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The Tragedy of Unnecessary Disorder

The Tragedy of Unnecessary Disorder

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Published by zelienople
10/08/06 editorial for the Norman Transcript by Lloyd P. Williams
10/08/06 editorial for the Norman Transcript by Lloyd P. Williams

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Published by: zelienople on Oct 30, 2009
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The tragedy of unnecessary disorder
The Norman TranscriptOctober 08, 2006 12:38 am— For The TranscriptThe creative accomplishments of humankind are extraordinary. Engineering, architecture, music, literature,art and science -- natural, biological and social -- immediately come to mind. But the human race has idledalong the path of progress and has often faltered and blundered. The causes of these interruptions are largelyineptitude among the aged, presumptions among the young and our failure to develop good mental habits thatlead us to consider the consequences of our actions.War is our worst form of disorder. Its causes are complicated, even obscure. The public rarely thinks throughthe problem to a realistic conclusion, an end often deliberately camouflaged. Wars are generally caused byimperialism, nationalism, quest for economic advantage, struggle for supremacy, politicians seeking personalgain or a niche in history, or some short-sighted evil such as xenophobia. The Romans and the German tribesbutchered one another for centuries. Later European countries mutilated one another for dominance. After thedefeat of the Nazis the U.S. and the USSR flirted with world destruction as they threatened one another. Nowit seems the U.S. and China are coming to the center of the stage.All wars are irrational, so understanding them is difficult. World War I is a valuable case study for we aresufficiently removed to be emotionally disengaged and sufficiently near to appreciate its avoidableirrationalities. In the 1920s many of us who had relatives returning from the AEF -- American ExpeditionaryForce -- or who listened to our elders discuss the subject carried away an oversimplified and torturedexplanation: The bad Germans caused the war. They were a people not to be trusted; they roasted Belgianbabies on bayonets and they starved their enemies. QED. No further discussion is necessary.Such an explanation is emotionally engendered hyperbole. The real causes require the insights of history,economics, geography, sociology and psychology. A major underlying condition was the illogical, chaoticand arbitrary system of national states with each motivated by a blind sense of sovereignty. Each usuallyspoke a different language. And their politics tended to be dominated by an aristocracy or a military class ortraditions many of which were irrational. Consider France. By the 20th century the French had developed aprecise and beautiful language, contributed brilliantly to the arts and sciences, evolved a well-organizedschool system and constructed an outstanding system of higher learning. But how easily humans can go awryis illustrated by their worship of Napoleon. That he was a military genius is given; that he initiated valuablereforms in French society is a fact. But he was an insensitive war-mongering authoritarian as well. His lifeand influence show how emotion can smother reason and thereby create problems for the world. Hiscontributions scarcely justify the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people resulting from his ravages.Admirals and Generals contributed to the intellectual, social chaos permeating Europe before the Great War.Field Marshall von Molke wanted to attack Russia before attacking France; General Alfred von Schleiffenmodified plans to strike west first. The British Sea Lords trembled at the thought of a German navy equal totheirs; the Germans trembled that the High Seas Fleet might not equal the British. Rivalry and fear bredmadness.Alliances came and went as power politics flourished. The Triple Alliance was formed the year Karl Marxdied. A few decades later fear and anxiety led Britain, France and Russia to counter with the Triple Entente.And European eyes were focused on the Ottoman Empire -- a fertile hunting ground for imperialists. Africawas even more so, being totally partitioned and trapped in treaties among the European powers. The BalkanStates were equally entwined with them and caught up with their own ethnic grievances. If we stir into thisdisarray the personalities of rulers, autocrats, revolutionaries and kings, especially such a neurotic one as

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