*** war and social upheaval: specific 20th century conflicts

War and Social Upheaval: Specific 20th Century Conflicts

20th century wars
Figure 1.--Moden Europe is in many ways the result of World War I. The nations of Europe began World War I with great enthusiasm. This was not just Austria-Hungary and Germany that were enthusiastic, but Britain, France, and Russia as well. Portraits like this were very common throughout Europe in the early years of the War--perhaps more common in Germany than the other countries. This German portrait was taken in Steglitz on September 14, 1914. The boy's outfit is fascinating. He wears a sailor suit with his sword, contemporary helmet, and medieval armor. The armor is a " Brustpanzer ", a part of a knight's armor of the Middle Ages! After a few first years of the War, we no longer see portraits like this. The German Army in both World Wars would prove to be the most efficent and professional fighting force which might have won a short war. Germany did not have the resources to match the Allies in a long war. And the German leadership twice failed to appreciate th strategic imnmportanc of America.

The 20th century was dominated by two major wars. The World War I (1914-18) and II (1939-45). With some degree of accuarcy they can be viewed as one struggle separated by a 20-year truce. World War I was the culmination of European nationalism. Many of the nationalist issues were left unsettled by the Armistace (1918)and peace treaties (1919-21) peace if not exacerbated by the war and mixed with the impact of the Depression and virulent totalitarian ideologies (Fascism and Communism) the war was resumed again if even more deadly form in 1939. The increasingl leathality of weaponry, the expanded targeting of civilian populations, and the deadly mixture of nationalism, ideology, and racism resulted in the most destructive conflict in human history. The defeat of Fascism and Japananes militarism was followed by a half century struggle between Communism led by the Soviet Union and Western Democracy led by the United States--the Cold War. The United States during the 20th century underwent fundamental changes. The New Deal introduced a level of social justice to working-class Americans. After World War II during the Cold War underwent a struggle for Civil Rights that fundamentally changed American society. The NAZIs had so fundamentally decretited racism that increasing numbers of Americans began to understand the injustices faced by minorities at home. At great cost, the United States as a result of two World Wars and the Cold War achieved many of its primary objectives. Germany and Japan were turned into modern non-aggressive democracies. By the end of the century China and Russia were persuing reforms that had fundamentally changed the totalitariann nature of theor socirties although it is not yet claer as to the kind of society that will eventually evolve. Even after the defeat of the NAZIs genocide continues to blot the 20th century, in Cambodia, Rwaanda, Yigoslavia, and elsewhere. By the end of the decade Communist totalitarianism had been defeated, but a new challenge was devdeloping, totalitarianism fueld by fanatical relious beliefs mixed with natioanlism.

Russo-Japanese War (1904-05)

The Russo-Japanese War developed out of the competing designs of the Japanese and Russian Empires over Manchuria and Korea. Resource-poor Japan coveted the resources of Manchuria where local war lords limited the authority of the Chinese government. Russia's control over Siberia was tenous. Only the Trans-Siberia Railway connected the two. Resistance to Tsarist absolutism was growing in Russia. Minister of the Interior, V.K. Plehve, commented "In order to hold back the revolution, we need a small victorious war" (early 1904). Russia did sot see Japan as major threat and refused to negotiate spheres of influence which woyld allow both countries to persue their interests. Japan launched a suorise attack--never bothering to declare war. The Japanese Navu bottled up the Russian Pacific squadron at Port Arthur and then seized it by a land attack (1904). A Russian Army was defeated at Mukden. The Russians massed their Atlantic squadorn and made made an epic voyage to engage the Japanese Imperial fleet. The Japanese destroyed the Russian squadron at Tsushima (1905). Most Europeans were surprised that the Japanese had the capability to defeat a European naval force. American President Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth ending the war. The War was a major factor in bringing about the Russian Revolution of 1905. It also marked the emergence of Japan as Asian powerhouse.

