Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day, 1918

What's all this hubbub and yelling, Commotion and scamper of feet, With ear-splitting clatter of kettles and cans, Wild laughter down Mafeking Street?
O, those are the kids whom we fought for (You might think they'd been scoffing our rum) With flags that they waved when we marched off to war In the rapture of bugle and drum.
Now they'll hang Kaiser Bill from a lamp-post, Von Tirpitz they'll hang from a tree.... We've been promised a 'Land Fit for Heroes'--- What heroes we heroes must be!
And the guns that we took from the Fritzes, That we paid for with rivers of blood, Look, they're hauling them down to Old Battersea Bridge Where they'll topple them, souse, in the mud!

But there's old men and women in corners With tears falling fast on their cheeks, There's the armless and legless and sightless--- It's seldom that one of them speaks.

And there's flappers gone drunk and indecent Their skirts kilted up to the thigh, The constables lifting no hand in reproof And the chaplain averting his eye....
When the days of rejoicing are over, When the flags are stowed safely away, They will dream of another wild 'War to End Wars' And another wild Armistice day.
But the boys who were killed in the trenches, Who fought with no rage and no rant, We left them stretched out on their pallets of mud Low down with the worm and the ant.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Afghantsy: The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan

When the Red Army invaded Afghanistan to ensure that a pro-Soviet socialist regime remained in power in 1979, observers in the West assumed that it would follow the pattern provided by interventions in Eastern Europe during the 1960’s.  After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev decreed that no socialist state allied with the Soviet Union would be allowed to either change its form of government, or change its alliances.  This led to Soviet-backed interventions in Ethiopia, Aden, Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia to support Marxist regimes.  This doctrine combined with Afghanistan’s shared border with the Soviet Union set the stage for armed intervention in favor of the government led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.  What the Soviet Union and the world did not anticipate was a decade-long struggle between the Red Army and insurgents, resulting in heightened tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The geo-political consequences of the war in Afghanistan are well documented, as are changes in Soviet combat tactics, the muhahedin resistance, and the United States’ role in supply arms and supplies to resistance groups fighting against the Soviet Union.  Less understood, particularly in the West, is the experience of Soviet soldiers and civilian personnel who served in Afghanistan due to conscription or as volunteers.  Soldiers and civilians alike experienced privation and horror for their nation.  Unlike the heroes of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany, they returned home garner the scorn and disdain of fellow Soviets, and a lack of medical care and veterans’ assistance.  Not only did the Afghantsy not win their war on behalf of the Motherland, but the fact they were even fighting was hidden from the public until 1983, four years after the war began.  As Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, or openness, took hold and the Soviet public learned more about the war, the rationale for fighting became a subject of debate.  Ultimately, the Afghantsy found themselves outcasts among their own people.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From Pacifism to War in the Name of Christian Love: The Ideology of the First Crusade

The combination of military force and Christianity affected both Christianity and the shape of the world at large after the Emperor Constantine ordered his troops to mark their shields with the Chi Rho symbol of Christianity at the battle of Milvian Bridge.  With this example conflicting with the apparent renunciation of violence found in the New Testament, Augustine of Hippo published his doctrine of Just War as guidelines for Christians called to render military service or defend their homes.  The belief that Christians could rightly take up arms had a lasting impact on the development of European civilization and its interactions with the wider world.  Relying on Augustine’s doctrine, Christians fought to defend themselves from outsiders, launched the Crusades to the Holy Land, and engaged in wars among themselves. 

When later theologians further refined Augustine’s understanding of the circumstances under which Christians might use force, they armed themselves against each other in conflicts over political and religious dominion.  President George W. Bush invoked an ideology derived from Christian ideology of Just War in launching the invasion of Iraq, and worsened American relations with the people of the Middle East by calling for a “Crusade” against Islamist terrorism.  Since the combination of Christianity and arms continues to play a significant, even dominant role in the world, it is necessary to revisit the development of Western European Christian theology regarding the use of force through the Pope Urban II’s call in 1095 for the First Crusade.

