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Subject: The Lessons from WWI? rss

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We've heard the expression, "Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

I have gone back and forth, deciding how much faith I put into this statement. Currently, I think that it's a useful adage to think critically about past/present events, but doubt its predictive power.

What has that war taught us that, if we acknowledge, will prevent something similar from ever happening again? Or does human nature doom us to repeat our past?
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truflepig wrote:
We've heard the expression, "Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

I have gone back and forth, deciding how much faith I put into this statement. Currently, I think that it's a useful adage to think critically about past/present events, but doubt its predictive power.

What has that war taught us that, if we acknowledge, will prevent something similar from ever happening again? Or does human nature doom us to repeat our past?


The future isn't condemned to repeat the past - but sometimes, it rhymes.
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wifwendell wrote:
truflepig wrote:
We've heard the expression, "Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

I have gone back and forth, deciding how much faith I put into this statement. Currently, I think that it's a useful adage to think critically about past/present events, but doubt its predictive power.

What has that war taught us that, if we acknowledge, will prevent something similar from ever happening again? Or does human nature doom us to repeat our past?


The future isn't condemned to repeat the past - but sometimes, it rhymes.


So, True! I read some study a while back that showed people are more likely to believe an adage that rhymes than one which does not.

A valid point, the human mind does seems to be driven by narrative. The rhyming presents us with a nice narrative that encloses information into a rhythmic beginning and end. It has a ring of truth.

It's also almost instantly a tool made for distribution, the rhyming helps us remember it and we can recall it easier than an adage which does not rhyme.

I have the feeling that the narrative of the present time will supersede whatever lessons we should have learned from the past.
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We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
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Confucius say, "Study the past if you would define the future."
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This article has the best lessons I've found online to date:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/07/28/wor...

You can study history all you want, but if you draw the wrong conclusions, or none at all, or focus too much on one aspect (eg, strategy and tactics) the broader meaning of those events can become lost.

WWI also seems to resist this search for meaning because its origins are so complex and murky. Indeed, maybe it has no meaning. Why do we think that that war has to have meaning while we assume that some other war (the Second Balkan War, for example, or the Spanish-American War) does not?
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truflepig wrote:
Or does human nature doom us to repeat our past?


The Ukrainian crisis seems something straight out of Sleepwalkers to me. Not the final chapter, but maybe halfway through the book.
 
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Calmer heads do learn a lot from history. The problem is that in the emotional working up to any new conflict, calmer heads are labelled traitors.
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Hungadunga wrote:
Calmer heads do learn a lot from history. The problem is that in the emotional working up to any new conflict, calmer heads are labelled traitors.



Right. It seems like there have been so many lessons to have learned from history, but humans go on as if the past has no relevance to the present.

What lessons should we have learned from WWI?

1. How about stop fighting over territory like dogs? I realize it's a human trait to an extent, but I hope people can channel that instinct into the virtual world sooner than later.

Here's an example of a huge (relatively) virtual battle that may be the largest to date.

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/eve-online-battle-of-b-r/

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Hungadunga wrote:


Great clip! Kirk just gets it done, but I wouldn't trust that laser gun. That guy he's talking to reacts as if it's a back scratcher. Good think it works as a club, too.
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Glenn McMaster
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truflepig wrote:

1. How about stop fighting over territory like dogs? I realize it's a human trait to an extent, but I hope people can channel that instinct into the virtual world sooner than later.


I recall Jane Goodall described in her observations of chimpanzees how the males would form a dominance hierarchy and compete to become the alpha male. When I think of what the inherent flaws in human nature that cause war might be, its not the struggle for resources so much as it's the struggle for domination and the instinctive willingness to escalate to achieve it.
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GLENN239 wrote:
truflepig wrote:

1. How about stop fighting over territory like dogs? I realize it's a human trait to an extent, but I hope people can channel that instinct into the virtual world sooner than later.


I recall Jane Goodall described in her observations of chimpanzees how the males would form a dominance hierarchy and compete to become the alpha male. When I think of what the inherent flaws in human nature that cause war might be, its not the struggle for resources so much as it's the struggle for domination and the instinctive willingness to escalate to achieve it.


There's got to be a way to channel that instinct into something productive or at least not violent. Do you think that virtual wars taking place online, like the massive eve online battle, might provide an outlet for that instinct

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/eve-online-battle-of-b-r/
 
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GLENN239 wrote:
truflepig wrote:

1. How about stop fighting over territory like dogs? I realize it's a human trait to an extent, but I hope people can channel that instinct into the virtual world sooner than later.

I recall Jane Goodall described in her observations of chimpanzees how the males would form a dominance hierarchy and compete to become the alpha male. When I think of what the inherent flaws in human nature that cause war might be, its not the struggle for resources so much as it's the struggle for domination and the instinctive willingness to escalate to achieve it.

Yet bonobos, as closely related to us as chimps, have a completely different social structure, without alpha males and dominance and what not.
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The war taught us that we need a principle of collective security. That's what it taught us. But have we learned it? Well, to some extent we have. Not completely enough, though, obviously. But we've taken steps in the right direction.

