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Battle of the Somme, 90 years ago


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Old 02-07-2006, 22:52   #1
haku haku is offline
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Battle of the Somme, 90 years ago

90 years ago (on the 1st of July precisely) started one of the bloodiest battle of World War I: the Battle of the Somme.

It was to be an absolute carnage.

1.2 million men (British, French, German) were killed or injured in that only battle.

And they essentially died for nothing since after 5 months, the front line had barely moved.


At a time when some people are questioning (if not mocking) European institutions and want to take us back to nationalism, i think it is good to remember where nationalism got us not even 100 years ago and how many people died during the butchery that World War I turned out to be.
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Old 03-07-2006, 00:39   #2
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God bless the EU I say. Europe got cemented in it's status quo after WW2 and rightfully so. National tendencies will always be present inside the Union though. That's one of the significant properties of our once to be proper federations. They just need to be controled. By an even tighter Union bound together by a common president and the constitution.

Even if unrest did occur, huge infantry battles like the one for Somme will probably never happen again though, given the state of modern warfare.
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Old 03-07-2006, 14:56   #3
haku haku is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freddie
God bless the EU I say. Europe got cemented in it's status quo after WW2 and rightfully so. National tendencies will always be present inside the Union though. That's one of the significant properties of our once to be proper federations. They just need to be controled. By an even tighter Union bound together by a common president and the constitution.
Indeed, the main original goal of the EEC was to create a way to maintain continental peace, economy was a tool, but peace was the main goal. This was especially true for French and German people, the two countries had fought 3 devastating wars in half a century, and when politicians of both countries started talking of creating some kind of European community only a few years after the end of WWII, preventing a fourth war between the 2 countries was their main agenda.
And the EEC followed by the EU has totally succeeded in that goal, there hasn't been a single armed conflict between EU members since its creation. This may seem "normal" for younger generations, but this is actually the first time that Europe has known such a long period of peace since the end of the Pax Romana. For that alone, and despite its flaws, the EU has been a blessing for European people, it has managed to "neutralize" nationalistic urges which otherwise would have caused more wars on the continent.

WWI was ignited by a Pan-Slavic movement which wanted to unite all Southern Slavs in one state, and the war that broke out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia extended to the whole continent because of the alliance system that forced Germany and the Ottoman Empire to support Austro-Hungary and France, the British Empire and Russia to support Serbia.
70 years later, when Yougoslav people decided to put an end to that unifed Southern Slavic state that the Pan-Slavic movement wanted so much 70 years earlier, that old "alliance system" woke up from its grave immediately.
Germany and Austria immediately supported and recognized the independance of Slovenia and Croatia. (The Pan-Germanic ideology has always been in favor of devided Slavic people, it is much safer to be surrounded by 20 small weakened Slavic states then by one big powerful Pan-Slavic state, and there's always been this dream of reaching the Mediterranean coast in Northern Adriatic, something much easier to do if you only have a couple of small countries in your way.)
On the other hand, France, the UK, and Russia did not welcome the break-up of Yugoslavia and supported Serbia and its idea of maintaining a unified Southern Slavic state. (The Entente had aways supported the idea of a Pan-Slavic state which was seen as a stabilizing element in the Balkans and a counter force to the Germanic central powers, the break-up of Yugoslavia was also seen as "delayed victory" for the central powers and the military of the three Entente countries have taken it as a personal blow 70 years later. After all, the creation of a Southern Slavic state was one of the goals of WWI and considered a victory for the Entente, the break-up of Yugoslavia anihilated that victory 70 years later, something the military never take lightly.)
The bottom line is that when Yugoslavia broke up, all the actors of WWI immediatlely fell back to their old alliance system and military logic, and if the EU had not existed, i am convinced that the Yugoslav conflict would have expanded beyond its borders. The EU neutralized all that and prevented any direct (and conflicting) involvement of EU members in the Yugoslav civil war, containing and preventing the war from spreading.


Gavrilo Princip, the man who 'started' WWI.
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Last edited by haku; 03-07-2006 at 16:08.
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Old 03-07-2006, 17:21   #4
marina marina is offline
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I read your post , haku and you made me feel like ...I HAVE NO IDEA !
Stumbling over the second paragraph for the numerous times I come to complete brainlock...
Could you please tell us , semiliterate wretches , existence of EU is a good news or bad news ?
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Old 03-07-2006, 17:44   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marina
I read your post , haku and you made me feel like ...I HAVE NO IDEA !
Stumbling over the second paragraph for the numerous times I come to complete brainlock...
Could you please tell us , semiliterate wretches , existence of EU is a good news or bad news ?
Hehe, i'm sorry if my post is a bit unclear and confusing.

