A few columns back, I began to discuss the Winnies, a series of citations of what I considered to be the biggest train wrecks of American foreign policy. Parenthetically, let me remind you that the Winnies are named for Winston Churchill, who in my view was the epitomy of the calculating, miscalculating statist. If I were to devise such a list today there might be some omissions and additions to that earlier list, since I am continuously involved in new acquisition of information. But I feel certain that my top three would stay in the top three, perhaps four or five. So with this week's writing I cover two of the top three, and I will get to the Yalta Conference with the next edition.
The Treaty of Versailles -- It is incredible to contemplate all of the magical thinking that has plagued Europe since its colonization by the Roman Empire, but the Treaty of Versailles, purportedly ending World War I, was perhaps the finest distillate of a millenium of unforeseen consequences of desperately bad decisions. And who went out of his way, to defy his own principles, to enable the outrage? It was Woodrow Wilson. The Treaty of Versailles, in punitively crushing Germany economically, merely perpetuated and did not resolve at all, the anti-human presumptions of a thousand years of monarchy and repressive religions in Europe. The treaty was something worthy of a pissing contest, but nothing higher. We suffer today from the horrendous missing of an opportunity to introduce freedom and individual self-determination among our species. Wilson skulked away from his responsibility here just to keep his fantastical League of Nations alive in his pedantic mind.
Of course we all know today that turning Germany into a waste land was the gateway for Hitler. It was also step one in the march toward global financial depression. And finally, it set the stage for the highly predictable World War II, which was, in true perspective, just another episode in the statist, monarchical, religious wars that had swept Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire.
We will see a parallel with FDR and WW II, but Wilson sidestepped an actual peace because he did not have the solidity to insist upon it. Instead, he cloaked himself with the fairytale mantle of the man who made the world safe for democracy (see earlier Winnie on democracy) and who was the champion of the League of Nations (even his own Congress would not agree to this failure in the making). Just as we continue to kick the can down the road on the critical issues of today (such as the national debt), so did the politicians of yesterday -- ensuring that we would have their cans as well as our own.
By the way, there are many excellent analyses of the Treaty of Versailles, so I encourage you to begin reading.
The Manhattan Project -- The Hiroshima-Nagisaki results of this project were, along with Yalta, as the Treaty of Versailles was to World War I, the cowardly legacy of statism that would burden the world for generations, if not all time, thereafter.
Of course, I am being a skylarking optimist when I predict that this is just a burden that may last for all time. It may eventuate as the termination of human existence, in which case there will not be a thing called "all time."
Letting the genie out of the bottle. Opening a can of worms. Ringing a bell that cannot be unrung. Squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube. Unleashing the furies.
I am sure we can come up with even more imaginative ways to kill great numbers of ourselves, if we have a future in which to do so, but it is hard to imagine a more myopic use of science. We can now see, for instance, that the average scientist has no real concern for knock on outcomes, as long as he can get a government to pay for his/her noodling around. In one sense, how do the antics of the Los Alamos crowd differ in kind from the experiments of Dr. Mengele, the syphilis trials at Tuskegee Institute, or any other "what if" exercise conducted with disadvantaged humans as the lab rats?
Well, I am sure that we can come up with ever more maniacal ways. I live just tens of miles from one of the largest stock piles in the world of nerve gas. And the capper is that the geniuses who dreamed this up, don't know how to stand down -- the government and its army have no clue as to how to neutralize and destroy their invention. Once you have a tiger by the tail, how do you release it?
Worse yet. Other countries lower in the pecking order of world powers have followed in the pursuit of atomic warfare. Some of these are "civilized countries," such as the UK (heh heh) and France (heh heh) who between them have been in every war in modern memory, not to mention the great kindness of colonialism. Then there is Israel, one of the most traumatized groups of people ever, who live in the midst of other people who consider them to be invaders. How about Saudi Arabia, who some people say have booby-trapped their oil fields with dirty nuclear devices? India? Who knows? Pakistan and North Korea are two completely bat droppings crazy regimes, products of the lovely idea of partitioning (a proven winner for peace, he wrote satirically.
One must ask the question, will we improve posterity by evolving or by extinguishing ourselves?