Quote Originally Posted by B Butler View Post
I don't think S&H had every crisis featuring a massive war. I vaguely recall their acknowledging that Queen Victoria and Bismarck, though at heart conservatives, put through enough more or less progressive reforms to make sure Marx's predictions of a Revolution didn't happen on their watch. If that isn't pure S&H, I think it's an idea that has been shared frequently on these forums. The generation constellation tends to be set up for a transforming struggle every four score and seven years, but if the conservative resistance to change isn't very strong, sometimes a massive conflict doesn't develop. It is in the conservatives interest to give enough ground that the spiral of violence doesn't go critical, but much of the time the conservatives cling to their pasts firmly enough that things do explode. Not always, but a lot.
Victoria and Bismarck had the wisdom to see the dangers of an economic order in which the workingman had no stake in the system. Contrast the contemporary Right in America, one that acts as if the way to do things is to force what Karl Marx excoriated. That's good for exacting the maximum level of profits -- sweat and starve the workingman. It's also good for ensuring the rise and hardening of revolutionary sentiments.

...The closest things to a Crisis in Europe around the time of the American Civil War were

(1) the Crimean War
(2) the unification of Italy
(3) the Franco-Prussian War
(4) the Paris Commune, and
(5) secessions of some Balkan lands from the Ottoman Empire.

It may be that the Second World War was unusually severe and freakish in its violence. Two opposing sides that saw each other as pure, absolute evil and that considered surrender impossible when fighting to the last citizen of the community was theoretically possible. I can imagine the President of the United States finding himself in a fetid bunker in Chicago with the American leader and his wife/mistress blowing their brains out in the end after testing a cyanide vial upon their beloved pet dog as the Germans and Japanese closed in had the war gone the wrong way. (FDR and Churchill ultimately won because once they liberated a territory the killing came to an abrupt end, which proved the wisest way to conduct even an apocalyptic war).

The Second World War is likely to be the worst war in human history through this Crisis. This time we have the imagery of atrocities that would have appalled the Mongols, until then the most horrible conquerors ever. We can juxtapose the speeches in which Adolf Hitler excoriates the Jews with images of consummate horror.

In view of the opposing sides seeing each other as the greatest evil that ever existed and the war as the final struggle between Good and Evil -- few wars are ever so seen. For an idea of how Hitler and Goebbels saw things imagine a four-headed monster with three of the heads being Stalin, FDR, and Churchill and the fourth an ugly stereotype of a Jew. (Stalin really was a monster; FDR and Churchill were the most dangerous enemies possible but easy to avoid trouble with by doing nothing stupid; the Jew was no guiltier than anyone else).

I'm also into Ages of Civilization: Hunter Gatherer, Agricultural Empire, Industrial Democracy and... Information Age? It is my thought that computer networks, weapons of mass destruction and renewable energy will change the shape of human culture just as much as the printing press, gunpowder weapons and steam engines. War seemed cost effective during the bulk of the Industrial Age. Great Powers played The Great Game. That was what they did. Whenever a Great Power's economy was running along well enough that they could afford it, there was always one nation that was ready to take on others head on brute force.
Information is a strange creature; if one throttles it in an effort to control it one also destroys it. War has the tendency to centralize power no matter what the ideology of the warriors may have been. Churchill may have been the ultimate expression of free-wheeling capitalism before World War II, but even he ended up with an economy whose regimentation rivaled that of the Soviet Union at the time. Centralization and regimentation are good for concentrating and controlling the effort, but they also create obvious targets.

Destroy the system of communication, and you disrupt everything -- including the transportation system that allows the efficient "just-in-time" manufacturing. Obedient soldiers might obey falsified commands to go away from the battlefield. Machining for the Super can fail as machine instructions turn a weapon-processing plant into a little Chernobyl.

Nuclear weapons could very well change that. The recent conflicts feature proxy war, insurgent tactics and failed states. While during the Industrial Age the major powers seemed to have a tacit agreement not to arm the natives in anyone's colonies, these days it seems every terrorist and his brother can find a nation state that will ship him assault rifles and explosives to support their cause. Colonial Imperialism is much more difficult to implement these days. I am not sure that the lessons learned from the Industrial Age can be applied, that the patterns of the last several centuries can be counted on.
Proxy wars are the ways in which to test the willingness of the Other Side to respond. Usually those are small, but someone might miscalculate. The use of a diaspora as agents of subversion (China has such potential as few other countries have) is always a possibility. Restoring the old colonial order is impossible when India is a legitimate Great Power.

Meanwhile, every culture that tries to grow out of the Agricultural Age pattern has had major problems in transition. The United States, Great Britain, Russia, France, China and many other places had Revolutions, Civil Wars and / or meddling Colonial Imperialists. The first attempt of any culture to escape autocratic tyranny is apt to be a very painful failure. I wouldn't expect the modern Middle Eastern countries to be any different.
The point. Even France had its struggles with the agrarian order as late as the 1930s, and the struggle between French democrats and fascists in the 1930s weakened France for Nazi conquest. The traditional agrarian order died in Europe in World War II or its aftermath, and so did its politics. Oddly the Vichy Regime sought to decide once and for all that a traditional, pre-modern, agrarian order would be established once and for all... only for that to end with Operation Overlord and Operation Dragoon.

They might be worse off in that many western countries had a vision of a better future they were working towards, whether they followed Jefferson's Enlightenment pattern or Marx's communism, they knew they were leaving the old tyranny behind to embrace something new. Many in the Middle East -- the militants causing much of the trouble at least -- have rejected Western values and cling to Islam. They stick to the autocratic old way of doing things by culture and habit. They know their society has big problems, but many are not fighting to break the old patterns, but are clinging to tyranny and violence. They've got a problem, and I'm not sure we're in a good place to help them out of it.
Islam is so entrenched in so many cultures that extirpating it would require genocidal extermination that nobody with a shred of decency could do. Muslims are not going to walk sheepishly into gas chambers. More likely, Islam will adopt such needful modernity as it must. If it must accept Jeffersonian democracy it will so do with the understanding that democratic government "of the People, by the People, and for the People" will naturally lead to enshrinement of the moral dictates of Islam. A legal formulation that invalidates any law contrary to the exercise of an Islamic conscience could be derived from Henry David Thoreau.

Autocracy has manifestly failed in Libya and Iraq, and it is failing in Syria.

Yes. The Great Depression of the GI's was nothing at all like the very protective 'Baby on Board' period. My parents were put to work as soon as they were old enough to do so, and the vast bulk of their salaries went into the family's common kitty. They didn't get control of their paychecks until they married. My father wasn't driven to organized activities. He'd grab a few dimes and ride the streetcars that could take him anywhere in Greater Boston. I like the Millenials I bump into, but they aren't the Greatest Generation, they aren't ready to roll up their sleeves with little to no provocation and wipe out any problem that comes to their notice. Further, the Boomers are divided and squabbling. The Millenials do seem to have some Civic ability to network and get things done, but they haven't got an FDR or a vision to get them all heading in the same direction at the same time. The GIs were rough, ready and willing. The Millenials are... good people.

There are some common Civic traits that might be shared between the GIs and the Millenials, but there are certainly differences.
The Great Depression and World War II made the GI Generation much of what they were. Most knew a hardscrabble childhood by contemporary standards and saw that as something to avoid once they got in charge. But we largely know this.

FDR was not a GI, of course. Top leadership by Boomers has been mediocre (Bill Clinton) to abominable (George W. Bush).