I don’t usually agree with Peter Hitchens, but I did with this piece in the Mail:
One thing we should have learned in the past 100 years is that war is hell. We might also have noticed that, once begun, war is hard to stop and often takes shocking turns.
So those who began the current war in Ukraine – the direct cause of the frightful murder of so many innocents on Flight MH17 on Thursday – really have no excuse.
There is no doubt about who they were. In any war, the aggressor is the one who makes the first move into neutral or disputed territory.
And that aggressor was the European Union, which rivals China as the world’s most expansionist power, swallowing countries the way performing seals swallow fish (16 gulped down since 1995).
Ignoring repeated and increasingly urgent warnings from Moscow, the EU – backed by the USA – sought to bring Ukraine into its orbit. It did so through violence and illegality, an armed mob and the overthrow of an elected president.
That’s pretty much how I see it. The EU has expanded eastwards into collision with Russia. And this shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet in the unseemly rush to pin the blame for MH17 entirely on Putin and Russia.
But Hitchens also has a relevant and thought-provoking article about WW1 in the American Spectator, which begins:
To say that that the First World War was the greatest cataclysm in human history since the fall of the Roman Empire is to put it mildly. The war destroyed so many good things and killed so many good people that civilization has not recovered and probably never will…
The loss cannot be measured in cash because it was paid in the more elusive coin of faith, morals, trust, hope, and civility. The war is the reason why Europe is no longer a Christian continent, because too many churches supported it…
No single event has done more to advance the power of the state and of state socialism. Britain barely had a state before 1914. By 1918 it was one of the most tightly governed and bureaucratized patches of soil in the world. The Russian revolution would never have happened had there been no war in 1914. The great Christian and conservative empires of the world would probably all still exist. War also brought about the sexual, social, and cultural revolutions that are still convulsing what used to be Christendom.
I can well see what he means. If Europe hadn’t torn itself apart 100 years ago, the old order might well have survived more or less intact. There’d still be a British Empire, and a Tsar of Russia. And the USA would never have been required to take over the leadership of the Western world from stricken Europe.
Hitchens blames Germany for starting WW1:
Germany started the war because she wanted and hoped to gain enormous prizes through a swift victory, first over France and then over Russia. She encouraged Austria to be inflexible toward Serbia in the hope that this would happen, and the plan worked. It was not the first time that a country had carefully fostered a pretext for war, and it will certainly not be the last…
What the Kaiser really desired all along was a diminished and weakened Russia, a clear road to Turkey and the Middle East, the great wheat fields and coal mines of Ukraine, and the oil fields of Baku…
Germany in 1914 hardly cared about Britain at all, and quite reasonably could not understand why London entered the war. It was more or less incomprehensible. To this day it is hard to see any British interest that was served, and dozens that were damaged…
What saved France in 1914 was the simple fact that it is virtually impossible to win a quick war on two fronts. The diversion of important units to the east, to fight a Russian advance, prevented a German triumph.
Hitchens wonders whether it would have been better if Germany had scored a quick victory over France. It would have saved 4 years of futile slaughter, and “preserved European Christendom, culture, and civilization.”
The war was re-fought in 1939 largely because the 1918 outcome was not a true reflection of the real balance of forces…
When the USSR agreed to allow Germany a war on one front, German victory in the West was more or less assured, and if Britain would not make peace, she could be left for later…
People have come to associate Germany’s drive eastward with Hitler and Nazi fanaticism because it was spectacularly demonstrated and defeated in the Nazi era. But it was not Hitler’s idea. Like many—but not all—of his policies, it was standard German establishment thinking. It has its origins among enlightened democrats.
Which brings matters back up to date, and the EU’s expansion into Ukraine.
To adapt and reverse Clausewitz: The European Union is the continuation of Germany by other means.
Well, that’s certainly an interesting way of seeing matters. I suppose my question would be: Why did Germany (and now the EU) feel it necessary to expand into Ukraine and even to the Caspian Sea? Why can’t nations and empires stick to their own patches?
The answer may simply be that empires are always either expanding or contracting, in a ceaseless ebb and flow. And if the EU wasn’t expanding, it would now be contracting, and losing its eastern territories to Russia or some other empire.
And war never ends.