Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 25/07/14

Massenbach-Letter. NEWS

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

Udo von Massenbach

Guten Morgen.

· Cataclysmic Purge in the Middle East: The Price of Inaction

· Eradicating a civilization

· UK – Ministry of Defence – Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre Global Strategic Trends out to 2045 (GST)

· Shale plays minimise political risk: John Kemp (Reuters)

· Syrian opposition coalition dissolves interim government

· Musil and meta-Musil: The inevitable World War I – by Spengler (Asia Times)

Massenbach* North Texas City Rejects Partial Fracking Ban

DENTON, Texas (AP) — The council governing a North Texas city that sits atop a large natural gas reserve rejected a bid early Wednesday that would have made it the first city in the state to ban further permitting of hydraulic fracturing in the community.

Denton City Council members voted down the petition 5-2 after eight hours of public testimony, sending the proposal to a public ballot in November.

Fracking involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to release trapped oil and gas. While the method has long stirred concerns about its effects on the environment and human health, industry proponents argue that fracking can be done safely and is cleaner than other forms of energy extraction.

Industry groups and state regulators warned such a ban could be followed by litigation and a severe hit to Denton’s economy.

Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Railroad Commission, the Texas oil and gas regulator, said in a letter addressed to Denton’s mayor and city council last week that a fracking ban in Denton would "increase America’s dependence" on foreign oil and natural gas.

Tom Phillips, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, representing the powerful Texas Oil and Gas Association, testified that some of its thousands of members would "undoubtedly sue" if the ban eventually passed.

But organizers of the citizen-led petition that — with about 1,900 voter signatures — forced the council to Wednesday’s vote, said they proposed the ban as a last resort after fracking operators defied city rules, particularly ones governing setbacks and flarings.

"If the industry had approached anything near reasonableness" in accepting the rules, activists would not have demanded the ban, said Sharon Wilson of the environmental nonprofit Earthworks.

In making a motion to approve the ban, Councilman Kevin Roden argued the "bold move" would force industry to come up with solutions to satisfy citizens‘ concerns.

The motion, however, was not seconded. The threats of litigation appeared to color how some of the Denton council members voted. Councilman Greg Johnson voiced concerns that lawsuits from the state and from mineral holders could bankrupt the city.

An estimated 500 people turned out to Denton City Hall Tuesday, spilling over into satellite rooms and even a city building across the street. More than 100 people registered to speak during the hearing before the vote. Among them was Riley Briggs, an 11-year-old Boy Scout, who said he no longer visited a city park after gas wells were installed across the street.

Other petition supporters, some who tearfully addressed the council, said the risks to human health and the environment outweigh the economic benefits. Denton sits on the Barnett Shale, which is believed to hold one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S. City leaders introduced a temporary ban on new fracking permits in May after fracking-ban proponents delivered a petition containing about 2,000 signatures. The temporary ban is set to expire in September. –


*Shale plays minimise political risk: John Kemp*

Shale plays are ideal for oil and gas companies that need to limit risk in countries with a history of political and economic instability and poor respect for private property.

The ability to manage political risk, coupled with a world class resource, explains why international oil firms are showing strong interest in the shale resources of Argentina’s Neuquen basin, despite the country’s record of political and economic unrest, serial default, and expropriation of foreign property.

The cash flow profile of a shale play like Neuquen makes it far less dangerous than a megaproject like Kashagan in the Caspian Sea or a deep water play off the coast of Brazil, Russia or Mozambique.

In general, political and economic risks are maximised when there is a long timeline between the commitment of capital to the project, recovering the costs from production revenues, and finally securing an appropriate return for investors. The longer the delay between capital commitment and payback, the more time there is for the external political and economic environment to change in ways which are unfavourable to the project.

For a complex megaproject, like Kashagan, investors can be forced to wait years, even decades, before seeing a positive return. But for a shale project, the breakeven period on a well is shorter, and can be as little as 12-18 months.


Shale plays generally involve drilling hundreds or even thousands of wells to drain oil and gas from a continuous deposit extending over thousands of square miles, rather than sinking just a small number of wells into a discrete oil or gas accumulation.

Because shale wells involve horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, they are more expensive than comparable conventional wells on land, but still much cheaper than wells drilled in deep or ultra-deep water offshore — often in high pressure and high temperature formations requiring special engineering solutions.

Shale wells tend to have front-loaded production profiles, with high initial flow rates and then a steep decline. While this is sometimes portrayed as a problem, investors prefer high initial production because it ensures costs are recovered faster.

