Saturday, October 25, 2014

John Quincy Adams: from his first message to Congress in 1825



Upon this first occasion of addressing the legislature of the Union, with which I have been honored, in presenting to their view the execution so far as it has been effected of the measures sanctioned by them for promoting the internal improvement of our country, I can not close the communication without recommending to their calm and persevering consideration the general principle in a more enlarged extent. The great object of the institution of civil government is the improvement of the condition of those who are parties to the social compact, and no government, in what ever form constituted, can accomplish the lawful ends of its institution but in proportion as it improves the condition of those over whom it is established. Roads and canals, by multiplying and facilitating the communications and intercourse between distant regions and multitudes of men, are among the most important means of improvement. But moral, political, intellectual improvement are duties assigned by the Author of Our Existence to social no less than to individual man.

For the fulfillment of those duties governments are invested with power, and to the attainment of the end—the progressive improvement of the condition of the governed—the exercise of delegated powers is a duty as sacred and indispensable as the usurpation of powers not granted is criminal and odious.

Among the first, perhaps the very first, instrument for the improvement of the condition of men is knowledge, and to the acquisition of much of the knowledge adapted to the wants, the comforts, and enjoyments of human life public institutions and seminaries of learning are essential. So convinced of this was the first of my predecessors in this office, now first in the memory, as, living, he was first in the hearts, of our countrymen, that once and again in his addresses to the Congresses with whom he cooperated in the public service he earnestly recommended the establishment of seminaries of learning, to prepare for all the emergencies of peace and war—a national university and a military academy. With respect to the latter, had he lived to the present day, in turning his eyes to the institution at West Point he would have enjoyed the gratification of his most earnest wishes; but in surveying the city which has been honored with his name he would have seen the spot of earth which he had destined and bequeathed to the use and benefit of his country as the site for a university still bare and barren.

In assuming her station among the civilized nations of the earth it would seem that our country had contracted the engagement to contribute her share of mind, of labor, and of expense to the improvement of those parts of knowledge which lie beyond the reach of individual acquisition, and particularly to geographical and astronomical science. Looking back to the history only of the half century since the declaration of our independence, and observing the generous emulation with which the governments of France, Great Britain, and Russia have devoted the genius, the intelligence, the treasures of their respective nations to the common improvement of the species in these branches of science, is it not incumbent upon us to inquire whether we are not bound by obligations of a high and honorable character to contribute our portion of energy and exertion to the common stock? The voyages of discovery prosecuted in the course of that time at the expense of those nations have not only redounded to their glory, but to the improvement of human knowledge.

We have been partakers of that improvement and owe for it a sacred debt, not only of gratitude, but of equal or proportional exertion in the same common cause. Of the cost of these undertakings, if the mere expenditures of outfit, equipment, and completion of the expeditions were to be considered the only charges, it would be unworthy of a great and generous nation to take a second thought. One hundred expeditions of circumnavigation like those of Cook and La Prouse would not burden the exchequer of the nation fitting them out so much as the ways and means of defraying a single campaign in war. but if we take into account the lives of those benefactors of man-kind of which their services in the cause of their species were the purchase, how shall the cost of those heroic enterprises be estimated, and what compensation can be made to them or to their countries for them? Is it not by bearing them in affectionate remembrance? Is it not still more by imitating their example—by enabling country-men of our own to pursue the same career and to hazard their lives in the same cause?

In inviting the attention of Congress to the subject of internal improvements upon a view thus enlarged it is not my desire to recommend the equipment of an expedition for circumnavigating the globe for purposes of scientific research and inquiry. We have objects of useful investigation nearer home, and to which our cares may be more beneficially applied. The interior of our own territories has yet been very imperfectly explored. our coasts along many degrees of latitude upon the shores of the Pacific Ocean, though much frequented by our spirited commercial navigators, have been barely visited by our public ships. The River of the West, first fully discovered and navigated by a countryman of our own, still bears the name of the ship in which he ascended its waters, and claims the protection of our armed national flag at its mouth. With the establishment of a military post there or at some other point of that coast, recommended by my predecessor and already matured in the deliberations of the last Congress, I would suggest the expediency of connecting the equipment of a public ship for the exploration of the whole north-west coast of this continent.

