Timeline to the next war?

Roberta posed an interesting question this morning, and answered it.

Y’know what the upper-limit boundary to the time between really honkin’ big wars is?  The lifespan of the participants in the previous one.  Seriously, check your history books.  Oh, you’ll get a few outliers and there’s regional variations, but about the time the bulk of the guys who fought amidst massive loss of life are dead, another opportunity to look at people’s inside on a large scale comes along.

There’s more at the link.

Earthbound Misfit picked up the ball.

War is a messy business. A war between nations who possess nuclear weapons and the means to attack with them anywhere on Earth may turn out very badly, indeed. And then, it is not uncommon for famine to follow war like a ragged stepchild. If nuclear weapons are widely used, a global famine is almost a certainty, a famine that no amount of “prepping” will ensure survival from its effects. Not to mention that when things break down like that, disease is almost certain.

But the Russians have almost forgotten the suffering of the Great Patriotic War, suffering that was severe enough to deter the leaders of the Soviet Union from getting into a general war. The Chinese have almost forgotten the massive suffering of their civil war and the second Sino-Japanese War. As for our own warhawks, the oceanic moats have kept the effects of war away from our soil for 150 years (200 years since foreign armies trod on our soil). But the oceans will not keep ICBMs away. If nuclear weapons are indeed used, only a starry-eyed fool would believe that there would be any distinction drawn between “tactical” and “strategic” nuclear uses.

It takes all sides to a potential conflict to keep the peace and work things out. It only takes one side to start a war.

Again, more at the link.

I think both of them are absolutely correct.  There are so few people in our society today with personal, halitosis-range experience of battle, bloodshed and death that to most of us, war’s become more of a sanitized Hollywood entertainment image than the horrific ghastliness it really is.  Relative to the whole of the society in which we live, very few people have witnessed a friend killed in battle;  very few people have had a friend raped and murdered in a conflict without borders;  very few people have lived through extended civil strife, subject to all the hazards and horrors of that environment;  very few people remember what it means, and what it costs, to live in the shattered ruins of a nation – for that matter, an entire continent.

In our ignorance of what those things actually mean – actually feel like to experience – we’re blind, as a society, to the reality of war.  It’s all too easy for the demagogues to whip up emotions and feelings to get the war they want.  As William Randolph Hearst said to one of his correspondents before the Spanish-American War, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war“.  He did – and the same tactics are now in play in Russia versus Ukraine, and China versus Japan, and the USA versus radical Islam.  We haven’t learned much from history at all.

What’s even scarier is the blindness of those who so glibly talk about armed resistance to the US government if and/or when their disagreements with it become too great for them to bear.  They utterly fail to realize the extent of the suffering that would be unleashed in this country if their strident calls became reality.  The South was devastated by the Civil War, and took generations to recover.  If a new civil war breaks out, expect the same thing to happen over far greater areas of the country – and expect the carnage to be beyond your worst nightmares.  With so much of our population now urbanized, utterly dependent on modern infrastructure, any disruption would undoubtedly cause real hardship within days and spark massive unrest, leading to further casualties and destruction.  It would become a spiral of violence that would be almost impossible to stop until it had run its course.

War is sometimes necessary, but only under the most extreme provocation.  It’s the last resort when all other means have failed – and even then, only when the alternative to war is too catastrophic to contemplate.  Unfortunately, too few people today are capable of recognizing that from experience.



  1. So you planning to move back to South Africa? Oh! That's right you split after your side decided they could have "peace" at any cost. How's that working out? Everybody free, safe and happy are they? "Peace" is only found (this side of the grave) by those willing to be slaves. Liberty is only gained at the cost of blood. Yes war sucks, Communist slavery sucks more. Down your road is Hitler , Stalin , Pol Pot and Mao. It is the land of "god kings" "forced labor" and death camps. Your kind of "peace at any cost" is allways worse than war.—Ray

  2. @Anonymous at 6:02 AM: You clearly have no idea whatsoever what you're talking about. You prefer to address your prejudices rather than the facts of the situation.

    I addressed most of your accusations in an earlier article. I think I'll let that speak for me now, rather than waste time re-hashing what you obviously don't want to hear.

  3. Another point is that those in 'power' have never been in battle… They do not understand how devastating a war is on a country (or the world)… Reading it in a book, and actually SEEING people die in front of you are two entirely different things… And those are the people who would send others to die, knowing 'they' wouldn't have to go (unless you go big, e.g. ICBM)…

  4. Peter
    Nothing to say that you haven't said better.
    I do wish people would stop underestimating how nasty civil wars are and overestimating their ability to stay loftily to the side. Hubris.

  5. It's an interesting historical lesson. When those who don't remember what it was like are gone, you're more likely to get into it again.