Moreover, high initial production is often associated with a larger ultimate volume recovered over the well’s lifetime, which is also favourable to the economics of shale drilling. Investors get more money back overall and a higher proportion of the payments arise in the early years.


Unlike a conventional oil field, shale plays can be scaled up or down more quickly in response to changing perceptions about risk and return. If the political environment becomes less favourable, the drilling programme can be halted or scaled back. In that sense, the capital commitment required by a shale play is less “lumpy” and therefore less risky.

Oil and gas projects are subject to a well-defined political risk cycle, commonly called the “obsolescing bargain”. To attract foreign investment and technical expertise into a new and high-risk play, the host government will usually offer attractive terms.

But once the initial investment is in place and the project enters the production phase, there is a strong incentive to revise the terms of the project to increase government revenues and reduce the share remaining for investors.

The problem of changing fiscal terms and obsolescing bargains has been well explained by Daniel Johnson (“International petroleum fiscal systems” 1994) and Peter Nolan (“The state’s choice of oil company: risk management and the frontier of the petroleum industry” 2012).

The bigger the project, and the more lumpy the upfront capital investment required, the greater the temptation to revise the terms subsequently. But shale plays require continuous investment in the drilling of new wells, so the terms need to remain favourable or drilling will stop.

Shale plays therefore align the financial interests of the drilling firms and host government more closely than a conventional field or a megaproject.

Shale investments are not entirely without risk. There are still upfront capital costs for seismic surveying and acquiring experience with drilling in the play. Drilling firms must bore dozens or even hundreds of wells before they acquire the necessary know-how to exploit the play efficiently, which represents a sunk investment.

But the upfront costs associated with developing a shale play can be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, not the billions associated with many frontier conventional projects, or the tens of billions spent on Kashagan.

For a large international oil company like Chevron, which is active in Neuquen and able to spread investment risks across a broad portfolio of projects, shale offers an attractive balance of risk and reward.

Even for smaller independent oil and gas producers, the risks involved in developing foreign shale plays may be manageable in a way that a developing a large complex conventional project might not be.

John Kemp

Senior Market Analyst


30 South Colonnade

Canary Wharf



Twitter: @JKempEnergy




Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Gallup:Americans Say Business Background Is Best for Governing*

Majority feel U.S. would be better governed with more female leaders*

by Justin McCarthy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four in five Americans (81%) say the U.S. would be better governed if more people with business and management experience were in political office. Meanwhile, 63% say the country would be better governed with more female political leaders — up slightly from 57% in 1995 and 2000.

These data are from a July 12-13 Gallup poll.

Americans also favor governance by those who "think it is more important to compromise to get things done" (63%) over those who "think it is more important to hold firm to their principles" (56%) — although the overlap between the figures shows that some Americans view both types of leaders favorably.

Nearly six in 10 Americans say electing more political moderates would improve the way the country is governed, while fewer say this about political conservatives (47%) and political liberals (33%). Thirty-two percent believe the country would be governed better if more people backed by the Tea Party movement were in office, while more, 48%, believe it would be governed worse.

About half of Americans think the country would be better governed if more people who are religious (51%), and more racial and ethnic minorities (48%) were in office.

By a modest 11-point margin, 49% to 38%, Americans believe the U.S. would be governed better, rather than worse, if more people who had never held political office were elected. This suggests that although Americans remain highly frustrated with Congress as an institution and with its members, they don’t strongly endorse the idea of having more political novices in office.

Slightly More Back a Greater Female Presence in Politics

The 63% of Americans who believe the U.S. would be better governed if more women were in political office includes 69% of women and 55% of men. Belief that more women would lead to better government decreases with age, but majorities in all age groups agree.

Overall, self-identified liberals (78%), unmarried women (78%), and women aged 18 to 49 (76%) express the most optimism in female leaders. A large majority of blacks (75%), Democrats (75%), and people aged 18 to 29 (73%) also believe having more women in office would improve the government.

Not all Americans share the same enthusiasm for female political leadership, however. While nearly half of Republicans (46%) feel that having more women in office would result in better government, almost one in five (19%) feel such governance would be worse — the highest percentage among any demographic.

The same is true of married men (45%) and conservatives (51%), who are more than twice as likely to view more female leadership as a positive, while about a fifth (18%) of each group say they feel governance would suffer if more women held political office.

Bottom Line

Although Americans may view certain demographic characteristics or backgrounds as best for leadership in a general sense, that may not be the overriding decision in how they vote. Despite Americans‘ large agreement, for example, that a business and management background is a desirable political leadership trait, President Barack Obama didn’t possess it and still managed to defeat his 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, who had a long and successful business career before he entered politics.