If we do acknowledge it, however, it will prevent something similar from ever happening again.

Does human nature doom us to repeat our past? No, definitely not -- because human nature, unlike animal nature, is infinitely malleable. Humans are supremely educable.
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IMHO there's clearly some truth to the quote from Santayana, but part of the issue is also regarding what is 'learned', or 'remembered'. If one considers some recent threads regarding the origin of the war (and certainly how / why it started would presumably factor greatly into whatever lessons might be learned from it) theories vary greatly. Mainstream theories have varied from Germany having deliberately started the war in order to improve its 'position' in the world by application of superior military forces to it just sort of happened due to circumstances (with perhaps somewhat less mainstream positions being that the Entente deliberately started it to recover Alsace-Lorraine, extend influence in the Balkans / straits and / or simply to bring Germany down a peg).

Different lessons could be, and were, 'learned' by different actors in the post-war period. Some learned the lesson that brutality was going to happen in the world and it was better to be the one inflicting it than having it inflicted on you. Some 'learned' that armaments were in and of themselves 'bad', and ideally no one should have too many. Some 'learned' that rival alliances were 'bad', and 'collective' action was a better method for dealing with international relations. Some 'learned' that war, any war, was so terrible that one should be prepared to go to some lengths in order to avoid it (the origin of Britain's 'appeasement' policy). Some 'learned' that fighting wars in the old way wasn't efficient enough for an aggressor, and that new technology should be used to fight in a different way in order to conquer at less cost.

A study of the inter-war period shows the various lessons 'learned' by the participants at the time. Unfortunately, perhaps, I think many of the lessons that might have been learned from WWI were wiped out by WWII. I think many 'lessons' that were applied during the cold war were 'learned' from WWII, not WWI (e.g. deterrence rather than appeasement). However, some lessons from WWI were not forgotten (e.g. the UN being another attempt at 'collective security' which had failed under the League of Nations).
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Quote:
The Lessons from WWI?


Don't elect college professors with a flawed understanding of foreign policy to the presidency of the United States.
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Quote:
Different lessons could be, and were, 'learned' by different actors in the post-war period...


A valid point.

100 years later the mistakes which occurred before, during, and after WWI are occasionally being repeated... without the trappings of kings and emperors.

Alliances might be weaker today because one autocrat (Kaiser, Tsar, Emperor) is not making the decision for millions of his subjects.

We learned in our recent "Crimean Lesson" that collective security is probably no security without one big dog to bark.
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bob_santafe wrote:
The war taught us that we need a principle of collective security. That's what it taught us. But have we learned it? Well, to some extent we have. Not completely enough, though, obviously. But we've taken steps in the right direction.

If we do acknowledge it, however, it will prevent something similar from ever happening again.

Does human nature doom us to repeat our past? No, definitely not -- because human nature, unlike animal nature, is infinitely malleable. Humans are supremely educable.


I believe it, too. It sure is nice to hear, especially since there is so much evidence to the contrary. But it has to be true, otherwise we are finished, destined to go out like the dinosaurs but almost assuredly by our own hand.

pete belli wrote:
We learned in our recent "Crimean Lesson" that collective security is probably no security without one big dog to bark.


This seems like a good lesson to have learned from this past century's Pax Americana, but this union is increasingly being enforced by coercive measures (financial and military). It's not so welcomed as it was after the world wars. Its methods are not so benign; even if our intentions are good.

Anyone think the world can choose which "big dogs" can bite? After all, big dogs have no bite without us feeding them. There are some attempts at technological solutions in the works, but the political parties applying this "election" software are in disarray without unifying causes of national interest. Take a look at this:

http://thegovlab.org/democratizing-policymaking-online-liqui...

Any thoughts? I don't see why a major political party cannot adopt the software and apply it to it's own purposes.

deadkenny wrote:
A study of the inter-war period shows the various lessons 'learned' by the participants at the time. Unfortunately, perhaps, I think many of the lessons that might have been learned from WWI were wiped out by WWII. I think many 'lessons' that were applied during the cold war were 'learned' from WWII, not WWI (e.g. deterrence rather than appeasement). However, some lessons from WWI were not forgotten (e.g. the UN being another attempt at 'collective security' which had failed under the League of Nations).


quite brilliant comment, sir!

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pete belli wrote:
Quote:
Different lessons could be, and were, 'learned' by different actors in the post-war period...


We learned in our recent "Crimean Lesson" that collective security is probably no security without one big dog to bark.


Or, just as effectively, for a pack of dogs to work together.
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truflepig wrote:


But it has to be true, otherwise we are finished, destined to go out like the dinosaurs but almost assuredly by our own hand.


