I was some interested in the Congo wars, back in the 90s, but there was  very little coverage in the media. Eventually I ran across an article that had maps of the front lines, reasonable discussions of the players  and their prospects – in Science (AAAS), of all places.

Their perspective:  the threat the Congo War posed to the bonobos.

I’m wondering how many similar treatments exist. Is there a tome that discusses the sanguinary battles on the Eastern Front ( Barenkovo, Stalingrad, Third Battle of Kharkov), how they threatened and eventually led to the demise of Unknown/Unknown Worlds ?

( food for Ph.D. theses)


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48 Responses to Perspective

  1. Smithie says:

    I wonder whether African campaigns are as interesting to military strategists on a technical level. If you consider the scale of the troop movements and the equipment, is it really comparable?

    I confess a near total ignorance on the matter. Though, I thought Ethiopia and Somalia were given some fancy equipment at one time.

    What I generally think of when I think of African war is the Lord’s Resistance Army and the ANC, whose military symbol seems to be a guy chucking a spear.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I think Chad pioneered in technicals.

      • Smithie says:

        A pick-up truck with a machine gun on it just doesn’t capture the imagination like a tank does, or better yet, aircraft carriers and battleships.

        Then there is the fact that it is probably the same brand of truck on both sides.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Sometimes, with a wire-guided anti-tank missile, for a real punch. I and a friend came up with that idea in the cafeteria at Hughes back in 1982 – but many other people must have done the same.

          A flock of cheap technicals with anti-tank missiles can beat heavy tanks ( some tanks, in some conditions) : technicals with 20-mm cannon can beat the ones with anti-tank missiles, but lose to heavy tanks.

          • saintonge235 says:

            In WWI, the Royal Navy’s flying corps, having nothing to do, imported automobiles to Belgium, slapped some make-shift armor on them, and mounted machine-guns on them. Worked fine, till the Germans dug ditches across roads to screw up their mobility. So the technical is over a century old.

            Oh, it occurred to the First Lord of the Admiralty that if the wheels were replaced with caterpillar tracks, ditching wouldn’t work so well. So he started Britain’s first tank program.

          • Space Ghost says:

            M1A1 Abrams: $8.9 million; requires highly trained crew of 4; 500 gallon fuel tank @ 0.6 mpg for a total range of 300 miles; top speed 42mph

            Toyota Hilux + FGM-148 Javelin weapon system: $230,000; can be driven by any bum off the street; 20 gallon fuel tank @ 22 mpg for a total range of 440 miles; top speed 115 mph

            So for the cost of an M1A1 Abrams you can get 40 pickups with point-and-shoot anti-tank missiles. Really makes you think.

          • ghazisiz says:

            You were prescient in your vision of wire-guided missiles. But one has to wonder what lies ahead of the present moment. My guess is a flock of dragonflies, hovering above a tank combat unit, waiting for a hatch to open, enabling a dragonfly to dart in, exploding, releasing a cloud of cyanide. But, arms races being what they are, the tanks might not have hatches, and might not have humans inside, but might be autonomous robots. In which case, instead of dragonflies, there would be …???

        • Gord Marsden says:

          The Rat patrol was a great show in my youth

  2. Jacob says:

    Do you think the media were just negligent, or do people actually care more about nonhuman primates than Congolese?

    • gcochran9 says:

      The people writing that bonobo-centric article in Science very likely did care more about those dirty apes.

      In the same way, you have people that fight hard against using minimal amounts of DDT vs mosquitoes in Africa, to fight malaria.

      • Jacob says:

        I work with NHPs and small lab animals these days. On Friday, folks in an adjacent lab sacrificed a 28-year old macaque. I can imagine caring more about a monkey I’ve been studying for > a quarter of a century than a stranger I’ll never meet.

        It’s this vocal slice of the laity who creep me out. Hypothetically, if pygmies and polar bears were being slaughtered, I’d care more about the pygmies 100% of the time.

        But a lot of people would just ramble on about whichever subject was more fashionable, even if it were the bears, and few would call them out on it in any meaningful way.

        • Smithie says:

          It is an interesting question what will happen to Africa’s megafauna when its population peaks. Will there be interventionists and, if so, what course will they pursue?

          Of course, Africans can always hit back at us with the fact that we killed off a lot of our megafauna.

        • ghazisiz says:

          People have become very lazy about their ethics. Which is why most have surrendered to political correctness: no need to think — if you can recognize something that violates the Narrative, then it must be evil.

      • Rory says:

        Seems a little unfair, presumably it was the authors’ (primatologists?) job to worry about the Bonobos, not to try to solve insoluble conflicts or even pick up the slack of a disinterested mainstream media. Not nearly equivalent to actively hamstringing humanitarian efforts.

        To a moralizing busybody, everybody else’s job is always fiddling while rome burns.

    • true humanitarian says:

      I do care about endagered non-human primates much more than endlessly breeding people, both African and non-African.
      Even in the case of chimpanzees, who are as big bastards as humans.
      In the case of bonobos, who are much nicer than humanity, there is absolutely no doubt on whose side one shall be.

  3. Gord Marsden says:

    No one liked the horses getting shot in John Wayne movies

  4. Ingo Bading says:

    Unknown worlds? No. Only the demise of the heartland of Europe. Only the demise of the world, that in former days had given birth to Nikolaus Kopernikus and Immanuel Kant.

  5. engleberg says:

    In my copy of that Unknown issue the guy looks lighter.

  6. holm says:

    German mining in WW2 has had a positive impact on marine life.