Balkan Wars (1911-13)

The Balkans Wars are very complicated and involved extensive assaults and killing of civilians by all sides. Italy began the assault on the Ottomon Empire by declaring war in this case to secure a new colony in North Africa--Libya. The Italo-Turkish War (1911-12) also fought a war with the Ottomons, While fought outside the Balkans, it further weaked Ottomon troops. In this case the Ottomons largely ceeded ton Italian demands because of the worsening situation in the Balkas. The First Balkan War (1912) was essentially a continuation of the wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire. This meant by the 20th century dividing up the spoils of the Ottomon territories in Europe. The new Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia) combined to drive the Ottomans from Eastern Roumelia (Lower Thrace and Macedonia). Unfortunately for the people of Macedonia and other Balkan lands, there was no agreed plan for partitioned the territory liberated from the Ottomans. Which lead to the Second Balkan War (1913). This time the primary target was Bulgaria. Romania joined this war to get a slice of Bulgaria--Southern Dobrud´┐Ża. Even the Ottomns attacked Bulgaria which had occupied areas desired by its neighbors. The First Balkan War had been fought by the Balkan states obstensibly to liberate Cgristian peoples from Muslim Turkis rule. The Second Balkan War was largely fought among those Christian states and involved attrocities and ethnic cleaning that still affect the people of the Balkans today. While not active participants, the Wars also involved Russia and Austria-Hungary. The rivalries involved were probably a factor in the ability of the two Emoires to contain the escalating conflict after the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand which finally led ton World War I. In the end, Bulgaria was outraged by the territories that it had to surender. In particular it had to renounce its claims to Macedonia and cede Southern Dobrud´┐Ża back to Romania. This left an embittered Bulgaria, once World War I (1914) broke out, willing to join the Central Powers to regain these territories.

World War I (1914-18)

World War represents a great divide between 19th and 20th Century boys'clothes. The War was arguably the single most important event in the development of modern fashionms. Before the War boys still wore dresses and kilts with ringlet curls for little boys. Older boys wore formal clothes like Little Lord Fauntleroy suits worn with keepants. After the war boys wore shortpants and knickers with modern looking suits. Clothes became increasingly casual. I am not sure why such a profound change in fashion took place. Certainly the War was devestating. An entire generation of French, British, and Germans were lost. But just why the change in boys' fashions occured I am not sure. HBC can only offer a therory at this time. Women were mobilized for the work force. Many women who had never left the home before, entered the work force. Theu simply did not have time to launder and care for the fancy clothes of the Victorian and Edwardian era. But time was not the only factor. As a result of the War, the frivolity of formal fashion seemed much less important than before the War. Men returing from the Western front, experienced a profound change in values. The restructuring of the world economy after World War I needs to be considered.

Rise and Fall of Communism (1917-91)

The social and state systems of Russia, Yugoslavia, and other Eastern European countries need to be considered. Communism as a social force was founded by Karl Marx in his land mark work Das Kapital. The first Communist state was of course the Soviet Union. The Revolution was a reaction to the privations of World War I (1914-18), in which the Russian people, suffered greviously. The Bolshevicks emerged victorious against a democratic Provisional Government (1917). This led led to a distructive Civil war between Reds and Whites (1918-21). The Bolshevivks proceeded found not only a socialist economy, but a repressive police state under Lenin and more importantly Stalin. It is now recognized by most authors that Stalin's ruthless policies including engineering a famine in the Ukraine resulted in more deaths that even Hitler's Holocaust and other genocidal policies. Stalin at the outbreak of World War II at first entered a partnership with Hitler, but then was invaded (1941). The Great Patriotic War waged by the Russian people was the key factor in the defeat of the German Army (1945). It also left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. The result was the Cold War with American and the European democracies. The internat contridictions and efficencies of the Communist system and the desire of natuonal groups for indepence led to the unraveling of the Stalin's Sovier empire, first in Poland (1989) and finally the Soviet Union itself (1991). The Communists without a maket economy are of course not noted for their fashion sence and fashion industry. There were some ideological constraints on fashion. Often clothing manufacturers just copied Western styles, but there were clothing industries in these countries and fashion developments. Some countries had specialized school fashions and uniforms and the Young Pioners were forme with uniforms. Both the impact of the Communists when they seized power and the aftermath of the fall of Communist regimes.

Fall of Empire

There were a series of calametous events following World War I. Many were associated with the collaose or dismanling of the great empires that had dominated European history for centuries. After the Young Turks seized powe in the Ottoman Empire, they conducting an ethnic cleansing of the Armenians, the first genocide of the 20th century. Greece and Turkey fought a war which resulted in the expulsion of the Greeks from Anatolia. The Russian Civil War also involved internation conflicts such as war with Poland. Other conflicts did not result in actual fighting, but remained largely unresolved and would be involved in future wars of the 20th century.