Though most Americans agree that the country would be better governed if more women were in office, the level of female representation falls far below the proportion of the U.S. population that is female. Currently, there are 20 female U.S. senators, 79 female U.S. House members, and five female state governors in office. This may reflect a lower proportion of women compared with men seeking political office, rather than a rejection of female candidates in general, especially because far more women have been elected to federal or statewide office since 1990 than was true before that.

The conversation about the value of female leadership in U.S. politics is likely to intensify because women are among the Democratic Party’s leading potential candidates for 2016, and because various PACs that focus on women continue to call for female candidates in a midterm election year.



Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* *WATERINTAKE 08/2014*

Water Proposed as Sustainable Development Goal

19.07.2014 … the Open Working Group adopted a proposal for Sustainable Development Goals to be forwarded to the 69th session of the General Assembly for its consideration. ‚Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all‘ is

proposed in the stand alone 6th goal and also found in the chapeau of the text as well as under other proposed goals … References to water and sanitation are found in five of the proposed 17 goals and especially in goal 6 ‚Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all‘. In the final phase of the work at the UN Headquarters in New York, UN-Water was called upon to support the discussions with technical clarifications on the proposed formulations and implications …




*Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C Andrew C. Kuchins: Chance for Peace Now in Ukraine?*

… director of the Russia & Eurasia program at CSIS …

Jul 22, 2014 … by the weekend of July 12-13 it appeared that the rebels would be fighting for their last gasp at Lugansk and Donetsk. This is why Russia sent a large amount of material and men across the border starting on July 13 to prevent total defeat of insurgent forces. Fighting then intensified, especially in the air, with Ukraine losing a large cargo plane and two fighters. We know from audio clips that the rebels initially rejoiced last Thursday at what they thought was another successful shoot-down of a large Ukrainian cargo plane. The joy quickly turned to confusion as rebels and Moscow realized that it was not a cargo plane that had been shot down, but Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH-17) …

The Ukrainian military forces have taken advantage of this opportunity to continue their advances against the insurgents, including the renewed use of airstrikes. Putin now faces an extremely difficult decision, either to accept the military loss in Eastern Ukraine or dramatically escalate Russian engagement to prevent that loss by provision of far more men and material to the insurgents to the point that it will be obvious to the rest of the world that essentially we are witnessing a war between Ukraine and Russia—a reality that has been taking place for at least a month or so in a quasi-covert way. In this instance, the West could not avoid a very forceful response of deep multi-sectoral sanctions coupled with stronger military support to the Ukrainian government …

Alexei Kudrin … Russia’s former long-time Minister of Finance who resigned … in September 2011 over what Kudrin viewed as excessive military spending in the Russian budget … is a highly regarded moderate liberal political figure … appeared today, in an interview in the government ITAR-TASS agency, to criticize the deeply nationalistic and anti-Western course that the Russian government has taken for the past 4-5 months is very, very significant … In my view, the publication of Kudrin’s statements in the state media indicates a desire on Putin’s part to really find a face-saving way out of this crisis …

I was struck by the release of Putin’s taped statement on Ukraine very early this morning in Moscow … indicates it was designed more for Western consumption … in the end of the statement he referred to “the east of Ukraine,” (na vostoke Ukrainy) … I interpret it as a movement on his part towards accepting Ukrainian sovereignty over the region. Probably of greater significance was the fact that Putin did not refer at all to the insurgents in Ukraine … If there is any chance to peacefully resolve Ukraine, the West would need to act very quickly to engage the Ukrainian government and the Russians in a diplomatic solution that would provide a face-saving way out that Putin could find acceptable. The danger is that if the Ukrainian military operation continues its destruction of insurgent forces, Putin would face the very difficult decision I referred to in the first answer that could possibly lead to a dramatic escalation of Russian military intervention that would be a catastrophe for all parties involved.

Unfortunately the Obama Administration and our European allies appear to continue to be mainly engaged in discussions about how to further punish Russia, and all governments are under a lot of domestic pressure to do so.

What we actually need to do now is to pivot to seriously press all parties for a peaceful resolution. There is no guarantee this is possible, but if ever there were a real chance it is now. Frankly, as I see things going on the ground in Eastern Ukraine, I am skeptical that the window of opportunity will last longer than this week …

….would likely involve some guarantee that Ukraine would not become a member of NATO at least for some clearly stated period of time and that its increasing economic ties to Europe would not preclude a continuing strong economic trade and investment relationship with Russia. It would also include a commitment on the part of the Ukrainian government to re-open the constitutional question of the federal structure of the government such that a greater degree of autonomy were allocated to Eastern and other areas of the country where larger numbers of Russians and other ethnic minorities live. This would include a guarantee of Russian language and other cultural rights.

