William Lind warns us not to repeat bloody history

Summary: Trump continues his predecessors’ core foreign policy, plunging us deeper into wars on the other side of the world among the Islamic peoples. Four years ago, William Lind wrote a humorous but serious (and prescient) warning about the similarities between current events and the tragic 30 Years War that reshaped Europe during the 17th century. If they wish to spill rivers of blood, let them do so without our participation.

Civil War - Dreamstime-128645019
ID 128645019 © Ilkin Guliyev | Dreamstime.

Advice on His Majesty’s Birthday

By William S. Lind.

The time of year again is here when I telephone Germany’s last legitimate ruler, Kaiser Wilhelm II {1859-1941}, who also happens to be my liege lord and reporting senior. Were he still in charge, the Fatherland would not be drowning itself in a sea of racial and religious sewage. Unlike Hausfrau Merkel, Kaiser Wilhelm could tell the difference between Shinola and that other stuff.

His Majesty picked up the phone promptly. Regrettably, it was hard to hear over the roar of the drinking songs, crashing tankards, shattering crockery, and general bedlam that rang out from whatever shindig he was attending. It sounded more like a place for the Great Elector {Frederick William, Duke of Prussia, 1620-1688} than for Kaiser Bill.

After offering His Majesty my congratulations, I asked what the revelry was all about.

“Well, I suppose it’s in part about my birthday. But that’s just an excuse. These 17th-century guys really know how to party. I don’t come here often, but whenever I do it’s what you hear. Cannon should be going off soon.”

“May I ask Your Majesty who else is in attendance?”

“Everybody who matters, or did. Gustavus Adolphus {King of Sweden, 1594-1632}, Johann Tilly {Field Marshall, 1559-1632}, Albrecht von Wallenstein {General, 1583-1634}, the Emperor Ferdinand II {1578-1637}, the Count-Duke of Olivares {Prime Minister of Spain, 1587-1645}, endless Electors, Margraves, Freiherrs, the whole bunch.”

“And is this great feast perhaps connected to the Thirty Years’ War?” I enquired.

“You’re as spot-on as U-9’s torpedoes,” His Majesty replied. “It’s all coming back again, this time in the Middle East. The clock is running backward. What vanished when the state arose is returning as the state declines. The old gang is singing ‘Happy Days are Here Again’, in Latin of course.”

“Well, I hope the food is as good as the drink seems to be,” I ventured.

“Depends on how you like the Diet of Worms,” His Majesty said.

“Might it be possible amidst all the revelry for me to ask those who fought Europe’s Thirty Years’ War what they would advise us for Islam’s Thirty Years’ War?” I asked.

“I think I can manage that,” the Kaiser replied. “Let me ask the Kaiser Karl to fire off one of his 30.5 cm Skoda guns.” Luckily, I was holding the telephone’s receiver at some distance. Even so, I was stunned by the sound. It did get everyone’s attention.

30.5 cm Skoda guns on the SMS_Tegetthoff

The Kaiser said in the silence, “I’ve got a Herr Hofkriegsrat from the 21st century on the line. What would you advise Europe, Russia, and America do in the new Thirty Years’ War among the Saracens?”

After a brief pause, all the assembled worthies shouted with one voice, “Keep it local!

Olivares explained. “If you want to understand America today, look to the Spain I knew. Spain went from the greatest power in the world to a defeated, bankrupt wreck in 50 years. America is on the same course, and about the same timetable. When Spain and the other Catholic powers won at Nördlingen (1634), I proclaimed it ‘The greatest victory of the age!’ That was rephrased in your time as ‘Mission Accomplished.’ In both cases, it was the beginning of disaster. If you would learn from us, stay out! Let the worshippers of Mohammed kill each other. It need be none of your affair.”

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden chimed in. “I agree with the distinguished Count-Duke. But I would add, if outside powers insist on getting involved, as they are doing, make sure the clashes between them occur on someone else’s soil. That is something we did fairly well. It wrecked Germany, but it did not wreck all of Europe, except of course financially. Confine your duels to the lists. For outside powers, it is all a joust anyway.”

“If I may add something” – the voice was Wallenstein’s – “what you are seeing in your time is the return of Real War. Real War is what we knew; your pretty little armies know it not. Real War comes riding with Plague, Famine, and Death. Populations sink to a fraction of their pre-war size. Civilians are targets as much or more than soldiers. You will discover reasons for the cry, ‘Magdeburg quarter!’ You will have its equivalents: ‘ISIS quarter!’ is a start.”

Kaiser Wilhelm said to me sotto voce, “The Holy Roman Emperor is about to speak!”

“Fellow Christians, let us set our revels aside for a moment, if we may. What faces Christendom now is grave. Our Thirty Years’ War began as a war of religion and ended up a war among states. That was a very good thing. States, motivated solely, as they should be, by raison d’etat, can act rationally. They can compromise. They can limit war. They can count the cost of war, in thalers or dollars, and keep the peace because war does not pay.”

“In the 21st century, the movement is in the other direction. What begins as wars between states, as in President George W. Bush’s war with Iraq, turns into wars of religion. Men believe their eternal salvation is at stake. In such a matter there can be no reason, no compromise, no counting of costs. Wars of belief are by their nature unlimited. As my servant General Wallenstein said – remember, Wally old chap, you are my servant – such wars are Real War. God help those peoples upon whom Real War descends. America, your presidents are a powerful argument for monarchy!”

