This 11th November was unusual. Not only did it mark the 70th anniversary of the most remarkable bombing raid in history, but it was the last before commemorations for the centenary of the First World War begin.
Troops. Aerial bombing. Submarines. Industry. Alliances. All of these were hotly debated topics in European circles as the political climate ascended to uncomfortable temperatures, as imperial Britain, France, Russia and Germany raced to out-industrialise each other, made webs of treatises solidifying diplomatic inclinations between each other and hastily mentally compiled tactics, technical plans and time restraints.
Today, too, although hidden in the shadows, there are such problems. The British Armed Forces are making a myriad of professionals redundant and filling the personnel gaps with volunteers of the Territorial Army, whilst in Germany, compulsory conscription for all male youths was ended a few years ago. The seemingly incessant moral, technical and political debate regarding first drone warfare and now un-piloted programmed ‘planes is never long out of political military consciousness. The future of nuclear warfare is also under scrutiny, especially with frenzied efforts to determine the efficacy and longevity of possible Iranian and North Korean nuclear missiles. Observers in the US and Europe anxiously but almost secretively compare the growth figures of their own countries with those of China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Korea. And, through the highly diplomatic infrastructure of the United Nations, countries align themselves with potent partners.
War? No. Not yet. The present construction of world diplomacy is such that war of a scale of the Great War will be lethargic in construction, and easy to predict. The UN Security Council and summits should, theoretically, highlight international disputes and prove as a medium for serious debate before any serious military action is undertaken.
Nevertheless, we have to be watchful. A US-led coalition invasion of Syria to intervene in the ongoing civil war may provoke Assad’s supporters (or, at any rate, those who do not speak out against him) into action – China and Russia. And any potential conflict with the US, Europe, Australasia, Canada and possibly India against the might of China, Russia and North Korea would end in utter devastation. Not only conventional methods, such as land and sea battles and conventional strategic and area bombing, but nuclear attacks, cyber-attacks and possibly even pathogenic warfare. In any case, an invasion would worsen the situation between the nations.
The British government frequents Beijing, attempting to accentuate relations between the PRC and the UK. But in all seriousness, this is precisely how such future conflicts can be prevented. Not consorting with evil such as Assad’s regime (due to their use of chemical weapons), but peaceful and economic relations with other potent and prosperous nations.
We cannot allow our militia to become so depleted that, should such a terrifying conflict come, we are unprepared. Professionals must be recruited from the highest walks of life to protect our country against the scores of cyber- and physical terrorists presently devising means to attack us, and also to prevent against international conflict. Whilst conscription would train our populace in readiness, should such an awful occurrence happen, it also is of detriment to quality, continuity and professionalism which marks out the UK Armed Forces as perhaps the best in the world. That can be left for a time of real need.
Remembrance Day for the next 4 years will not just serve to remind the younger generations of the terrible cost of all the troops, sailors and airmen in the First World War, but as a stark reminder of what could occur and how far society has perhaps progressed since.
Image credit: BBC 2012.