Finally, there would have to be an agreement that the future of Crimea will be resolved only through political, diplomatic, and non-military means.

Yes, I understand that many will say this amounts to a diminution of Ukrainian sovereignty, but I do not really believe that needs to be the case. The Ukrainian government must very carefully weigh the pros and cons of what measures it would be willing to accept in order to make sure it avoids a full-scale war with Russia that it would almost certainly lose and would cause unacceptable loss of life and damage to the country.

Very often the challenge in life is to avoid making the better the enemy of the good, and this may well be one of those instances. Taking such action would require real leadership in Washington and Europe. Because this exercise must be face-saving for Putin, a hard pill to swallow for sure, it cannot be presented as an ultimatum, but rather as a negotiated solution to meet interests of all parties. If Mr. Putin were to refuse, then a course of action involving much deeper sanctions coupled with much more significant aid for Ukraine could and probably should be pursued with all due fortitude on the part of the West.



Middle East

*Syrian opposition coalition dissolves interim government*

(Reuters) – The Western-backed National Coalition of Syrian opposition members said on Tuesday it had voted to force out its "interim government" and form a new one within a month.

Attempts to form a viable government-in-exile for Syria’s opposition have been hamstrung by rivalries between its backers and among its members as well as by its inability to establish itself inside Syria.

The National Coalition is designated as the main body representing the opposition by the United States and other major powers, but it has little influence over rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The group said in a statement on Tuesday it was dissolving its interim cabinet to "create new ground for work on the basis of moving the government into the interior as soon as possible, and employing Syrian revolutionary capabilities". Ahmed Ramadan, an opposition politician who was against the decision, said the move was rooted in a dispute between interim Prime Minister Ahmad Tumeh and the coalition’s former president, Ahmad Jarba, over Jarba’s attempts to form a military government.

"Things are heading toward a crisis that will lead to weakening the opposition’s position even more," he said, adding it would be "almost impossible" for an opposition government to work inside Syria, for security reasons.

"There is no clear strategy," he said.

Critics have accused Tumeh of being ineffective, and h he suffered a political defeat this month at a coalition general assembly meeting this month when he had to reverse his decision to fire the military wing’s chief of staff.

The coalition statement said Tumeh and other ministers would continue as caretakers until the new government was formed. Nominations would be open for two weeks and a new government formed within 30 days.

The dissolution of the government comes two weeks after the group elected Hadi al-Bahra, a U.S.-trained industrial engineer, to replace Jarba after he served his maximum two six-month terms.

Both Bahra and Jarba have close ties to Saudi Arabia, one of the main backers of the rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Bahra had also been chief negotiator at U.S. and Russian-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland, which stalled after two rounds in January and February.





*Cataclysmic Purge in the Middle East: The Price of Inaction*

WASHINGTON—All eyes were on Gaza when the recently self-proclaimed “Caliph” at the helm of the “Islamic State” of Iraq and Syria gave Christians in Mosul, Iraq, 48 hours to evacuate their homes and leave behind all their possessions. This was an act of “benevolence” committed against a people who had two millennia of continuous presence in their ancestral city.

The edict noted that as Christians, they could choose conversion, submission as a protected minority, or death. The Christian leadership, it seems, had “failed” to enter into negotiations on the options for submission, and the authorities of the Islamic State said they were thus within their rights to proceed with a wholesale massacre. However, through the “mercy” of the Caliph, the Christians were ordered instead to leave the territory of the state, their belongings duly reverting to the “treasury” of the new order.

This absurdity notwithstanding, the Caliph had indeed displayed relatively “humane” restraint in his edict on the expulsion of Christians. No such consideration was accorded to the countless victims of the Islamic State in Northern Iraq and Eastern Syria, where public decapitations, amputations, crucifixions, flagellation, and stonings are common punishments for “convicts,” sentenced by “judges” who are often only teens. The historical, archaeological, and architectural record of this land, once the cradle of Western civilization, is now subject to systematic obliteration with acts of arson and sabotage, each meticulously documented by the perpetrators.

