News.com.au | 30 July 2016
THE rise of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump combined with the Brexit fall out — the full effects of which are yet to be seen — are all signs another great war is looming, a leading British academic has warned.
Tobias Stone, who specialises in archeology and anthropology, has invoked the apocalypse in an article published this week that is rapidly gaining traction.
Mr Stone argues that there are chilling similarities between the terrifying dictators who led us into WW1 and WW2 and modern politicians such as Vladimir Putin, Robert Mugabe and US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Indeed, Putin and Trump have formed a mutual admiration society of sorts and have not been shy about blowing the other’s trumpet.
“Trump says he will Make America great again, when in fact America is currently great, according to pretty well any statistics,” he writes — an observation echoed by US President Barack Obama in his speech to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.
“He is using passion, anger, and rhetoric in the same way all his predecessors did — a charismatic narcissist who feeds on the crowd to become ever stronger, creating a cult around himself.
“You can blame society, politicians, the media, for America getting to the point that it’s ready for Trump, but the bigger historical picture is that history generally plays out the same way each time someone like him becomes the boss.”
Mr Stone says it’s scenario that’s playing out across the world.
“Russia is a dictatorship with a charismatic leader using fear and passion to establish a cult around himself,” he writes.
“Turkey is now there too. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia are heading that way, and across Europe more Trumps and Putins are waiting in the wings, in fact funded by Putin, waiting for the popular tide to turn their way.”
Throw in Brexit and you have the perfect storm — conditions that are ripe for a Third World War, and a nuclear one at that. Mr Stone paints a terrifying picture of how it could all play out.
“An example of how Brexit could lead to a nuclear war could be this: Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum,” he writes.
“Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before. The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions.
“European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens NATO. He has already said he would not automatically honour NATO commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.
“With a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the East of the country (the EU border with Russia).
“Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. (Putin) annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).
“A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. NATO is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action.
“Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does IS respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first?”
Mr Stone believes we ignore the warning signs, the unnerving feelings of déjà vu and allow history to repeat itself because most peoples’ perspective is limited to the experience communicated by their parents and their grandparents.
“My point is that this is a cycle,” he writes.
“It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50 to 100-year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again.
“As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.
“Then after the war to end all wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.
“That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more.”
Unfortunately, history has also taught us that most of us have no idea we are on the brink of disaster until it’s too late: we can’t see the wood for the trees.
“At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves,” Mr Stone writes.
“For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another.
“During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of the assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a minor European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.”
Mr Stone cites Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its gained independence in 1980, as a case in point.
“He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving.
“See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20 to 40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.
“But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again.
“Trump is doing this in America. Those of us with some oversight from history can see it happening.”