Friday, 3 March 2023 — The van says…
A century has passed, but faraway leaders still leave the common soldier to face the consequences of their decisions.
It is always interesting to look back upon history if only to draw parallels with the present, and a review of British operations during the First World War caused the author to reflect upon mistakes made in the past and to compare them with the policies of today. This shorter article will examine the similarities between the trenches of the Somme and the truths of today. Before we examine the analogies between the past and present, we have to take a look at what went before.
Officers and Oafs
General Melchett may be a fictional character, but he typifies British Army officers of the era.
The British Army of a century ago was led by officers just as it is today, yet the military leaders a hundred years ago are a far cry from their modern equivalents. Many of those at the top end of the British command chain had until 1871 been able to buy their commissions rather than enter the officer corps through merit. If that was not bad enough, many were those whose families had served in the same regiments for centuries, an ‘old boy network’ ensuring that faces from the same landed gentry reappeared every generation.
In spite of the advances in warfare, both in kit and captaincy, the British were behind the times in the years before the First World War.
Prior to the ‘war to end all wars’, the UK had not fought against a peer opponent for nearly a hundred years, this meaning that military leaders as well as governments had not only ignored the evolution of technology and tactics, but London’s position of an imperial power had given a sense of entitlement to its upper classes. There had been a number of smaller engagements against vastly inferior opponents, yet we only have to see how the Boer War developed in order to appreciate Britain’s many shortcomings at the time. The British Empire’s overbearing attitude could not only be seen in the manner in which it viewed the UK’s overseas holdings, but also in the manner in which treated its own lower classes.
Them and Us
Few if any of the decision-makers in the First World War knew of the real horrors that faced their soldiers every day.
The greatest conflict in history until that date wrought havoc across the Old Continent, yet it was not national leaders that led the fight to the enemy. It was the common soldier who suffered the stalemate of trench warfare, it bringing horrific consequences to the lives of those on the ground even before we consider actions from the enemy. The commanders overseeing operations were nowhere near the real action, they living the high life in French hotels and manor houses whilst the ‘poor bloody infantry’ fought as much with rats and disease as they did with the enemy.
The Big Push
Bayonets fixed, but so were the sights on the German machine guns waiting for them.
Even though the First World War had been underway for nearly two years, it was not until 1916 that London decided on a mass assault on the German trenches. The Big Push was as badly planned as the officers who executed it were heartless. After thinking they could hammer German positions and then have soldiers just waltz across no man’s land, a well-prepared opponent was able to weather the storm of artillery; the moment British troops came into view, the Germans commenced a machine gun barrage. In the space of a few hours, twenty thousand died and forty thousand were injured. To this day, it represents one of Britain’s darkest days in history.
Slaughter without Sorrow
These guys were lucky to survive, yet their mental scars would last forever.
When operations were launched, not only were they in most cases ill-conceived, but the gains they offered were marginal. The small chunks of land gotten through the carnage that areas such as Verdun, Passchendaele and the Somme saw were measured in the lives lost to gain them, the soldiers fighting for Britain being considered as pawns to be sacrificed without pity by their leaders above.
Dragged halfway across the globe to fight someone else’s war.
The devastation of population caused by the First World War is well documented in the history books, yet the number of soldiers dragged from around the globe is less well known. Upwards of a million Indians were involved in the conflict, some in Europe, some against the Ottoman Empire and others posted in Britain’s colonial outposts. A later commander of the Indian Army, Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck stated that the British ‘couldn’t have come through both World War I and II if they hadn’t had the Indian Army.’ The victims of colonialism served their overlords well, yet the recognition they ought to have received has not to this day been forthcoming.
After looking at things that were, we most now examine how this compares with current affairs.
Politicians and Pawns
Completely unelected, Ursula Von der Leyen is typical of today’s decision makers who put words before the wellbeing of the people.
The political landscape today at both a national and supranational level is again a social network, policy being dictated by those who favor Washington’s wishes along with other sundry faces that fit. Gone are the days of lively European lawmakers, establishment entities ensuring that a Western world that values most of its citizenry less by the day is led by a certain class of individuals with only their personal interests in mind.
Western power grows out of the barrel of a gun, yet today, those with no guns have no power at all.
As we head towards very uncertain times indeed, it cannot be forgotten that in spite of the alleged superiority that the Washington and its friends claim to have, the collective West has not faced a peer opponent since 1945. There have obviously been wars in the Middle East, yet there has been no conflict whereby the West has faced the same threats and consequences as it has meted out to others. More than seven decades of complacency and capitalism have ensured that foreign policy is executed to the benefit of a select few individuals and companies; all the while, the living standards and wellbeing of the majority of Westerners has taken a sharp turn for the worse.
Them and Us
It is a sign of the times that a pair of misfits such as these have fit into the Western establishment so well.
The greatest conflict to face the world in decades may soon be upon us, yet in truth, it is the Western financial system and its failings that are leading nations towards a fight against a created enemy. It was the horrors of the Donbass War that finally brought events to where they are today, yet the individuals who engineered this situation and would oversee a future conflict have to date suffered no discomfort. The leaders overseeing operations will never feel the effects of their actions, they living the high life whilst currently the general public and an army of foot soldiers are treated like low life.
The Big Push Eastwards?
He may head the world’s largest military alliance, yet it is under his rule that it is heading towards trouble.
The current hostility towards Russia has been ongoing since the West lost access to the resources that it expected after the fall of the Soviet Union. After Putin have his landmark speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, the aggressive stance from Washington and its allies slowly crept up. Events from the Maidan coup until January last year need no retelling, yet the measures and weapons supplies to the Ukraine from the West is very possibly a prelude to tomorrow’s Big Push. At a time when the West is facing unprecedented challenges, an even darker future awaits should it continue with its Drang nach Osten.
Suffering without Sorrow
Thousands of Ukrainians have already borne the consequences of Western interference in their country.
For all the fanfare surrounding the Western intervention concerning the Ukraine, unless Russia is to back down, (which is simply not going to happen) the whole campaign is destined to at best stagnate or at worst, miserably fail. In contrast to the small gains in the First World War, there are huge earnings to be made in Russia and Eurasia by those who control them. That said, should the West continue on its push eastwards, the human and material losses involved in such an exercise would simply be ignored by those at the top as the consequences of such a plan would for many nations be a race to the bottom.
An innumerable number of Ukrainians have already paid the ultimate price, yet this was only in order that Washington gain the prize it wants.
Rather than soldiers being dragged from their homelands as seen in World War One, the last twenty years have seen untold hardships caused by locally-raised foreign fighters, proxy armies and other outfits created by Western powers to fight their wars overseas. Today we also see this manifesting itself with the collective West manipulating a satellite state, and therefore attempting to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian, hundreds of thousands of troops suffering death and injury as they fight for another of Washington’s wars. It would take a truly skilled writer to create a fitting epitaph that could adequately describe the suffering that has been caused.
A century may have passed since the end of the First World War, yet the parallels between then and now are clear to see. History should be a guide for the future, yet for as long as today is populated by those who have neither foresight nor hindsight, capitalists will capitalize whilst the long suffering public continues to suffer.
The collective West is beginning to pay higher prices as a result of this war, yet, just as a hundred years ago, it is only the very few who engineered the situation who are not suffering the consequences of their adventurism in the East…