Great Depression (1929-39)

The greatest calamity to befall Americans in the 20th century was the Great Depression--a worse calamity than even two world wars. The Depression began with the Wall Street stock market crash in October 1929. Soon business were going under and Americans were losing their jobs. All Americans were affected. Eventually about one-third of all wage earners were unemployed and many who kept their jobs sawtheir earmings fall. President Hoover who had engineered a humanitarian miracle in Europe during World War was unable to break away from the mindset that the Government should not intervene in the economy. President Roosevelt was elected by a landslide in 1932. He brought emergy and new ideas to Washington and the Federal Government initiated programs that would have been rejected out of hand only a few years ago. Roosevelt was willing to use the Government to solve economic and social problems besetting Americans. The people loved him, electing him to an unprecedented third and fourt term. The propertied class or "economic royalists" as he called them, hated him. Roosevelt's program was called the New Deal and the many programs initaited help change the face of the United States: Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), protection for union organizers, and many others. The conservative-dominated Federal Courts struck down WPA, but many New Deal programs endure to this day. The great novel to emerge from the Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath which addressed to problems of rural Americans and the dust bowl. Urban Americans of course also suffered. While the New Deal brought relief to many desperate Americans, the Depression lingered until orders for war material from Europe began to flood into America in the late 1930s. The rest of the world was also affected by the Depression. Britain and France also struggled with the economic down turn. The response in Germany and Japan was totlalitarianism, militarism, and finally war.

World War II (1939-45)

World War II was not just another war, it decided the future direction of world history--totalitarianism or democracy. The War was thus the defining moment of not only the 20th century, but the sweep of history since the fall of the Roman Empire. The totalitarian powers which had joined together had amassed military power beyond that of the democracies. Thus for a time it looked like the slow, eratic movement toward democracy and freedom would be arrested by the victory of totalitarian powers willing to murder and enslave millions of individuals, including whole populations. The War enveloped virtually every part of the world during the years 1939-45. The principal belligerents were the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, the United States, and, China). The Soviet Union, while not a member of the Axis, was until the German invasion in June 1941, a virtual ally of the Germans--seizing territory from neigboring states and occupying the Baltic states. To most observers it looked like German had essentually won the War in 1940 and 41, seizing most of SWestern Europe and North Africa. Then in 6-months the direction of the War was fundamentally altered when in Hitler attacked the Soviet Union bringing that enormous country into the War on the Allied side (in effect switching sides) and Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor bringing America into the War. World War II was the central event of the 20th century. It not only was the largest most destructive war in human history, but it also fundamentally changed social, economicm and political trends in Europe, North America and Asia. While the focus of most studies of the War are primarily on the titantic military campaigns, weapons, and leaders, children also played a role in the War. They in many ways the people most affected by the War. Millions were killed as a result of military action and the genocidal policies of Germany and Japan. The Germans in particular targeted Jewish children in the Holocaust. Children denied food and housing and in many cases orphaned died in large numbers in occupied countries. Germans kidnapped large numbers of blond children which they regarded as stolen genetic property. Many children were involved in the fighting. The Germans at the end of the War were using young teenagers, but all sides used large numbers of older teenagers. Ine of the many impacts of World War II was on fashion. Quite a range of fashion shifts occurred during and after World War II. Some of the major changes included: an increasing shift to casual dress, less elaborate fashions, the disappearance of knickers, short pants began to be worn as summer attire, American boys stop wearing kneesocks and long stockings, American Scouts and Cubs begin wearing long pants, "T" shirts and jeans became a mainstay of American boyhood, short hair styles become popular for boys in America after the War.

Cold War (1945-91)

Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman when he became president in April 1945 began taking a stringer aproach to the Soviets, disturbbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which men Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. American and European democracies sharply criticised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself with Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the War on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Western Europe. Preident Truman decided to support Western Europ ecomomically (the Marshall Plan) and militarily (NATO). The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The first major episode was the oviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. Berlin was during much of the ColdWar a focal point of the conflict. The Soviets brutally supressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (195?), Hungary (1956), and Czeselovakia (1978). There were proxy wars and competition for influence in developing countries, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. The most dangerous point of tge Cold War was the Cuban Missle Criis (1962). There were efforts to persure detante during the 1970s. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms, but example of the West,