In short and in my opinion, the EU is a great thing because it has neutralized the traditional alliance systems in Europe.

Without the EU, what happened in 1914 could have happened again when Yugoslavia broke up 15 years ago. Germany agreed with the break-up (and favored Croatia), France and the UK were opposed to it (and favored Serbia), but because they were EU members, there was nothing they could do about it, intervention was impossible, the EU blocked the traditional alliance systems and maintained the status quo, therefore maintaining peace.
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Old 03-07-2006, 18:24   #6
marina marina is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
what happened in 1914 could have happened again
Thank you very much for clearing this !
I actually thought that was another way around ....back to 1914ish some big powers couldn't stand each other and the splitting of the little village ..sometimes... somethere ... could spark the war ...not what they care too much about the splitting village ...that was only a pretence .
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Old 03-07-2006, 19:45   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
intervention was impossible, the EU blocked the traditional alliance systems and maintained the status quo, therefore maintaining peace.
Is that why nobody did anything with the Bosnian genocide? Because any European intervention would have escalated into something bigger? Or am I just talking out of my ass here (my knowledge of European history and politics is pretty limited)?

It kind of explains why it took the States to bomb the shit out of Serbia, they having none of that historical baggage.

PS: Thanks for the history lesson guys, very educational.
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Old 03-07-2006, 20:13   #8
freddie freddie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
WWI was ignited by a Pan-Slavic movement which wanted to unite all Southern Slavs in one state, and the war that broke out between Austro-Hungary and Serbia extended to the whole continent because of the alliance system that forced Germany and the Ottoman Empire to support Austro-Hungary and France, the British Empire and Russia to support Serbia.
70 years later, when Yougoslav people decided to put an end to that unifed Southern Slavic state that the Pan-Slavic movement wanted so much 70 years earlier, that old "alliance system" woke up from its grave immediately.
Germany and Austria immediately supported and recognized the independance of Slovenia and Croatia. (The Pan-Germanic ideology has always been in favor of devided Slavic people, it is much safer to be surrounded by 20 small weakened Slavic states then by one big powerful Pan-Slavic state, and there's always been this dream of reaching the Mediterranean coast in Northern Adriatic, something much easier to do if you only have a couple of small countries in your way.)
On the other hand, France, the UK, and Russia did not welcome the break-up of Yugoslavia and supported Serbia and its idea of maintaining a unified Southern Slavic state. (The Entente had aways supported the idea of a Pan-Slavic state which was seen as a stabilizing element in the Balkans and a counter force to the Germanic central powers, the break-up of Yugoslavia was also seen as "delayed victory" for the central powers and the military of the three Entente countries have taken it as a personal blow 70 years later. After all, the creation of a Southern Slavic state was one of the goals of WWI and considered a victory for the Entente, the break-up of Yugoslavia anihilated that victory 70 years later, something the military never take lightly.)
The bottom line is that when Yugoslavia broke up, all the actors of WWI immediatlely fell back to their old alliance system and military logic, and if the EU had not existed, i am convinced that the Yugoslav conflict would have expanded beyond its borders. The EU neutralized all that and prevented any direct (and conflicting) involvement of EU members in the Yugoslav civil war, containing and preventing the war from spreading.
I don't quite agree with this. Historians and scholars in general aren't united in one theory what was the actual cause for WW1, but I support the idea that Gavrilo Princip's assaination of Franz Ferdinand and slavic tendencies in general were just a good excuse for Austro-Hungary and Germany to start the war. The itch was theer for a long time. They just needed a good moment to scrach it with a reasonable cover-story. The truth is... even south slavic countries did merge into a pan-slavic states, the slavs back then had no tendency to expand beyond the boders of Slovenia in the north (as it happens Serbia as the main player wasn't very interested in northern territories - even after WW2, which resulted in us losing a large chunk of Carinthian Slovenia (including cities like Klagenfurt (Celovec) to Austrians) not to mention the loses of cities of Goricia (Gorica) and Trieste (Trst) to Italians. Serbians just wanted a nice Belgrade-centralized slavic state which they eventually got, nothing else. And Austro-Hungarian empire as well as Germany knew this damn well. The assasination was surely just the thing they were looking for to start an all-out assault. Imo it was born out of germanic tendencies for domination over the whole Euro territory, not out of their fear of a Pan-Slavic state.

