Each War Gives Birth to The Next

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News broke last month that the United States had dropped one of its MOAB (Mas­sive Ord­nance Air Blast Bomb) de­vices over a mas­sive tun­nel com­plex to roust en­emy com­bat­ants from the bunkers un­der­ground in the Nan­garhar prov­ince of Afghanistan.

The news that came soon af­ter as the big­gest sur­prise about this at­tack was not that this “Mother-of-all­bombs” (its slang name) was the largest con­ven­tional bomb in the U.S. ar­se­nal. It was that the tun­nel com­plex the U.S. had bombed was built by the CIA.

The un­der­ground tun­nel net­works go back to the 1980s Cia-funded fight against the Sovi­ets in Afghanistan. The Tora Bora re­gion, lo­cated near the Pak­istan bor­der, was built up at that time with tun­nels, caves and other pro­tec­tions to keep the Cia-funded mu­jahidin rebels well pro­tected when they needed to go un­der­ground and es­cape the then-oc­cu­py­ing Rus­sian forces. They were built us­ing bull­doz­ers and other con­struc­tion equip­ment pro­vided from the Saudi Bin­ladin Group, paid for by the CIA, and help­ing sup­port one Osama Bin Laden in the re­gion at the time.

In the cur­rent bat­tle when the MOAB was dropped, the tar­gets were from the Is­lamic State in Kho­rasan Prov­ince (ISKP) from Uzbekhis­tan and Pak­istan. They also in­cluded fighters from the Tehrik Tele­ban Pak­istan, a re­gional tribal group pushed over the bor­der by the Pak­istani mil­i­tary dur­ing the June 2015 Zarb-e Azb of­fen­sive, along with a group of Orakzais.

So with this bat­tle, the Amer­i­cans were ba­si­cally blow­ing up their own se­cretly-built un­der­ground tun­nels and bunkers. The irony of course is that with­out those con­struc­tions the en­e­mies they were at­tempt­ing to bomb might never have been there – and may never have been the threat­en­ing force that re­quired such bomb­ing. And the en­e­mies be­hind those bat­tles were the same ones Amer­ica had helped ‘bring to birth’ many years be­fore.

One of the ma­jor lost mes­sages in war is that each war of­ten builds a foun­da­tion for the next one. Not al­ways as lit­er­ally as it did in this spe­cific case but those foun­da­tions of­ten make the next war even worse.

World War I, the war once re­ferred to as ‘ The Great War’ had been bru­tal for all in­volved, but per­haps es­pe­cially so on the French. Dur­ing the Ger­man re­treat near the end of that war, Ger­man troops ripped apart the Nord-pas Min­ing Basin re­gion of France, its most in­dus­tri­al­ized re­gion in the north­east. Ger­mans leav­ing the area ex­ten­sively looted the area be­fore run­ning back to­wards their home­land, and also blew up just about ev­ery­thing else of value in their trav­els. This in­cluded de­struc­tion of rail­ways, bridges and en­tire vil­lages. Bel­gium and other coun­tries also suf­fered, but none so dras­ti­cally as France.

The war it­self, the havoc it had caused on re­mote play­ers in that war, and that se­vere dam­age to France caused the win­ning forces and their lead­ers to de­mand repa­ra­tions from Ger­many in amounts so se­vere that, in ad­di­tion to help­ing re­build the dam­age caused, would weaken Ger­many so badly it could never dam­age it again. There were even clauses de­manded in the Treaty of Ver­sailles, the one that even­tu­ally ended up be­ing signed by all par­ties, which stated that “Ger­many ad­mits … that Ger­many and her al­lies, as au­thors of the war, are re­spon­si­ble for all losses and dam­ages.”

In the end, Ger­many was re­quired to pay 132 bil­lion gold marks (US $33 bil­lion at then ex­change rates) and was, af­ter hav­ing to sign clauses like that last one, pub­licly hu­mil­i­ated for its ac­tions. And while one can un­der­stand the vic­tors hav­ing the urge to cause both fi­nan­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal harm on those who had started the war, the com­bi­na­tion laid the ground­work for the next war. Ger­many con­sid­ered the fi­nan­cial

bur­dens of the repa­ra­tions so heavy that the coun­try’s new lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing even­tu­ally Adolf Hitler, saw the long-term im­pacts as com­pletely out of line for them to have to con­tinue to pay. They also helped keep the fires of anger burn­ing through­out the re­gion, mak­ing it eas­ier that most would have imag­ined re­cruit­ing and align­ing Ger­many’s ci­ti­zens to start what be­came known as World War II.

