Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


These pages contain the complete manuscript of the new book Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny, written by John J. Xenakis. This text is fully copyrighted. You may copy or print out this material for your own use, but not for distribution to others.
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Chapter 4 -- The Principle of Localization II

This chapter continues the theoretical aspects of Generational Dynamics, by discussing the relationships between fault lines and generational changes.

In particular, in this chapter we want to explore the "clash of civilizations" concept we hear about so much today. This phrase evokes a mental image of a billion Muslims going to war with a billion Westerners. We'll discuss exactly what the "clash of civilizations" means, and what kind of war we can expect.

"Identity Group Expansion" versus "The Principle of Localization"

In the previous chapter, we identified two different principles of war that appear to be somewhat in conflict with each other.

Table of Contents

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Book Home


Chapter 1 -- Basics and Some Myths about War

Chapter 2 -- American History

Chapter 3 -- The Principle of Localization I

Chapter 4 -- The Principle of Localization II


"Identity Group Expansion" versus "The Principle of Localization"


Picking sides in the Clash of Civilizations


Forecasting the coming Mideast War and its aftermath


A Brief Historical Analysis


The future in the Mideast


Will this be the clash of civilizations?


The Generational Dynamics Forecasting Methodology


Overcoming Forecasting Limitations


Methodology Part I: Historical Analysis


Methodology Part II: Economic Analysis


Methodology Part III: Monthly Current Attitudes Analysis


Crisis Wars versus Mid-Cycle Wars


Winners and Losers: The process of national transformation


Transformation of the defeated nation


Recognizing the depth of transformation


Why wasn't World War I a Crisis War for Germany?


A different view of World War I

Chapter 5 -- Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace

Chapter 6 -- Another Great Depression?

Chapter 7 -- Great Awakenings in World History

Chapter 8 -- History of Western Europe

Chapter 9 -- Islam versus Orthodox Christianity

Chapter 10 -- History of Asia

Chapter 11 -- Trend Forecasting

Chapter 12 -- The Next Century

Chapter 13 -- America's Manifest Destiny and You

Appendix -- List of Crisis Periods


End Notes

Concept Index


Book Cover

Thus, the first principle seems to imply that wars grow larger, while the second principle seems to indicate that wars are small.

The way to explain this apparent conflict is to go back to square one.

Generational Dynamics predicts a society will go through a transformational crisis war every 80 years or so -- the length of a human lifetime. The next crisis war begins around the time that the generation of risk-aversive people who grew up during the previous crisis war retire or die, and thus are replaced as leaders with a generation of people who grew up after the last crisis war. Since they have no personal memory of the last crisis war, they do have the same risk-aversiveness, and they take the risks and demand the justice and retribution that lead to a new crisis war.

A generational change will have this kind of effect only among a group of people who share the experience of the crisis war as a common cultural memory. That leads to the Principle of Localization, which says that this 80-year cycle applies only within a local region. A region may be small, but it may also be as large as a country like the United States. In cases where multiple political units (of the same or different civilizations) are fighting in the same crisis war, each political unit will have its own separate timeline. 80 years later, the timelines of these separate units may again converge, or they may diverge.

The Identity Group Expansion principle says that wars will expand because other societies or nations will join because they are in the same identity groups as the original belligerents. But this doesn't conflict with the Principle of Localization, because "join" can have many different meanings. Suppose a third nation is part of the same identity group as one of the two belligerent nations in a war. If the third nation's population is entering a crisis period (the generation that grew up during the last crisis war is retiring or dying off), then it may become a full-fledged participant in the war. But if the third nation is in an awakening period, then it may "join" the war simply by local rioting and demonstrations. And if the third nation is in an unraveling period, it may desperately take any policy position it can to force a compromise or contain the problem.

Let's see how these two principles work together to provide answers to the following question: In the "clash of civilizations," which nations will be fighting, and on which side?

