Perhaps I should say in W S Gilbert style ‘well hardly ever’.
When struggling for a theme for my graduation strategy thesis for at the Royal College of Defence Studies I felt a suitable title would be Just Wars. In order to make that work I had to come up with a balance, yet I could find very few ‘just’ wars.
I concede the term just is pretty subjective but if one muses over wars in the last two thousand years most have simply been a waste of blood & treasure. Sadly in recent years ever more so. The British Empire fought many little wars with a view to consolidating or expanding itself. Many surprisingly efficiently. The basket cases being the Crimea & South African wars. The disastrously criminal Great War culminating in the end of empire. One could argue from a British perspective up until 1899 some sort of rationale even if flawed, gave rise to nineteenth century military engagements.
Global expansionism has fallen to the new global imperial power, the United States. With over two hundred thousand overseas military personnel and eight hundred bases regime change is the hegemonic goal, totally irrational as that is in a post cold war era. The military budget for the Pentagon & its sinister cousin at Langley is in excess of one trillion dollars. That buys congressmen in swing states as President Eisenhower warned us in 1960. In order to maintain this largely unaudited budget bogeymen must be found post Soviet Union. The Russian Federation, China & Iran step up.
In order to maintain these budgets, mainly borrowed, the electorate must be constantly massaged in to a feeling of fear. Ironically the total military budgets for these bogeymen amount to less than twenty five percent of the US expenditure. But then fear is not always rational.
In the 1850s Britain & France in support of the Ottoman Empire Turkey embarked on a disastrous & expensive war against Russia in the Crimea. An historical view of war with Russia shows a lamentable record for aggressors. It terminated the ambition of Napoleon & Hitler. Fighting Russia on its own soil is military impossible, even if you win you lose, it just ain’t worth the candle.
Wars fought by industrial democracies countries need to carry the electorate with them so political propaganda is essential, particularly effective with the British is the portrayal of an enemy as a bully, The France of Louis XIV & Napoleon , The Kaiser’s Germany & the Russian led Soviet Union made this easy. In 1850s Britain the music hall song ‘By jingo’ stirred the misplaced patriotism of the lower middle classes in to misjudged & soon regretted involvement in the Crimea.
A successful war in Korea prompted the doomed American involvement in Vietnam. No lessons were learned it seems, Iraq, Libya, Syria, The Horn of Africa & Afghanistan followed. What an extraordinary litany of failure.
As the now aggressive anachronistic American led NATO ( see godfreybloom.uk articles NATO ) search for yet another futile endeavour has settled on the Ukraine. In 2004 the Washington’s bovine neo cons perpetrated another regime change in the Ukraine overturning the election result leaving the usual rickety corrupt US sponsored puppet, this time in Russia’s back garden. Remember the Cuban missile crisis ? Source for the goose is not it seems sauce for the gander for the US State Dept. when it comes to missile deployment.
Jingoism is alive & well in the British pubs as it was back in mid Victorian days, the difference being the United Kingdom was then a world super power not a regional power of very limited military means.
Jingoism was not restricted to the Crimea, just before the second South African war with Rudyard Kipling’s observant condemnation I quote a piece here
‘When you’ve finished singing Rule Britannia & God save the queen & finished killing Kruger with your mouth….’
It’s happening again. People in America & Britain who would be hard pushed to point out Utah or Uttoxeter on a map, never mind the Ukraine with no understanding of Russian history, global geo political strategy, military deployment or logistics are quite willing to risk another Crimea as long as they can stay safe in the knowledge if sabre rattling turns to a shooting war they will be well clear of military service.
It prompts me to recall Siegfried Sassoon’s poem of 1917, ‘if I were fierce & bald & short of breath I’d be with scarlet majors at the base & speed young heroes up the line to death’
But then Sassoon had seen war at first hand, unlike the golf club nineteenth hole strategists.
A word on the military position. Ponder if you will, Russia can deploy one hundred divisions immediately with a very short supply line, Britain could probably deploy one fighting brigade, the US perhaps two with enough time to build up five at a pinch. The Ukraine has a 30% Russian speaking population mainly in the east. So whatever Ukrainian forces can be deployed there is a danger of a fifth column.
Geo politically Western Europe is heavily dependent on Russian energy, not a dastardly Putin plan, but the result of decades of suicidal green politics. Poking the bear might be cool in the bars of western Europe or Washington but it could come at a very high price.