Socialist Federal Republic Yugoslavia breaking up is a whole different story, though. Sure Germans and Austrians expressed support, while France and the US were very reluctant to do so (I think US embassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmerman was the most vocal of the lot back then saying we can't even DREAM of independance, while the French president at the time Miterrand a bit less so). However - despite those differences there's no way in hell all this could escalate into a full-fledged world war or even continental war. Sure Germany gave us support, but would they fight for us as well? Like hell they would. Even if they weren't limited by the EU. They did have interests in independance of Slavic republics in the region but it wasn't important enough to get into an armed conflict with other EU members over it. The same way as it's not worth for France to get into an armed conflict with the UK on their clearly opposite stances on the war in Iraq.
I actually thing that the war in Yugoslavia (especially armed conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia) showed a huge break-down of all international organizations which should prevent regional bloodshed that occured. It wasn't EUs proudest moment to let genocide and systematic rape practices being executed right at Europe's doorstep. The same could be said for teh US and UN (as well as it's grossly ineffective General Assembly and Security Council). Years passed while tens of thousands of people died and all international community did was watch it occur. Imo the Balkan crisis actually shows the fundimental flaw in EUs politics which should be corrected in the future: it's just too neutral when something really threatening occurs. You can't negotiate with dictators. That goes for both Milošević and Tuđman. That's a lesson that goes back to 1939 even.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerPuff Grrl
Is that why nobody did anything with the Bosnian genocide? Because any European intervention would have escalated into something bigger?
Nah, it's like I said above. Europe has a strong urge to try and mediate stuff ever since WW2. Which is not the smart thing to do when dealing with certain types to totalitarians.
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Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Last edited by freddie; 03-07-2006 at 21:05.
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Old 03-07-2006, 21:50   #9
haku haku is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerPuff Grrl
Is that why nobody did anything with the Bosnian genocide? Because any European intervention would have escalated into something bigger?
Well, it could not escalade because the EU does exist, but It was also impossible for Germany , France and the UK to reach a common position on the subject (because of conflicting traditional alliances), so nothing was done. At this stage of the EU, nothing can be done if a unanimous decision is not reached, as for a unilateral action by only one EU member, it's absolutely unthinkable (theoritically allowed, but realistically impossible, no EU member would dare to go that road).

freddie, i actually agree that the Pan-Slavic movement did not cause WWI, that's why i said 'ignited', the Pan-Slavic movement was not the cause but they did ignite the whole thing. But of course, at the time the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were both preparing for war.
The German Empire wanted to "expand" to France to recreate the old Frankish Realm (reuniting France and Germany like under the rule of the Frankish dynasties has always been a lingering dream among leaders of both countries and is the root cause of all the French-German wars).
The Austro-Hungarian Empire wanted to expand to the south to gain access to the sea.

I also agree that no EU members would have ever gotten involved in the Yugoslav conflict, that's precislely the point. What i meant is that *if* the EU had not existed, if European powers had remained totally sovereign states, then they would have intervene in Yugoslavia, each one siding their traditional allies. The EU prevented that, it totally neutralized any "power play" in Europe and Yugoslavia in particular during the war over there.

As for blaming the EU for not stopping the war in Yugoslavia, well, first of all, and i mean no disrespect, nobody forced Yugoslavs to kill and rape each other the way they did, the responsibily lies first on the ones who commited the acts.
I remember that when i was younger, Yougoslavia was considered in Western Europe as one of the most advanced and open countries of the socialist block, with a good level of life and education compared to other socialist countries.
Nobody in Western Europe was expecting Yougoslavia to break into a civil war (especially since other socialist countries were transitioning relatively peacefully), and when the war started in Yougoslavia, the general reaction in Western Europe was… disbelief. Disbelief in seeing well educated Europeans going back to the most atrocious behavior in no time, neighbors massacring neighbors they had known for decades, men who used to be decent workers or students becoming gang-rapists, torturers, and mass-murderers only a few weeks later…
Again, nobody in Western Europe was expecting to see Yougoslavia drown in such senseless violence so rapidly, mass-rapes, mass-executions, in the late 20th century in Europe, everybody was stunned and simply did not understand the reason of such madness.

And yes, the EU did not intervene, simply because the EU is not allowed to take such actions. EU members have transferred a lot of sovereignty to the EU, but that does not include (yet) the military sovereignty, the EU can not take any military actions and therefore intervention in Yougoslavia was impossible.
And a unilateral action from one or a few EU members was impossible as well because of an unwritten agreement that forbids unilateral military action on European soil.

