“Throughout the 200-year history of the United States the American nation has been at war.” That was how author William Koenig led into his 1980 book, Americans at War. Although ostensibly a study of American warfare from about 1775 at Lexington and Concord to 1975, the end of the Viet Nam War, Koenig actually starts with the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 and Native Americans meeting the ship. Had he waited until today to publish he could have included another fifty years of Americans at war, right up to Ukraine.
In general, we Americans view our involvement in foreign wars, that is, non-Native American warfare, as justified by the belligerence of others who have forced us reluctantly into “making the world safe for democracy.” The beginning of our provision of armaments, intelligence and training to Ukraine dates back to soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “breakup” of the Soviet Union. The current U.S. commitment of over 50 billion dollars is only a fraction of our huge military and economic support for Ukraine over many years. Russia has often taken note.
George Soros, the Hungarian born American billionaire, stated on May 24, 2022 that the Russia-Ukraine war may be the start of World War III and result in the end of human civilization. Such doomsday statements are not a new phenomenon. Ever since the days of The Flood people have warned that human behavior, usually by someone other than the Jeremiad of the moment, was going to lead to the end of the world. They mean the end of homo sapiens’ short 200,000-year reign on our 4.5-billion-year-old planet. Earth will survive, but without us.
I have no estimate how many predictions of mankind’s demise have been made from the time of our common really great-grandmother, Lucy, in Africa until 1945. Until America came up with and used the atom bomb, the philosophers who had previously cried wolf were doing just that. However, now with numerous countries possessing nuclear weapons and itching to use them, we may have finally made honest men out of Noah and all the other survivalists. I am not going to address climate change and pollution as doomsday machines as I only have about three pages of print available. I will stick with nuclear war in this column.
With nuclear powers, such as Russia, North Korea, China, America and Israel all claiming they fear for their survival, I am reminded of my onetime acquaintance who told me in 1973 that if Egypt were about to destroy Israel that Israel would be justified in destroying the whole world to avenge itself. Fortunately, he was not an Israeli and Egypt stood down. I do wonder if Putin might feel so threatened he would believe Russia would be justified in starting the nuclear daisy chain.
These thoughts of World War III came scrambling into my brain when I thought about June 06, 1944 and D-Day. Americans and many others thought the World War of 1914-1918 with its inane carnage, over no one knew what, was going to end world-wide war. Then the courage and sacrifice of 150,000 American soldiers on D-Day was touted as the beginning of the end of totalitarian regimes. Later we thought we had learned something from Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, George Soros, hardly a war monger, fears we may be at the beginning of WWIII raging in Ukraine.
As for me, I will place my confidence in that part of human nature that has pulled us back from self-immolation many times. History leads me to have faith we will not self-fulfill such a dire prophecy. Of course, if I am right everyone will be around to say so, and if I am wrong, what difference will it make?