Maybe the world ends with a text message

100 years ago today, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated which was the catalyst for the Great War.

That prompted someone called Night-Gaunt49 to comment on the Candorville comic strip of 27th June 2014 to say:

Seems insane that the murder of one person would start a global war, but it did. The stupidity of “entangling alliances” that Washington warned us about did them end.

The “entangling alliances” view is from pro-German revisionist thinking of the 1960s. Academia is now reverting back to its view of the time that it was about the unified Germany’s rapid growth and expansion not being matched by having a presence on the world stage. Germany would have started a war before 1918 whatever happened. The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was merely a conveniently timed catalyst. It was used by Germany as an excuse to push the Austro-Hungarian Empire to start a war (it mattered not with who) so that Germany could conduct either an expansion to the East, or, if necessary, follow the Schlieffen Plan to quickly defeat attack France and then Russia. Either would have achieved the desired effect and likely given Germany diplomatic presence on a par with France, England and Russia.

The Schlieffen Plan was ‘improved’ by a committee which reduced the size of the attacking force, which meant the German forces failed to sweep through Belgium and France as quickly as intended. That resulted in the trenches and the machine-gun meat-grinder that killed millions.

It was not one murder that started the Great War. That was just one tiny step in a long succession of events and circumstances.

It was not inevitably a global war. That was caused by Germany not following their well-designed plan, resulting in them being delayed by defensive forces, which allowed time for lots of other states to pile in to see what land or diplomatic advantage they could grab in the process.

The major casualties of war are civilians

“Armies are now so protected and their weapons so effective that the major casualties of war are civilians.”

Dave Turner, Open University tutor and course leader of criminology at the University of Gloucestershire.

By all means continue to fret for “our boys out there” and the body bags they come home in.

But spare some time to fret for yourself and the civilians our brave boys are killing and maiming and orphaning and widowing in our name.

Depending on whose figures you use, the 2nd Gulf War resulted in between 15 and 30 civilian deaths for each US soldier killed.

“Because of new body armour and advances in military medicine, for example, the ratio of combat-zone deaths to those wounded has dropped from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the numbers of those killed as a percentage of overall casualties is lower.”

Christian Science Monitor, 29/8/2006

That’s good news, it really is.  But civilians don’t get any body armour.  And when they are being targeted by drones where the operator is in another continent, they won’t be getting any first aid from their attackers, never mind military medicine.

Not starting the 2nd Gulf War would not have just saved nearly 5,000 US troops, it would have prevented hundreds of thousands of orphans too.

Coalition & allied forces killed: 25,286
Coalition & allied forces wounded: > 117,961
Iraqi combatants and insurgents killed: 34,144 – 37,344

Still, Saddam got strung up, so it was all worth it in the end, wasn’t it?

So that really was the best way to topple his regime, wasn’t it?

And in case you’re not bothered about the human cost, here’s what Wikipedia has about the financial cost:

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University.[361] Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion[362] to $6 trillion,[363] including interest rates, by 2053.

A CNN report noted that the United States-led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that six billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C‑130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared. An inspector general’s report mentioned that “‘Severe inefficiencies and poor management’ by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used”, said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. “The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that funds were used in a transparent manner.”[364] Bowen told the Times the missing money may represent “the largest theft of funds in national history.”[365]

Wouldn’t it have been better to ring up Saddam Hussein and say “Here’s $1,000,000,000 up front and $100,000,000 per year for life on the condition you clear off and don’t come back” ?

According to the UK National Audit Office, the UK spent £850 billion on the bank crises in 2009 alone.

The long term effect of airstrikes

When the airstrikes begin, such as they did at the start of the second Gulf War, and as is desired by US, UK and French leaders against Syria, large numbers of government buildings are attacked, resulting in the deaths of large number of civil servants in the country being attacked.

(The legality of targeting civilians is another question worth considering another day: link1, link2, link3, link4, link5, link6.)

