Thursday, 7 August 2014

Centuries of Conflict

This is the centenary year of the outbreak of World War One - the 'Great War', the War that would end them all. Of course, it wasn't to be - and social media is alive with heart-rendering images comparing the devastation of WWI with the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

What concerns me is that caption - "Have We Learnt Nothing?" How can we allow such violent warfare to unfold a full hundred years later?
The answer is, of course, because we've let it happen before.

In 1814, the Sixth Coalition of nations finally put a stop to Emperor Napoleon I's megalomaniac plans - briefly - in a conflict that raged from Haiti to Cairo via Madrid, Berlin and Moscow. In the newly-minted United States of America, a national anthem was born in the shape of 'Star-Spangled Banner' and a new capitol was born after the British stormed Washington DC, burning the White House. Fighting reached around the planet a hundred years before the continental powers took to the field in the first industrialized war.

For the first time in two hundred years, Europe is not riven by vast international war. This isn't to belittle the savagery of the Middle Eastern conflict, any of them, but to point out that this century has finally begun, if not in total peace, then in far better shape than the past two.

The staggering death toll of the First World War was only eclipsed by the even more horrendous Second. Those figures will stand in eternity as the greatest loss of human life in recorded history. They cannot be equated with any other conflict on record, in simple internet propaganda like this.

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