The establishment of an uniform standard of weights and measures was one of the specific objects contemplated in the formation of our Constitution, and to fix that standard was on of the powers delegated by express terms in that instrument to Congress. The governments of Great Britain and France have scarcely ceased to be occupied with inquiries and speculations on the same subject since the existence of our Constitution, and with them it has expanded into profound, laborious, and expensive researches into the figure of the earth and the comparative length of the pendulum vibrating seconds in various latitudes from the equator to the pole. These researches have resulted in the composition and publication of several works highly interesting to the cause of science. The experiments are yet in the process of performance. Some of them have recently been made on our own shores, within the walls of one of our own colleges, and partly by one of our own fellow citizens. It would be honorable to our country if the sequel of the same experiments should be countenanced by the patronage of our government, as they have hitherto been by those of France and Britain.

Connected with the establishment of an university, or separate from it, might be undertaken the erection of an astronomical observatory, with provision for the support of an astronomer, to be in constant attendance of observation upon the phenomena of the heavens, and for the periodical publication of his observances. it is with no feeling of pride as an American that the remark may be made that on the comparatively small territorial surface of Europe there are existing upward of 130 of these lighthouses of the skies, while throughout the whole American hemisphere there is not one. If we reflect a moment upon the discoveries which in the last four centuries have been made in the physical constitution of the universe by the means of these buildings and of observers stationed in them, shall we doubt of their usefulness to every nation? And while scarcely a year passes over our heads without bringing some new astronomical discovery to light, which we must fain receive at second hand from Europe, are we not cutting ourselves off from the means of returning light for light while we have neither observatory nor observer upon our half of the globe and the earth revolves in perpetual darkness to our unsearching eyes?.......

The laws relating to the administration of the Patent Office are deserving of much consideration and perhaps susceptible of some improvement. The grant of power to regulate the action of Congress upon this subject has specified both the end to be obtained and the means by which it is to be effected, "to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries". If an honest pride might be indulged in the reflection that on the records of that office are already found inventions the usefulness of which has scarcely been transcended in the annals of human ingenuity, would not its exultation be allayed by the inquiry whether the laws have effectively insured to the inventors the reward destined to them by the Constitution—even a limited term of exclusive right to their discoveries?.........

The Constitution under which you are assembled is a charter of limited powers. After full and solemn deliberation upon all or any of the objects which, urged by an irresistible sense of my own duty, I have recommended to your attention should you come to the conclusion that, however desirable in themselves, the enactment of laws for effecting them would transcend the powers committed to you by that venerable instrument which we are all bound to support, let no consideration induce you to assume the exercise of powers not granted to you by the people.

But if the power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases what so ever over the District of Columbia; if the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; if the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States and with the Indian tribes, to fix the standard of weights and measures, to establish post offices and post roads, to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States, and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying these powers into execution—if these powers and others enumerated in the Constitution may be effectually brought into action by laws promoting the improvement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, the cultivation and encouragement of the mechanic and of the elegant arts, the advancement of literature, and the progress of the sciences, ornamental and profound, to refrain from exercising them for the benefit of the people themselves would be to hide in the earth the talent committed to our charge—would be treachery to the most sacred of trusts.
Source

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Final comment on The Long Shadow (of World War I)


Old soldier visits the poppy field at the Tower of London
This should be the 5th and final post on The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds. (See my first, second, third and fourth posts.)

My friend Allen, who is also reading Reynold's book, recommended The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, a six part TV series that was aired in the UK and the USA in 1996. I watched the streaming videos, and it was a useful complement to the book.

Chapter 11 is titled "Remembrance". It continues the authors discussion of the views of World War I, but now looking at the works of history and literature after the fall of Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union. He also considers some of the memorial architecture and services from this time period.

He notes that now there seem to be, at least in British society, two parallel but not intersecting streams of memory, that of the historians and that of modern literature. The treatment is also different in different countries/nations.

I think two important points are made in terms of historiography:
  • The interpretation of the war differs from time to time, with perhaps a basis in the concerns of the time;
  • The selection of the events to describe and the sources to use differs from text to text.
Thinking about these facts, I am reminded of the blind men describing an elephant. It is just too big for any one of them to comprehend with the information available to him. Perhaps big history too has this characteristic.

