Are we condemned to repeat history?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Bigdumps, Aug 14, 2008.

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  1. Recently I went to the National Army Museum in Chelsea and as I was walking around I realised that there is a distinct pattern (or a trend?) that states and international actors constantly evolve; city states turn into larger entitities, then mature and then fall.

    We can probably go as far back as to ancient Mesopotamia to the present day to witness this.

    I just wondered, then, whether we are condemned to repeat previous events? My problem with this idea, is that it is too easy to interpret history to fit our own 'world view'.
  2. Of course we are. looking at history tells us that little is ever learned as the past is dismissed as 'that was then, this is different now'. it is quite relevent in military circle (and police) where orders are given and no dissent is allowed.
  3. One thing I've been mulling over lately with the rise of India and China: power traditionally lay in countries with large populations, where there was sufficient production of raw materials to allow a portion of the population to concentrate on things other than raw subsistence, such as manufacturing, military feu or maintaining infrastructure. It was only in a comparatively recent period that European nations held such a vast technological advantage that they could overcome weight of numbers. By that I mean they had the manufacturing capacity and social structure to maintain complex and technologically advanced armies in the field over long distances, either by supplying from home or by exporting capabilities like armouries and shipyards closer to the fighting.

    It's no longer the case that we outmatch the eastern nations so massively in technological terms; does that mean that power will revert to the largest populations?
  4. Does that take into account assymetric warfare , such as we are now involved in in Afghanistan?

    No great need for advanced technology, just a few willing martyrs for the cause, and Bobs your mothers cousin.
  5. Bd – ” then mature and then fall”

    As with bio organisms, including humans of course, it’s the way things work. If conditions exist to proliferate and flourish then by design it’s what organics do. Humans have a comparative high intellect which facilitates pursuit of wants (as opposed to needs), ideals and fancies. Sadly a downside of this can and does develop in malcontent though needs may be satisfied, and an ethos that satisfaction and achievement comes through acquisition/domination. Hence, even if external entities are unsuccessful in subjugating or undermining your foundation, whether due to innate tribal hierarchy traits or the permutation of intellect your foundation is constantly subject to usurpation.

    Even with the lessons of history and experience, there have been and will be those who perhaps do not ignore this, but believe they know how to succeed where others failed, or believe they are simply superior, and not necessarily in competence. Whether successful or not, the frequent reason for the action is ‘it was necessary’. And, only hindsight, (perhaps invariably decided by ‘the winners’), will judge on the validity.

  6. Military power has been replaced by economic power as the driving force behind advancement.

    The USA may have the most powerful military in history and be far beyond any other nation but as Iraq and Afg have shown its virtually powerless when fettered with the social values of the western world. Compare the russians in Chechnya with the yanks in Bagdad - the Russians were quite willing to reduce Grozny to rubble whilst such an option was never possible for a western nation in Iraq.
  7. I don't personally think asymmetric warfare is anything new, just a shiny new label dreamt up by an ambitious staff college wallah for an age-old concept. There's a need for certain mount of broad technological parity even in martyrdom - imagine suicide-bombing without explosives!

    Western nations were able to vanquish military opposition in other parts because they were able to put cutting-edge technology in the field, man it, supply it and replace it while their opponents lacked some or all of those capabilities. Fuzzy-wuzzy versus Lee-Metford, Tartar Cavalry versus breech-loading artillery, Indian princlings with well-served artillery that took ages to cast and could blow up in the gunners' faces if the bloke in charge of the armoury had had an off-day when it was made, etc. That level of military disparity simply isn't there anymore. Pretty much everyone can field automatic small-arms and even capable indirect fire these days - unlike the glory days of the European Empires.

    Willing martyrs are perfectly acceptable to a colonial power that has the ability to martyr them at no noticeable cost to itself. It's when the martyring causes the rulers a bloody nose that it becomes an effective tool. Otherwise it's pointless.
  8. I believe it was General Boulanger who observed that once you start shooting the mob, that's fine provided you are prepared to carry on shooting them! Wise words mate; though you were French, I take my hat off to you. Anyone whose blows their brains out on their mistress' grave must have had something about them. Oh and they named a tasty dish after him too with onions and spuds in it.

  9. I broadly agree, with the proviso that military might had eclipsed economic power atypically for the reasons I gave above. My instinct is that the re-emergence of economic power is an expression of a more natural order of things.
  10. Seems that the sentiment of ‘history repeating itself’ is being used as another way of expressing the ‘stick and carrot’ endemic human trait which has prevailed naturally from the year dot?

    If we are thought to be less militaristic now than the past, perhaps in part decisions are more subject to public knowledge and opinion, and in part to the cost of modern manoeuvres and the approach that it’s cheaper (if not only financially viable), and potentially profitable to use non military means.

    However, while in the past man may have been quicker to resort to force, economic ‘conquests’ have always been part of our history.

    Cuddles – ”you start shooting the mob, that's fine provided you are prepared to carry on shooting them!”

    A very good point and IMHO one that does mark a change – i.e. in acceptable/expected ruthlessness and acceptable/expected dominance. Certainly nowadays the level of instant ‘in-your-face’ reporting, comments and awareness/education fuels outrage over collateral damage which is significantly different to the past. Another change, again IMHO, is the lack of spoils? e.g. We, in effect, conquered Iraq. Ergo, their ‘arrse’ is ours to do with as we please. Most significantly their oil is ours – but it no longer works that way does it. By the same token, this Hollywood image of Superman flying off into the sunset saying ‘a job well done in the name of justice is reward enough’ is also utter bollox.
    If that’s not true then why don’t/won’t we see [​IMG] in Africa?

  11. The situation seems to be that we will multiply until we reach the point that we get scarce on resources and then we will have a massive reduction in numbers. Even though it can be seen to be coming we do not appear to have the political will to do anything about it.

    It is blatantly obvious that resources are finite, yet we behave as though they are not.
  12. If you mean the rise and fall of Empires then of course history repeats itself. Because everyone who tries to build an Empire of sorts often emulates past examples of people who did (which later collapsed, as people seem to forget but copy anyway :roll: )