The effort to lay ground rules for the just prosecution is an ancient one.  In The Republic Plato illustrates the early Greek view of proper warfare.  He argues that soldiers should kill only combatants, leaving women, children, and the elderly unscathed.  He also contends that armies should refrain from destroying homes, as this would create undo hardship for those remaining after the war is over.  He limits these protections only to Greeks.  Non-Greeks might face a harsher form of warfare when they fought Greeks.[1]  Building from Plato’s work, Aristotle extended the doctrine of proper warfare to include acceptable reasons for engaging in war.  He believed defense, revenge, helping allies, seeking new resources for the polis, or to maintain power over subject peoples were all valid justifications for war.[2]

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Periodizing the Military Revolution Debate

The debate over the Military Revolution in early modern Europe, which developed out of Michael Roberts’ seminal article, is in many ways a debate over the proverbial chicken and the egg. Which came first: the growth of states, or changes in warfare.  On the side of state formation is the argument that states had already begun to attempt to centralize functions and improve taxation as early as the First Crusade of the Twelfth century, while those who argue that military change drove governments to centralize and grow usually argue that the need to support large armies using gunpowder weapons was responsible. To argue for a specific periodization is to choose a side in the greater debate.

Michael Roberts initially argued that the European art of war was radically transformed between 1560-1660, largely due to the effects of military changes introduced by Maurice of Orange and Gustavus Adolphus.  Both leaders introduced linear musket tactics that dramatically reduced the percentage of pikes used by their armies, relying on the shock of massed musket fire.  To increase the number of weapons firing at the same time, Roberts argued, musketeers were arranged in lines five or six ranks deep, with the front row firing and filing back to reload while waiting their turn to fire again.  These tactics were allegedly based on Maurice of Orange’s interpretation of Roman infantry tactics as presented by Vegetius.  Gustavus Adolphus’ contribution to this tactical innovation was to have his infantry lines advance when firing rather than remaining in static positions.  For this to work, the musketeers had to repeatedly drill in order to quickly load and fire their weapons at the same interval, and on command, which required a larger number of junior officers and non-commissioned officers to give orders and boost morale.  The need for larger armies, for drill, and for standardized weapons, according to Roberts, forced early modern states to develop the bureaucracies needed to pay troops, provide supplies, and to provide training areas.  In Roberts’ opinion, the military revolution of the Thirty Years’ War led to the development of the modern state.

The concept of the Military Revolution drew critique and support from many sources.  Clifford Rogers argues that by placing the time period for the military revolution after 1500 obscures what he considered the truly dramatic changes in European warfare that occurred during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453).  Fourteenth century armies, which were dominated by heavy cavalry who fought to capture their opponents (gaining both glory and ransom), were completely different from those than conquered the globe beginning in the Fifteenth century.  Commoners armed with missile weapons, who fought to kill their enemies, dominated the later armies. Rogers traces these changes to the Hundred Years’ War in France, which he contends witnessed two military revolutions: an infantry revolution and an artillery revolution.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Who Started the Cold War - A Historiographical Approach

In We Now Know, Gaddis, who had previously argued that the Cold War was the result of complex factors acting on both sides of the Cold War struggle, argued that after reading translated documents available from former-Soviet archives for a short time in 1992-1193 that as long as Stalin led the Soviet Union that the Cold War could not be avoided, thus, the long conflict was Stalin’s fault.  According to Gaddis, Stalin’s post-war strategy required the Soviet Union to develop nuclear weapons, dominate Eastern Europe, and foment revolutions throughout the Third World.  Gaddis further argued that Stalin pursued this course for ideological reasons, and that American policymakers had little choice to resist.  In this analysis, George Kennan’s policy of containment and the Truman doctrine represent the earliest and most obvious examples of American resistance to Stalin’s plans, and were taken at the request of other nations who requested American protection leading the United States to develop a democratic sort of empire.

Over the course of the Cold War, Gaddis contends, the United States tragically overestimated the need to defend its credibility in Guatemala and Vietnam, spent too much on nuclear weapons, and allowed the focus of Cold War competition to shift to the numbers of nuclear weapons each side possessed after the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Although the Soviet system had started to collapse early in the Cold War, Gaddis believed that the shift made the Soviet Union more dangerous than it really was, a technicality that many analysts missed after 1963 because the bipolar system kept them from examining multidimensional aspects of power like economic factors.