Picking sides in the Clash of Civilizations

In the anticipated "clash of civilizations," the Identity Group Expansion principle says, in essence, that Western nations will stick together and Muslim nations will stick together.

However, as discussed in the last chapter, this doesn't mean that all nations in an identity group join in the war; some of them may provide only "verbal" assistance, and others may use their influence to help negotiate a truce.

This observation provides the nexus between the Principle of Localization and the Identity Group Expansion principle: If an identity group ally is a country "scheduled" for a crisis war, then it's more likely to participate in the war; if not, then it may be reluctant to actually fight in the war, or may do so with little energy if it does.

This means that the two sides in the coming clash may not be entirely monolithic -- something we already pointed out in the previous chapter (page [localization1#52]) for a different reason: the character of a nation may go beyond civilizational considerations.

There are over a billion people in each of the Muslim and Western civilizations. The phrase "clash of civilizations" evokes a mental image of a major war with a billion people on each side.

However, we can take the two principles we've been discussing and use them together, in order to forecast which countries are likely to participate on each side of a future clash of civilizations.

Forecasting the coming Mideast War and its aftermath

We don't know today what events will trigger the "clash of civilizations" between Western and Muslim societies, but a good guess would be a new Mideast war. Let's see how a new Mideast war might lead to a worldwide clash.

Let's illustrate how the Identity Group Expansion principle and the Principle of Localization work together to forecast what might happen after a new Mideast war breaks out between Israelis and Palestinians.

We begin with a historical analysis before getting to the actual forecast.

A Brief Historical Analysis

Turkey, Iraq and Jordan (as Transjordan) are three of the countries that were formed from the pieces of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. We would expect these three countries to be on the same generational timeline. Furthermore, if a Mideast war broke out between the Israelis and Palestinians, we would expect these three Muslim countries to join in the war on the side of the Palestinians, because of Identity Group Expansion.

However, two issues militate against that conclusion.

The first issue is that there are other identity groups involved. The Turks, though Muslim, are not Arabs, and identify with Western Europeans rather than Arabs on many issues (see chapter 9, page [easteurope#76], for history). Iraq is a melting pot of various ethnic groups, Arabs, Kurds and Persians, and each of these identity groups has issues that go beyond Islam. And Jordan, of course, is Palestinian Arab. So each of these countries may side with its ethnic identity groups or its religious (Muslim) identity groups. In general, Identity Group Expansion is not always predictable because it's not always certain which of several identity groups a nation may choose.

The second issue is that the timelines aren't completely identical.

Turkey and Iraq are roughly on the same timeline, and they've completed their new crisis wars

Indeed two of these countries are on roughly the same timeline, though with a little bit of divergence. Iran fought in the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s, and Turkey fought in the civil war with the PKK Kurds from 1984-2000. Both of these wars occurred approximately as expected, around 80 years after World War I.

Thus, Turkey and Iraq are both roughly (but not exactly) on the same timeline, and even more important, they've already completed their new crisis wars, and will not be anxious to fight in a new one, unless they're forced to.

The same might have been true for Jordan, if it weren't for external intervention that occurred starting in the 1930s.

Because of Nazi persecution, European Jews flooded into Palestine in the 1930s. Hostilities between the Palestinians and the Jews began in 1936, and reached a climax in a major war in 1948-49 following the creation of Israel. The crisis war that ran from 1936 to 1949 defines the timeline for the Palestinians and the Israelis.

In the mid 1940s, Jordan's King Abdullah led the way to act as a mediator between the Palestinians and America. He made it clear that Arabs have always lived peacefully with Jews, but now were opposed to huge migrations of thousands of Jews to the Mideast, "not because they're Jews, but because they're foreigners." Abdullah reduced tensions in the area by allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to settle in Jordan, where they automatically became citizens. Later, King Hussein carried on the role of mediator by marrying Queen Noor, an American-born Arab.