I was impressed by a couple of the specifics brought out in this chapter. The breakup of the Soviet Union and elimination of its domination of a swath of states from Yugoslavia to Estonia was accompanied by new interest and interpretation of World War I in the countries involved. The "bloodlands" narrative of the damages done by the Nazis and Soviets came to the fore, and the 20 million people who died in Eastern Europe in the 1930s and 40s could compete for historical space with the Holocaust, and especially the Jewish deaths within the Nazi Holocaust.

So too, the author cites a coming together of Unionist Northern Irish and Irish Republicans and of Turks and Australians/New Zealanders recognizing common histories of sufferings during World War I.

The Long Shadow

The final section of the book, which is brief, it titled "Conclusion: Long Shadow". It summarizes the contents of the previous sections of the book, making the point again that the views on World War I have varied over the century following its end, as they have varied according to the subsequent experience, and as they have varied among nations (Britain -- England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire, France, Germany, the United States and Russia). He points out that the history of the war remains unbalanced, lacking attention to many aspects -- the four million men from Africa and Asia who fought, the Balkans, the impact on colonialism, etc.

It occurred to me that Reynolds seems to assume more homogeneity in national views than I observed. I lived through the Vietnam War in America and remember it as far more divisive that Reynolds seems to recognize; so too, the Cold War seems to me to have had very serious policy debates within American society. From what little history I have read, the key decision makers in U.S. government during World War II and the the 1950s and 60s may have been using their understanding of the lessons of World War I, but the debates within government may have related to different but contemporaneous understandings of what those lessons were.

Final Comments

Rather than wonder about the shadow of World War I in the social construction of the past and the faulty memory of individuals, we might look at what we know about what actually happened in the last century. Perhaps the big currents of history are more informative than the ways people interpreted the past as they were buffeted by those currents. Here are some:

Decolonization: The overseas colonial empires of European countries and some multi-ethnic empires ended. North America led with the American Revolution and purchases of territory from France, Spain and Russia. Latin America freed itself from Spain and Portugal in the early 19th century. World War I saw the end of the German overseas empire, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Ottoman empire, and the empire of the Russian Tsars; the breakup of the Soviet Union also ended its domination Europe west of Russia and of the the former Soviet states in central Asia. The Japanese empire was ended in World War II. Africa and Asia were decolonized after World War II.

Technology: The Second Industrial Revolution (electricity, internal combustion engines, continuous production lines) and the Third Industrial Revolution (telecom, microelectronics, computers, Internet) took place. The technological revolutions were diffused to other regions; early leaders lost advantages to producers with larger markets.

Globalization: The first wave which ended in the Great Depression was followed by a second wave which started after World War II and continues today. It was matched by the growth of multinational corporations and of multinational markets such as the European Economic Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

There was a growth of international organizations. The League of Nations was replaced by a much stronger United Nations. A system of intergovernmental organizations that began with the Postal Union and the organization to regulate international telegraph operations now includes more than 1000 organizations, notably the World Trade Organization, Note also the European Union, the British Commonwealth and the Francophonie.

Population and Production: World population grew from perhaps 1.75 billion to some 7.25 billion today -- most of whom live in Asia. A demographic transition occurred worldwide, with life expectancy increasing greatly, the portion of the global population in older age brackets increasing greatly, and family size decreasing around the world.


Growth of the world gross domestic product (1950–2010)
Source: Nature

World GDP grew more rapidly than world population, and a middle class emerged on the world scale, as the wealthy minority also grew in number and the portion of people living in extreme poverty decreased.

Culture: Languages have become international -- English, French, Spanish and Chinese come to mind as languages which are spoken by hundreds of millions or billions of people living in many countries. The world religions also provide cultural connections beyond individual nations, especially Christianity and Islam. Indeed, movies and television have cultural impacts far beyond the countries in which they are produced. The large cities of North and South America, Asia and Europe are in many ways much alike.

Since 1900 countries have become significantly more democratic and  their peoples more free. Perhaps as a result, conflicts have become less life threatening, as is shown in the following graph;

Source

Could it be that mankind is being swept along by huge waves of change which we only dimly understand, and that the frequent reinterpretations of the Great War are merely a sign of our failure to reach a better understanding of the forces of history?

Monday, October 20, 2014

A previous Ebola outbreak -- in the United States.