            Gaddis is seemingly joined in his apparent revival of orthodox or traditional Cold War historiography by Vladislov Zubok, Constantine Pleshakov, Vojtech Mastny, and Mark Mazower, who argue that Stalin was ultimately responsible for the Cold War for reasons including his desire for security, ideology, and misunderstanding potential Western responses to his actions and goals.  Zubok and Pleshakov provide an inside account of the Soviet role in the Cold War through the Cuban Missile Crisis that focuses on the human element of the Cold War.  They argue that Stalin’s poor statesmanship and false expectations, especially regarding his attempts to pull Germany into the Communist camp, caused the Cold War.  They believe that Stalin stumbled into the conflict rather than planning it, though he expected renewed war with capitalist countries within 25 years of the end of World War II, and was surprised when his activities kept the West United against him rather than ending up in conflict with one another as Leninist ideology said they should.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

France's post-War Struggle to Maintain International Prestige

In the post-war world, France has struggled to maintain and regain its position of international prominence, which was diminished following both of the Twentieth century’s world wars.  The experience of defeat, occupation, and liberation left France to participate in the post-war reorganization of Europe only at the invitation of the United States and Great Britain.  Its major post-war concerns were to ensure that it maintained a major role in Europe, her autonomy, and through 1962 preserving it Empire. 

Relationships with German and the United States dominated French diplomatic and Foreign Policy concerns for the duration of the Cold War.  According to Helga Haftendorn, France worked in triumvirate, or a “strategic triangle”, from 1965-1995 with the goals of maintaining a close working relationship with Germany and balancing the power of the United States to preserve France’s freedom of action on the world stage.  During the 1950s, France focused developing ties with Germany as part of its efforts at reconciliation.  The goal in fostering close relations was to integrate Germany into the West European economic and security system and guarantee American protection from both Germany and the Soviet Union.  France still attempted to develop a global role, but had to do that within the context of its relationships with Germany and the United States.  The initial steps toward this can be seen in the development of the European Coal and Steel Community as developed by the Schumann Plan of 1950 and the efforts of Jean Monnet.  The end result of the beginnings of the ECSC was to lay the groundwork for later European integration in the EEC.

According to John Gillingham, the ECSC worked to provide peaceful access to the resources of the Ruhr, which he believes was one of the major issues leading to World War I and World War II.  What was needed was a way to reconcile both French and German need for resources while restoring the international system of payments, allowing trade.  Monnet’s solution was a supranational agency that integrated the German economy into the West and made it the guardian of West European progressivism, and satisfying French economic and Security concerns.

The Ruhr was especially important to France and the low countries because while German industry had modernized by the war, industries in occupied Europe had not been.  The ECSC got Germany to subsidize mines in Belgium, allowed imports of coal, and encouraged German cartels to allocate markets to other ECSC members when it could not meet demand for industrial products.  The ECSC and Schumann Plans were just the first stage of European integration, and when Great Britain turned out unable (or unwilling) to lead the way in Europe, the United States partnered with France to lead Europe.  De Gaulle had begun to press for a special relationship with the United States like that enjoyed by Great Britain as early as 1947, with later consequences for its relationship when it failed to do so, even within the context of NATO.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Major Technological Developments Facing Navies, 1800-2000

The past two centuries produced three key technologies that radically altered the nature of naval warfare: steam power, the submarine, and the airplane.  Naval technologies with important, but lesser effects on the nature of naval warfare include missile technology, nuclear weapons, and iron/steel armor.  Of these, the submarine and nuclear weapons seem to have played the largest role in radically changing how the world’s navies viewed naval strategy.  We can see these technologies at play most clearly in the naval arms races of the Nineteenth century and the major wars of the Twentieth century. 

The development of steam power was the earliest of these technologies because it showed that the Royal Navy might be unable to defend England from invasion across the English Channel, and would also be unable to conduct close blockades of ports on the continent, as it had done during the Napoleonic Wars.  Eric grove argues that because steam ships could navigate without reference to the wind, they could take routes and land at points that the Royal Navy would not be able to predict.  The Crimean War showed the possibilities of steam-powered vessels (and the deficiencies of British ships) as French ships equipped with high horsepower steam engines easily navigated the passage of the Dardanelles against the wind.

C.I. Hamilton argues that the steam power and focus on torpedoes by the jeune ecole played a key role in the Anglo-French Naval arms race from the time of the Eastern Crisis of 1839/40 through the 1860s.  France also developed steam-powered torpedo boats to prevent the Royal Navy from using a close blockade against French ports in the case of war. This was part of a French attempt to change the nature of naval war away from the emphasis on large fleet actions in the face of a larger British fleet.  Steam technology led France to develop doctrines of ramming, commerce raids, amphibious landings, and coastal defense as opposed to large clashes at sea.