have let this continue.

  13. November 12th, 2012 at 14:24 | #13

    I’ll think I’ll mention Brakels’s axiom: If anyone thinks [nation] is following a master plan, it’s only because they don’t speak [national language]. A lack of ability that prevents them from perceiving that [nation] is just as disorganized as everywhere else.

  14. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2012 at 14:50 | #14

    A bon mot does not a refutation make. Anyone who thinks great nations don’t utilise, or at least attempt to utilise, grand strategic and geostrategic planning has come down in the last shower. Of course, if the strategy is wrong, as is the U.S. strategy, it can be worse than doing nothing.

  15. Jim Rose
    November 12th, 2012 at 21:31 | #15

    John, I would be interested in your views on world war 2.

    the UK and France declared war on germeny because they wanted to fight Hitler before he became too strong.

  16. Daniel
    November 12th, 2012 at 23:54 | #16

    @Ikonoclast

    “Point 1. Civil war is almost always exacerbated by foreign intervention.”

    That’s a rather big sweeping claim. Do you have any evidence or examples?

  17. Jim Rose
    November 13th, 2012 at 05:41 | #17

    @Daniel plenty of civil wars tick over on their own. the civil wars in central africa are an example.

  18. JB Cairns
    November 13th, 2012 at 07:59 | #18

    No Jim, They didn’t declare war on Germany because of that.

  19. Ikonoclast
    November 13th, 2012 at 09:09 | #19

    @Daniel

    The Vietnam war is the example par excellence but we need a little history first. The First Indochina war was fought by the Việt Minh to expel the French colonialists. We note in passing the extreme hypocrisy of the European powers who, on being liberated from the fascist occupation of the Third Reich, immediately re-occupied colonies liberated from the Japanese. The French returned to Indo-China and the Dutch to the “Dutch” East Indies. The French re-occupation of Vietnam was particularly brutal and quintessentially fascist in its treatment of the Vietnamese.

    Following the expulsion of the French, “Vietnam divided politically into two states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy foreign intervention, during the Vietnam War, which ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.” – Wikipedia.

    If China, Russia and the US had not interferred in what was essentially a civil war, the struggle would have been far less protracted and far fewer need have died.

    In general, it is basic logic that if one nation/ethnic group is in-fighting and two or three other big nations join in then the war becomes much bigger and many more people die. Virtually every time the West steps into these ethnic brawls, even when ostensibly doing it “to prevent genocide” it is the case that previous Western meddling (usually oppressive colonialism and the favouring of a puppet rule class) has created the divisions in the first place. It is also usually the case that the West ends up prosecuting a genocide itself as in Vietnam or doing this and creating endless rounds of violence and terror as in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Tribal Border Lands of Pakistan.

    The West should just stay out of all it. However, the real logic is that it is all about oil on the one hand and arms sales and arms profits on the other. The business model is to promote war, division, sectarian violence, insurrection, insurgency and attempted revolution and then sell arms to almost everyone on every side in the conflicts at one time or another. Extra oil is burnt, munitions are consumed and infrastructure destroyed. Re-supplying and re-building all this promotes economic activity and enriches the oligarachic war-profiteering and misery-profiteering capitalists. This is the business model.

    The shame is that we could achieve the same economic boost via aggregate demand by transferring much of the military spending to creating renewable energy infrastructure (saving the world from climate change) and to fields like medicine, education and third world aid. Educating third world women, empowering them and lifting them out of poverty would be the single most effective method of stabilising world population. Well educated women with rights and alternatives usually settle for about two children when confident the children will grow to maturity. This effect is pretty much independent of starting culture and mores.

  20. MG42
    November 13th, 2012 at 09:11 | #20

    Cool, let’s talk some history.