Islamic thinkers and intellectuals can no longer absolve themselves and their faith of responsibility for these acts of horror. It is not the function of common adherents to Islam to refute transgressions against human decency committed in the name of their religion; it is, however, the duty of those who declare themselves custodians of the faith to refute the monstrous manifestation of depravity displayed in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Mali, and locations in between. The price of their inaction, or woefully insufficient reactions, over decades has been the debasing of their religion into a rationale for torture and mayhem.

The governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria must each assume some direct responsibility for the current unfolding horror. The Saudi government is locked into a quasi-suicidal symbiosis with a bloated religious establishment to which much of the reductionism in ideology and regimentation in behavior can be traced. Through acts of commission and omission, Saudi Arabia continues to foster the global onslaught on the diversity and pluralism of Islamic heritage, manifested in its vilest forms today in the so-called “Islamic State.” Iran, with the diversion offered by the facade of reformers — possibly well-meaning, certainly powerless — is engaged in a historic revision of the Shi‘ia heritage of Islam along lines more compatible with the ideology of the Saudi religious establishment than with the tradition of dissent and pluralism with which it is conventionally associated. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran cynically utilize the fruits of their ideological outreach for immediate political advantage, but the damage to the texture and integrity of societies that host their respective vassals is permanent.

Of all four of the governments, Iraq may be the one with the strongest interest in countering the centrifugal effects of opposing Sunni and Shi‘ia radicalisms. Baghdad, under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, displayed abject short-sightedness in allowing the proliferation of both, in the process losing swaths of its territory to the dystopian “Islamic State.” The Damascus regime, on the other hand, in a deliberate policy of national destruction to shore up its waning ability to rule by fear, has cynically enabled the rise of the Islamic State as a third party in the corrosive civil war consuming Syria. In the regime’s calculus of horror, the damage to the opposition’s prospects far outweighs the certain destruction of Syrian society brought on by homicidal radicalism.

The West is certainly not responsible for the terror show that is today’s Middle East. The transatlantic alliance, first and foremost the United States, could however have avoided much of it; none of the tragedies occurring in the region today, or those certain to expand when fighters steeped in radicalism return to their homelands, has come as a surprise. It is the unfolding of a script of escalating fear and radicalization, calling for increasingly costly outside intervention to disrupt it. The excess in engagement and warfare after September 11 may have now caused a pendulum swing in Western public opinion toward a hands-off approach. The role of leadership is to explain to the public that interests, as well as values, will continue to require a measured but convincing engagement. The cost of inaction will continue to mount until such role is fulfilled.

Hassan Mneimneh is a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, DC.


*Eradicating a civilization*

The Daily Star

The Iraqi city of Mosul has been emptied of its Christian community in only a matter of days, in one of the most alarming developments in recent memory in this region.

Some observers have already noted that when ISIS fanatics issued an ultimatum to Mosul Christians to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or flee the city, almost all of them chose the final option.

That ISIS gave them the choice to leave, some say, shows that it employed a less violent policy than in its dealings with other groups.

But you can also kill a country without necessarily killing people. While Iraq, or Islam itself, might be synonymous with violence in the minds of some, the simple fact is that Iraq’s Christians have enjoyed a vital and distinguished presence on their land for nearly 2,000 years – most of that time living in peace with Muslims of various sects.

Over the centuries, they have withstood foreign invasions and bouts of persecution – and one of the biggest jolts to the Christian presence in Iraq resulted from a military invasion by “fellow Christians” from the U.S. in 2003.

The events of Mosul in recent days should spark outrage – both at ISIS and at those issuing verbal condemnations around the world. A systematic policy of ending the Christian presence in a diverse Iraq, or in other Arab countries, deserves much more than stringing several sentences together containing the words “concerned” and “appalled.”

If fanatics are allowed to continue their targeting of the Arab world’s diversity – which is bound up with culture, heritage and personal identity – then they will be getting away with something that is worse than murdering people. They will be annihilating centuries of civilization.


UK – Ministry of Defence – Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre Global Strategic Trends out to 2045 (GST)

30 June 2014 … GST describes a strategic context for those in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider Government who are involved in developing long term plans, policies and capabilities … As well as providing a strategic context, this 5th edition … identifies long term threats and opportunities, out to 2045. GST does not attempt to predict the future, it cannot.

Rather, it describes those phenomena that could have a significant impact on the future and combines these differing perspectives to produce a multifaceted picture of possible outcomes …

Demographic change will see developed nations adapting to aging populations, while developing nations face the challenge of rapid population growth that won’t necessarily be matched by economic development. The pace and breadth of technological advancements will change our perception of our role in the workplace, reveal new opportunities for health advances and facilitate the deepening of global communications.

