a memorial for today?
History has a way of repeating itself. In 1938, three countries joined forces in an alliance to expand their empires, using a totalitarian form of government plus a false sense of national (tribal) pride. This, along with coercion, misinformation through repeated propaganda, and force allowed them to successfully pursue their goals with very little internal or external interference. The axis of power formed by Germany, Italy, and Japan was ready to put in motion events that would change the world. Their motives were stimulated and deeply ingrained following the horrors of World War I by the treaty of Versailles. All three felt slighted by the primary allies in power, Great Britain and the United States and all three had new visions of grandeur based on conquest and meeting their needs through force if necessary. Russia, which had been re-invented as the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) thanks to German help with funding for the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, descended into its own form of a modified totalitarism with its own ideas of empire building. While engaged on two fronts during WWI, Germany realized that promoting internal strife within Russia would end any threat from the east, thus eliminating one of the fronts in a war that was becoming increasingly difficult to pursue. This opened the doors to a multitude of internal and external conflicts of interest that would soon clash in Europe and spill over elsewhere to the rest of the world. Global strife was again looming on the horizon.
Before WWI, Great Britain, which had gained worldwide prominence through a philosophy of international imperialism and a desire to take western civilization and religion abroad, and the United States with its own form of single continent imperialism and desires to spread the ideals of democracy, were easily distracted by self interests and desires to return to peacetime pursuits. Having tired of war, the western world was content with internal expansion aand the building of infrastructure with new roads, bridges and housing. In order to pay for these endeavors, military budgets were slashed by 50% or more. Surely the rest of the world was tired of war too! This was seen by the axis powers as a weakness that could be tested and possibly exploited.
In Italy, Mussolini was the first to realize the long term possibilities of world dominance by a fascist regime by invading and conquering Ethiopia in short order. Hitler took notice of the lack of response by the world and followed suit by invading the Rhineland, reclaiming German territory lost as part of the war reparations outlined in the Treaty of Versailles. When French and British troops put in place after Versailles simply withdrew rather than holding Germany accountable to the terms of the treaty, the table was set for future aggressive expansion with nothing more than letters of discontent or attempts at appeasement from Britain or the U.S. Meanwhile Japan, in need of more resources for a growing population contained on a finite amount of land, began its own form of imperialism in the Pacific, following the example set by western countries centuries ago. Japan, an isolated society that avoided western influences, now embraced the tactic needed for empire building. Economic reprisals did little to convince the Japanese that Imperial expansion was no longer acceptable among civilized societies to meet their needs.
Appeasement and ignoring aggression set the stage for another World War. Although peaceful coexistence among all governments is desireable and even coveted, it is not now nor will it ever be a realistic goal as long as disparity exists between countries. Those disparities can never be resolved simply because of geophysical and cultural differences that exist worldwide. Some countries have an abundance of natural resources while others have wide expanses of land or strategic locations. International trade and treaties help resolve some of those differences, but can never totally resolve the disparity nor overzealous national pride or religious fanaticism that occasionally drives the leaders of a 'tribe' to the point of aggression, or to the other extreme, total pacification to avoid conflict. Neither extreme has a history of long term success.
What can this history of world events teach us ? It should reveal the simple fact that "wanting" world peace is desireable, yet will likely always be unattainable in a world that consists of many 'tribes' (nations), each with their individual cultures, identities and goals. Would a 'One World Order' be the answer ? Perhaps a better question would be what method of coercion short of force could be used to convince the vast array of nations to agree on one form of government, one religion, one language, one set of laws, one form of monetary exchange ? Maybe a worldwide threat of other world alien invasion....or a worldwide pandemic.....
Idealistic thinking of a Utopian society might have been rational 10,000 years ago as the earliest societies evolved, but as witnessed throughout written history, never took hold due to differences in demgraphics, cultures and available resources. Every Utopian society eventually fell prey to the whims of an individual who took control as a totalitarian ruler using brute force or intimidation to indoctrinate a society with a specific ideology. Russia (or the USSR depending on exact decades being discussed ) remains the prime example of imperial expansion, resulting in increased inequities between social classes leading to social unrest followed by a socialist revolution which in turn led to a society of 'equality' or communism for wealth redistribution, returning then to totalitarian rule of a dictator, king, emperor or czar. This is the same sequence of events that we now seem to be witnessing. Only the names of the 'tribes' involved have changed.
At present, only one (of two) form of government has proven to have a modicum of success with larger populations consisting of many 'tribes' of varying bakgrounds. That form of government, a democratic republic (or the cantons of Switzerland), allows for all citizens of all tribes to choose individual representatives of each tribe with one overall titular head being answerable to the representatives and the doctrine of 'rule of law'. However, even with these governments, difficulties increase as populations grow and individual tribes failing to assimilate, exhibit greater differences in social, religious, economic and cultural backgrounds. Yet we now see even that succesful model under attack by the overly aggressive, the pacifist, the censors and those that prefer being led (like Austria in WWII) rather than working to maintain independence through unity of purpose. We see class warfare being promoted using income disparity, perceived racial inequality, and even religious or political differences to further separate and isolate 'tribes' within a society forging the way for one ideology to coerce, or even force, all others to accept their leadership without question.
Armed conflict among developed nations may be a thing of the past as it is being replaced by a newer, more subtle method of coercion, that being social shaming, guilt, and modification of education to fit an agenda. The very tool successfully used in the past, propaganda, has now been perfected as a more effective weapon than stones, arrows or bullets. Just as no pure monarchy, socialist or communist society on a large scale of more than several thousand individuals has ever survived for long, likewise, no pure democracy on a similar scale can exist. The one of two sytems that has the best chance for a world of large disparate tribes or societies remains the democratic republic. The other, a system of cantons under a central democracy, is a realistic option and is successful in smaller populations. Perhaps it is even the government of choice for evolving societies. Remove dissenting opinions from any chosen government model or censor the open exchange of thought and the collapse of those systems is inevitable as we have witnessed time and again throughout written history. Perhaps theseare the things history should teach us and upon which we should reflect on Memorial Day.
It is hoped that after reading this essay, one will reflect on the words that have the greatest, and gravest, meanings...words like aggression, appeasement, propaganda, coercion, censorship, individualism, and phrases that include internal strife, economic reprisal, class warfare, military preparedness, strategic locations, and natural resources. All should be considered in the context of what we are experiencing in this century in hopes of not making the mistakes of the last century.