    When Hitler came to power in 1933, he immediately started secretly remilitarising Germany. When he met with minimal objection he openly built up his armed forces from 1935. The other powers, being in the grip of the Great Depression, could not act against this even if they wanted to. The Nazi party was always focused on conquest in the East, with or without an alliance of Western powers. In 1938, with the Anschluss with Austria and the annexation of the Czech Sudetenland, Chamberlain realised that war was inevitable. He pushed for massive government spending in modernising the army and in early 1939 guaranteed the independence of several European nations. At this point the Germans held the strategic advantage – they had been building their army for several years more, had returned to high levels of economic growth with low unemployment, and Allied action was simply not possible due to outdated WW1 static warfare doctrine and the small size of the British army on the Continent. The German declaration of war against Poland in 1939 was a calculated gamble by Hitler and Von Ribbentrop, but this time the Allies held their ground and declared war in return. The Nazis expected the Allies to capitulate to German demands again and the fact they did not was a nasty shock.

  21. Ikonoclast
    November 13th, 2012 at 10:22 | #21

    @MG42

    Well, that’s all orthodox history though incorrect in parts. Not sure what your point is.

    “The other powers, being in the grip of the Great Depression, could not act against this (German re-armament) even if they wanted to.”

    This is incorrect. Germany was in the grip of the Great Depression also. In addition, it the problem of war reparation payments from WW1 and the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler or Hitler’s Party unilaterally ceased reparations and instituted a government directed recovery of the economy. Re-armament and re-building boosted employment and aggregate demand; a classic case of counter-cyclical state spending boosting and re-vitalising the economy. The “allies” could have done this if “they wanted to” and indeed they did do it just a little tardily.

    Just as Napoleon ignored the example of the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden in his Russian invasion (complete with scorched earth tactics by the Russians and a Russian winter, the Great Frost of 1709) so too did Hitler ignore the example of Napoleon. Napoleon too faced scorched earth tactics, Moscow in flames and a bitter winter in the retreat, probably historically the worst winter since 1709. Once again the Russians used scorched earth tactics, this time against the Germans, traded space for time, brought up seemingly endless replacements and recruits from the hinterland and waited for “General Winter” to unleash his stores of snow, hail and ice.

    Fortunately for the rest of us, dictators are always betrayed in the end by their own megalomania and grandiose delusions. They always lose rationality, analytical ability and proper perspective.

    The numbers (military and civilian deaths) show that Russia did most of the heavy lifting in defeating the Third Reich. The Allied contribution to defeating Germany was on this measure a factor of 10 smaller. So much for the self-aggrandizing breast beating of the the US, UK and the Commonwealth. Russia did 9/10 ths of the heavy lifting to defeat Germany and suffered 9/10 ths of the death and sorrow. Strategically, the Allied contribution was important in the M.E. and North Africa and also in the matter of the aerial war, bombing of German production, the D-day invasion and the opening of the western front. The US and UK were prompted by the fear of Soviet Russia occupying all of central Europe and thus began the race for Berlin.

    Japan was a different issue. The Americans did the heavy lifting militarily speaking with able assistance from Australia’s jungle fighters. China and S.E. Asia suffered grievously under Japanese occupation.

  22. JB Cairns
    November 13th, 2012 at 11:59 | #22

    Hitler only increased what was being done previously.
    Remilitarisation wasn’t the main reason for Germany getting to full employment.

    Germany was always going to lose a World War. tooze makes a convincing case that the economy just could not compete.

    Perhaps a better strategy would have been to allow Hitler the Danzig corridor and then allow Germany and the USSR to wage a war which would have depleted both countries.

    no World War and no Iron curtain

  23. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 13th, 2012 at 12:44 | #23

    Of course the assumption that World War II began in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland is far from unproblematic. There is a case that it began in 1937 when Japan invaded China.

  24. Katz
    November 13th, 2012 at 13:24 | #24

    @MG42

    Nope.

    Even in 1940 the French Army was larger than the German Army. Simple magnitude does not explain the Alled catastrophe in France in 1940.

    Germany held a tactical but not strategic advantage over Britain in 1940 by virtue of the German inability to either conquer Britain or to starve it into submission. The latent power of the British Navy enabled Britain to buy time.

    However, it is true to say that Britain almost squandered that strategic advantage by trusting too much in the ability and will of the French to resist the Germans. Only the miracle of Dunkirk saved the British war effort. If 200,000 British troops had been taken prisoner, I doubt that even Churchill could have resisted calls to surrender on terms to Hitler.

