War

Analysis of political issues across the world

War

Postby Michael » 25 Jun 2012, 16:32



This is a clip from one of the very best documentaries I have ever watched. It is called War: A Commentary and it was produced by the Canadian National Film Board in 1983. The presenter, Gwynne Dyer, is a Canadian journalist, historian, and former naval officer, presents an overview of armed conflict: what is is, how it is fought, the causes that give rise to it, and a compelling argument for why it must ultimately stop. Dyer speaks with a level of intelligence and analysis that is almost impossible to find in television documentaries these days. The closest comparison I can think of are Kenneth Clark's Civilization or James Burke's Connections

The documentary is divided into seven sections. I've posted links to the first part of each episode on YouTube - you can easily find links to the rest of the parts from there:

Part One: The Road to Total War - a history of armed conflict in the 20th century, and it's logical outcome in the development of nuclear arsenals.

Part Two: Anyone's Son Will Do - the techniques used in every army to train soldiers, demonstrated by the training of new recruits to the United States Marine Corp, and a commentary on why young men are ideally suited to becoming soldiers.

Part Three: The Profession of Arms - how officers are trained, and how armies are organized, with a reflection on the goals of officers and the psychological coping mechanisms and ideals they need to perform their jobs well. Also, how the self-image and "moral armor" of soldiers is threatened by technology.

Part Four: The Deadly Game of Nations - the nature of the international system of nation states, how armies help to maintain a state's autonomy, and the real reasons we fight: to get what we want and keep what we have.

Part Five: Keeping The Old Game Alive - This part is about conventional war, the artificial distinction made in total war to cover all military operations short of using nuclear weapons. Filmed in West Germany, Dyer discusses the difficulties facing NATO forces defending Western Europe from the Warsaw Pact, and that despite the best efforts any conflict would, in all likelihood, have progressed to a nuclear exchange. Includes a jaw dropping helicopter flight over a Red Army combat group, with tanks, trucks, and APCs lined up to the horizon, which gives a sense of the scale of the problem confronting NATO planners.

Part Six: Notes On Nuclear War - notes on the absurdities of nuclear war, as well as attempts by theorists to develop strategies for 'limited nuclear war'. Dyer gives a good overview of what drove the nuclear arms race, as well as the proliferation of weapon delivery systems, and the basics of strategy for fighting nuclear wars.

Part Seven: Goodbye War - the coda to the series, where Dyer talks about the need for further development of international institutions for preventing wars. He judges the United Nations to have been, despite its many, many flaws, a success in its primary goal: preventing an all-out war between the superpowers.

Despite it's origin deep in the Cold War I do not feel that the material is in any way outdated, save for the lack of focus on guerrilla and insurgent warfare. I particularly liked Dyer's pragmatism and realism: he skewers peace protesters and nuclear disarmament campaigners for their naivete and assumption that it is only 'bad people' who keep the arms race going. In fact, he points out, though we claim we want peace we all in fact prefer the international situation as it is, and are not prepared to pay the very high cost of international peace. He thinks that, given the alternative (a likely third world war involving nuclear weapons) it is worth paying quite a high price in national sovereignty and prestige to have peace.
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Re: War

Postby Gavin » 25 Jun 2012, 18:48

I for one will certainly watch this over the next few days/weeks. I loved Kenneth Clark's Civilization (available in full on YouTube) and this looks very interesting too...

It's funny to watch Civilization, by the way, because he says a few things which are obviously true but which presenters would not say today - e.g. statements about Islam and the supremacy of western architecture and so on.
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Re: War

Postby Caleb » 27 Jun 2012, 01:32

Didn't von Clausewitz say that if you want peace, prepare for war?
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Re: War

Postby Michael » 27 Jun 2012, 13:34

Indeed, but Clausewitz lived in the age before thermonuclear weapons.
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Re: War

Postby Gavin » 09 May 2014, 19:16

The lead headline at The Telegraph at the moment is about war. The article shows a picture of a British soldier with his thumb held up having managed to defeat a Taliban fighter in battle. This is supposed to be some kind of scandal.

Do these people have no idea, can they not even imagine, what it is like to be shot at and to see one's comrades killed? Holding his thumb up is not even doing anyone any harm. Do these pampered liberals think there was no jubilation following successful bombing raids during WWII?

War is distasteful, tensions run high, and in war death is victory. I think we are in no position to judge the odd thumb held high when these people risk their lives under orders from our government.
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Re: War

Postby Nathan » 09 May 2014, 19:27

I thought the same. The photo seems very distasteful, but who am I to judge when I've never been in anything like the same position? I don't want to wish war on anybody, but I'm sure having been in one gives you a much broader insight into life and into what causes war in the first place, something which our generation of politicians and media bosses noticeably seem to lack.
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Re: War

Postby Gavin » 10 May 2014, 19:04

The comments for this one are here - including:

That's the way, Soldier! Thumbs up indeed. Well done.


The elation of surviving a lethal exchange is beyond the comprehension of 99% of the population. The photo is distasteful in the cold light do day but wholly understandable to anyone who has 'been there'. Westminster will mostly rush to condemn as a PR disaster. Just as well most WWII vets did I not carry cameras.


Well done soldier, stay alive and well, and come home soon.


This is simply mad. You are in a firefight with people who have just launched a deadly attack against you, people you are at war with and you cannot celebrate a victory and still being alive? Thank god these PC halfwits weren't around in WW2.


There's one thing the so called metropolitan elite needs to understand and yet again Churchill expressed it better than I can...

“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.” - Winston Churchill

Be careful quoting Churchill, Brimstone52. Don't forget the last time Paul Weston dared to do that he got his collar felt!

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