I would agree with this. If we humans are, after all, nothing but intelligent and (temporarily) successful animals, then we will inevitably go the way of animals.

truflepig wrote:


Amazingly innovative! That's not to say that it will ultimately work, but it's well worth experimenting with.
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bob_santafe wrote:
pete belli wrote:
Quote:
Different lessons could be, and were, 'learned' by different actors in the post-war period...


We learned in our recent "Crimean Lesson" that collective security is probably no security without one big dog to bark.


Or, just as effectively, for a pack of dogs to work together.



There is some scientific proof of this in a recent study where "jerk" alpha males (baboons) were killed by their own greed, and the remaining male population of "good guys" established new rules that were much more fair.

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0020106
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Edited to correct 2 spelling errors.

truflepig wrote:
GLENN239 wrote:
truflepig wrote:

1. How about stop fighting over territory like dogs? I realize it's a human trait to an extent, but I hope people can channel that instinct into the virtual world sooner than later.


I recall Jane Goodall described in her observations of chimpanzees how the males would form a dominance hierarchy and compete to become the alpha male. When I think of what the inherent flaws in human nature that cause war might be, its not the struggle for resources so much as it's the struggle for domination and the instinctive willingness to escalate to achieve it.


There's got to be a way to channel that instinct into something productive or at least not violent. Do you think that virtual wars taking place online, like the massive eve online battle, might provide an outlet for that instinct

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/eve-online-battle-of-b-r/

1st, humanity "learned" from WWI not to do that again. In 1927 most nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, that outlawed aggressive war. They did this for 2 reasons.
. . 1] They could see that modern battles were hugely expensive and the gain was rarely worth the cost in money [let alone lives].
. . 2] They deduced that "weapons of mass destruction" had been invented [in this case poison gas] and could be delivered by planes [that could not all be stopped] onto enemy cities. The resulting killing and "damage" would increase the cost of the war even more.

2nd, the problem was that not enough people got the message. So, another lesson of the war and then WWII is/was, you need to get almost everyone to "get the massage". And be willing to nip it in the bud when you identify those who didn't get the message and act to break the peace.

Since WWII with nuclear weapons added to the mix, there have been no major wars. But, a few medium size wars [Korea & Vietnam} and a lot of small wars. The nuclear strategy of MAD means that the level of destruction of a major war would rival an asteroid striking the Earth.

I think that "Economics" is a better thing to ask people and nations to compete in instead of wars. Economics matters in a material way. Money is fake gold; and gold is the universal status object; and Status is Dominance. Humans are status conscious/driven.

I would seriously suggest that Economic competition be made explicit in international affairs. Write a treaty [to add to the Kellogg-Briand Pact] or have the UN do something along these lines.
. . . It could just say that wars/battles/violence will never again be worth the cost; and therefore, nations must compete economically. Or, it could go further and specify "Prizes" that winning nations can "buy" with their surplus income [they have "surplus income" because that is the automatic result of winning economically]. Just what Prizes are possible I will leave for others to define, I'll just say that they need to congruent with Human Nature [and not the Christian's distorted view of it, either; but rather a scientifically determined Human Nature].

 
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Let me add to my last reply –

No nation has ever given up a “vital interest” because of terrorism. So, terrorism is not a worthwhile substitute for “Traditional War”.

There are 4 boxes in a 2x2 Matrix where the sides are labeled
. . 1a] Target the enemy army
. . 1b] Target the enemy population
and
. . 2a] Attack “openly”
. . 2b] Attack with stealth

The 4 boxes are therefore,
a] Target the enemy army and Attack “openly”; this is “Traditional war”.
b] Target the enemy population and Attack “openly”; this is aerial bombing of WWII.
c] Target the enemy army and Attack with stealth; this is guerrilla war.
d] Target the enemy population and Attack with stealth; this is terrorism.

In our modern world “Traditional War” no longer pays off like it did in ancient times or when attacking primitive tribes. [I doubt that the people of Belgium ever got their monies worth out of the Congo, but a few investors did.]

Guerrilla war has rarely won either, but it has sometimes been expanded to traditional war and driven an enemy out. It especially helps if an outside power helps the guerrillas. Guerrilla war can never conquer territory, though. So, it is not useful as a substitute for war in our situation.

Aerial bombing of populations did not “win” in WWII. No nation surrendered just because it was bombed. This is ISTM a form of “Terrorism” and terrorism has never worked. So, it is not useful as a substitute for war in our situation.
. . . {Some might point to the Japanese surrender in WWII. I would argue that the US could and would have invaded and won against the Japanese Army and the Japanese knew this. So, there was a creditable threat of invasion to go along with the aerial bombing [with atomic bombs even] and it was more the invasion threat that led to the surrender.}

Lastly, “Terrorism” has never worked in all of history. The current “Anti-terrorism War” is winding down because it didn't work. So, it is not useful as a substitute for war in our situation.
. . . {I have seen reports that some nations in Europe are being “invaded” by immigrants [who are allowed to stay] and that they are not being assimilated well. This could be an alternate strategy [to terrorism] to get “Christian” nations out of the Middle East. Take them over internally and convert them.}
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