Following its mid-cycle "awakening," Jordan took a number of steps to maintain a middle path between America and the Palestinians. It terminated its connection to the West Bank; it stayed out of the Iran-Iraq war, though it officially sided with Iraq as America did; and it made major Parliamentary changes to move in the direction of a "Western-style" democracy.

The future in the Mideast

What will be the causes and the timing of a new Mideast war?

The causes will be among those listed by Huntington in the previous chapter (page [localization1#57]).

The timing will be determined by the last crisis war, which occurred in the 1936-49 time frame.

Few analysts seem to have any idea of what's in store in the Mideast. They all look at the 1967 and 1972 wars, as well as the late 1980's intifada, because that's as far back as they can remember, and they say, "Any new war won't be any worse than those."

That's completely wrong. Those were mid-cycle wars, led by veterans of the extremely violent and bloody 1940s wars who were willing to compromise before allowing that much violence to occur again. Those veterans are dying off now, and the next war won't have their influence. Today we're repeating the steps of the early Palestinian-Jewish confrontations in the late 1930s, leading up the extremely violent and bloody wars of the late 1940s. History shows that there's no guarantee that the state of Israel will survive the new wars.

When will the generational change take place?

There's an incredible irony going on in the Mideast today, in that the leaders of two opposing sides are, respectively, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.

These two men hate each other, but they're the ones cooperating with each other (consciously or not) to prevent a major Mideast conflagration. Both of them fought in the wars of the 1940s, and neither of them wants to see anything like that happen again. And it won't happen again, as long as both of these men are in charge.

The disappearance of these two men will be part of an overall generational change in the Mideast that will lead to a major conflagration within a few years. It's possible that the disappearance of Arafat alone will trigger a war, just as the election of Lincoln ignited the American Civil War. (It's currently American policy to get rid of Arafat. My response is this: Be careful what you wish for.) Most likely, the disappearance of Arafat will lead to increased violence, but not a full-fledged war for a few months.

Will this be the clash of civilizations?

Now let's apply the Identity Group Expansion principle to speculate on how a new Mideast war might lead to a wider war.

None of the following is certain, of course, but we can specify the most likely scenarios:

To repeat, the above scenarios are not certain, but they represent a considerably more textured forecast for the coming clash of civilizations than would otherwise be possible. By using the Identity Group Expansion principle together with the Principal of Localization, we can produce planning information that is more reliable than is otherwise available.

Note: As this book is just being sent to the publisher (August, 2003), we see a trend emerging. American troops are in Iraq, where the people are not anxious for war, but where we're seeing a pattern of worsening terrorist attacks. The evidence appears to indicate that the terrorist attacks are being sponsored by al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist forces outside of Iraq -- especially Syria and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the level of violence in the Palestine region has been increasing, and Arafat appears to be having less control. This is all consistent with the above analysis, indicating that the terrorism in Iraq is related to the coming crisis war in the Israel/Palestine area, rather than to the Iraqi war, and that the Iraqis themselves won't be willing participants unless Iraq itself becomes a theatre of war.

Remember that Generational Dynamics is a medium to long-range forecasting tool, and can only forecast the attitudes, behaviors and actions of large masses of people, not individual politicians or terrorists. Thus, we cannot predict terrorist acts, but we can predict a major uprising between Palestinians and Israelis; but even here, we can't predict exact timing. Nor can we predict exact timings for other expected theaters of war: India versus Pakistan over Kashmir, and Korean reunification and war with Japan.

At this writing, Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas are increasing the pace of their mutual attacks, and the Palestinian people are expressing increasing fury. It's increasingly getting the feel of the famous people's uprisings of the past -- the French Revolution (p. [westeurope#154]), the Bolshevik Revolution (p. [easteurope#171]) and Mao's Long March (p. [asia#78]). This is not a good sign, since all of these uprisings resulted in enormous bloodshed. End of note.

The Generational Dynamics Forecasting Methodology

As the world enters a dangerous new era, new methods are needed by policy makers and investors to anticipate attitudes and actions around the world.

