Ancient History

by wjw on February 14, 2008

Socrates, Caesar, Milton, Washington. Hitler.

The cold war.

Thai McGreivy February 15, 2008 at 5:01 am

So true! The only constant really does seem to be change itself.

Will Sci Fi become a relic of the past?

Dave Bishop February 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Seems like we’re doomed to repeat history, then! The ‘wilful ignorance’ of the young scares me – I can’t believe that it is in any way a good thing.

Thai McGreivy February 15, 2008 at 8:06 pm

May as well argue with a molecule of water for existing: it is what it is!

We live in a fractal world, only most of us don’t see it.

Tarl Neustaedter February 16, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Any recommendations on books which cover the fall of the Warsaw pact and the USSR? I lived through it, but I was so busy being boggled and living through it that I didn’t comprehend much of what was going on at the time. Now that it’s (boggle) 18 years in the past, it sounds like a good time to find a retrospective to make sense of it all.

S.M. Stirling February 18, 2008 at 6:03 am

The Cold War was basically the latter part of the Short Twentieth Century — 1914-1991.

This is a fairly unified (and ghastly) period of history; the “Time of Troubles” of Western Civilization, during which the nation-states fought for the throne of the world.

He Who Walks On All Fours February 18, 2008 at 12:49 pm

You know, being one of the “willfully ignorant” Amer’can youth, I must point out the seemingly willful ignorance of the Amer’can old who, despite living through Vietnam and seeing where colonial wars lead, sent their children into the cesspool of a war that is Iraq.

This after their parents, having survived the hells of Europe, the Pacific, and Korea, sent them into Vietnam.

Hardly a generational thing, I think. Humans are just morons as a general rule. No doubt the Iraq generation will grow up and send its children into some other country to bleed and die.

History’s already repeating, and has been for a long time.

Synova February 18, 2008 at 7:00 pm

That’s interesting. Perhaps we can think of an Historical precedent that worked better. Ghandi seems to have suggested that no one should have fought against the holocaust either, because the Germans would have eventually gotten tired of killing Jews and if everyone had just let that progression work it’s way through the world would be a better place.

S.M. Stirling February 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

If there’s one thing you can _absolutely_ count on, it’s that there will always be another war.

War is the natural, default state. “Peace” is a hypothetical condition we deduce from the fact that there are intervals between wars.(*)

The only real ‘lesson’ is ‘don’t lose’.

As it was in the begining, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

(*) according to the latest findings of forensic archaeology, before the invention of the State war was low-level but continuous and most human males (and a large proportion of females) died by violence.

Foxessa February 18, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Ah the attitude of jingoist armchair warriors is ever that.

Glenn Greenwald provided an excellent description of that sort yesterday in his The Fun and Excitement of Civilization Wars (fought from afar).

You can see it here.

Love, C.

John February 18, 2008 at 10:41 pm

It always boggles my mind when American Liberals babble on about the advanced attitudes and world views of Euros. This of course only reinforces my notion that Liberalism requires the complete absence of knowledge of reality.

I say this on the Eve of WW3. Stupid Euros trying to defend the “rights” of illegal Muslim immigrants to steal a portion of another country, Serbia. Sure the Serbians aren’t a really sympathetic bunch, but it’s still their country.

Those of us who’ve actually studied history have seen this road before, it’s the same road the Euros took to WW1 and WW2.

True the Euros willful ignorance of their own history will come back to bite them again and again and it’s time we American sit back and let them hang themselves.

For all their Vaunted education system and culture of social responsibility they’ve given up their Personal responsibility to the Socialist state. The Euros don’t know how to say No to their own Ideology.

So off to war they go to Defend Muslims who would happily destroy their society and culture.

In a year from now we’ll be thanking the Dumb Ass for getting us mired in Iraq so we won’t be able to get mixed up in another European act of stupidity.

Tarl Neustaedter February 19, 2008 at 6:20 am

Err, Illegal immigrants?

The moslem populace of Kosovo dates back to the Ottoman Empire. More recently, they were legally there under communist Yugoslavia, when borders didn’t exist between the Croat, Serb, Slovenian, Albanian and other ethnic groups.

The reason external intervention occurred was because when the Serbians lost control of all of Yugoslavia, they tried ethnic cleansing in the areas they had left. The EU (and other nations) preferred to see a new nation than a massacre.

