What Comes Next

Read a lot of history and you’ll notice that wars are more often than not blamed on a few factors. One is aggression by one state, lusting after territory or resources held by another state. The other factor leading to war is the lack of foresight, the failure to look beyond the moment. The Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia is an example and one to keep in mind when watching what is happening in the Near East.

It’s impossible to know, of course, but by 1916 I would bet the Austrians deeply regretted sending that ultimatum to the Serbs. By that point in the war, the Austrians were exhausted by the cost of war and ready to throw in the towel. Even though it should have been obvious, no one imagined what industrial age war was going to do to Europe. They learned the hard way.

Because the Great War was a long time ago, no one remembers it or cares much about it these days, but the lessons of that war are instructive today. At the dawn of the last century, the newly industrialized Europe was still trying to make a pre-industrial political systems work, despite the obvious problems. Just as important, the great powers were trying hard to maintain an international system that worked fine in the age of sail, but was inadequate for the industrial age.

That’s what comes to my mind when thinking about the friction between Russia and Turkey over the conflict in Syria. The Turks and Russians have had reason to make war on one another for over 500 years. In 1556, the Astrakhan Khanate was conquered by Ivan the Terrible, who had a new fortress built on a steep hill overlooking the Volga. In 1568 the Ottomans sent a force of Turks and Tatars to lay siege to Astrakhan, with the idea of taking it from the Russians.

The military governor of Astrakhan drove back the besiegers using local militia and then a Russian army counter attacked and drove off the Turks and Tatars. On their way home, up to 70% of the Ottoman soldiers froze to death in the steppes. In The Great War something similar happened to the Turks at Battle of Sarikamish. The retreat left 90,000 Turks dead, most of them freezing to death in the mountains. This crushing defeat was blamed on the Armenians, which lead to the Armenian Genocide.

Stories like this one should give everyone one pause, as these are two people with a long, long memory of reasons to hate one another. It’s not going to take much to whip up support in either country for going to war with the other. There’s also the fact that both Putin and Erdogan have strong domestic constituencies in favor of bellicose and aggressive foreign policies. That alone is enough to precipitate hostilities.

There’s also the fact that like the Great War, the West is laboring under a treaty system that no longer fits the current age. The Pax Americana made perfect sense when the Soviets were aiming a bunch of tanks and missiles at Europe. NATO was a logical and practical response to the Soviet threat.

Today it makes no sense for a country of 300 million to defend a continent of 500 million, when that continent is no longer facing a real military threat. The modern Russian army would stall before it made it to Oder–Neisse Line, due to the lack of supplies. There’s simply no reason for America to have troops in Europe and there no reason for NATO to exist.

Another comparison to the Great War is the overall stupidity of key leaders in the West. President Obama makes Kaiser Wilhelm look like Bismarck. Look around Europe and it is hard to find anyone that you would trust in a crisis. This invites the sort of mischief we have seen from Russia in Ukraine, the Baltics and now the Near East. Of course, like Tsar Nicholas, Putin could very well be standing on a rotting pedestal of authority.

Comparison to the Great War are worthwhile, but now is not then and we have new challenges today for which even the savviest leader is unprepared. As we saw in the Ukraine, asymmetrical war is a new breed of cat.Those “little green men” who turned up in Crimea have no obvious analog in the past. That’s why the West was caught totally unprepared for it.

Then there is the use of unconventional warriors, like Muslim terrorists. Russia may not be able to invade Poland, but they can facilitate the movement of ISIS suicide bombers into your kid’s grammar school. The commodity war that the Saudis have been waging against Iran and Russia is yet another facet of the new brand of total war. You can be sure the Saudis will have qualms about funding Chechen terrorist either.

The wild card, the thing that makes easy comparisons to Europe’s past difficult, is the collapse of Islam. We don’t think of what’s going on in the Muslim world as a collapse since it serves our ruler’s interests to pretend it is something more malign. The endless propaganda painting Islam as Nazism is so the public will sign onto forever war. Drive around the Imperial Capital and you find thousands of firms getting rich off dropping bombs on the muzzies.

Islam is not ascendant, no matter what the rulers claim. Islam is in collapse, a collapse similar to what happened to Christendom in The Thirty Years War. The various sects within Islam are at war with one another over a dwindling amount of influence over their culture. Western materialism is shrinking the pie, as it were, and the tribes of Islam are at war over who will get the lion’s share of what comes next.

