We are not the pinnacle of humanity.
That is to say, the generations currently in existence are not exempt from characteristics displayed throughout human history.
In 1939, World War II started, 21 years after World War I had ended. Fifty-eight years before World War I started, the Crimean War — involving the French, British, Russian, and Ottoman empires, among a number of others — ended, marking the crescendo of the Ottoman Wars in Europe. Thirty-eight years before this war began, the Napoleonic Wars ended. When Napoleon first threw Europe and the world into turmoil in 1803, it was 40 years after the end of the Seven Years’ War, which had taken place across five continents and involved every major European power at the time. Forty-two years before the Seven Years’ War, in 1714, the War of the Spanish Succession — between at least 10 of the world’s major powers at the time — ended. Only four years before that, the Nine Years’ War — a conflict fought between empires in Europe, North America, and India — ended. 40 years before the Nine Years’ War began, the Thirty Years’ War — called “one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in human history” — ended.
On and on, every few decades, a large-scale conflict between major global powers.
It has been over 70 years since World War II, the last such conflict, ended.
On Friday, President Trump decided to fire missiles into Syria.
With all due respect, this really has very little to do with Syria. For weeks Trump and Russia (I guess, officially, that means the United States and Russia) have been antagonizing each other with Syria as the focal point.
There was the military skirmish somewhere within the muck of Syrian civil war in which American forces killed, as CIA Director and proposed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo so eloquently put it, “a couple hundred Russians.”
There was the WWE-style promo by Vladimir Putin announcing the newest generation of Russian super-weapons (or “fantasy-weapons” if you prefer).
Finally, Trump’s announcement, via Twitter of course, that the missiles were coming, “nice and new and smart,” against Russia’s claims they would shoot down any missile headed for their allies in Syria.
I saw an unintentionally comical article this week which assessed the military strength of the major players in the Syrian region. It casually mentioned that U.S. troops were mostly amassed in the northeast, because they had been there fighting ISIS.
A deliciously literal “LOL” moment. I had forgotten that was the excuse they gave us for military buildup in the area.
Now, what is certainly an open proxy-war between the U.S. and Russia teeters perilously close to becoming an actual war between the two countries.
And why shouldn’t an unprecedented period of peace between major global powers succumb to inevitability?
But wait … is it inevitability? How did we make it this far, over 70 years without a war between major powers?
The easiest answer is nuclear deterrence, the old “mutually assured destruction.” Once human beings achieved the ability to destroy each other on that level they understood the annihilation which would come from a major conflict.
But there is another factor at play. That is: the popular perception of war as it relates to the diversity of the decision-making process to go to war.
As monarchies, who could go to war whenever they damn-well pleased, started giving way to representative governments, so too did the popular perception of naked colonialism deteriorate. Evidently, the people who would be doing the dying are not all that keen on fighting in wars in which they do not share in the spoils.
If the United States has practiced a kind of neo-colonialism — in Iraq, Vietnam, and so many other places — it has mostly done so backed by enormous advertising campaigns and in the face of public opposition. If even minor conflicts are that difficult to sell, presumably major conflicts would be even more challenging to manufacture.
Yet, in an era where American Presidents go to war without Congressional approval, where the global flag bearers of “freedom and democracy” repeatedly disregard and violate international law, where mainstream journalism has declined beyond relevance, where the decision-making process to go to war and the checks and restrictions on it have been dramatically narrowed, perhaps it is no surprise we sit on the precipice of what history says is unavoidable.
Maybe the next global conflict really will be the pinnacle of humanity… as in, “the end.”