China's experiece in the 20th century was the most turbulant of any great power. It began with the Boxer Rebellion (1900) which exposed the weakeness of decadent Manchu dynasty. The European rescur force and the reparations and concessions involved descredited the Manchus and led to the overthrow of the monarch (1912) and estanlishment of the Chinese Republic (1913). The Guomindang led by Chaing Kai-check fought a campaign with war lords to unify the country (1910s). After World War I a civil war broke out with the Communists (1920s). Japan invaded China in the 1930s. The Japanese first seized Manchuria (1931) and then attacked China proper (1937). Some historians consider the Sino-Japanese War to be the beginning of World War II. The Japanese waged a war un unbelievable brutality, occupying much of the country, but were unable to defeat the Chimese. The war with Japan lasted until the Japanese surrendered to the Allies (1945). The Chinese Civil War began before the Japanese invasion and continued even longer, finally ending with the Communist victory (1949). The Communists iniitated radical reforms aimed at bringing China into the 20th century. Some efforts were effective, others caused imense sufferung. Millions of Chinese died in the famine resulting from Mao's Great Leap Forward. Developments in China in fact involve much more than the War and thus require separate treatment. The Cultural Revolution is a case in point. School children and youth were both at the front of the Cultural Revolution and greatly affected by it it. China after the Cultural Revolution embraced free-market capitalism and by the end of the century had the world's fastest growing economy. The Communist Party has, however, continued to limit free expression and maintained a party dictatorship.

Decolonization (1950s and 60s)

Much of Asia and Africa at the beginning of the 20th century had been colonized or under various forms of European control. World war I had weakened the European powers and their were stirings of nationalism, especially in China and India, but the European colonial empires still dominated much of the world through World War II. Those empires, however, could no longer be sustained. The War had further weakened the European powers. In addition, issues raised by the War, namely Fascist and Japanese efforts to create empires, undercut the moral justification of European empires. In addition, Socialist parties opposed to colonialism power or influenced public policies in Europe. The Soviet Union also promoted anti-colonial policies. The War has inspired nationalist groups in the European colonies, especially in the countries occupied by the Japanese. Many nationalists saw the weakness of the colonial regimes and independence movements grew in strength. Here the British decession to grant independence to India was a major turning point. India had been the jewel in the Crown. Britain's decession meant that it was only a matter of time before other colonies were granted independence. Wars of national liberation forced both the Netherlands (Indonesia) and France (Vietnam and Algeria) to move toward granting independence to their colonies. Independence was greated with great optimism throughout Asia and Africa. In most cases the heady optimism of independence has not been realized. In most of the newly independent countries, the standards of living and levels of personal freedom have actually declined since independence. In large measure this is because the independemce movements of the 1950s and 60s were strongly influenced by Socialist and Communist thought and failed to recognize the political and economic structures in the West that had created productive and just societies.

India-Pakistan (1947- )

The ongoing conflict betwwen Moslems and Hindus dated back to Mongul invasions of the 16th century. Many Indians converted to Islam under Mongul rule. There were economic advantages. Some Mongul emperors forced conversion. In addition, Islam offered relief from untouchibility. Areas of northern and eastern India in particular became strongly Muslim. After the decline of Nongiul empire tensions developed between Muslim and Hindu communities. This was kept in check by the British Raj, altjhough the British also played on this division in administering India. The current conflict dates from the independence of India after World War II. Lord Mountbatten was sent to India by Britain's post-War Labour Government to be the lat Viceroy and oversee independence. India's independence was achieved by the Congress Party. Ghandi through the Congress Party had promoted the idea of a secula Indian state in which people of all faiths could live harmoniously. Muslims were an important part of the Congress Party coalition. In the negotiations over independence, Muslim leader Jenna decided that Muslims needed a separate state--Pakistan. Britain granted India independence August 15, 1947. Inter-communal rioting in 1947 resulted in hundred of thousands of deaths if not million as Muslims fled from India and Hindus from Pakistan--one of the largest migrations in history. Thousands more died in violence as these collums foraged or food and were set upom by villagers also inflamed by religious and national zealotry. The two collumns also fought with each other. The flash point for armed conflict between India and Pakistan was Kasmir. The formula agreed to by Congress and the British was that the aristocratic rulers were allowed to chose whether to join India or Pakistan. This was a complicated process as colonial India was composed of 565 separate states. Pakistan expected Kashmir to affiliate with their country because of the majority Muslim population. Local extremists supported by Pakistan attempted to seize control. Kashmir's Hindumaharajah decided to affiliate with India and pleaded for military support. The result was the first India-Pakistan War. United Nations Resolutions in 1948 and 50 called for a refreandum, but India has never allowed this. Pakistan since 1989 has supported a violent insurgency in Kashmir. The coinflict has been further complicated in the 1990s. Both India and Pakistan developed and tested nuclear weapons. Hindu nationalists have defeated Congress in Indian elections. Since the 9-11 attacks, the Pakistani Government has reassessed its support of terroism in Khasmir, but Islamacists in Pakistan object to this and other actions by the country's secular Government, especially cooperation with America on the war against terrorism.