An­other way coun­tries plant the seeds of its next war is through the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of mu­ni­tions. One of the re­gions where that took place was in Viet­nam, where, af­ter World War II was over, it be­came the ben­e­fi­ciary of left-over ware­housed World War II weapons.

One of the ma­jor ship­ments of th­ese weapons came from the USSR, which helped sup­ply mil­i­tary aid dur­ing the In­dochina War of 1946-1954. Th­ese weapons in­cluded as a ma­jor weapon of choice the MG-34 Sovi­et­made DP Ma­chine guns, which were be­ing pro­vided to Viet Minh lo­cals at­tempt­ing to fight off the French oc­cu­pa­tion of their coun­try. North Viet­namese PAK40 anti-tank guns came from the Ger­man World War II haul also and were pro­vided with re­v­erse-en­gi­neered Soviet-built mu­ni­tions to work in them. Other weapons pro­vided to Viet­nam in­cluded the Ger­man-built STG-44 and MP-40 ma­chine guns, tens of thou­sands of which were cap­tured by the Sovi­ets im­me­di­ately at the end of World War II.

The French For­eign Le­gion also brought in their own World War II weapons ‘mem­o­ra­bilia’ in the form of ex-wehrma­cht MG-34 ma­chine guns and oth­ers from cap­tured stocks.

With­out th­ese read­ily-avail­able weapons it is pos­si­ble the Viet­nam wars that plagued the area for over 30 years might never have had the same solid start by in 1946. And it is also pos­si­ble what the U.S. called “The Viet­nam War” and what the lo­cals called “The Amer­i­can War” might never have started at all.

And then now there is the odd sit­u­a­tion that, im­me­di­ately af­ter the end of the Iraq war, the Amer­i­cans oc­cu­piers man­aged to make a mess of things. They first gave a bil­lion dol­lars in cash to the Sun­nis for a va­ri­ety of sup­port, lo­gis­tics, and se­cu­rity rea­sons, which might seem a rea­son­able thing. But then Amer­i­can Gen­eral Pe­traeus in 2004 de­cided that was not enough to ‘keep the peace’, and in­stead came up with an un­usual plan to back the Sun­nis’ in­ter­nal arch-en­e­mies, the Shia.

He did this by ini­ti­at­ing what was re­ferred to then as the ‘Sal­vador Op­tion’, named af­ter the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­cept of arm­ing death squads to kill in­sur­gents in El Sal­vador. In this more mod­ern in­car­na­tion, Pe­traeus and his team in­cor­po­rated most of the Shia mili­tias in the re­gion, supplied them with cash, train­ing, and weapons, and cre­ated what many know to­day as the Shia death squads and the tor­ture pris­ons.

Not sur­pris­ingly push­ing the Sun­nis and Shia against each other, es­pe­cially with am­ple back­ing of cash and mil­i­tary sup­plies on both sides from the same source (the Amer­i­cans), cre­ated fric­tion which could only get worse over time. To­day that fric­tion is seen as one of the ma­jor rea­sons the ISIS forces have emerged as a coun­ter­force against the Amer­i­cans and oth­ers in the re­gion now.

Even if th­ese ex­am­ples had been pre­cisely planned to cre­ate the even­tual havoc they fi­nally caused, in Afghanistan, af­ter World War I as World War II was be­ing born, in the seed­ing of the Viet­nam war, and in the emer­gence of ISIS, it is hard to imag­ine how the world could be any less sta­ble. The truth of the way the world is be­gin­ning to look is that each past ma­jor war is now mak­ing some next and pos­si­bly more hor­ri­ble war even more pos­si­ble.

It will take much stronger pol­i­cy­mak­ers, treaty ne­go­tia­tors and de­cid­edly non-mil­i­tary thinkers to pre­vent this hap­pen­ing when the next war ceases. Those watch­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in Syria right now, please pay care­ful at­ten­tion.

Photo by Vin­cent LAM­BERT,

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