January 1, 2016
Happy New Year
History is a long, slow burn. The story of our species on this planet is piled high with ethnic hatreds – sometimes centuries in the making; ambitious and ruthless conquests of peoples and territories, colonialism and long-simmering resentments. Oh, and the story is also piled high with megalomaniacal characters who have added their own spice to history.
The foundation of World War II was laid down on the ruins of WWI – the Great War to End All Wars. All the ambitious fires of nationalism still glowed in the embers of defeat and the redrawing of the world’s map and the redistribution of conquered territories. The rise of unquenchable nationalism in post-war Japan (our ally in WWI) and Germany in the early 30’s led directly to War a decade later.
The redrawing of the Maps of Europe and the Middle East after WWII has directly led to everything we see unfolding in the Muslim World today – from Afghanistan to Palestine and from North Africa to Syria. Old resentments, old colonial alignments, ancient tribal hatreds . . . a long, slow, burn.
And we have the problems that Japan created in China and Southeast Asia when it decided eight decades ago to expand its territory and conquer the countries (and peoples) needed and wanted to support its ambitions for their Asian Axis of Prosperity, centered, of course, in Tokyo. The horrors they inflicted on the Chinese, Burmese, SouthEast Asians, Indonesians, and all the Pacific Island nations they conquered have not been forgotten. While our relations with Japan “normalized” after the war and they have emerged as a strong ally of the US, the Koreans have not forgotten. The Chinese have not forgotten. Their emergence as a world economic power and a center of international influence, combined with their increasing military power and their actions in the South China Sea should cause everyone to “keep their fingers crossed.” History is a long, slow burn.
New Year’s Day marks a day of hope across the globe. Let us continue to hope that we have all become a little smarter over the last century, and that we have actually learned something from our garrulous history, and that maybe, perhaps, we can find better ways to inch forward.
Happy New Year (I really mean it.)