How History Repeats Itself in Middle East, Russia

Cape Times (South Africa), July 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

How History Repeats Itself in Middle East, Russia


While the EU has fallen on hard times in recent years, the economic arrangement between the growing number of members has served the region immeasurably better than the recurring wars of the past. Death and devastation on an unimaginable scale marked relations between European powers in the first half of the 20th century. This followed centuries of irregular but recurring wars on a smaller but still damaging scale between various European countries.

But there comes a time in the affairs of men (usually the ones in charge) when they see the advantages of living in peace and trading with their neighbours and are prepared to forego the pleasures of stalking about with bemedalled chests, making hysterical speeches, taking salutes at massed military parades and other traditional forms of sabre rattling.

The result is a large peace dividend as opposed to the unquantifiable costs of carnage and conflagration.

Whatever the flaws of Europe's regional union created by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, it has reversed the tide of history, finally halting the ongoing destruction of centuries. The worst that has happened since is the domino effect of unmanageable government debt and collapsing banks. And even this tragedy is slowly receding.

But the flashpoints in the Middle East and Ukraine show that parts of the world remain mired in the past, trapped in a cycle of hatred and fear - perpetuated by the ambitions of self-serving politicians - often hostage to extremists on their own side. Whether wars are a struggle over economic resources or inspired by religious fervour they extract huge financial penalties.

A report from the US Congressional Research Service in 2011 put the military cost alone to the US of Second World War at $296 billion (R3 trillion) between 1941 and 1945 - or just over $4bn in 2011 US currency. …

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