But as access to technology increases, we will face new risks to our security both at home and abroad. The industrialisation of the developing world will present resource and environmental challenges while generating wealth and prosperity for some of the most impoverished nations.

In the West in particular, a rise of individualism and, amongst many, a growing sense of disconnection from long-established governing structures will challenge traditional systems. The growth of cities will provide opportunities to make better use of the world’s resources but will expose many of the millions living in coastal cities to the risks of flooding as rising sea levels and more frequent and destructive weather events begin to test resilience. And climate change and the consequences of warming will affect food and water availability for many.

Widespread and challenging implications for defence and security will almost certainly be generated by this increasingly connected world, with its rapidly advancing technology and evolving societies. The face of some armed forces may change, with an increasing use of unmanned systems and women in combat roles. Militaries and security forces may be asked to meet the challenges of more humanitarian disasters, and attacks by nonstate actors and cyber-criminals may increase. As more people live in cities, it is likely that some future adversaries will be found in larger, more complex urban environments, possessing a greater level of information and better access to technology than they do today …


· Asia Times: Musil and meta-Musil: The inevitable World War I *
By Spengler

The West wasn’t pregnant in August 1914, only constipated.

Rather than give birth to the future, it emptied its bowels of rancor. No disaster in world history was more predictable or longer in preparation. Robert Musil’s great novel The Man Without Qualities depicts Vienna’s elite in the months before the war, pursuing petty concerns unaware that their world was about to disappear. It is the great European anti-novel because its self-referential premise – the protagonists do not know what every reader knows – forbids an ending. There are no right choices because nothing can prevent this bubble of a world from popping. After Musil – meta-Musil, so to speak – comes the great evacuation. The novel is considered a masterpiece in the German-speaking world. Few Americans know it, and fewer of these can make sense of it.

As the hundredth anniversary of World War I approaches, we will hear endless variations on a lament for Western Civilization. All of them go more or less as follows: At the height of its prosperity, scientific discovery, and artistic achievement the nations of Europe inexplicably plunged into a mutual slaughter that prepared the ground for the greater slaughter of 1939-1945. That is simply wrong. Europe had done this sort of thing twice before, first in the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 and again in the Napoleonic Wars of 1797-1814.

French casualties in the Napoleonic Wars were comparable to World War I in proportion to population. France lost between 1.4 and 1.7 million men under Napoleon out of a total population of 29 million. Men aged 17 to 49 typically made up about one-fifth of the 18th century population. The total military manpower pool of Napoleonic France was less than six million men, which means that casualties came to 23% to 28% of total manpower, more than in World War I. Vast numbers died from other nations; of the 500,000 soldiers in the polyglot army that Napoleon marched into Russia in June 1812, only 16,000 returned. The events of 1914-1939, Winston Churchill said aptly, were "a second Thirty Years‘ War." In fact, the first Thirty Years War was in some ways worse. It killed nearly half the people of Central Europe and emptied great swaths of Spain and France.

Beguiled as we are by the Enlightenment’s idea of progress, we play down the precedent for our own problems. In the enlightened reading, the Thirty Years War was a religious conflict, the last blood-orgy of medieval superstition, before the Age of Reason swept away the cobwebs of fanaticism. That is entirely false: after the initial, abortive revolt of the Bohemian Protestants against the Austrian Empire, the Thirty Years‘ War became a Franco-Spanish conflict, fought by fanatics on both sides who believed that their nation was chosen by God to be his agent on Earth. It was a religious war, to be sure, but a war between two perverse, nationalistic readings of Catholic Christianity. The same ethnocentric megalomania impelled the nations of Europe into 1914.

War could have been avoided, to be sure, and devising scenarios for its avoidance is an historian’s cottage industry. These usually are lightly-concealed policy recommendations for the present. Even I have published a war-avoidance scenario, namely a German preemptive war against France during the First Morocco Crisis of 1906 (See Why war comes when no one wants it, Asia Times Online, May 2, 2006). The objective causes of war all are well known and endlessly analyzed. Germany had the fastest-growing economy and population, and its rivals countered its influence by encircling her.

  • With a stagnant population, France could not hope to win back the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine it had lost to Germany in 1870 – or to win any future war-unless it fought soon. From parity in the middle of the 19th century, the German population had become half again as large as France’s by 1914.
  • Germany could not concentrate its army on a crushing blow against France if it waited for Russia to build out its internal railway network.
  • Austria could not keep its fractious ethnicities within the empire if it did not castigate Serbia. It could not grant equal rights to Serbs without provoking the Hungarians, who held a privileged position in the empire, so it could only suppress them.
  • Russia could not maintain control over the industrialized western part of its empire – Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Finland – if Austria humiliated its Serbian ally, and Russia depended on these provinces for the bulk of its tax revenues.
  • England could not maintain the balance of power in Europe if Germany crushed France.