And no one comes next.

22 thoughts on “What Comes Next

  1. “Mischief from Russia in the Ukraine”??? Apparently you are unaware of the activities of our State Dept. in hiring neo-nazis and rent-a-mobs to overthrow the legitimate government of the Ukraine, and the subsequent murderous activities of those hirelings, against women and children in the East.

  2. Islam was failing the day after Mohamed invented it. But it still spread across the Middle East, North Africa, and into Iberia like wildfire. Goat herding caravan raiders took down the most technologically advanced centers of classical civilization is a couple of generations. (Eventually turning the conquered territories into failed crap-holes)

    They used demographics, bullying and intimidation, raids, rape, and terror. Worked back then and it’s working now.

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  5. If Islam is dying we should encourage that and not give root to new life by taking in Muslim lifeboats. We did not arrive at this time where we would even meet the Muslim trying to come up the drain until we began circling it ourselves.

    The point of the Austrian ultimatum to the Serbs was to make it so insulting that it would be refused, sparking war. But the Serbs threw a wrench into that and accepted. That could not deter the German plan for Pax Germanica.

    Adolf picked up Bismark’s brief a generation later.

    English historian EDWARD CRANKSHAW
    “The tragedy of Bismarck, apart from the profound personal tragedy of a man of wonderful gifts corrupted, was not that he subordinated morality to the supposed needs of the state: most other statesmen of his time did that, including Gladstone. The tragedy was that he exalted the amoral concept of politics into a principle; and that, as a corollary, because he succeeded with such dazzling skill through the nine miraculous years which culminated in the foundation of the Reich, his countrymen surrendered to that principle.”

    Sixty years ago I began reciting a pledge every school day. I would be obedient to the one universal State. It was a prayer, meant to correct the model of the Founders. One nation, not several. I could not know that. But for my obedience I would be protected from my enemies and be part of something powerful. Not for fifty years would I fully understand how odious this prayer would have been to the men convened in Philadelphia.

    We become all that we are without knowing why.

  6. Many long years ago I took a course entitled “History of the Origins of War” taught by Donald Kagan, father of Robert, co-founder of the PNAC. The course was memorable and the unit on WW I was fascinating. The Kaiser was portrayed as a resentful relative of cousins George V and the Russian czar, given that the Kaiser had a withered arm. Also in play was the possible naval rivalry.

    Anecdotal comment: I have a significant number of Muslim friends made over thirty years ago, Sunni and Sh’ia both, and nearly all of them have become more religious and much more conscious of their Muslim identity. These folks are very well educated polyglots, all well-to-do, very cosmopolitan, but…

    • You only think you have Moslem friends.

      Qur’an (5:51) – ”O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.”

  7. NATA? What exactly do you have against the North American Tiddlywinks Association and their right to exist?

  8. On the fateful runup to WWI, let me recommend Christopher Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers.” It is eminently readable and still manages to show the great complexity of interests and machinations in pre-war Europe. Among other things, it does away with the fixation on “the Kaiser” as being a great villain. If anything, he apparently was a mediocre and even rather benign figure who had no great impact on how things developed. One should take care not to look anachronistically at WWI in the light of WWII and try to find a Hitler-ante-Hitler in the Kaiser.

    • Agreed about the Kaiser. He is best understood, I think, as not very competent and overwhelmed by events. He needed a Bismarck, but he also needed to be a Monarch who would accept a Bismarck.

    • Fritz Fischer in his book Germany’s aims in the first world war makes it clear that german territorial ambitions are to blame. They deliberately encouraged Austria to be inflexible towards Serbia which made the war inevitable.

      Having said that there was no shortage of stupid leaders on all sides. Pride made French leaders unable to accept that they were second rate power compared with Germany. And the Russians feared German designs for eastern Europe .

      • “They deliberately encouraged Austria”

        So whose fault was that? Germany’s, or Austria’s? Kinda silly to think of this as a major factor.

        Wars happen because it is in the interest of the ruling class, or because they incorrectly believe it to be. Avarice or stupidity, and usually both.