Latin America

The Spanish and Portugues began settling the New World in the 16th century. The Spanish colonies in particular proved to be imensly profitable because of the gold and silver bullion which made Spain the richest country in Europe. There were by the 17th century sophisticated cities in both Mexico, Peru, and other areas. This included cities with universities and printing presses decades before the English founded their first primitive settlements in Virginia and Massahusetts. The English colonies never produced the gret bonanza of bullon the Spanish found. The various Spanish and Portuguese colonies evolved differently. Some had large Native Ameica populations. Others were primarily populated by Ruropean settlers. Some were populated by substantial shipments of African slaves. The Latin American countries have also developed differently economiically. Some have been more successful than outhers. None of the Latin American countries, however, have achieved the level of success of the two English colonies--Canada and the United States. Most of Latin America continues to be economically poor where individuals eake out very poor livings. Only one Latin America country has approached entering the developed world of Europe and North America. Argentinawas close to doing this aftet World War II, but then Argentine society faltered. Many Latin American countries. attempt to emigrated to the United States, either legally or illegally. The question arises as to why the two regions have developed so differently.


Vietnam is the most controversial war in American history. Even after several decades the debate over the war continues. American Presidents Kennedy and Johnson committed American combat troops primarily as part of a Cold War commitment to fighting Communism. The reality in Vitnam was much more complex. American officials failed to perceive the nationalist dimmensions of the War. The developing fisures in the Communist world were also not appreciated. Perhaps the most serious miscalculation was the military assessmnent of the ability of North Vietnam to resist American military power. The role of the American press is one of the most intensely debated aspects of the War. Presiden Nixons strategy in nwith drawing from Vietnam had also beem inteensely debayed. The war was waged at great human and material cost. The impact on the American economy was significant. There was also a powerful imoactbon American culture nd ociety.

Arabs and Jews: Palestine (1948- )

One of the most intractable conflicts of the 20th century is the conflict between Jews and Arabs over Palestine. The problem began in the 19th century, although the two groups trace their claims to the land back to Biblical times. Most Jews in the 19th century lived in Europe and accept for Russia after centuries of isolation and repression had schieved a high degree of integrtion in civil society. Most Jews had been emancified and were full citizens. Pogroms in Russia during the 19th century had driven many Jews to Western Europe and America. This resulted in rising anti-Semitism, but this was partially restrained by the force of law. Most Jews saw their future as Europeans. Zionism gained appeal with the Russian Pogroms, but until the rise of the NAZIs in Germany Zionism was supported by only a small minority of Jews. The NAZI Holocaust shatered Jewish society throughout Europe. Many of the surviving Jews turned to Zionism and in 1947 managed to obtain United Nations recognition for partition and a new Jewish state in Palestine. This basic outline is historical fact. Virtually everything else about the conflict is a manter of contention. An unusual aspect of the current Isreali-Arab conflict is that children (Arab and Jewish) are not only the victims of the conflict, but they are also participating in the violence. We have all seen the images of rock-throwing Palestinian boys, some as little as 6 years old. Palestinian youth have carried out suicide bombing attacks killing Isrealis of all ages. The Arab obsession with destroying Israel has resiulted in aadicalization of Arab society thgat rncall has led to huge numnmbers of mostly Arab and ither Muslim deaths.

American Civil Rights Movement (1954-65)

The American Civil Rights Movement is one of the most momentous epics in the history of the American Republic. I date it from the Brown vs. Topeka Supreme Court deseggregation decission (1954) to the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965), but of course the struggle began long before that and continues today. The hope of real freedom for the emancipated slaves after the Civil War was quashed by racist state governments after the withdrawl of Federal trops in the 1870s. The Supreme Court countenced segreagation in the Plessy vs. Fergusson (1898) decission and a system of racial apartaid enforced by law and the lynch rope ruled the American South until after World War II (1939-45). President Truman prepared the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement when he desseggregated the military (1948) and took other steps which led to the landmark Supreme Court Brown decission. Brown Although the Brown decission did not immediately desegragate Southern schools, it did help foster a decade of nonviolent protests and marches, often carried out by teenagers and youths. These ranged from the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott to the student-led sit-ins and Freedom Rides of the 1960s. These protests were finalized by a massive March on Washington (1963). The Civil Rights Act (1964) which provided a frange of legal protections including access to public accomodations. The Voting Rights Act (1965) was the capstone of the movement, guaranteeing access to the voting booth and in the process fundamentally changing America.

