Monday, 2 May 2016

Thoughts on Europe and Peace

From the BBC

Author Michael Morpurgo - best-known for his children's books such as War Horse - believes the UK should stay in the European Union.
"I do know my history, and I know we've been at peace for all these years - and that has something to do with Europe," he says.

I know my history too. I know that Germany never really had any interest in France in either war, and that both invasions were because of factors outside the EU - the alliance between France and Russia in WW1 and the alliance between France and Poland in WW2.

The start of WW2, and what drove a lot of support for Hitler was his policy of lebensraum, of taking over bits of Eastern Europe to ensure food security after WW1 blockades. After the Germans invaded Poland, France and Britain declared war on Germany, leading to the invasion of France.

What's really created peace in Europe is the tractor and other agricultural improvements. No-one is going to invade bits of Polish or Czech arable land any longer. It's just not worth the costs. The tragedy is that the mass adoption of tractors started in the mid-1930s, and if that'd happened a few years earlier, things might have turned out differently.

I'm someone who believes that the EEC once worked because it was the "right-size" organisation for what we needed in the early 70s to the mid-90s, but it doesn't now. We trade with places like China, Vietnam and Africa in a way that we didn't back then. And we don't need a superstate. We've got organisations like the WTO to do global trade.

25 comments:

Lola said...

Yup. Pax Europa is really Pax Nato.

James Higham said...

The role of the tractor in peace - needs a book.

The Stigler said...

Lola,
While I'm a supporter of NATO, I don't believe it had any effect in terms of Germany/France relations. It perhaps saved some parts of Europe from Russian expansionism (although the big part of that was Russia creating a "buffer" to protect itself).

James Higham,
I've grown fascinated by what's actually at the root of major change, and it's nearly always been about technology. Something came along and changed the way that people could live. We celebrate great reformers, but in general, they were just the politician at the time that the thing in question was already being undermined. Feminists claim credit for the change in women's roles, but it's really about the invention of the washing machine, the fridge and the supermarket reducing the time to run a household. The end of slavery/serfdom across the world is about societies industrialising. Lincoln would never have managed what he did if he'd been president 50 years earlier.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed, especially your follow up comment. NATO did not prevent wars between European countries, it prevented war between the USSR and eastern European countries.

Lola said...

TS. Agreed. My comment was to succinct. NATO provided a counter balance to the Warsaw Pact. Tangentially it brought Germany into the 'Allies'.

SumoKing said...

Serious European wars have been going on for about 1000 years and they got worse and worse as tech developed.

WW2 and the invention of the atom bomb more likely hammered home that the next European war would be the last one.

The Stigler said...

Lola,
Oh, quite possibly.

SumoKing,
It's possible that that also acted as a disincentive to go to war, yes.

Mike W said...

WW2 and the invention of the atom bomb more likely hammered home that the next European war would be the last one.

Agree with SK on this one, trade and technology for sure, but if war is a 'contiuation of politics by other means' as the man says, then it is a must to understand how these weapons (nukes) make the old ways in warfare as policy impossible (one hopes).At one time (circa 1950s 1960s) I think, most of France's nukes were cleverly designed to land in Germany regardless of the nationality of the army charging towards Paris!
Thirty years ago the staring point for a discussion on the British perspective on Nato was: America in, Germany down and Russia out!

Lola said...

MW/SK etc.

Yes, NATO effectively moved the battle ground for future European war eastwards, off the Belgian Plain and into Eastern Germany...That probably made them think...

Pablo said...

"Why the German Republic Fell" by Bruno Heilig
http://tinyurl.com/zeerpbg

DBC Reed said...

Another technological advance to consider is Churchill's replacement of coal as the Royal Navy's fuel by oil which led to problems with the Germans building a Berlin-Bagdhad railway etc. Might also go down on the long list of major Churchillian fuck-ups.

Lola said...

DBCR. Would you like to expand on that?

Bayard said...

DBCR, oil has some major advantages over coal as fuel for ships. It doesn't spontaneously catch fire for one. It also doesn't require the entire ship's company to put it on board.

Bayard said...

"I do know my history, and I know we've been at peace for all these years - and that has something to do with Europe,"

But not, as I pointed out before, anything to do with Britain being part of any sort of European Community.

Mark Wadsworth said...

P, good link, please everybody read it, or skim read it at least.

Derek said...

Yup, truly excellent link, Pablo. Thanks!

DBC Reed said...