    I wonder if the run-up to another war might be actually accelerated with people who have generally been anti-war in office. Reason being, they assumed everybody else was the hawks, and the result is they never critically examine their own motives; they think war is needed, and since they are usually anti-war, then we REALLY must need to fight. I could be full of it here, but it might be food for thought.

    It does, however, seem to me that our nation needs to spend some time thinking about what we're really willing to shed blood over. Back in the Cold War days it was a little more obvious- now, it seems, not so much.

    I can only hope that if it comes again that it will stay on the other side of the oceans; I can't bear to think of what it might be if the US took some of the same damage Europe saw in WWI and WWII. But then, if we do, that means Europe is probably gone for several generations and South America is likely to inherit the earth… if there's much left of it.

  6. As much as I think that bad times are coming, I suspect that the fools who look forward to them and boast about how many federal troops/police/blacks/etc., that they plan to kill are nothing more than posers who have never spent so much as a day in uniform. They have no idea what it is to fight so they don't even consider the fact that, if they ever do go up against professionals who know what they're doing, they'll be the ones getting shellacked. Frankly, it's that type that has driven me off of most gun-discussion forums and more than a few blogs where such talk is encouraged. But if you want to see it ramping up real-time, just follow the stories on that Bundy guy in Nevada who, after decades of illegally grazing his cattle on public land without paying grazing fees or complying with court orders, is now locked in a fight with federal police and the nutjobs are assembling to back him regardless of the facts. I'm betting on someone getting hurt there before it's over–too many self-described "patriots" and militia wanna-bes are eager to get involved in what they see as the next Waco or Ruby Ridge.

    Once we as a country had respect for lawful authority that was exercised with fairness and restraint. Sadly those days seem to be gone.

  7. Maybe I just have a more vivid (or vicious) imagination than other people who have never "seen the elephant". My Army tour was just post-Vietnam, and I've always been very happy with that timing.

    Part of it may be that I am a libertarian anarchist, and know that most things done by governments turn out evil – war being something only a government can organize, and it's the most evil thing governments do. (Sometimes against their own people instead of others.)

    I do see some sort of war coming, although how it will start and among which nations is anyone's guess. I can hope that it's somewhere far from me, but that is probably (eventually, anyway) a forlorn hope.

  8. I don't think that this theory explains very well the fact that the generation that experienced WW1 provided the leadership that went into WW2. I personally knew people who went through the Western Front in 14/18 and went through it all again in 39/45. Good, sensible, intelligent men. I can only assume that they valued their families and freedoms more than their own desire to not go through another war.

    You need strong convictions for that.

    In the late '30s, Those who warned that war was probable were slandered as war-mongers. Yet it was the peace-party that was wrong.

    How do we explain this?

  9. Peter….

    The more that I think about this, the more that I am uncomfortable with the idea that we fall into war through ignorance and lack of experience. If that was what it took, then the lifespan of those who participated in the previous war would be the lower limit, not the upper. (As Roberta noted in the first quote). It may be a comforting idea about the human race – that war is an aberration that we can avoid through knowledge, but I suggest that your own experience (WWB&S) regarding the ability of human beings to delude themselves and justify the most appalling actions, says otherwise.

    Maybe – and I say this regretfully – the preventative for big wars is to fight small wars. Partly because it keeps us militarily ready and acts as a deterrent to would-be aggressors. Partly because the sight of coffins coming home acts as a salutary reminder to the voters.

    I'm certain that there is no easy solution.


  10. People run on emotion, mostly. It takes serious work to become cold-blooded and rational. People are mostly interested in feeding, fucking and fighting. Thinking? Cooperation? Those are big words that require some thought, which is difficult. Naw, let's get sumpthin' to eat, find some chicks, and go kick the neighbors ass.

  11. Anonymous 6:02 –
    That's not what I got from the post.

    Seemed to me he was talking more about fetarded messes like 1914 or vietnam.

  12. You don't even need nukes to make modern war hellish.

    Precision guided weapons , heavy urbanization and brittle infrastructure are a nasty combination.

    Also the levels of aging and diversity in each society cuts both ways.

    Its harder to gin up nationalist fervor when a good chunk of your population have no loyalty to your ideals but on the other hand such situations can go full Balkans in a minute.

    Also population aging makes war more costly, children can't be replaced but it can also breed desperation and nihilism too and lead to fight or die mentalities.

    All in all it doesn't look good for lasting peace.

  13. Regarding some putative future US Civil War 2, I suspect even the mouthiest people have thought at length about the consequences.

    Thats why despite rage on the part of many patriots, they haven't pulled the trigger.

    if such a trigger is pulled, well enough people will have decided that its worth the costs.

    If it must happen and I do not think it must let us up pray they are right.

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