Ulster (1960s-90s)

Since World War II most violent conflicts have occurred in the Third World. An exception to this was the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The conflict has been described as the last religious war in Europe. It also has the halmarks of the tribal conflicts of Africa. The conflict is rooted in the centuries old effort of England to control Ireland. A vicious civil war occurred in Ireland after World War, resulting in the creation of the Irish Free State which eventually became the Irish Republic. The majority Protestant province of Ulster or Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingsom. The Ulster Government treated Cathlolics as second-class citizens. A civil rights movement began in the 1960s, but unlike the American Civil Rights movement, the conflict in Ireland led by the Orish Republican Army turned violent, resulting in three decades of killings and reprisals. The British attempted to prevent the violence, but soon became seen as favoring the Protestants by most Catholics. The Irish seemed to have turned the corner on this and a peace process seems to have ended the violence, although there is still considerable ill will between the two communities.

Cambodian Genocide (1975- )

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, after years of struggle, defeated the Cambodian military and seized the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. What followed was one of the most sinister and senceless acts of genocide ever committed by a government on its own people. The Khmer Rouge's first step was to force all the inhabitants of Phnom Penh no matter what their age or health into the country to work in labor camps. Their goal was to create a Cambodian state of pure communism. One step to achieve that goal was to eliminate all class enemies, meaning virtually every Camboadian with any kind of education. Not only were the adults killed, but also their children. Some weere killed outright in infamous prisons and the work camps. Others died of starvation and overwork. The Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 2 million Cambodians, 30 percent of the country's population. The Khmer Rouge closed all the normal institutions of a modern country, including banks, hospitals, schools, and stores. Temples and any exercize of religion was banned. Everyone had to work in the fields for 12-14 hours daily. Children were separated from their parents so that they could be better endoctrinated. The children were recruited as soldiers or worked in mobile work gangs.

Afghanistan (1979-2002)

Few even late in the 20th century would have guessed that isolated Afghanistan would play aajor role in both ending the Cold War and in the developing Terrorist asault on the West. After years of medling in Afghani affairs, the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979. Afghani resistance was at first inefectual, but provided with modern weapons, especially hand-held Stinger missles, through American and Pakistani covert operations, casualties steadily increased. After 10 years of bitter combat the Soviets withdrew. The losses sustained were a factor in the colapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet-backed collapsed leaving the country in chaos. After extended fighting, the Pakistani-backed Taliban took control of most of the country and imposed a chaotic theocratic regime. The oppression of women in particular startled world opinion. The Taliban also provided a haven foe Osama bin Laden and his terroirist asault on America. A series of attacks culminated in 911. The American response removed the Taliban from power. Hamid Karzai has established a moderate regime in Kabul, but little origress has been made in bringing a more tolerant regime to the countryside where most Afghanis live. [Selerstad]

Iraq (1980-2003)

Iraqi President Sadam Hussain has been at the center of two major Middle Eastern wars. He launched an invasion of Iran bringing about the largest war between Muslim states in history and resulting in hundreds of thousands of casualties. Next he invaded neighboring Kuwaut, launching a reign of terror in that country until expelled by an international coalition in Opperation Desert Storm. As a result of Iraq's defeat in Desert Storm, Sadam agreed to dismantle its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It had clearly not done so. Sanctions impossed upon Iraq by the United Nations have stayed in place because of Sadam's continued work on WMD. The Iaqui economy has been crippled by those sanctions and the people of Iraq, including the children, have undeniably suffered. The question of course rises, who is responsible for that suffering. Is it the United Nations for imposing the embargoes because of Sadam's defiance? Or is in Sadam for insisting on persuing WMD and siphoning off oil revenue to support WMD program. Now a third war looms with U.S. President Gerorge Bush demanding that Sadam end programs to develop and deploy WMD. This has resulted in an impassioned debate, especially in Europe and the Arab world.