The Generational Dynamics forecasting methodology is an experimental forecasting tool that can provide a great deal of information that can't be obtained any other way, as was illustrated by the preceding analysis of the Mideast situation.

Overcoming Forecasting Limitations

However, as we discussed in the Preface, forecasts that are obtained using Generational Dynamics are subject to three limitations:

The objective of the forecasting methodology is to overcome the last two of these limitations as much as possible. This is done by combining generational forecasts with contemporary data, so that generational changes and the changes in attitudes and beliefs that go along with them can be pinpointed to an exact time.

The methodology has three parts: A historical analysis provides the approximate dates of generational changes; a financial analysis, which provides additional timing information; and a current attitudes analysis, which detects changes in public attitude that signal generational changes.

Methodology Part I: Historical Analysis

An important purpose of the Generational Dynamics methodology is to predict / forecast, with a fair amount of reliability, when and whether a nation or society is likely to go to war, how they'll react to war if war is brought to them, how energetically they'll fight a war, how long the war should last, and how the war, once begun, can be settled or ended.

The objective of the methodology is to provide better short-range forecasts

There are three parts to the methodology, starting with a Historical Analysis of the society or nation.

There are three major reasons why this Historical Analysis is important:

Example: The American Revolution and the aftermath that created the United States of America were based on a major compromise involving slavery, with a political fault line between the Northern and Southern states. The Civil War was fought across this fault line about 80 years later.

Example: World War I transformed Russia completely, in the form of the Bolshevik Revolution, into a Communist country. It remained a Communist country for exactly one 80-year cycle, until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

Example: Japan has always had little contact with the outside world for almost its entire history, but became imperialistic for exactly one 80-year cycle after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. After surrendering in 1945, Japan changed, for the next 80-year cycle, to be pacifist.

Methodology Part II: Economic Analysis

There's a romantic notion that people fight wars over grand, lofty ideals. Maybe that's true for some wars, but most wars are motivated by money, or lack of it.

A society or nation goes through a new crisis war when two things happen: a generational change, and a financial crisis. The generational change changes society's mood from "compromise and containment," and the financial crisis makes people seek justice and retribution.

Example: In America during the 1850s, there was a market bubble as people competed with each other to bid up stock prices on railroads and on the public lands that the railroads used. The bubble burst, leading to the Panic of 1857, putting many companies out of business, and leading people in the North and South to blame each other. The Civil War began shortly thereafter.

Although we frequently use the phrase "crisis war," it's more accurate to refer to a "crisis period" which includes both the crisis war and the financial crisis. The crisis period begins with the earlier of the financial crisis and the crisis war, and ends when everything is settled.

Example: The American Revolutionary War crisis period begins with the English banking crisis of 1772, and continues through the election George Washington in 1790; the Civil War crisis begins with the Panic of 1857, and ends with the end of the Reconstruction period in 1877; the World War II crisis begins with the stock market crash in 1929, and ends with Japanese surrender in 1945. The current crisis period began with the Nasdaq crash early in 2000.

Example: The first known market bubble was the Tulipomania bubble of the early 1600s, when the prices of specially bred colorful tulips were being bid up to astronomical heights. The bubble burst in 1637, just as France was entering the Thirty Years War.

Example: The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars began after the French Monarchy went bankrupt in 1789.

A financial crisis is a powerful motivation for war, and when combined with a generational change, energizes a population to seek justice and retribution against whomever they blame for the financial crisis.

Example: When the U.S. imposed an oil embargo on Japan in 1933, the Japanese considered it an act of war. The oil embargo was a major motivating factor in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The Economic Analysis part of the Generational Dynamics methodology analyzes the recent economic history of the society or nation being examined, to determine whether there is a local financial crisis, usually caused by high unemployment.

Methodology Part III: Monthly Current Attitudes Analysis

The Historical Analysis and Economic Analysis alone give you a great deal of information, but do not allow you to predict the timing of current events. After all, the 80-year cycle isn't exact, and can vary from 60 to 100 years.

