Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The War of the World; Niall Ferguson; PBS; The 100 years war.

The PBS documentary "The War of the World: A New History of the 20th Century" has generated some controversy this week, as conservatives have been critical that the documentary has attacked American war efforts in WWII. The documentary has been criticized for attacking America's alliance with Stalin.

I saw the first part of this series last night. Part I did not include most of World War II. Part I takes the viewer from the beginning of the 20th century through the beginning of WWII.

So far, the documentary has been somewhat instructive. The documentary was critical of the Bolshevik revolution, especially the brutality of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. The documentary pointed out that the Bolsheviks did not control the territory outside of the Russian cities for some time after the Bolshevik revolution. The narrator indicated that opposition forces were on the verge of deposing the Bolsheviks when the Bolsheviks reversed the course of the war by using "terrorist" tactics on their own people, including soldiers and farmers.

This harsh treatment of the Bolshevik revolution would never have been allowed in the western MSM/DNC when the Soviets still controlled Russia. I had heard of some of these facts, but never in a television documentary.

The documentary also spent a great deal of time on the Turkish persecution of Armenians and Greeks in the immediate aftermath of World War I. While the documentary did not explicitly point out that this persecution constituted muslim persecution of Christians, the existence of this story on PBS is new and significant.

The main point of Part I was the length of the wars of the 20th century. "The War of the World" views the 20th century wars as a 100 year war. The narrator deals with these wars as a continuation of the same war. For too long, we have tried to analyze these wars separately. In doing so, we miss the real causes of the wars. Authors analyze the pros and cons of World War II in a vacuum, thereby missing the real culprits, such as the rise of totalitarianism worldwide over a 20+ year period prior to the War and continuing well beyond the War's official "end." I have always believed that World War II was the hottest part of the Cold War, during which (and immediately afterward) the Soviets made their biggest territorial gains. We will see how the documentary treats that subject in Parts II and III.

The documentary analyzes the 20th century wars as part of a continuing battle between East and West. Will Durant's eleven volume series on the history of civilization does the same thing - and even traces the East vs. West conflict back to the Trojan War (circa 1100 B.C.). By using the East vs. West analysis, the currect conflict involving Islam (as well as issues relating to China) make more sense. The Cold War makes more sense when we see that its roots go back to World War I - instead of merely to the Berlin Wall or Korea.

Part I was deficient in that the author appeared to be too rooted in socialism, including fawning attention to H.G Wells. But this is to be expected on PBS (and almost all television in general).

The author also could have easily tied WWI to the financial crises of the 1920's and 1930's. The connections definitely exist and would prove the author's point even more strongly. The timeline runs basically as follows: (1) World War I and the financial bubble that paid for it led utlimately to the financial collapse in the West that we refer to as the Great Depression (1929 - ?) (the collapse began earlier in Europe). (2) The economic upheaval of the 1920's and 1930's in Europe and the West led to the rise of Hitler and Japanese expansion, which the remaining powers did not have the will to resist (due to the economic upheaval) until it was too late to avert another war. When combined with the rise of Soviet Russia (a direct result of WWI), the perfect storm was created.

For more on the effect of the bubble and its roots in WWI and its consequences in the Great Depression, see Garet Garrett's "The Bubble that Broke the World."

See "America's Great Depression" for a detailed discussion of how the bubble led to our own depression.

Both of these books hold implications for our current economic situation.

While the PBS documentary misses that point, the pros outweigh the cons thus far. "The War of the World" can be a beginning point for a greater understanding of the past 100 years.
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Part II of War of the World

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