History’s Myths And Lessons
World War I: The War To End All Wars Clouded In Myths
Mark Harrison, a professor of history at Warwick University, contends a review of the events of World War I show that “contrary to the prevailing narrative,” it is a story “of foresight, intention, calculation, and causation” tainted by some notable myths.
One of those myths is that the beginning of the war was a result of happenstance when in fact the decisions to enter war were “were highly calculated with clear foresight” of the possible wider costs and consequences.
“The record shows that the war was brought about very largely by design, and among those that designed it there was realistic foresight of the scale, scope, character, duration, and even outcome of the war. The spirit of those that gave the orders is usefully defined as “rational pessimism”: they feared their enemies, but they feared the future more,” he argues in a piece in The Conversation.
Another myth is that the Versailles Treaty contributed to the onset of World War II, which Harrison says is not the case. Rather, the poverty and economic frustration borne of the Great Depression played a much larger role in creating the conditions that fed Nazism and Hitler’s rise.
“It was not until the hammer blow of the Great Depression that conditions were laid for violent polarization and the breakthrough of the radical right to national significance and power. The dark forces unleashed at this point were engendered long before World War I. Let loose by the war, they were caged by the German defeat and Weimar democracy put them into a coma. Were it not for the Great Depression, Hitler and his infamous co‐conspirators would have lived to the 1960s and died in obscurity in their beds.”
How To Mark The Anniversary Of The Rwandan Genocide
The editorial board of The Christian Science Monitor weighs in on the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda with a focus on the lessons which can be learned from how the country sought to achieve reconciliation. Rwanda is often used as an example by those urging intervention in other war zones – as many have concerning the violence in the Central African Republic. [France, which has been criticized for its role in the Rwandan genocide, has taken a firm hand in CAR, its former colony]
However, the editors say a lesson can be seen in the “reparative justice” that the country has pursued.
“Most of Rwanda’s main perpetrators in the genocide have been tried in regular courts, either in Rwanda, Europe,, or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up by the United Nations. But for hundreds of thousands of others who were charged with killing, the Rwandan criminal-justice system was too weak and its jails too full. Legal trials would have taken decades. The country had to fall back on a form of community-based traditional justice known as gacaca,” the editors observe.
While this example has not worked in every post-conflict situation, they point to South Africa as another African nation which has used this process to achieve justice.
“Other post-conflict countries in transition, notably South Africa, have relied on a similar process with their truth-and-reconciliation commissions. But the bodies have usually been more formal and national in scope. Rwanda’s gacaca are far more personal, designed to achieve the end result of allowing people who knew each other to resume living in the same community. They also bring together an entire village to witness a confession, attest to its sincerity, encourage forgiveness by the victim, and agree on some reparation, such as helping till a victim’s fields for a time.”
Jonathan Tepperman, editor of Foreign Affairs, writes in a guest editorial in The Los Angeles Times charts the astonishing path Rwanda has taken in the last 20 years to rebuild and reconcile.
“Thanks in large part to smart governance, more than 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty since 2006. Child mortality has dropped 70%, and malaria-related deaths have plummeted more than 85% since 2005, though it helps that healthcare is universal. Last year, the World Bank ranked Rwanda as the second-best place in Africa to do business. Transparency International counts it the second least-corrupt nation on the continent, and last week the consulting firm A.T. Kearney ranked it as the most attractive African market in its first African Retail Development Index Rwanda’s first international bond issue, last April, did remarkably well Meanwhile, 92% of children attend primary school, and Rwanda’s parliament has a higher share of women — 64% — than any other legislature in the world,” he writes.
Under Ed Miliband, Britain Would Look A Lot Like Socialist France
An editorial in The Spectator posits that were Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain’s Labor Party, to achieve power, he would institute economic policies more in tune with France’s socialists than his British brethren.
“Rather, Miliband has developed his own Hollande-style agenda and proposes to govern by issuing edicts to companies, telling energy firms what they should charge their customers and threatening similar orders to those he regards as ‘predators’. He has a very advanced and detailed business strategy — but seems to lack the support of a single prominent business leader. They sense the same happening in Britain as in France: a stick shaken at employers followed by a hiring freeze, mass unemployment and a fresh fiscal crisis,” the editors claim.