When the U.S. imposed an oil embargo on Japan in 1933, they considered it an act of war

Precise timing requires the Current Attitudes Analysis. This requires you to "take the temperature" of a society on a regular basis to detect the telltale signs that a generational change has taken place. It's possible to use generational changes to forecast changes in consumer behavior, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this book, where we're primarily focused on readiness for war. The telltale signs of readiness for war include such things as hardening of public opinion, desire for justice and retribution, identification of people to blame (this includes selection of identity group when there are several choices), and willingness to play brinksmanship rather than back off from confrontation. This information can be used to provide medium to long-range forecasts of major attitude changes in a society. These forecasts can be useful to international investors and policy makers.

The Current Attitudes Analysis is based on regular intelligence. Since the changes in attitudes that signal a generation change are massive, there's no need to be too finely tuned. It's possible that enough information can be obtained from a variety of sources, such as public sources like local newspapers and magazines. A relatively low-cost poll can be commissioned to send someone into a marketplace select 100 people at random, and ask them the question: "Whom do you blame for the high unemployment rate, and why? What do you think should be done about it?" Collect those 100 responses, and you'll have all the information you need about the local society, and how close they are to war. Do that once a month and you'll know exactly when that country is about to go to war.

Crisis Wars versus Mid-Cycle Wars

What's the difference between a crisis war and a mid-cycle war?

When I started studying this field, it was clear that I needed a set of criteria that I could apply objectively. The criteria that I've come up with are successful in that regard. There's some subjectivity to them, but when I've applied these criteria to actual historical wars, in just about every case there really was no question what kind of war it was.

One criterion I never used was number of battle deaths. I would have liked to, since it would make things a lot simpler, but I never could see how to use it for that purpose. How many deaths make a crisis war? Is it 0.1% of the population? 1% of the population? I could never answer that question, and in fact, I don't believe that any numeric measure would work.

Another criterion that can't be used is the behavior of the country's leader, but this is a little tricky to define. Generational Dynamics depends on the beliefs, attitudes and actions of large masses of people, not a single leader or a small group of politicians. There are many wars that are enthusiastically supported by the population (such as WW II for America) and those where the population shows its disapproval (such as the Vietnam war for America).

Generational cycles depend upon the "cultural memory" of the population, and so by the Principle of Localization, I needed to find a way to measure the impact of the war on the people of a country or region with a common cultural memory.

As we discussed in chapter 1, what makes a war a crisis war is the emotions felt by the population at large: terror, anxiety, fury at the enemy, and a desire for revenge. If I were to use a single word to describe the difference between a crisis war and a mid-cycle war, the word would be "energy." How much energy did the society use to pursue the war?

This led to a list of questions designed to measure the "energy" with which the country engaged in the war, and the effect it had. Here's the list of questions. None of these questions is determinative by itself, but several of these questions taken together can provide an answer. The symbol (+) indicates that an affirmative answer indicates a crisis war, and the symbol (-) indicates that an affirmative answer indicates a mid-cycle war.

That's a long list of questions, but my experience is that applying those criteria makes it almost always pretty obvious whether a war is a crisis war or a mid-cycle war.

Winners and Losers: The process of national transformation

When looking back through history to determine whether a particular war was a crisis war or a mid-cycle war for a particular society or nation, probably the main determinant is the intensity and profundity with which it transformed the society or nation.

How does this transformation take place?

If war is inevitable, then it's also inevitable that there'll be winners and losers. What process does each side go through when the war ends?

As Americans, we have a feel for what happens to winners. We've developed a national feeling of certainty. We beat the depression and we beat the Nazis. We obviously know what we're doing. Our greatest danger today is one of hubris. At any rate, we understand the winning transformation better than the losing transformation, because we won World War II.