Synova February 19, 2008 at 6:35 am

I already read the Glenn Greenwald piece. It was a whole lot of “they’re just all exited to have a pretend thing to fight against and feel superior about” while missing entirely that the other half of things is all excited to have something to fight against and feel superior about.

Pots and kettles and all that.

I’m all for alternatives to war, frankly, but don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the idea that I’m the center of the universe and that my preference for “not war” is somehow a determinative force.

dubjay February 19, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Illegal immigrants? The Muslims’ ancestors have been there for hundreds of years: both the Serbs and the Turks tried to push them out on various occasions, and failed.

The Serbs haven’t been a majority in Kosovo since the Middle Ages, if then. The only reason Kosovo was annexed to modern Serbia in the first place was that Serbia was on the winning side in a number of wars in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As for the “Muslims who would destroy their culture,” the Kosovar and Bosnian Muslims are thoroughly Westernized already, and furthermore are a part of the Turkish Muslim tradition, which is a good deal more relaxed than the Wahhabists who, say, fly large aircraft into buildings.

We should also note that among those supporting the Kosovars’ right to self-determination is noted anti-Muslim crusader George Bush. (Who is not, so far as I can determine, a Socialist.)

That said, I don’t know how to fix Kosovo and I doubt that anyone else does, either. I do know that a new Balkan war isn’t going to help anybody, so the current policy of sitting on all parties until they promise not to shoot each other might well be the best available.

I’m not sure how Socialism is supposed to have so corrupted Europe that they can’t perceive a threat, unless universal health care is supposed to somehow moral fiber. (In which case third-world countries with an infant mortality of 35% are clearly our moral superiors.)

We’ve got governments of the right in Paris and Berlin. And, to judge from the cries of old-tyme Labour supporters, the current British government is right-wing as well. (And of course it was the right-wing Jacques Chirac who told Bush to piss up a rope.)

The reason that Europe doesn’t work is that it isn’t Europe in the same way that Russia is Russia or that the USA is the USA.

Europe is an association of nation-states. It’s a committee. Getting it to do anything other than write many pages of new and exciting regulations is more than we can expect.

For Europe to act at all, it needs someone else pointing the way. Which, since 1945, is us.

Thai McGreivy February 20, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Have any of you read any Niall Ferguson: most notably The War of The World.

Dave Bishop February 21, 2008 at 10:54 am

I’ve read Niall Ferguson’s ‘The War of the World’ recently. The idea it advances that the 20th Century was one long ‘racial’ war is chilling and convincing.

I was also shocked by the suggestion that the Kosovo Albanians are “illegal Muslim immigrants” – an outrageous suggestion on several counts!

Thai McGreivy February 21, 2008 at 2:57 pm

@ D.B. agreed, the book is both chilling and hard to disagree with.

@ tarl, War of the World is not specifically what you are looking for, but is related. It has given me a better understand of what is going on in the world today.

@ john, are you being outrageous or do you literally mean everything you wrote? And where does liberal vs. conservative come into this?

Muslim immigration to Europe is not the issue, but I may agree with you if you are implying that the lifestyle freedoms many europeans currently enjoy MAY be at risk in a future Europe where the new majority does not tolerate current lifestyle freedoms.

But this is not a muslim immigrant issue, this is a ‘my way or the highway’ problem, which is universal. Heck, SOME white Christians in America want to do exactly the same thing. I am sure there are intolerate athiests out there (Stalin?)

Ferguson’s War of The World make chillingly clear the most malevolent of all ‘ideologies’ is democratic ethnic nationalism with self determination.

I think Kathleen most eloquently hit the nail on the head the other day when she wrote in dubjays’s posting Audience Participation)… “I think the problem is less religion than the mindset of certainty.

We should all fear the person who can’t live with anyone other than himself; it is only a matter of time before he comes for you.

And sadly, we may sometimes need to go to war with that person to protect our freedoms. But hopefully not too often!


dubjay February 21, 2008 at 9:06 pm

I haven’t read WAR OF THE WORLD, but I’ve read THE PITY OF WAR.

I gather that the former makes the claim that most the wars of the 20th century were essentially racist in origin. It’s an interesting idea, but remain unconvinced that the racial difference between the Germans and the French, say, or the Germans and the English, can quite explain all the slaughter.

