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    The Great War
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2006 Nov 12, 21:21 +1100

    George wrote:
    'But I must take issue, this Remembrance Day, with a comment [Wolfgang] made,
    as follows-
    
    "During the period of interest here, prior to the "Great War" (as I
    think they say in your part of "Old Europe", George) ..."
    
    Not any more, we don't, Wolfgang, I'm pleased to say, though in my
    younger days there may have been a few "old fogeys" that did. To us,
    it's World War 1. I suppose that for a time after its end, such a war
    might have been so exalted by its "victors", but no longer.'
    
    I had never realised the Great War was ever seen as 'great' in that
    sense. Although I may belong to a younger generation I grew up
    ever-reminded of this appelation, as pretty-well every small town in
    Australia (that are the size of villages in Europe) comes with its
    cenotaph centrally located, with the names of the locals who died in
    that conflict inscribed upon it. Often the same names are repeated;
    brothers and cousins, fathers and sons. Sometimes the dead of WWII and
    later conflicts have been added, but that in no way detracts from the
    sense I grew up with that this was a war Great in its destructive
    power. Great as in terrible.
    
    In terms of the percentage of its young men who failed to return from
    northern France and Belgium, Australia suffered more than the
    countries more closely involved. The effects are still felt, and form
    one important reason for a long slow decline in the population and
    viability of the interior, in contrast with the development of the
    USA. That generation of young men was never replaced in the many small
    centres that depended on them.
    
    At school I learned that the Great War was the first modern war, but
    since then I've decided that it can be better understood as the last
    of the old style of war; that of great armies lined up to decide the
    fate of nations according to how the battle is resolved.
    
    Since then all wars have been to some extent fought on other fronts,
    and have been to some extent guerilla wars. Victory in the
    old-fashioned sense of military might prevailing is, these days,
    almost irrelevant to the eventual outcome - as was shown in Vietnam,
    and now in Iraq. Those who cannot learn from their mistakes are indeed
    condemned to repeat them.
    
    I hasten to add here that this is not an exercise in America bashing,
    for the good reason that Australia has always had a bad (in my
    opinion) habit of inviting itself to other people's wars. The Boer War
    (now there was the first modern war), the Peking insurrection (one of
    the Chinese 'Opium Wars'), the Great War, WWII, Korea, various
    (Malaysian world) little remembered conflicts, Vietnam, the 1st Gulf
    War (George Bush I) and now, once again, Australian troops are in
    occupation of Iraq together with British and American forces (George
    Bush II). We invited ourselves to them all (and have unfortunately
    usually proved to be good soldiers) although participation in few if
    any of these conflicts has been to our long term advantage.
    
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