  7. dearieme says:

    I hope that the warfare on the Eastern Front in both world wars did no harm to the European Bison.

    • dearieme says:

      WKPD says: ‘During World War I, occupying German troops killed 600 of the European bison in the Białowieża Forest for sport, meat, hides and horns. A German scientist informed army officers that the European bison were facing imminent extinction, but at the very end of the war, retreating German soldiers shot all but nine animals. The last wild European bison in Poland was killed in 1921. The last wild European bison in the world was killed by poachers in 1927 in the western Caucasus. By that year, fewer than 50 remained, all held by zoos.’

      • gcochran9 says:

        Most Pacific islands ( and the Azores, too !) had flightless species of rails, which generally disappeared when people showed up. We ate them.

        The flightless rails on Wake Island were still around at the beginning of WWII. But our island-hopping strategy left the Japanese garrison on Wake isolated and unsupplied…

        I’m sure that today we’d include a proper respect for biological diversity as a central axiom in developing our strategies, rather than insisting on winning.

    • Smithie says:

      What were the broader effects of war in the Middle Ages and ancient times on wildlife?

      Is warfare why wolves persisted for so long in much of Western Europe? Or might it rather be something like the potato or guns that eventually did them in, in many places?

      • Steven E. Sailer says:

        I’ve read that Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 disrupted Eastern European wolf control systems and that it took decades to get the number of wolves back down to 1811 levels.

  8. inertial says:

    Demise of Unknown had been apparently caused by wartime paper shortages, so the relevance of Third Battle of Kharkov is not immediately obvious.

    But you are right, in general. Eastern Front was about 80% of WWII, but in the popular imagination it occupies a space only a little larger than Congo wars. About the only reason events there are ever brought up is to illustrate the evilness of Communism (and it’s always Communism, never Nazism.)

    • Jim says:

      When you say 80% are you including the war in China?

    • biz says:

      “About the only reason events there are ever brought up is to illustrate the evilness of Communism (and it’s always Communism, never Nazism.)”

      Never Nazism?? I just want to pile on and say that this is the most idiotic lie I’ve read on the internet today.

      And to keep the pressure on your idiotic comment, 80% of what? The total deaths? Maybe. But not 80% of the action of consequence. Driving the Axis out of North Africa, Western Europe, and the entire Pacific was more than 20% of the war.

    • saintonge235 says:

      Given how hard Stalin argued for a Second Front, I find it hard to see the Eastern Front as “80% of WWII”.

      And it might be noted that the Red Army’s success against the Wehrmacht correlate rather nicely the availability of troops from Siberia, shipped west after it was clear that Japan had it’s hands full dealing with the ABCD effort, and thus couldn’t afford another enemy at the moment; with the intensity of the strategic bombing of Germany, which pulled huge numbers of fighters and ground anti-aircraft units away from the Eastern Front; with the war in North Africa’s intensity, and the efforts in Italy, which required diverting troops that could have been used on the Eastern Front; and perhaps most with the number of troops stationed in France to repel the invasion.

      In terms of contribution to victory, the Eastern Front was about one third of WWII. And probably not the most vital third, as it’s hard to see the Nazis losing if Britain had folded between the fall of France and the Pearl Harbor attack.

  9. Lior says:

    The effects of global warming by “ben&jerry” Ice cream

  10. PetrOldSack says:

    War is fast tracking into being obsolete, as for conventional purposes. What is real and stays real for all conflicts will be the derivatives of toxicity. Radioactive materials, polluted air and water and gene material. That in itself is a level of cruelty and brutality that ISIS and their beheadings cannot match. Ultimately war could make sense as a steered civilian conflict by changing the paradigms of what group gets diminished, or where organized chaos makes sense. Humans at the numbers of today make the ultimate pollution (not poluter, sic).

  11. Pierre says:

    I remember reading that Somali piracy disrupted fishing in that part of the Indian Ocean so much so that it significantly increased fish stock.

  12. TWS says:

    If they just kept their paws off people you wouldn’t need to worry about those damn dirty apes. I’ve seen their medical experiments.

  13. ManiacCop69 says:

    The wars in the Congo were covered extensively in South African English-language media. When I moved to England in ’98 all mention of the conflict disappeared.

    Would’ve been pretty hard to get hold of the Cape Times or the Mail & Guardian in 1990s USA though.

  14. Rich Rostrom says:

    Long ago (1950?), The New Yorker ran a profile of NYC’s legendary chief arson investigator. He had risen to city chief from Brooklyn chief after a particularly celebrated case.

    A gang bought some expensive high-bred horses and insured them lavishly. The horses were kept in a stable in Brooklyn. One night the gang replaced the high-breds with an equal number of crowbaits, then splashed kerosene around the stable, even pouring it over the horses.. Their plan was to burn the stable and collect the insurance.

    But the investigator was on to them; his men stepped in as the gang were about to light matches.

    Public outrage over this plot, and acclaim for thwarting it, made him the next city chief. He was surprised at the intensity of of public feeling. He had handled cases where numerous human beings, including children, had been at risk, and yet the public was more affected by this case involving horses.

    That’s the way of it – cruelty to animals touches many people more than abuse of other humans.

  15. J Irving says:

    Bison were able to survive the Great Patriotic War. I’ve worried more about undiscovered antiquities. Yamnaya, and Scythian sites must have been blown up and run over. This is reason enough to avoid wars.

  16. Steven Cullen says:

    I seem to recall reading that the publication of pulp magazines, during WWII, was adversely affected by paper shortages.

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