Will we ever learn the lessons from history?

With the recent focus on two world wars due to the converging significant anniversaries from both, it is hard not to start wondering about history repeating itself and to ask the question can we learn from that history and prevent a similar set of events converging catastrophically over the coming years?

Today, many’s thoughts and prayers will be with the hundreds of families who have received unbearable news, colleagues still reeling from another disaster and all of us are left questioning how a commercial flight could be put at such risk.

With the backdrop of a developing situation that has already generated an incredibly delicate global diplomatic situation, could the tragic disaster surrounding the MH17 become a catalyst that pushes what was appearing to be an orchestrated escalation of ‘unrest’ designed to allow an easy reaffirmation of Russia’s pseudo-defensive annexation policy, into an excuse for war that can easily be clouded in the eventual aftermath as ‘history that can never be proven’.

When on the same day Israel deploys into Gaza, dozens of other conflicts and international disagreements continue to fester or escalate, global conditions seem somewhat more unbalanced than at any time in recent history.

At this very early stage the cause of the crash is obviously still open to conjecture so the following suppositions appear to currently exist and remain to be proven one way or the other.

1. Ukrainian forces shot down the plane.

2. Pro-Russian rebel forces shot down the plane.

3. Russian forces shot down the plane.

4. A freak accident occurred.

As option four is apparently not being considered even during initial reports, the implications really affect either Russian or Ukrainian positions. For if the rebel forces are proven to have shot down the plane the Russian position will be similarly, if not so extremely, damaged.

If Ukrainian forces shot down the plane then, beyond the international condemnation they will receive, Russia will have the opportunity to strengthen the argument for direct military intervention in the Ukraine under the justification the Ukrainian government is unable to maintain order, resulting in this tragedy. If undertaken unilaterally this will obviously have extensive ramifications and will still likely lead to long term instability in the region should Russia attempt to annexe Ukraine or make further expansionist postures. The shooting down of a Russian airliner by Ukrainian forces thirteen years ago is bound to be brought up at some point so the clouding of the event can be assured if nothing else.

The nagging question that the first option poses is, why? A Ukrainian false flag attempt? A trigger happy Ukrainian pilot or surface to air missile seems doubtful if believingĀ  confident announcements from the Ukrainian side. It seems harder to imagine or fit to circumstances somehow unless contrived in order to make the Ukrainian administration appear incapable by Russia or to garner international support for the Ukrainian side if by Ukraine.

What sounds the easiest of ideas to contemplate currently would be the far less disciplined and more volatile rebel forces making a fatal mistake. If so this would mark a massively inconvenient result in trusting such equipment to the rebels if the source of the missile is proven to be Russia. The further complications for Moscow’s machinations could now be that the international community has a valid reason to become involved in a peace keeping effort due to the direct impact on foreign citizens in what was purportedly an internal conflict. Another weight to add to the balance of this possibility would have been Russia’s ability to retain a degree of ‘plausible deniability’ surrounding the incident.

Putin as ever seeming to be sitting in the absurdly effete fantasy role of dominant Russian leader, instantly available to add fuel to the fire of something he denies direct Russian involvement in. Casting blame before offering sympathy does smack of the guilty attempting to divert attention. How convenient to immediately be able to know, presumably also to prove, that the crash occurred exactly where it could easily been enacted by Russia, yet is in the airspace of a country they are at odds with.

The remaining, if still as seemingly bizarre possibility that a Russian sourced missile destroyed the plane would perhaps be the most damaging in terms of diplomatic ramifications. With the capability to determine what was being targeted, there could be no excuse for such an action.

There remains a question as to whether Russia’s recent military posturing is part of an attempt to determine how far their influence over the European states and world can be pushed whilst they hold such a sensitive financial card in the shape of gas supply. There does appear again to be a fairly close correlation to the increased flexing of military power since the increased dependence on energy. After seeing how well the previous Libyan regime could be fawned upon by those sickening politicians willing to forget any atrocity so long as energy was for sale, how much further would the vast gas reserves allow Russia room to misbehave?

In common with many other countries, the people of Russia suffer vilification for the actions of the regime in power. If not victorious in their current aims their society will continue to suffer the deprivations that militaristic governing cadres perpetuate. If victorious in the shorter term Ukrainian conflict to come, the potential continued expansionist policy would doubtless meet a brick wall eventually but we would be living in a far differing world by then and may have other concerns.

In turning to the historical border paranoia associated with the Russian state or national identity. There exists room for a reversed concept where the countries neighbouring Russia create the buffer zone of safety that has been a well documented rationale used to justify Russian expansionism. Create an agreement for bordering countries to repatriate all those claiming Russian ties and to provide military units to permanently patrol the Russian borders, from the outside, in the vein of supporting the defence of the Russian state from attack.

It can sometimes be useful to contemplate absurd or unrealistic concepts in order to comparatively emphasise the equal or greater absurdity of what is happening in reality.

Talking to my mother recently, I was reminded of something she tells me my father had said to her once when looking at two toddlers. “You can sum up all of the conflicts in the world by watching them play”. The toddlers were basically following the ‘grab’ “that’s mine!” scenario.

It sounds so profound in its simplicity and ability to be applied to so many conflicts in this world that I even searched online a moment ago to see if it was a commonly discussed topic or cliche!

If taking a lesson from history is the whole point of this article then what is the conclusion? If you want peace with Russia, prepare so well for war that they never try anything? Or maybe once again we just bemoan the lack of a global union of countries that should have stepped in at the breakup of the Soviet Union, not leaving the people of Russia so bereft of the support their society so dearly needed, that the dream of a return to a totalitarian militaristic state is the only way to believe in now the fortunes of the country have been torn apart by those who became rich on the fall of the USSR?

Will the UN get involved in Ukraine now? It is surely the path of least escalation yet it is sadly easy to imagine that it will not necessarily happen.

As someone with a direct family connection to what both Nazi and Soviet regimes undertook in Eastern Europe spanning over seventy years of the last century, I feel my ability to be unbiased very difficult in such debates however hard I try. It does allow me though the perspective of seeing how little but the faces change in a world where my mother’s stories of German ‘doodlebug’ bombs flying over London seem to be echoed in the fearful tales of children growing up in Yemen under the threat of US drones.

“You are ok so long as you can hear them, when it goes quiet, say goodbye.”

I sit here on a night that the local weather catches the dark, sad mood, deeply booming thunder rolling between the flashes of light on the horizon, growing ever closer. There’s a storm on the way, best to be prepared.

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