  25. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 13th, 2012 at 15:19 | #25

    Katz @24, there is an essay in Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History which discusses the counterfactual scenario of the Germans launching a seaborne offensive and occupying at least south-eastern England had they been able to mop up the BEF at Dunkirk.

  26. Katz
    November 13th, 2012 at 16:14 | #26

    Interesting.

    But I think that the British Cabinet would have rebelled against any dead-ender who proposed fighting on while 200,000 Tommies kicked their heels in German stalags.

    Under those circumstances the Germans would not have found it necessary to hazard an invasion. The Germans would have been happy with a Vichy Britain.

  27. Jim Rose
    November 13th, 2012 at 18:02 | #27

    as I recall, the british and french war aims in 1939 was, in the end, a negotiated peace. I have not seen anything saying what they actually wanted.

  28. rdb
    November 13th, 2012 at 23:15 | #28
  29. November 14th, 2012 at 17:06 | #29

    Pr Q said:

    In my lifetime, Australia has been involved in three long wars, none of which have produced the promised results. In two of them, Iraq and Vietnam, the pretext for war was clearly fraudulent. The overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden, was plausibly justified on grounds of self-defence, but the conduct of the war, and particularly the decision to invade Iraq, ensured that the effort would end in failure, as it has done.

    This is a pretty selective view of post-WWII military history.

    I guess AUS’s close, multi-decade long and successful participation in the Cold War against Soviet Russia and Maoist China does not count as being “involved in a long war”, despite it being called a war and all and waged by means of an Arms Race. And since Pr Q was born (just) after the Korean War this also fails to make the cut, despite producing the most successful new state in post-WWII history. Oh well, (look) who’s counting.

    The Afghanistan War HAS produced “promised results” in that Al Queada-in-Afghanistan has been pretty much destroyed, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan have not been overthrown by Islamist insurgencies and Bin Laden is dead. The Taliban is still hanging around but kind of leery about popping its head up lest it get “droned”. This is not a “failure” if you are prepared to cop a ten year wait and trillion dollar cost.

    I see that the US-UK-AUS prosecution of Iraq War I does not make the cut as a noticeable war, perhaps because it was a “short, victorious war” the dream of all Alpha-male statesmen.

    Iraq war II is to embarrassing to even mention. The Arab people are now doing for free what the US government forked out $3 trillion and maybe one million casualties to get: a Baathist free government.

    The Vietnam war was, in retrospect, worse than a crime it was a mistake. Obviously Ho’s North Vietnam should have been treated more like Tito’s Yugoslavia than Kim what’s his name’s North Korea. But the mistake was a forgiveable one given the (somewhat democratic government of) South Vietnamese’s robust opposition to a communist takeover – which was always the main justification for US intervention and NOT at all “clearly fraudulent”.

  30. November 14th, 2012 at 17:34 | #30

    Pr Q said:

    What is really striking, looking at the recent past, is how much has been achieved by peaceful means…With the aid of Australian peacekeepers, East Timor has made a start on a difficult road out of poverty. Elsewhere in the world from Eastern Europe to South America to the Arab world, seemingly durable dictatorships have collapsed or handed over power, mostly without the intervention of foreign governments.

    In the post-Cold War tree of liberty has been watered with the blood of remarkably few martyrs. I put this down to the key gender trends of post-modern liberalism: feminism (the post-modern female is disinclined to breed plentiful warriors) and financialism (the post-modern Alpha-male prefers to make money, not war).

    More generally, most of these dictatorships were formed during or after WWII in the process of militant nationalisation: defeating fascism, putting down communist insurgencies and or de-colonising the imperialists. But with the defeat of fascism, the withdrawal of imperialism and the collapse of communism the basic justification for military rule gradually disappeared.

    But its striking how many of these dictatorships in Asia, Africa & the America’s fell as a consequence of the end of the Cold War. Once the threat of a communist-backed takeover was removed the higher-status groups (and their US backers) felt confident in allowing civilian rule. So the juntas were sent packing.

    A substantial bit of credit for the West’s bloodless military victory in the Cold War should go to Ronald Reagan and “the intervention of a foreign government”. The US government’s successful prosecution of the Arms Race (which I would NOT call “peaceful means”) was critical in forcing the Soviet Union to forgo the military path to national power, thereby setting in train the peaceful disintegration of the Warsaw Pact. And this is the thanks he gets!