None of the powers could go on without facing existential risk: in the case of France, a hopelessly weakened position against Germany; in the case of Germany, an eventual threat from an industrialized Russia; in the case of Austria, breakup of the Empire due to Slavophile agitation; in the case of Russia, loss of its Western provinces to the Teutonic orbit; and in the case of England, irrelevance on the continent and an inevitable challenge to its sea power.

There are a number of excellent accounts of the events leading up to the outbreak of war in August 1914, most recently Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers. Each of the combatants, to be sure, would have been better off declining to fight. But that would have meant forfeiting the claim to national superiority that motivated them. They fought, in other words, not because they had to in the strict sense of the word, but because of the kind of people they were. They were not thinking, as Evans implies. But what were they dreaming?

The Europeans fought the Great War of 1914 to avoid becoming what they are today. But like the man in the Somerset Maugham story who had an appointment with Death in Samarra, they managed only to postpone it.

It is still a scandal in Germany that its greatest 20th-century novelist, Thomas Mann, greeted the coming of the war with rapture. His "heart was aflame" at the declaration of war, and "triumphed at the collapse of the hated world of peace, stinking of the corruption of bourgeois-mercantile ‚Civilization‘ with its enmity to heroism and genius." Mann lauded Germany’s "indispensable role as missionary," contrasting German Kultur to the mercenary Zivilisation of the West.

Mann had captured the national mood. Germany fought the First World War under the banner of Kultur. In 1915, 93 of Germany’s leading intellectuals and artists signed a manifesto justifying Germany’s war claims on the grounds of its cultural superiority. That is the nub of Hans Johst’s infamous line in the Nazi propaganda play "Schlageter", performed on Hitler’s birthday after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933: "When I hear the word ‚culture‘ I release the safety catch on my pistol." This usually is taken to mean that the Nazis were boors, which is not true; Hitler was a painter, if a poor one, and quite the music lover. On the contrary, it expressed rancor at the unspeakable sacrifice that the old regime demanded in the service of its ideals.

Mann enthused about the aesthetics of war: the same qualities and attitudes inform art and war. Unsettling as that sounds, Mann was absolutely correct: art and war demand the same unrestrained existential commitment.

As I argued in a 2010 essay, that helps explain why Israelis so often play classical music better than anyone else. Not only did they inherit many of the best Central European teachers, but as a nation they are risk-friendly rather than risk-averse, and it is a sense of risk that informs great interpretations. "Und setzet ihr nicht das Leben ein/Nie wird euch das Leben gewonnen sein" sang Wallenstein’s cuirassiers in Schiller’s 1799 drama of the Thirty Years War: If you don’t stake your life on it, life never will be won for you. As Germany crumbled in 1945, Mann declared that German culture had come to an end. That is the point of his great postwar novel Doktor Faustus: the protagonist Adrian Leverkuhn, goes mad composing an atonal cantata whose purpose is to "take back" Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – to replace the ordered harmony of the European past with empty randomness.

Asians, who have embraced Western classical music in great numbers, may wonder why this magnificent art is neglected in the lands of its origin. The answer is that we of the West all release the safety-catch of our pistols when we hear the word "culture." The optimistic, orderly and harmonious culture of pre-1914 Europe is redolent of loyalty to tradition, that is, the attitudes that led us into the trenches. We despise the culture because we abominate authority, tradition and loyalty, that is, virtues that Asians still cultivate. We abhor art that demands of us the recognition of higher authority – of genius subordinated to tradition and precedent – and prefer a levelling popular culture with which we can identify as supposed equals (see American Idolatry, Asia Times Online, August 29, 2006). But there is a dimension to Western art – its risk-friendliness, as it were – that most Asians will have difficulty understanding.

The distinguished Catholic historian George Weigel notes that in 1914 even the Catholic clergy "drank deeply from the wells of a nationalism that seemed beyond the reach of Christian moral critique. Thus when the College of Cardinals met in September 1914 to elect a successor to Pope Pius … the German Cardinal Felix von Hartmann said to the Belgian Cardinal Desire Mercier, "I hope that we shall not speak of war," to which Mercier shot back, "And I hope that we shall not speak of peace."

