Sunday, February 6, 2011

They Never Change

Well, I happen to be reading a book by Robert K. Massie, entitled Dreadnought,which is about the Britain and Germany in the period from the late 19th century to the coming of World War I.  I found an account of a parliamentary election called by the Conservative ruling party in 1900, when British troops, sent to South Africa for the Boer war were still on African soil.  I found a couple of Massie's comments very illuminating:

"...only one issue -the war- was put before the public.  Unionist sloganeering had convinced the electorate that, with British troops still in the field, only an experienced government could be trusted to carry through its policy and win peace.

(The Conservatives') theme became "A vote for the Liberals is a vote for the Boers!"  The charge was shouted from platforms, proclaimed by billboards and placards.  Posters depicted prominent liberals kneeling in tribute to President Kruger (the leader of the Boers,)  helping him to haul down the Union Jack, even urging him to shoot British soldiers."

Boy, nothing changes, does it?  Lies and smears, and hollow patriotism, manipulating the memory of the nation's soldiers and deliberate spreading of terror of national defeat, have always been the tools of Conservatives.  They inevitably resort to this kind of evil behavior to get their way, as we can see so clearly in this country over the last couple of decades.

Needless to say, this kind of mindless, infantile belligerence from both Germany and England was essential to create the conditions for the slaughter of tens of millions in World War I, and conservatives on both sides of the channel were happy to oblige.


magpie said...

Haven't read the book but...

As you would have read by now the Dreadnought was a watershed in battleship design. Battleships were essentially the nuclear weapons/space program/super carriers of their day - an expression of power and prestige.

And ultimately they were not the decisive weapon of the war. Surface combat was almost a sideshow. But belief in them bred dangerous attitudes. After Jutland, a colossal sea battle that proved nothing, reckless Beatty was lauded, and cautious and smart Jellicoe criticized by a blood-frenzied press.

It's a very sobering era to read about.

Green Eagle said...

And, of course, in short order, the carrier-based fighter plane pretty much made the big guns on battleships as obsolete as trebuchets. I was on the Missouri last year in Pearl Harbor- the world's largest existing battleship, and nothing but a very large antique. And who could forget the Yamato, the biggest battleship ever, sunk almost immediately.

All of World War I is fascinating to read about- it's a pathetic story of brave troops squandered by the millions by idiotic, uncaring leaders. You are obviously familiar with the years it took for Jellicoe and above all his mentor Jacky Fisher to get the navy to face the reality of modern naval combat, while the belligerent Germans cranked out ships by the dozens, resulting in these largely meaningless set-piece naval engagements; the story would be essentially repeated in the 1930's, when England and France, still traumatized by war, avoided facing Germany's clear intent to start a war as soon as possible.