    You can add to that the IDF’s the total defeat or discouragement of the front-line Baathist states, which has more or less discredited the legitimacy of Baathist dictatorships throughout the Arab world. What good are all these generals in power if they can’t beat Israel and wind up lining their own pockets with the oil wealth?

    East Timor could not have been properly liberated without the the insistence and assistance of the US DoD which sent a Marine aircraft carrier to back up INTERFET. This militaristic fact seems to have been flushed down a memory hole.

    Finally, lets not forget economic sanctions, which did their bit in getting rid of Apartheid and also look like they might cause the Ayatollah’s a bit of grief, if the rial tanks even further.

    In general the chicks should get the lion’s share of the credit for the decline in militancy. Post-modern girls just want to have fun and war ain’t much fun.

  31. Katz
    November 14th, 2012 at 17:42 | #31

    South Vietnam never had an election that could remotely be called “democratic”.

    All SVN’s presidents were puppets or clients of the US.

    SVN never established an effective system of taxation.

    SVN’s armed forces were legendary for their corruption, unreliability and pusillanimity.

  32. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 17:58 | #32

    @Katz did north vietnam have free elections?

    Vietnamese resistance to outside domination was just, as was the resistance of South Vietnam to the invasion from the North.

  33. November 14th, 2012 at 19:17 | #33

    Katz @ #31 said:

    South Vietnam never had an election that could remotely be called “democratic”.
    All SVN’s presidents were puppets or clients of the US.
    SVN never established an effective system of taxation.
    SVN’s armed forces were legendary for their corruption, unreliability and pusillanimity.

    Ha! Just when I feel I am getting old and my memory is fading along comes Katz to bring the past back to life with his wind-up doll repetition of Farrago talking points c mid 1970s. Preserved in aspic for the satirical enjoyment of future generations.

    BTW
    SVN at least had competitive political parties, NVN, err…not so much.
    ARVN suffered about 250,000 combat deaths over a period of 20 years fighting. Thats more than 20,000 per annum out of a typical field strength of several hundred thousand. Thats close to a 10% fatality rate per annum. Hardly “pusillanimity”.

  34. Sasan
    November 14th, 2012 at 23:10 | #34

    It seems to me that looking back at those three wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq) the only common point is that the US dragged Australia into them and asked for sacrifices. It is about time that Australia stands on its own and makes decisions not because “America is our friend”, but because something is in our national interest. If we dig enough truth, even the fight in Afghanistan is not justified as Mr. Quiggin suggests: Taliban was the group armed and trained by CIA to fight a holy war against the soviets. Al Qaeda (even if not directly armed by CIA) was just a natural child to this marriage. Now Australia is asked to clean up the mess that Americans made by sacrificing soldiers and money.

    What’s even more troubling, the US is dragging Australia into its war practices with China. Stationing more troops and carries in Australia does not help our security and increases the chance of another Iraq-like conflict.

    Question: Why do we need the US military presence in Australia?
    Answer: Because China might attack us.
    Question: Why would China want to attack us?
    Answer: Because we are hosting the American military.

    Anyway, hoping Australia does not get involved in any other wild adventure.

  35. Katz
    November 14th, 2012 at 23:14 | #35

    Strocchers, clearly too much Knopfelmacher is bad for the neurones.

    The US inflicted heavy, though self-evidently sustainable, casualties on Communist forces.

    The SVN forces were much less impressive.

    Trouble with the US forces, by 1969, they were so drug addled, they couldn’t find their own fundamental with two hands.

    The Communists could run for office in the South in the 1960s because they would have been killed. However, in the 1950s, even Eisenhower admitted that Communists would have won a fair election.

  36. Ronald Wilson Reagan
    November 15th, 2012 at 06:49 | #36

    The North Atlantic island of South Vietnam was completely justified in resisting invasion by the South Pacific island of North Vietnam.

  37. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 15th, 2012 at 07:04 | #37

    But seriously…

    North Vietnam and South Vietnam were not like the Israelis and Palestinians today, nor like the Serbs and the Croats, nor like the Sinhalese and the Tamils, nor even like the Flemings and Walloons or the English and the Scots.