The elimination of these civil servants has the desired effect of damaging the military organisation of the target country: supplies are not ordered, shipments are not arranged, payroll does not happen, communication is disrupted: information does not get escalated and orders do not get distributed, intelligence is not analysed.  In this way the machine of war is halted despite the troops and armour being intact because the troops have no food or bullets, the guns have no shells, the tanks have no fuel, the aircraft have no targets.  It is a seemingly ‘humane’ way of disabling an opponent or one party in a civil conflict.

The reality is, the combatants are left intact while the civilians are killed, maimed or forced to flee, adding them to the numbers of refugees.  Amongst those refugees will be the pacifists, the civil rights specialists, the conscientious objectors and the fearful who left the country during the crisis.

How very ironic is it that those who speak for our armed forces say killing civilians instead of soldiers is more humane?  That makes it quite clear where their allegiances lie.

If the external influence is effective, and the targeted government falls, then who will form the civil service of the new administration?  Certainly not the corpses and the cripples and the refugees of the deposed government.

It will be recruited mostly from the victorious liberating army, that group of ‘rebels’, ‘terrorists’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘insurrectionists’ that became redefined as ‘freedom fighters’ because their winning suited our political convenience.  An army including reactionaries, the vengeful, hot-blooded young anarchists, psychos, criminals, malcontents, sufferers of post-war stress syndrome and anyone who decided to pick up a gun and kill their police officers, armed forces members and government officials despite them being fellow citizens.  It is from these ranks the new government’s officials will be constructed.  Those who can answer the questions:

What did you do in the war, Daddy?


How many did you kill?

Experienced administrators from the previous government, those who left because of their conscience, the displaced – these people are least likely to get their old jobs back.

So is it any wonder that when we interfere with another country by applying airstrikes that the incoming government is itself full of turmoil with police recruits shooting their colleagues, suicide bombers, corruption, instability, ongoing car bombs and ultimately another revolution?

Perhaps if we stopped killing their filing clerks, accountants, data analysts, IT staff, secretaries, junior supervisors, PAs, human resources officers, trainers, typists, middle managers, and office cleaners then maybe their future governments might be competent, organised, capable and stable.

The outcome of using airstrikes are:

  • the deaths or injury of many fit, intelligent, taxpaying, civilians;
  • the armed forces and their matériel are left intact;
  • ongoing national incompetence for many years;
  • the need for greater external influence in maintaining stability;
  • those who may have a bias towards peace and reconciliation become personae non gratae;
  • a continuation of civil disorder and violence;
  • the likelihood of major armed conflict in the future.

So what are the real agenda when airstrikes are used?  Anyone would think it was advantageous foreign policy, commercial interests and the maintenance of the arms industry.  It certainly is not humanitarian reasons.

Death? Airstrike! Now! Avenge the innocent! Kill someone! (and ask questions later)

So we have heard of the possibility there may have been a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians possibly by the Syrian government.  And the immediate reaction from our government leaders is that military airstrikes should be carried out against the Syrian government straight away.

What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

And why is an airstrike our leaders’ first reaction?  Why are they so keen to cause death and destruction at the first possible opportunity?  Why are they so unimaginative as to resort to killing people as way to deal with this issue?

The typical poor politician reaction to any given problem is:

Something must be done.  This is something.  It must be done.

But why a military airstrike?  Why not an alternative?

  • Why not negotiate?
  • Why not blockade of ports and airports of everything except food and medical supplies?
  • Why not assassinate the unwanted leader?
  • Why not seize the overseas personal assets of the leadership and their families?
  • Why not nationalise or seize the overseas businesses and subsidiaries of the country in question?
  • Why not destroy their economy (e.g. print their currency in huge quantities)?
  • Why not check the facts before sending in the bombers and cruise missiles?

No, it’s always bombs, isn’t it?

Pathetic.  Unimaginative.  Cruel.  Vicious.  Nasty.

A knee-jerk reaction to cause death in response to hearsay is psychotic behaviour.  Especially when it is claimed that the best way to respond to a government killing its own citizens is: for our government to kill more of their citizens.  That’s ridiculous madness.

If what the Syrian government did is evil, then what my government is proposing is no less evil.