I just read the chapters in Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World about the Ebola outbreak in monkeys in Reston Virginia in 1989. The principal author, C. J. Peters, is one of the rare breed of physicians who has chosen to specialize in virology, and especially in research on rare and emerging viral diseases.

The outbreak was in monkeys that were in quarantine after being imported to the United States for medical research. They had been imported from the Philippines, and the variety of Ebola that came from the Philippines was different from the several African varieties that are known. The differences seem to be very important. It seems clear that the virus in Reston was able to travel in the air from room to room in the facility (via the air conditioning) and infect monkeys by air; the African varieties appear to require contact with fluids (blood, urine, feces, vomit, mucus) from an infected person (after an incubation period).

The monkeys in holding were also suffering from an epidemic of another fatal simian hemorrhagic virus (SIV). All 500 monkeys in the facility were euthanized and the facility was cleaned. A second epidemic in new shipments of monkeys was similarly infected. Efforts to eliminate the infection from the source of the infected animals in the Philippines seem to have failed.

It was discovered after the fact that four of the employees of the facility carried antibodies to the Reston variety of Ebola in their blood, indicating that they had been infected. None appeared to have clinical illness. Apparently the variety of the virus that hit Virginia did not make people sick, although it was deadly to monkeys. That was great good luck for the USA!

The book makes clear that the veterinarian in charge of the Reston facility did a great job, recognizing that something was seriously wrong and keeping the monkeys in place after the mandatory 30 day quarantine. So too, the company owning the monkeys was willing to take a half million dollar loss sacrificing the monkeys and was willing to move quickly to limit the epidemic. Had the sick monkeys been sent around the country, the loss of animals might have been much greater.

I was impressed at how lucky we were that the epidemic occurred close for Fort Detrick, the site of the U.S. army's medical research command. Peters had previous experience with Ebola in Africa, and the command had a full spectrum of experts needed to identify the virus and construct new diagnostic tests. It had one of the only two facilities in the country in which the virus could be studied (relatively) safely. And it had linkages with the CDC which had the epidemiological staff and skill to follow up the disease in humans.

In the United States there are many agencies with responsibilities for health and safety. Thus Virginia and Maryland state public health officials were involved. The military has medical facilities, including those needed to transport servicemen with infectious diseases and to hospitalize them in quarantine. There are federal agencies responsible for assuring the safe disposal of medical waste, etc. The chapter gives a brief but informative summary of how complex it is to manage investigation of a new epidemic, especially one of an emergent disease.

The fundamental point is that the Reston Ebola outbreak was in many ways unique. However, such dangerous but unique outbreaks of (emergent) diseases occur relatively frequently. The country needs the dedicated and brave folk with the expertise to deal with them.

Global Hunger Index



Sunday, October 19, 2014

The 4th Installment on The Long Shadow.


This is the 4th post as I read The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds. (See my first, second and third posts.)

Chapter 8 it titled "Evil". I think the chapter is primarily about the shadow of World War I on the way evil was handled after World War II. Certainly there was evil, and Reynolds focuses on the Holocaust. Interestingly, he suggests that there was little British emphasis on the Nazi genocide against the Jews during and immediately after the war.

Wikipedia estimates that 11 million civilians were killed by the Nazis, of which 6 million were Jews.

Reynolds does not address Japanese atrocities. This is from Wikipedia:
(T)he Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese........ 
According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate among POWs from Asian countries, held by Japan was 27.1%. The death rate of Chinese POWs was much higher because—under a directive ratified on August 5, 1937 by Emperor Hirohito—the constraints of international law on treatment of those prisoners was removed. Only 56 Chinese POWs were released after the surrender of Japan. After March 20, 1943, the Japanese Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea. Around 1,536 U.S. civilians were killed or otherwise died of abuse and mistreatment in Japanese internment camps in the Far East...... 
(T)he Manila massacre of February 1945 resulted in the death of 100,000 civilians in the Philippines. It is estimated that at least one out of every 20 Filipinos died at the hands of the Japanese during the occupation........ 
Special Japanese military units conducted experiments on civilians and POWs in China. One of the most infamous was Unit 731 under ShirĊ Ishii. Unit 731 was established by order of Hirohito himself. Victims were subjected to experiments including but not limited to vivisection and amputations without anesthesia and testing of biological weapons. Anesthesia was not used because it was believed that anesthetics would adversely affect the results of the experiments....... 
Many written reports and testimonies collected by the Australian War Crimes Section of the Tokyo tribunal, and investigated by prosecutor William Webb (the future Judge-in-Chief), indicate that Japanese personnel in many parts of Asia and the Pacific committed acts of cannibalism against Allied prisoners of war....... 
There are different theories on the breakdown of the comfort women's place of origin. While some Japanese sources claim that the majority of the women were from Japan, others, including Yoshimi, argue as many as 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, and some other countries such as the Philippines, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Netherlands, and Australia were forced to engage in sexual activity.
The Allies were hardly blameless; strategic bombing carried out by the Allies during World War II killed many hundreds of thousands of civilians; the use of atom bombs in Japan at the end of the war is more famous, but firebombing such as that of Dresden and Tokyo also killed large numbers of civilians. The acts of Russians as they retook territory in Eastern Europe and invaded Germany are not mentioned.