    The state of South Vietnam was not the product of an authentic, popular South Vietnamese national movement expressing the distinct national identity and national aspirations of a South Vietnamese people. It was an entirely artificial creation of Cold War geopolitics.

    Ask yourselves: is there, and has there ever been, a South Vietnamese independence/autonomy movement, today or at any time since 1975?

  38. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 15th, 2012 at 07:07 | #38

    For that matter, if the Japanese imperialists had made it as far as the Brisbane-Perth line in the 1940s, would we not snort derisively at Japanese claims of the justice of subsequent Queensland “resistance” to south-eastern Australian “aggression”?

  39. Katz
    November 15th, 2012 at 08:04 | #39

    Yep, the actual status of the government of South Vietnam was established by the fact the Bob Menzies neglected to inform It that Australia had resolved to send troops to save it!

  40. David Irving (no relation)
    November 15th, 2012 at 10:36 | #40

    Jack, I was around in the 60s as well. My recollection of events in and about Vietnam accords with Katz’ and Bring back Birdy’s rather than yours. I think your memory is failing you.

  41. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    November 15th, 2012 at 12:38 | #41

    Then again, as the saying goes, if you remember the 60s you weren’t part of it. :-)

  42. David Irving (no relation)
    November 15th, 2012 at 14:51 | #42

    I remember bits of it, Bring back Birdy.

  43. Jim Rose
    November 15th, 2012 at 14:56 | #43
  44. November 15th, 2012 at 15:15 | #44

    “After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a chance Australia might finally be at peace next Armistice Day”

    Looking less likely now that Israel has started indiscriminate slaughter in Gaza, again.

  45. Mel
    November 15th, 2012 at 16:27 | #45

    Bring Back Birdy at Catallaxy:

    “Ask yourselves: is there, and has there ever been, a South Vietnamese independence/autonomy movement, today or at any time since 1975?”

    Paul, the truth is more complicated than you suggest. There is certainly still an affinity for the South and you see it in the Vietnamese trading strips in Melbourne when South Vietnamese flags line the streets on commemorative occasions. A couple of months ago I attended a Vietnamese festival at Sandown Park in Springvale, Melbourne with my Vietnamese wife. Australian Vietnam veterans were there and were being lauded over a loud speaker as heroes while folk young and old were lining up to have their photos taken with them. Interestingly, many Vietnam vets have Vietnamese wives and even speak Vietnamese.

    Nonetheless, I think opposition to communism and the poverty with which it is associated is stronger than the affinity for the old South. Since Vietnam (unofficially) embraced capitalism the economy is going gangbusters and consequently hostility towards the Hanoi regime has greatly reduced. Today you will even see young Vietnamese on facebook use the national communist flag as their moniker. Such a display of acceptance of the current reality would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

  46. Mel
    November 15th, 2012 at 16:29 | #46

    caught in mod, John. Ta.

  47. Jim Rose
    November 15th, 2012 at 19:00 | #47

    @Megan I sure it was an oversight on your part to also condemn Hamas for firing 100 missiles into Israel this week randomly at civilians.

  48. Jim Rose
    November 15th, 2012 at 19:06 | #48

    @Megan missing word: I sure it was an oversight on your part to also NOT condemn Hamas for firing 100 missiles into Israel this week randomly at civilians.

  49. November 15th, 2012 at 20:29 | #49

    No oversight.

    I was talking about the nuclear-armed, multi-billion dollar US funded and armed war machine attacking Gaza.

    I didn’t “condemn” anything. I observed that Australia is now far more likely to be still involved in war this time next year.

    Sadly, this killing has just claimed 3 Israelis as well as the 30 or so Palestinians killed today.

    You keep playing your games, scoring your points, jumping at strawmen and so on – the rest of the world is moving on.

  50. Fran Barlow
    November 15th, 2012 at 21:29 | #50

    Israel has a simple option if it wants peace. Accept the 1967 borders. Dismantle the wall or move it onto their territory. Give the Palestinians East Jerusalem. Dismantle the illegal settlements. End the blockade.

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