Weigel cites the German chaplain who intoned, "Rage over Germany, you great holy war of freedom," and the Anglican bishop of London, who urged his congregants to "Kill Germans: kill them, not for the sake of killing, but to save the world; to kill the good as well as the bad." Weigel thinks this malignant nationalism stemmed from the century preceding World War I. I disagree. The megalomania of national election motivated both the French and Spanish sides of the Thirty Years War. As I wrote in my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too):

Not merely the temporal interests of the French state but the impassioned belief in the Election of France motivated Richelieu and Tremblay to prolong the religious wars of the 1620s for thirty years, killing a vast proportion of the population of central Europe… If the Thirty Years War was genuinely a Catholic-against-Protestant religious war, France as the most powerful Catholic country should have supported Catholic Austria. But the French could not abide the claim of the Austrian and Spanish Hapsburg dynasties to the imperial title and the claim to represent Christendom. France set out instead to ruin Austria and Spain and establish .

Like the French… the Spanish court believed that Spain was the nation chosen by God as His proxy on Earth. The monk and political theorist Juan de Salazar wrote in his 1619 treatise Politica Espanola that "the Spanish were elected to realize the New Testament just as Israel had been elected to realize the Old Testament. The miracles with which Providence had favored Spanish policy confirmed this analogy of the Spanish people to the Jewish people, so that ‚the similarity of events in all epochs, and the singular fashion in which God has maintained the election and governance of the Spanish people, declare it to be his chosen people by law of grace, just as the other was his elect in the times of Scripture . . . From this it is proper to conclude from actual circumstances as well as sacred Scripture that the Spanish monarchy will endure for many centuries and will be the last monarchy. "According to Stanley Payne, this reflected "a not uncommon attitude at court and among part of the Castilian elite".

And further: "The unquiet urge of each nation to be chosen in its own skin began with the first conversion of Europe’s pagans; it was embedded in European Christendom at its founding. Christian chroniclers cast the newly-baptized European monarchs in the role of biblical kings, and their nations in the role of the biblical Israel. The first claims to national election came at the crest of the early Dark Ages, from the sixth-century chronicler St Gregory of Tours (538-594), and the seventh-century Iberian churchman St Isidore of Seville."

Saints Isidore of Seville and Gregory of Tours were in a sense the Bialystock and Bloom of the Dark Ages, the Producers of the European founding: they sold each petty monarch 100% of the show. One hardly can fault them. Transmuting the barbarian invaders who infested the ruined empire of the Romans into Christians was perhaps the most remarkable political accomplishment in world history, but it required a bit of flimflam that had ghastly consequences over the long term. The filth of the old European paganism accumulated in the tangled bowels of Europe until the terrible events of 1914-1945 released it.

The authentically Catholic vision of universal empire failed to assert itself over the more tangible claims of blood and soil. The Europeans did not fight the wars of 1618, 1814 or 1914 as Christians, but as crypto-pagans. That has been the contention of Jewish critics, from Heinrich Heine to Franz Rosenzweig and Siegmund Freud . Wrote Freud:

We must not forget that all the peoples who now excel in the practice of antisemitism became Christians only in relatively recent times, sometimes forced to it by bloody compulsion. One might say they are all ‚badly christened;‘ under the thin veneer of Christianity they have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic. They have not yet overcome their grudge against the new religion which was forced on them, and they have projected it on to the source from which Christianity came to them.

Men are immoderate. We are not as different from our fathers as we like to think. The childless, hedonistic Europeans of today are the same people who fought and died in their millions for king and country in 1618 or 1814. Anything worth living for is worth dying for; if we can think of nothing we would die for, it means that we have nothing to live for, either – like today’s Europeans. Europe learned at length that blood and soil, Kultur and Grandeur, were not worth fighting for. But Europe could find nothing to live for after it forswore the national gods of its violent past. It is dying of enervation and ennui, disgusted with its past and unconcerned for its future, unwilling to bring sufficient numbers of children into the world to ensure its survival for another century.

"Much has been saved," wrote one soldier of the Great War, J R R Tolkien, but "much must now pass away." Despite Hans Johst, European culture will not pass away: just as stewardship of classical Greek culture passed into the hands of Europeans, European art – at least its music – will pass into the hands of Asians.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman. He is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too) was published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of You, also appeared that fall, from Van Praag Press.



see our letter on:

Wir wünschen Ihnen ein angenehmes Wochenende. Ihr Team.

Udo von Massenbach – Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster – Jörg Barandat



140723 WATERINTAKE 08_2014.pdf