Sunday, February 3, 2013

Citizen Soldiers

The German Genius, Peter Watson, pg. 184-186

Napoleon had disturbed the the European balance of power fundamentally, and the French ideals of revolution and individual rights threathened the ancient  regimes everywhere [..]

Battles of Napoleonic era had a higher ratio of casualties than those of the eighteenth century because the nature of armies had changed. In the eighteenth century, armies were, in effect, royal possession, their officers drawn from the aristocracy with a personal alligence to the monarch. Most wars, therefore, did not involve the great population combatants hardly at all. Troops were professional soldiers, mercenaries, and foreigners. Desertion was high.

Then came the French Revolution and Napoleon. After 1789, for France, war became the "business of people -- a people of thirthy millions, all of whom considered themselves to be citizens". Because now Frenchmen identified with the nation, they allowed themselves to be called to arms in far greater numbers. "Before 1789 an army in the field rarely exceeded 50,000 men. Within a decade or so conscription and militia system was able to raise over 100,000 men, and in 1812 France could  assemble 600,000 men for its Russian adventure". With such supply of troops, major battles could be risked more often. "Between 1790 and 1820 Europe saw 713 battles, an average of twenty-three a year compared with eight or nine a year over the previous three centuries".


What a weird co-existence of concepts: the so-called "French Revolution" brings ideas such as individual rights to the fore, and what do people do with those rights? Join the military so they die more.

One cannot say second wave effects were responsible for the inception of this newfound alligance (at least not for the French -at first-), but throughout the world, it would be industrial tech which would take it to its ultimate and ugly conclusion [1]. WWII, with all its concentrated, centralized war making showed where this weird alliegance could lead - you can replace the despot monarch with a centralized bureucracy and put a "man from people" at its head, but you would get more citizen deaths not less and possibly more repression.

We keep pointing at the twin-headed development of ideas in the past three hundred years. Renaissance and second wave were IMO at odds with eachother; 2W parasite fed off renaissance inspired tech for a good long while but the integrators were given a rope to hang themselves with, and they brilliantly succeeded at this task, and now no centralized organization nowhere can "sell" the old style alligances, organization methods and social mores - anymore. The parallel, parasitic development came to an end with the end of WWII.


[1] Why didnt we have decentralized tech, such the Internet, before centralized tech, such as nuclear weapons? The answer to this question has to do with the natural progression of tech. There is no way you can jump from steam engines to microprocessors and AI in a decade. You need to develop in steps. Along the way, naturally, you will have half-baked tech which requires manual input at various degrees, hence you have the second wave factory, assembly-line, single channel TV, centrally controlled telegraph. There is no way around this. But one day, you get the transistor, and that changes everything.