Through Kaiser Wilhelm, I offered my sincere thanks to his distinguished company. I asked him whether he had anything to add.

“In Heaven, I have learned when not to talk,” His majesty replied. “Europe’s Thirty Years’ War tells your time all it needs to know.”

Posted at Traditional Right, 26 January 2016.
Posted with his generous permission.

—————————————–

About the Thirty Years

The Thirty Years’ War was fought mostly in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in history, eight million died from the fighting plus famine, and disease. Casualties were mostly in the Holy Roman Empire, with the remainder from the many foreign armies. Over 20% of Germany’s population died during the conflict and roughly 50% of those living in a corridor between Pomerania and the Black Forest.” (Paraphrased from Wiikipedia.)

The cast was long and varied. Ostensibly a religious war, it quickly became a free-for-all without logic or rational goals. It ended with the treaties called the Peace of Westphalia. These set the pattern for Europe’s geopolitics that has lasted until this day.

About the author

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia.

William Lind

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987). Most importantly, he is one of the co-authors of “Into the Fourth Generation“, the October 1989 article in the Marine Corps Gazette describing fourth-generation warfare.

He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…

  1. His posts at TraditionalRight.
  2. His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
  3. His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.

For More Information

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7 thoughts on “William Lind warns us not to repeat bloody history”

  1. Very fine piece. Perhaps one should add to the similarities that the starting point for the over extension and collapse of Spain predated the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. It was the Dutch Revolt, which at its start must have seemed a hopeless cause. Here was a tiny little trading country with no or minimal military history taking on the great power of the age, one whose infantry had dominated the battlefields of Europe since the battle of Marignano.

    And yet the logic of trying to secure supply routes to subdue the breakaway province led inevitably to a successive series of ever more ruinous commitments which in the end were not sustainable.

    At Rocroi and Lens the Spanish infantry were wiped out. The story of over extension due to pointless wars bringing a great power to its knees then got new narrators, the French, and in particular after 1661, Louis XIV. Also Sweden, whose catastrophic over extension ended in the reign of Charles XII

    Its an often told tale, alas.

    A fine piece and a relevant history. Real change will require an end to the endless and pointless wars. But how?

  2. Hermocrates: Nobody is driven in to war by ignorance, and no one who thinks he will gain anything from it is deterred by fear; and: They have an abundance of gold and silver, and these make war, like other things, go smoothly.

    The Peloponnesian War (431–404) a similar retreat from stability and law.

    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hermocrates

  3. I agree with the other readers, a very fine article. I have never seen Lind so humorous (which is a little alarming by itself!).

    To answer Henrik’s question: “Real change will require an end to the endless and pointless wars. But how?”
    The logical steps are easily defined, performing the logical steps is much harder.

    The US public needs to stop liking the war. For the most part, the US public is either ignoring the conflict or actively supporting it. Publicly supporting the war is vital for both Democratic and Republican party candidates to avoid being viewed as unpatriotic (which would automatically sink their candidacy). We are currently a LONG way from completing this first step.
    The US public needs to start realizing the costs of the war, which are astronomical in dollars and expensive in blood. The Vietnam war was only a little lower in dollar cost (allowing for inflation) but cost much higher in US soldiers and it still took most of a decade for the US public to grow weary of the conflict. The reckoning for the current conflict has been delayed for a lot of reasons:
    a) The Defense department have been able to keep the conflict mostly out of the US media and put a positive spin on everything that is said. They’ve also been able to avoid anything like the Tet offensive. If they were as successful on the military front as they have been on media front, they’d have won the war long ago
    b) Both parties have found the conflict VERY useful for domestic politics. Awarding defense department contracts, distracting the US public from unpopular issues, lots of meaningless “show the flag” and “support the veteran” events that reliably raise political support. Obama was able to deflect a lot of Republican criticism by escalating the war at politically strategic moments.
    c) Inertia and the Sunk Cost Fallacy (the theory that just because you’ve spent a lot on a goal, you can’t give up even if you don’t see a way to achieve the goal. Perhaps the other side will give up first).
    Once the US public gets tired enough of the war, a President will declare victory and bring our troops home (a signed treaty is preferable but optional). Ending the conflict is risky, certain parts of the US economy will start deflating, the Defense department will turn on the President like a rabid dog (it may not have been a good war, but it was the only war they had and they aren’t going to give it up easily), and the media will not thank the President for taking away a long-running reliable news story.

    But the country will be vastly better off and, hopefully, start healing after a few years.

    Taking the above into consideration in the current political climate, there is no reason to assume that it will end before the 30th anniversary of 9/11 (we’re almost 2/3 of the way there) although the US public is fickle and events can move us very quickly if properly aligned.

    But this war WILL end someday simply because it is slowly destroying America. The only question is whether it will end before or after the US is destroyed. That decision rests solely with the US public and their votes.

    1. ” The Vietnam war was only a little lower in dollar cost (allowing for inflation) but cost much higher in US soldiers and it still took most of a decade for the US public to grow weary of the conflict.”

      And that was with a draft. Today, thanks to economic conscription, the upper middle class doesn’t have to worry about their sons being dragged off to a war.

      Being a soldier is the new blue collar job. I rarely meet someone from the working class who doesn’t have a close relative who voluntarily signed up. At the high school where my son went, half of the boys in his graduating class volunteered to sign up. Many were turned away due to poor grades or other reasons.

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