Disolution of the Soviet Union (1989-91)

The Cold War for all practical purposes end with the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the Communist satellite governments in Eastern Europe. The process of course began in Poland. Poland was the largest of the satellite countries with a long border with East Germany. Once the Communist Government fell in Poland, the continuation of a Communist police state in East Germany became untenable. As East German crowds converged on the Wall, German Communist officials wanted to use foirce to supress them. Gorbechov made it clear, however, that the Soviet Army in Germany would not support such actions. As a result, the East Germans surged through the check points in the Wall and crowds on both sides wre soon desmantling the Wall. Other Communist Governments also soon fell. Most collapsed peacefully, exccept in Romania where Nikolai Cesecasneu ordered his security forces to fire on surging crowds. He was executed a few days later after a perfunctory trial. The capstone to the end of the Cold War was the disolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

Disolution of Yugoslavia (1991- )

Yugoslavia was formed after World War out of several countries, principalities and renmaants of the Austro-Hungarain Empire. Almost from the beginning the union of South Slvs proved almost ungovernable. The Croats in particular objected to what they saw as efforts by the Serbs to dominate the country. The Croats even joined with the NAZIs after the World War II German invasion. After the War, Tito held the country together with brute force. After Tito died Milosivich used Serb natioanlism to gain power. When he was unable to hold Slovenia and Croatia in Yugoslavia (1991), Milosivich set our to create a Greater Serbia. He supported Serb para-military groups to seize control of large areas of Bosnia and supress the Kosovars in Kosovo. None of the contending ethnic groups are without blame. Criat forces also carried out attricities against Sebs and Muslims in Bosnia. European countries were unable to deter him. Only the reluctant and tardy threat of Amercan force stoped Milosivich in Bosnia. The actual use of force was needed in Kosovo. In both cases the United Nations was unable to act. Even in Serbinica where the U.N. guaranted the saftey of Bosnians, in the end Dutch U.N. peace keepers were ordered to abandon the Muslims to the Serbs. Finally when the U.N. failed to act, the United States acted through NATO. About 0.2 million people are believed to have been killed.

Rwandan Genocide (1994)

Rwanda's Hutu majority in 1994 organized and carried out the mass murder of the Tutsi minority. The Hutis in only 100 days, slaughtered 0.8 million Tutsis and moderate Hutu political opponents. Incredibly the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis at a faster pace than the NAZIs murdered the Jews in World War II. The Hutu massacres seem even more unfathomanable than the NAZI genocide. One journalist reports, "... how do you account for the evil we saw in the green hills of that nation in 1994, when one day we saw a mother with a baby tied to her back gleefully using a machete to hack up another woman also carrying an infant?" [Hartley] A U.N. peace keeping force in the country was unable to protect Tutsis seeking sanctuary. Finally as the Hutu massacres intensified, the U.N. withdrew its force, completely abandoning Tutsi refugees to their grisly fate. Only a Tutsi rebel force defeating the Hutu dominated Rwandan Army finally ended the killing. France had strong contacts woth the Hutu Government and had good inteligence on what was transpiring. A small French force toa ssist the U.N. Peace Keepers might have prevented the killing. France did send troops, but only to evacuate its own nationals. America also failed to act, paralized by the 1993 debacle of the humanitarian relief effort in Somalia.

Eritrea-Ethiopia Border War (1998-2000)

Some conflicts are more difficylt to understand than others. One very difficult to understand conflict is that between Eritrea and Ethiopia over delimiting their border. It alsp proved deadly and thousands were killed in the fighting. Estimates suggest that about 70,000 people may have been killed in the fighting between the two Horn of Africa countries. The war evolved into a World War I trench-style conflict. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission was established to end the conflict. The Commission was set up under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. It fulfilled part of its mandate by demining the border. It failed, however, to get the two countries to demarcate their border and the Commission dissolved itself (2007). United Nations sources reported that both countries have amassed sizeable troop coinfrontations backed with tanks and artillery at the border (2007).


Hartley, Aidn. The Zanzibar Coast: The Story of Life, Love, and Deah in Foreign Lands (Atlantic Monthlky, 2003), 414p.

Srierstad, Asne. The Bookseller of Kabul (Little Brown), 288p. Translated from the Norwegian by Ingrid Christhophersen.

Wilson, A.N. The Victorians (Norton), 724p.


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Created: October 22, 2002
Last updated: 5:25 PM 1/30/2012