I wish that the EU had military forces (i've already said that i support the idea that France should transfer its nuclear capabilities to the EU), but we are not there yet, and we certainly weren't there 15 years ago.
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Last edited by haku; 04-07-2006 at 13:41.
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Old 04-07-2006, 10:33   #10
freddie freddie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
I also agree that no EU members would have ever gotten involved in the Yugoslav conflict, that's precislely the point. What i meant is that *if* the EU had not existed, if European powers had remained totally sovereign states, then they would have intervene in Yugoslavia, each one siding their traditional allies. The EU prevented that, it totally neutralized any "power play" in Europe and Yugoslavia in particular during the war over there.
That's precisely my point. I don't think they would. The issue of Yugoslavia wasn't THAT important to begin with. I mean it was but not up to a point where someone would go into an armed conflict to promote their ideas of territorial politics in the region. Doesn't matter if EU existed or not. European people in the 21st century just aren't as deseperate economically or as hungry for land as they were back in 1910s, 1930s...
But teh point is they SHOULD intervene as a common strike force once it was imminent Yugoslavia was falling apart. Somewhere aroud 93 even the US and France recognized there is no hope left for a peaceful solution that'd result in a united Yugoslavia again. That was the time to take action. Instead what the international communuty did was sit and watch as the bloodshed occured. I'm not saying EU should have an active military role (though I do agree with you on this point that in time Europe should have a NATO-like military organization of it's own consisting of all members contributions), but it should have a more active role in first mediating and then urging UNs Security Council to take immediate measures against the onslaught occuring.

I still think the EU is great for what it did for stability on the continent (especially between France and Germany), but in this case I think it learned a valuble lesson on when status quo may not be the right solution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
As for blaming the EU for not stopping the war in Yugoslavia, well, first of all, and i mean no disrespect, nobody forced Yugoslavs to kill and rape each other the way they did, the responsibily lies first on the ones who commited the acts.
I remember that when i was younger, Yougoslavia was considered in Western Europe as one of the most advanced and open countries of the socialist block, with a good level of life and education compared to other socialist countries.
Nobody in Western Europe was expecting Yougoslavia to break into a civil war (especially since other socialist countries were transitioning relatively peacefully), and when the war started in Yougoslavia, the general reaction in Western Europe was… disbelief. Disbelief in seeing well educated Europeans going back to the most atrocious behavior in no time, neighbors massacring neighbors they had known for decades, men who used to be decent workers or students becoming gang-rapists, torturers, and mass-murderers only a few weeks later…
Again, nobody in Western Europe was expecting to see Yougoslavia drown in such senseless violence so rapidly, mass-rapes, mass-executions, in the late 20th century in Europe, everybody was stunned and simply did not understand the reason of such madness.
Yugoslavia was a melting pot of nationalistic tensions since the 70s. Sometimes in the late 80s and especially in 1989 after Milošević gave his infamous speech at the 600 anniversary of the Battle for Kosovo pretty much everyone in the country knew an armed conflict was extremely likely. It was like a giant squeeze. A bunch of nations trying to gain independance while Belgrade desperately trying to cling back to the old order of it's de facto reign on the region. Something had to give. It was different in the USSR (and consequently in all it's satelite countries) since official Moscow went along with the split. Belgrade didn't. Add to that the extreme racial hatred between Serbians and Croatians and their innate (almost fanatical) nationalism and there you have it. I'm not saying either nation consists of a bunch of murderous barbarians, cause I do know plenty of awesome people of both nationalities, but there is a certain deep-rooted seed of hatred between them - one which could be easily exploited by extreme politicians like Tuđman and Miloševič as well as their herdes of paramilitary militias and psycho generals commanding them, which went on a murderous rampage of ethnic clensing and systematic rape operations. Bosnia was just caught in between - a struggle for power between Serbia and Croatia (At one point they made secret plans to split it in in two and share it between them).
What I'm saying is that international mediators that came SHOULD realize the possibility cause it's not something that started in Slovenia in June 91. It's been steadily escalating for more than 30 years. Many people who were well educated on the regional events warned the EU as well as the UN to take affirmative action and they just didn't want to get out of their mould of status quo politics. Many European leaders were pictured shaking hands with people who're now locked up in Haggue for genocide and crimes against humanity. I'm not saying they were malicious in their causes. Just extremely naive.
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Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Last edited by freddie; 04-07-2006 at 13:02.
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