British involvement in World War I was in part justified by German actions in Belgium and the responsibility that Germany had for starting the war. Efforts by the victors in the war to bring German individuals to account for war crimes after the war largely failed.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Allies sought to firmly pin the blame on Germans for the much worse atrocities committed in that war, and to do so through trials that would reveal the evidence of those crimes. The war crimes trials and the punishment of many Nazi leaders were successful in this. Reynolds suggests that the Allies in 1945 were acting in part on the basis of their interpretation of the experience in the aftermath of the First World War.

Cultural Memories

Chapter 9 is titled "Generations" and deals especially how the cultural memory of World War I evolved after World War II. The way a new generation understands the events of the past may differ substantially from the way those events were understood by the previous generation. By the 1960s, the people who actually fought in the First World War were old or dead, the national leaders of 1914-1918 more so. World War II had formed the minds of the 1960s generations. So too, different nations with their different cultures and different experiences of the wars formed different "cultural memories" and commemorated the 50th anniversary of World War I in different ways.

Reynolds offers a scathing assessment of The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I by Barbara Tuchman. He notes that John Kennedy was deeply affected by the book, and credits its impact as influencing Kennedy to take considerable care to avoid blundering into world war during the Cuban missile crisis (as Kennedy had been led to believe European leaders had blundered into World War I.)

The emphasis of the chapter is on the British reconstruction of its cultural memory of the war, as influenced by the work of historians, and by literary critics as well as publications of anthologies of British war poetry after the war (something he sees as unique to Britain). Popular (as opposed to academic or professional) historians produced books of considerable popularity about the war, but to Reynolds' critical eye, less well informed works. The major change was the introduction of television, and very popular, long histories of World War II. Again, 15 segment program broadcast by the BBC more than once, is described as having a major impact on the public memory of the war; it had a definite view, and was apparently controversial among professional historians. Reynolds mentions in passing that schools included World War I in their curricula, not only as history but as literature, and this too must have contributed to the cultural memory.

In the final section of the chapter, Reynolds discusses the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising and of the Battle of the Somme in Northern Ireland. He suggests that the recreation of the cultural memories of the half century old events led to the Troubles that began in 1968.

I was in my 20s during most of the 1960s and I suppose my view of World War I is partly formed by the reconstruction of the cultural memory from that time -- albeit primarily as an American. I recently read The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark (here is my post on the book). It seems to me that power politics had evolved to such a state by 1914 that the maintenance of peace was beyond the capacity of the institutions of the time; the leaders of the various nations could not maintain the peace, but perhaps to do so would have been beyond the capacity of any leaders facing the challenges of the time.

The massive killing and the inhuman suffering during World War I were apparently beyond the imagination of the leaders and of civilian populations before the war, (I wonder if that was equally true of Americans who had a cultural memory of the Civil War?) While World War I seems much less cruel than World War II, it was certainly bad enough to merit being avoided. One wonders if it might have been avoided if people had more fully understood what they were getting the world into.

The Common Soldier

Chapter 10, titled "Tommies", suggests that in the late 20th century, attention in Britain, Australia and France focused on the common soldier in the First World War more than it earlier/ He describes this as both the result of books by new authors, not professional historians, but rather people interested in capturing the stories of common soldiers in popular books as well as of professional historians writing in a new paradigm. These new works are linked to the 50th and 75th anniversaries of World War I, and new commemorations of the war. Interviews with people who actually experienced the front lines clearly would no longer possible much later/

It is perhaps worth remembering that official war histories tended to focus on battles and fronts, armies and large units. It tended to be the generals who got the most attention, not the foot soldiers. There were soldier poets from England (and Reynolds points out that there were thousands of poets who published on the war), but the best known of these tended to have been from affluent backgrounds, educated in the best and most expensive schools, serving as junior officers.