Nor does it explain the late Bosnian conflict, where the Bosnians Muslims and Serbs spoke the same language and were racially indistinguishable from one another.

But I haven’t read the book, so perhaps I shouldn’t argue against the thesis without a better acquaintance.

I had some problems with THE PITY OF WAR, however. There was some terrific historical research in there, lots of cool stuff surfacing about the First World War, but I was a little wary of his thesis that the British and the Germans were moral equivalents because the British vaguely considered a pre-emptive invasion of Belgium before the Germans rolled in.

The British gave some thought to invading a neutral country and never did it; the Germans planned the invasion for years ahead of time and then carried it out, and all for the purpose of better and more efficiently invading =France.=

I see no moral equivalency here.

Thai McGreivy February 21, 2008 at 10:28 pm

I take you are not recommending The Pity of War? I have never read it.

The War of The World’s central thesis is most definitely NOT that most wars were racist in origin.

The book talks a lot about how racism was a meme that followed on the heels of popular pseudoscientific eugenic theories that swept the world in the late 19th century. These memes played a large role in fueling ideas of ethinic self determination and further explained a lot of the viscousness of nineteenth/twentieth century conflict.

But Ferguson does not see racism as the underlying cause of the wars of the twentieth century. That honor he ascribes to plain old economics: the relative economic decline of europeans from their 1890 zenith combined with the simulataneous tremendous rate of growth of every economy in the world after 1890 (Europe grew fast, but The East grew even faster).

The conflict was something like a IV act play, with the first and second world wars representing acts II and III. Act I was the expansion of Japan against Russia (in fact, it was the humiliation Russians felt over loosing that conflict which played no small part in their desire to defend Serbia against Austria). Act IV was the Korean War.

dubjay February 21, 2008 at 10:54 pm

I liked THE PITY OF WAR quite a bit. But you have to read it with the same skeptical eye required for any NEW!!! CONTROVERSIAL!!! INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY!!!

Ferguson also included a long “counterfactual” section— what we in the SF world would call alternate history— which is of interest to such as us.

My take on WAR OF THE WORLD was generated by reading dozens of reviews that all repeated the “war is about racism” trope. If the actual argument is more sophisticated than that, I’d be much more likely to give the book a read.

Thai McGreivy February 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm

It is more sophisticated than that.

I think the racism angle is the most shocking element of the book (he does not pull any punches) so (I am making this up here) many people may focus on that aspect of it.

But the underlying argument he makes is an economic one. Economics mixed with all kinds of memes.

Dave Bishop, do you agree?

Dave Bishop February 22, 2008 at 9:25 am

Dear thai,

Yes, I agree. I realise now that I probably should have expanded more on the premises underlying Ferguson’s book – that the causes of the wars of the 20th Century were collapse of empires, economic instability and the rise of spurious racial theories – which gave most of these wars a racist character.

I was trying to do a brief summary, off the top of my head, and ended up rather trivialising the books main arguments – I stand corrected – sorry!

halojones-fan February 28, 2008 at 11:13 pm

“…who, despite living through Vietnam and seeing where colonial wars lead, sent their children into the cesspool of a war that is Iraq.”

Ah yes, the very popular “Iraq = Vietnam” argument. The only evidence typically advanced is that people died in Vietnam and now they’re dying in Iraq, and WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW MAN PEOPLE ARE DYING DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND PEOPLE ARE DYING PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!!!!!!

It’s hardly a surprise to see so many people think this way, though; the Boomers, in their desparate attempts to cling to social relevance, can’t stop rubbing our noses in Vietnam. Everything is about Vietnam, everything is a Vietnam allegory or a Vietnam similarity or a Vietnam callback or a failure to learn the lessons of Vietnam, Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam. It’s almost like they’d been drafted instead of going to college and joining the Peace Corps.

John March 11, 2008 at 10:22 pm


Most of my comments are given with a large dose of Sarcasm.

The illegal Muslim problem is my sarcastic comment about how Euro’s have historically turned on their minority populations and outlawed them, no matter how long they’ve been part of the community.

The facade of European tolerance has emboldened the more Activist Muslim community, which is a bad move on their part. They like the Jews have a tendency to stand out. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the notion of the Nail that stands out. And we know how the Euros dealt with the Jews.

The Cold War, the Holocaust, Facisim, Churchill,,, all some long ago myth.vqcvap

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