Transformation of the defeated nation

But what happens to the losers? Some insights into that question are provided by Wolfgang Schivelbusch who studied the results of defeat in war, and found that they follow a predictable pattern:

Schivelbusch goes on to describe other long-term effects on the defeated nation: a desire for revenge, objectifying the victor as uncultured barbarians, and finally, learning from and imitating the victor.

Recognizing the depth of transformation

We've quoted extensively from Schivelbusch's paradigm for a defeated nation's transformation because we believe it adds considerable texture to the concept that a crisis war transforms a nation.

The key to understanding this transformation would be the "internal revolution" that usually occurs. An example of this occurred after France was overrun and defeated by German forces in 1870, resulting in 80,000 French deaths. The next year, the so-called French Commune uprising occurred. This Paris-based civil war ended France's second Republic, and resulted in 30,000 additional French deaths, and the creation of the Third Republic.

Now, contrast the French Commune uprising with the "internal revolution" that occurred in America following its only lost war in history, the Vietnam War. The American "internal revolution" forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon. This resignation contrasts sharply with the French Commune rebellion because it caused NO deaths.

This difference shows how clearly mid-cycle wars differ from crisis wars. The violence that killed 30,000 people in France served exactly the same purpose as Nixon's nonviolent resignation: by means of scapegoating, the depression of defeat is turned into the euphoria of victory.

Somewhat the same situation holds for World War I - a mid-cycle war for Germany that we'll be discussing further below. There was a change in government -- the old Second Reich was replaced by a new Weimar Republic, initially led by president Friedrich Ebert.

"No enemy has defeated you," said Ebert to the returning troops after they had been ordered to capitulate. "Only when the enemy's superiority in numbers and resources became suffocating did you relinquish the fight."

This example of scapegoating provides a convenient segue to a greater discussion of whether World War I was a crisis war for Germany.

Why wasn't World War I a Crisis War for Germany?

Germany's amazing capitulation in World War I is only one of the many indications that World War I wasn't a crisis war for Germany, as it wasn't for America.

This is one of the most common questions I hear: Aren't you calling World War II a crisis war, but not World War I, just to make Generational Dynamics work?

But in fact when you drill down into the actual history of what happened in America and Germany in WW I, you find that there was so little motivation on all sides to fight that war, it's a wonder that The Great War was fought at all.

First, however, the question of whether World War I was a crisis war is a meaningless question. By the Principle of Localization, it only makes sense to ask that question for a particular local region or nation.

There is no question that World War I was a crisis war for Eastern Europe (while World War II was a crisis war for Western Europe).

It's worth pointing out, in passing, that all of these wars were revisited 80 years later, in the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the civil war in Turkey, and other regional wars.

World War I did not result in any such dramatic changes in Western Europe. There was a scapegoating change of government in Germany, but nothing like the massive structural changes in Russia or Turkey.

In chapter 2 (p. [americanhistory#159]), we discussed why World War I was not a crisis war for America. America remained neutral for many years, despite repeated German terrorist attacks on Americans, there was a powerful pacifist (antiwar) movement that included high government officials, and it resulted in no important transformations in America.

But in fact, World War I was not even a crisis war for Germany.

First, there's the issue of advance preparation. In Germany's previous crisis period, the Wars of German Unification (1860-71), as well as in World War II (1938-45) in the following crisis period, Germany prepared for war well in advance, and initiated war because of real animus towards its enemies. But in World War I, Germany did little advance preparation, and was pulled into the war because of a long-standing treaty with Austria.

Germany never really pursued the war against France with the bloodthirsty zeal it did in 1870 and 1939. The war began in 1914, and was a stalemate for years. During the Christmas season of 1914, the German high command shipped thousands of Christmas trees to the front lines, cutting into its ammunition shipments. This led to a widely publicized Christmas truce between the British and German troops, where soldiers and officers on both sides all got together and sang Christmas carols.