@B Certainly, but the consensus on the oil/coal question appears to be that oil gave the Fleet some short-term tactical (speed) advantage ,( none at all when other countries followed suit)but entailed huge strategic downsides .For a country surrounded by sea with huge coal reserves, it was bizarre to decide to rely on oil fields in the Persian Gulf only accessible by long-haul sea routes, especially when the Germans started to build an overland railway link (Berlin-Bagdhad-Basra).In a sense, this was the start of this country's defence of oil fields in the Middle East that continues to this day with timely reminders of how impracticable it all is such as the deposition of Lefty/would-be land taxer Mossadeq in Persia (or BP land) and the Suez debacle.
What is more,the Fleet spent a lot of time in harbour in WW1 which has led to speculation that it was short of oil.(German navy ditto).When they did both leave port and engage at Kiel and Jutland, we claimed victory although we lost more ships, many of which exploded, leading some to wonder whether getting rid of the coal bunkers that previously absorbed incoming shellfire and replacing them with oil-tanks was such a good idea.

Mike W said...

DBC Reed,

Interesting above. My understanding is that while armour then a coal bunker my well be a better defence against a big gun hit on a capital ship that may be the only advantage - but was it ever really empirically, tested by the Navy? The superiority of a oil fired ship in the period before 1914 was tactical, operational and strategic superiority. Range, removal of coaling stations, infastucture, manpower, availability of ships etc, etc. Also USA had oil and would also build battleships. Read Paul Kennedy on this. The British (Churchill) had form in undermining years of carefully constructed naval superiority, think the steam race over a happy all sail navy and then from 1906 (?)the Dreadnought race over smaller multi gun 'Ironclads'.Technological arms races always balance out over time: it just costs the first jumper more.

Related railway point: I hate Beaching and know that the lovely SR/BR West Country's and Battle of Britains (and Merchant Navy's) were planned to run until 1980! But I do understand why steam had to go (for the same reasons as above)despite living on a coal pile.

Re Bagdad railway.I thought you were sounding a bit Whigish. I had not heard of the argument but I found this:

'Astonishingly enough, the conquest or destruction of the respective enemy's oil production had no strategic priority for any warring party when the war broke out. In the debates on the origins of World War I, the Baghdad Railway, whose construction started in 1903, is sometimes interpreted as a German attempt to gain control of the Mesopotamian oil resources; this hypothesis seems to be refuted today. There was no forward-looking German oil policy of pre-war times carried forward by the High Command after 1914.'

Lola said...

DBCR. How does fracking play in that analysis. Now,obviously?

Lola said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bayard said...

DBCR, was the Navy's change to oil from coal preceded or followed by a similar change by the Merchant Navy?

Lola said...

P. Great link. Crony corporatism. Rather like the EU...

DBC Reed said...

@L You do not appear to have read the Bruno Heilig article in your headlong rush to blame the EU and "crony corporatism". It is an attack on land monopoly and its control of public opinion : "I need not explain what the propaganda organisation meant in operation .Its effect was to sway public opinion into believing that the interests of the landowners were the interest of the nation... increase in land values meant increase in the national wealth..and so on".
The alarming thing is that this propaganda determines UK politics now: the Daily Mail line that 'we'll all be millionaires when the average house price is £1 million' is more dangerous and certainly more prolonged than their brief, outright support for the Blackshirts pre-war.
There are signs in London that the penny has dropped and if the flatulent rent-seekers' friend Johnson is ousted as Mayor today then there may be some hope.

Lola said...

@DBCR. I have read the piece. Yes, it is rightly critical of land monopoly, but it is also critical of crony corporatism - which is what the EU is best at. And the last section is clear that private land rents are at the core of the problem.

In re the EU it is just the latest attempt in a long history of similar attempts, by some dictator / bunch of dictators, to create a unified European state. That you cannot deny. The essay describes disturbing similarities in the processes that brought Nazism to power as to those the EU are pursuing.

Lastly, arguably, the EU bank bailouts were land-owner bailouts since most of the failed banks were (are?) mortgage banks. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece (possibly to a lesser extent) etc. etc. banks were all lending to landowners/developers like it was going out of fashion.

DBC Reed said...

@L Please use accurate quotations from Heilig's piece to prove that it is also about the EU and crony capitalism.
Ditto quotations to justify the assertion that 'The essay describes disturbing similarities in the processes that brought Nazism to power as to those the EU are pursuing.'