The Futility of War
The USS Shaw takes a direct hit at Pearl Harbor
I know this is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and millions of folk all around the world will be thinking about it. But I also want to ask a few questions and put the events into a wider context.
This year on Armistice Day, November 11th I saw a lot of media coverage, posts in blogs and social media all decrying the futility of warfare. I have been thinking about that ever since. I do honestly appreciate the sentiments, and I too wish that we all lived in a world where fighting at any level was unnecessary. But we do not and I am afraid that we never will. The world is simply overpopulated with evil folk, and for evil to prevail it is only required that good men do nothing. Nor can I agree that war is always futile. Certainly the Second World War was a futile, pointless, costly endeavour for the perpetrators it was far from futile for all of the free nations that were attacked. It was none the less very costly. So I want to ask those who think we should not go to war to say what our responses should have been to the invasion of Poland and the attack on Pearl Harbor. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am seriously asking, I want to know what else we could, and indeed should, have done to prevent such a huge loss of innocent (and for that matter not so innocent) lives.
I have good reasons for wanting to know as I see many parallels to those fateful times in various places around the world today. Striking parallels. When the Germans annexed Austria on the flimsiest of pretexts and then the Sudetenland there was little protest from the rest of the world and certainly no action. Poland was next on their list; as a result of which armed conflict became inevitable. Before Japan attacked America it had been at war with China for several years. In the autumn of 1931 the Japanese had staged a ‘False Flag’ incident by exploding a small bomb on their own railway in South Manchuria and pretended that the blame lay with Chinese dissidents. They then invaded and occupied Manchuria and set up the puppet state of Manchuko. After many skirmishes between the Chinese and Japanese along the railway line between Beijing and the port of Tianjin in Manchuko things finally erupted into a full blown war on the 8th of July 1937. By mid 1941 pilots, actually serving US Army Air Force personnel but officially independent volunteers, were flying US made P40 fighter aircraft supplied under a lend-lease agreement in support of the Chinese. When Japan made further attacks to secure raw materials on other parts of the region America imposed sanctions and ceased supplying oil and metals.
The situation as it stands today in the Ukraine should worry us a great deal. Russia has strong imperialist motives and is calculating her next move. They may decide that the Crimea was their Austria and no one really cares very much. So could the Ukraine be their Sudetenland and there for the taking with little or no consequence? A display of strong leadership would go down well at home and may impress foreign powers that Russia is a force to be reckoned with. Or maybe not. China too has territorial ambitions, even going so far as to create islands in the South China Sea to increase its maritime reach. Little response to that so far. What’s next on their list? Taiwan.
So we finally come to the reason for this long post. What should we have done to avert wars in the past? Let’s look at Germany in 1939 first. By the time Poland had fallen millions of Jews, ‘untermench’, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, political opponents and countless other undesirables were already facing an unpleasant future and a long painful death. No one can surely believe that the rest of the world should have sat on its collective hands and done nothing. We could have negotiated a legally binding treaty. Like the one we already had with Germany that ensured they could not build up a large military force. That worked well. We could have tried sanctions, but denied access to resources they would simply have taken them by force, as Japan was already doing. We could have sued for peace if everything stopped as it was. Not a promising prospect for the Polish and Czechoslovakian peoples already being enslaved, but it might keep the rest of us safe. Not a likely outcome. Any agreement with the Germans would certainly have been very similar to the one with the Vichy French ‘government’. Then WE would have been responsible for rounding up the undesirables in our own population for the Nazis to subjugate, torture and execute. Still we would have had the benefit of an imposed puppet government to ensure that all happened in an efficient manner.
I have no idea as to what else we could have done other than to stand against oppression by force of arms. If that is so, then to categorise the war as futile must be false. We are better off than we would have been by staying out of the fight and permitting the whole world to be dominated by a megalomaniac tyrant, and so are many millions from other nations. Nor can we set at naught the brave actions of those who fought and died to ensure that we had this better world to live in. We must always strive to make those heroes feel special, appreciated and that they will never be forgotten. I fear we may need a new consignment all too soon.