To put this kind of event in perspective, shortly after the attacks of 9/11/2001, American invaded Afghanistan to destroy the al-Qaeda forces. Can you imagine American soldiers and al-Qaeda forces getting together on the battlefield in December 2001, to participate in some holiday festivities?

It's this very difference in attitude and intensity that distinguishes mid-cycle wars from crisis wars.

In fact, this lack of intensity characterizes Germany's entire campaign.

In August 1914, Germany planned a quick, total victory over France, requiring only six weeks -- too quick for the British troops to be deployed to stop the advance into France. The plan went fantastically well for about two weeks -- but then the Germans sent two corps of soldiers to the eastern front to fight the Russians. Without those soldiers, Germany's rapid sweep was halted by the French long enough to give the British troops time to reinforce the French. Both the German and French sides dug themselves into static trenches. It was from those positions that the Christmas truce took place. The stalemate continued with millions of each side's troops killed in battle, until 1917, when America entered the war.

Much has been written about the defeat of Germany once America entered the war, but little about the extraordinary circumstances of that defeat.

If Germany hadn't capitulated in 1918, the terms of surrender would have been far more favorable to them

When France capitulated to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Germany was deep into French territory. In 1945, Hitler committed suicide when the Allies were practically in Berlin. In crisis wars, when the people of a country believe that their very existence is at stake, capitulation does not come easily.

But when Germany capitulated on November 11, 1918, German troops were still deep within Belgian and French territory. Writing in 1931, Winston Churchill said that if Germany had continued to fight, they would have been capable of inflicting two million more casualties upon the enemy. Churchill added that the Allies would not have put Germany to the test: simply by fighting on a little longer, the Allies would have negotiated a peace with no reparations, on terms far more favorable to Germany than actually occurred in the peace dictated by the Allies.

Actually, the seeds of capitulation had been planted three months earlier, on August 8, when the German high command realized that too much time had passed, and the absolute military triumph over France could no longer be achieved. From that time, the Germans lost most of whatever remaining spirit they had, and completely lost momentum. They called for cease-fire on October 4, expecting the German army and people to rise up and demand victory, and planning to launch a new attack with replenished strength, once the cease-fire had expired.

However, the mood in Germany turned firmly against renewing hostilities, in both the army and the people. By the end of October, it was apparent to the high command that it was too late. Writing after the war, Prince Max von Baden of the high command concluded, "The masses would likely have risen, but not against the enemy. Instead, they would have attacked the war itself and the 'military oppressors' and 'monarchic aristocrats,' on whose behalf, in their opinion, it had been waged."

I've written about these events at length to illustrate the difference between mid-cycle wars and crisis wars. Try to imagine Hitler losing momentum in this way in World War II, or imagine Britain, America or Japan losing momentum and capitulating unnecessarily in World War II. It's almost impossible to imagine it, since World War II was a crisis war, while World War I was not.

Indeed, there's only one major war in the lifetime of most readers where events proceeded in any way similarly to the actions of the Germans in World War I: the actions of America in Vietnam in the 1970s.

America was forced repeatedly by its own antiwar movement to accept various Christmas truces during the Vietnam War; the Vietnamese never honored such truces, since that was a crisis war for them and a mid-cycle war for us. American soldiers were court-martialed because of the unnecessary killing of civilians during the Vietnam War, and yet America purposely killed civilians in World War II by carpet bombing Dresden, and by nuclear attacks on Japan. Finally, America withdrew from Vietnam and capitulated, when it clearly had the power to win that war if it had wanted to.

A different view of World War I

There's another way of looking at the two World Wars that may be a better ex-planation. The Thirty Years War (1618-48) lasted thirty years because it was actually a series of wars involving countries on different timelines, particularly Germany and France. The Thirty Years war and subsequent War of Spanish Succession (1701-14) put Germany and France on the same timeline.

Similarly, the two World Wars could be referred to as a single 31-year war (1914-45) involving two regions (West and East Europe) on different timelines. That war, and the subsequent "clash of civilizations" will put these regions on the same time-line.

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.