While the previous chapter focused on the social construction of cultural memory, this chapter attends to the unreliability of the individual's memory of long past events. How large a grain of salt do we have to apply to the stories told to modern authors by men who served on the front lines many decades before? I would add, how much can we trust letters from soldiers at the front to their families at home to tell the unvarnished truth about the war? We know that eye witness testimony about crimes is unreliable, so perhaps is eye witness testimony about war.

In one sense, the later publications about World War I are part of the shadow that war left on the rest of the century. Reynolds in earlier chapters describes how the influence of elites decreased after that war, in part as a result of the war. Suffrage was extended, a middle class and even the working class became more educated and affluent, and radio, movies, and television made the news of the day vividly available to a huge public. Perhaps it is not surprising that that new audience wanted to learn more about people like themselves; they certainly had less trust in the royals and aristocrats that had ruled European governments in the first decades of the 20th century.

I do wonder about things that Reynolds left out. For example, there is a long history of interest in the "common men" who fought the American Indian wars and who fought at the Alamo. Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage , published in 1891, focused on a private soldier in the U.S. Civil War and won international recognition. Indeed, I recently read Leander Stillwell's memoir of his time as a common soldier in the Civil War. So too did Hemingway's novels A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls focus on common men and women in war. George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia was widely read in the English speaking world, describing his experience in the Spanish Civil War. In the United States, Sergeant York in the World War I and Audie Murphy (the most decorated U.S. soldier) in World War II were the subjects of great public interest and even biographical movies, Thus there seems to have been a lot of interest in the common man at war before World War I was a half century past.

The First World War saw the destruction of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, and the German empire stripped of territories in Africa and the Pacific; immediately after the war, new nation states were carved out in a band between Western Europe and the USSR. After World War II, the weakened Western European powers could no longer hold dominion over their African and Asian colonies and scores of new countries were born. Indeed, the India of the Raj is now a number of large countries.


It is now being recognized that half the world's population lives in a relatively small part of the world's area in Asia. The countries in that circle are regaining a larger share of the world's productive economy, recalling the first millennium after Christ when they led the world. Russia and Japan fought wars in the East, and the war in the Pacific (fought largely between Japan and the USA) in World War II was important. Reynolds has a Eurocentric view of the world, but he recognizes in this chapter that Australia is increasingly seeing itself as a Pacific nation, and less as a distant outpost of a British empire or Commonwealth. (Obama's shift towards Asia is similarly a rccognition that the the United States is a Pacific nation, one that has fish to fry in Asia as well as in Europe.) If this shift is not a shadow of that first world war, it is at least a development of a long historical process advanced by that war.

Comments

The book seems bloodless given the reality of war. It is hard to face the evil inflicted in wars, the suffering inflicted on civilian populations in modern war; the death, disability and suffering of common soldiers in battle. It is perhaps especially difficult to empathize with that suffering that took place in earlier times and different places, and across cultural differences. Yet I think we must try to do so.

Utilitarianism is a philosophy that holds we should organize to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. It is based on a concept of utility -- that we can judge two policies that have different impacts across a population by seeing which field of impacts most improves the total utility measured across the population. Economists regularly look at policies in terms of their impact in GDP and perhaps the distribution of income in the population. Utility is similar, but recognizes that a dollar of added income might have considerably more benefit for a poor person than for a billionaire; that a good meal would more benefit a hungry man than a full one or one on a diet.

In the case of war, it think the issue may be to minimize suffering. If the leaders who lead the world into the great world wars of the last century recognized the suffering that they were unleashing on the world, perhaps they would have tried harder to avoid those wars, or at least to limit their length, to limit the numbers of people affected, and to limit the pain inflicted. Even if the leaders proved insensitive to the pain that their policies were inflicting, perhaps the citizens of their countries would have prevented the wars. We saw popular revolutions and military coups that were attempted to end those world wars. So, rub the noses of leaders and the public in the misery of war! Make them understand.