  9. How do you justify thinking that countless Muslims moving to an accommodating and fearful West in which they know they can earn (or simply receive) much more money as a collapse? Islam is rising. The power of Islam is rising within its adherents and thanks to mass muslim immigration, Islam is gaining a foothold in Europe and in the West. Actually, in Europe it’s gone way beyond a mere foothold. Europe is becoming part of the Muslim world, which means that its wars now take place, in part, on European soil.
    I put it to you that unless you can actually show that fewer Muslims adhere to Islam in Muslim countries, it’s impossible to credibly argue that Islam is collapsing.
    Muslims are getting more religious, not less. Again, the word “collapse” is inappropriate. If nothing drastic happens, Islam will conquer Western Europe and perhaps then they’ll wage war (jihad, actually) on Eastern Europe.
    You could say Islam is in crisis, that it’s writhing and kicking, but so long as the number of Muslims (and devout Muslims) grow, it’s getting stronger, even if its countries are weak and struggling in a religious earthquake in which sunni and shia techtonic plates collide.

    • Yes, Islam is indeed rising. What you are forgetting, Zman, is that Islam is constantly at war with itself, even when it is at war with the infidel. And what appears to be an Islam-on-Islam conflict is better characterized as a conflict between middle-eastern Secularists and middle-eastern Islamists…and the Islamists are winning, hands down. Just about every middle-eastern secular regime has been overthrown, and Syria is fighting for its secular life. Iraq is nominally secular but de-facto Islamic thanks to ISIS. Egypt is an interesting case as they mounted an anti-Islamist counter-revolution, but who knows how long that will last.

      And, look at what the Islamist victories have meant for the non-muslim minorities in the middle-east– back in the mid-20th century, roughly 20% of the middle east was non-muslim. Those minorities have been gradually killed or driven out over the last 50 years, with the process accelerating since 2003; today, the entire middle-east is virtually 100% muslim. It is worth noting that all of this has happened with the active cooperation of the western elites– either on the battlefield (thanks, George W. Bush and Barack Obama) or on the cultural front (Bush dubbing Islam the “religion of peace”, the leaders of western europe throwing open the doors the Islam…and Obama, I won’t even get into, his open declarations of support for Islam are too numerous to document). Obama has singlehandedly ruined a gigantic swath of formerly secular middle-eastern nations.

      No, it is clear that Islam is not just surging, they are winning on every front they are fighting on.

      • 57 Moslem-majority countries so far, and counting. In one generation, Sweden will join them, possibly France. There are approximately 196 countries in the world. That’s a bit under 1/3, I believe. No country that has been conquered by Islam has managed to throw off that oppressive, civilization-destroying yoke without outside help. So yes, Islam is ascendant, once again.

        I’ve said it before, this is the Third Jihad. If the West doesn’t rally itself from its Leftist propaganda-induced stupor and give Islam a Super Smackdown, we will go under eventually. A culture that has forgotten itself has no reason to defend itself and falls to the “barbarian at the gate”. But this time we are actually importing the barbarians! And the barbarians are sure of who they are and what they want.

      • “And what appears to be an Islam-on-Islam conflict is better characterized as a conflict between middle-eastern Secularists and middle-eastern Islamists”.

        Not in Syria. There it’s the shia vs the sunnis. What a pity they can’t both lose.

        • In Syria, it’s a secular (Baath) dynasty versus Shia (Hezbollah) versus Sunni (ISIS) versus Sunni (al-Qaida). Is there any “least bad” option? Hard to tell.

          • Sorry Craig, but no.
            Assad is an Alawite, which is an offshoot of Shia, which is why he was so (and is) so closely allied to Iran (Shia) and to Hizbollah (Shia). Assad is not fighting the Shia Muslims. He is with them. And the Shia and the Sunni forces fight each other. Meanwhile, some Sunni fight other Sunni, namely Al-Qaeda linked forces fighting Isis, over the strategy of Jihad, which is linked to theology but also linked to power, since the Isis people were part of Al-Qaeda and broke away.
            Al-Qaeda believes the Caliphate should come at the end and that fighting Shia should also come at the end and that right now Jihadists should join forces and fight the real infidels : )
            Isis had the novel idea that they should start at the end result, with a caliphate (conveniently run by them) and with in-fighting.

  10. Islam is at war with itself, and “we” are taking sides, the Iranian side to be exact. Obama’s middle name is Hussein, and since everything is all about Obama, one should be aware that Hussein is a Shiite name. The name is derived from the name of a martyred grandson of Mohammed, and is central to the Shia faction of Islam. Obama’s fierce introspection tells him to support the heritage of his “father”, which turns out to be the Iranian side of the Islamic food fight. Just another tidbit to throw into the plot, as things get ever more strange and unstable.

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