Early-19th-century Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (born in 1780) is famous for saying that “war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means”. Lots of people must have had the matching thought that diplomacy is the continuation of war by other means, but they’re being quiet about that thought at the moment. A time when we have a fine example in front of us.
For it’s slowly becoming clear that Britain is in a war right now. A war over what freedoms, how much sovereignty it is being threatened and bribed into signing away.
This is in order to continue trading from within the tariff fence of the European Union, despite it being obvious for those with eyes to see that the EU itself is in deep crisis and that that tariff fence has been reducing growth and raising unemployment for half a century. If it is possible, with the use of quisling supporters within major institutions and the civil service, within broadcasters and the press, to get a country to submit to legally binding international agreements, why use soldiers? Why kill anyone if you can get what you want with trickery and committee-craft?
There have been plenty of “non-war” secret wars in the past. While school history lessons make wars seem tediously obvious and nasty affairs, with groups of shouting men killing each other in muddy fields, there is a lot more ambiguity to the idea of war than we’re usually taught. The ‘Cold War’ was a very ambiguous conflict, a period of hostility between two major powers that fought shy of one-on-one battle, instead conducted over four decades by infiltration, spying, censorship, and smaller proxy wars.
Another, stranger example. The bizarre transmutation of what was to be an idealistic, human-rights-centred, multinational European colony in Africa’s Congo Basin in the 1880s into an exclusively Belgian (and horrifyingly administered) colony by 1900, manipulated into Belgian control by committee-craft with not a single shot being fired. That largely forgotten piece of legerdemain is a particularly intriguing example of war-by-diplomacy.
During the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, a curious saying went the rounds that “the first war [World War 1] was the chemists’ war, the second war was the physicists’ war, and the next war will be the mathematicians’ war”. Of course, with the decrypting of Nazi Germany’s Enigma code by Polish and British mathematicians, there was a fair bit of maths even in WW2. But what would a “mathematicians’ war” really look like, I asked myself as a boy? It would perhaps involve computers, code-cracking, that sort of thing.
Now that we have had remotely hacked power stations shutting down, Israeli computer viruses subtly altering uranium-purification centrifuges to put Iranian nuclear-bomb development back by years, all manner of influence campaigns to defame individals in target countries, I’ve started wondering. Are we already in the mathematicians’ war? Has it broken out? By definition, such a war would start without ever being openly declared.
Mainstream historian Niall Ferguson has made the interesting suggestion that the two world wars were really one big conflict bridging across periods of conventional war and conventional peace. He pulls WW1 and WW2 together with the rise of Mussolini in the 1920s and the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and then even the post-WW2 Korean War into – he proposes – one big war, much of which was not all it officially appeared to be.
Then there are maverick historians suggesting that the First World War never ended, and that a WW1 German campaign to stir up a global Islamic jihad against the Anglo-Saxon powers that was started by the Kaiser, continued later with other sponsors like the Soviets over the succeeding century. After all, despite some Nazi dalliance with Zionist terror groups in the 1940s, we now know that Arab antisemites like Jerusalem Grand Mufti El Hosseini were already in the 1930s urging German Nazi leaders (most of whom were considerably less fixated on hatred of the Juden than Hitler personally) to replace expulsion and exiling of Mitteleuropan Jews with the more straightforward policy of mass-murdering Mitteleuropan Jews.
That carries the Kaiser’s European link to Islamic extremism smoothly through the interwar period to the point where the Soviet Russians pick up the baton of funding Muslim terrorism in the Cold War period. Not forgetting of course 1980s _US_ sponsorship of extreme Islam in places like Afghanistan, in turn against the Soviet Russians. This lesser-known theory says that with wars like the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the 1990s Iraq War, and the 2003 Iraq War, we are still fighting over towns in the oil fields of the Near East like Mosul and Basra we can, eerily, find on maps of WW1 in 1916 and 1917. This theory says the real questions of WW1, the fate of entities like Prussia, Austro-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey, and Tsarist Russia, were never settled as decisively as conventional historians claim. A century on, Turkish president Erdogan has several times in the last few years promised to restore the Islamic Caliphate that we used to be taught World War One had permanently closed down.
So could the growth of the EEC/EC/EU belong to this curious list of shadow wars and covert conflicts?
If France and Germany decided to limit British influence on the recently liberated Continent and were seeking ways to hem in and contain Britain under the guise of peace and managed trade as early as the late 1940s, this would hardly be strange or surprising to any genuine historian. After all, as the saying goes, countries and other powers do not have friends or enemies, only “interests”.
Certainly, Britain’s stunned disbelief at France’s secret suggestion of an Anglo-French political union in the 1950s, along with British-forced Anglo-French withdrawal at Suez in 1956, seems to have decided France’s elite to go with the German option. That is to work with Germany at limiting British reach, rather than work with Britain at limiting Germany’s reach.