Thirty Years War vs Syrian Civil War

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OSCAR-MIKE-GOLF, there is a lot of chatter around among the historically inclined about how the Syrian Civil War is remarkably like the Thirty Years War. I have been asked by bloggers to throw my cracker in the soup twice, so I will.
The Thirty Years’ War was fought in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. It was a deadly religious war that resulted in eight million deaths in a time when being a casualty of war and dying in war was essentially the same thing. (No medivac/casevac)

It began as war between Protestants and Catholics and then expanded as many of the great powers of the day entered the conflict. Some nations grew in influence because of the war and others were devastated. I invite you to read more about the gritty details if you’re interested.

As with all significant civil wars (the War of Northern Aggression in the US 1860-65 comes to mind),  emotions scar the societies involved that reverberate to this day. The only winners of the Thirty Years War were England who stayed out, France who waited til the end to get in and Sweden who temporarily became a great power due to its  intervention.

P. S. Flushed with success, the Swedes then went to war with Russia and were handed their hats. Then they became a less than great power once again.

In the Syrian Civil War, Syria’s enemies, Israel and the US (the little and big satan, respectively) are winning because they’re staying out of the fighting.  The US is present in the area because it showed up to defeat ISIS under President Trump’s leadership, but that doesn’t extend to the Civil War in any significant extent.

The US clearly projects power by its presence East of the Euphrates and we’ve read on several blogs how the Russians and their proxies wanted to take the Americans down to Chinatown (kick their butts to Pizza Hut) and it turned out very badly for them. The problem that the Russians and their friends have is that they feel if they can beat Arab militias and the Syrian Army, the Americans should be a push-over. (too bad/so sad)

Click to enlarge the map and reveal
territorial exchanges in the 30 years

Syria is the biggest looser and Turkey is close behind as the world finds that the might of Turkish armor and combined arms can’t dislodge a thousand or so Kurds. Russia looks like a Potemkin Village since their military is severely taxed by merely keeping it in the field in the face of a logistics train less than 900 sea miles in length over unopposed (sea or air) access. The Russia issue reflects the Spanish in the Thirty Years war. That effort effectively started the slide to the end of the Spanish empire by exhausting what strength they had left. I don’t see that happening to Russia, but it confirms their modern status as a regional power and no more.

Iran would be a big loser but for the Obama nuke deal which gave them the cash to keep going. The great power playing the English role is China. They stuck their nose under the tent, then backed off because the only winners never showed up to the game.

Then there are the Saudis and the fringe players who have tried to keep a chip in the game to thwart Iranian imperialistic fervor — are they Holland?

Bottom line, the intervening 400 years between 1618 and 2018 means that as much as it’s fun to draw general parallels, they don’t work very well in this case, IMHO.

17 thoughts on “Thirty Years War vs Syrian Civil War

  1. As long as the US stays out of Syria, the bloodshed can continue until the cows come home, as the combatants on both sides all hate the U.S. The fewer of them that survive, the better off the U.S. will be.

    I know, sounds harsh. But how it turns out either way: the rebels win, or Assad retains power, the one left standing will still hate America, and send suicide bombers to our shores. Let them annihilate each other, the world will be better off.

  2. Thanks for the 30YW reminder and I agree, the parallels are stretched. Still, it's fun to imagine a resurrected Gustavus Adolphus rampaging about the Middle East and RECAPTURING Constantinople.

    Speaking of the 30 year catastrophe, is Westphalianism coming to an end?

    Some say yes, thanks to Islam.

  3. War is a useful tool to divert the people's attention away from intractable problems. Those in power also benefit by reducing the pool of pissed off young males wanting to challenge those in power.

    Agree with Fredd reducing the total number of our enemies is useful.

    Agre with Fred

  4. Great reminder on the 30 year war as to which a thought occurs. I wonder what percentage of wars through the ages were "religious" as to their causes.

    Far more than one would think i would guess

  5. Religion=Power
    Wars are always about power and/or tribalism – and whose god is better is always a good excuse for a war. However behind the scenes, they are there to enrich and give power.

  6. There are a million military age Muslim males in Westphalia. And the Westphalian champion (Angela Merkle) is a modern female version of Mohammed. There are a lot of skeletons rolling in their graves, Charles Martel foremost among them.

  7. As happened in Iraq, perhaps the Kurdish area east of the Euphrates can thrive, showing the rest of Syria the error of their ways.

  8. The only real cash crop that the Iraqi Kurds have is opium. They have that down to a science and have been doing it for thousands of years. There is the oil business but Iraq doesn't want to share it with Iraqi Kurdistan.

  9. Ya know LL, I would be more interested in your opinion if you didn't start off with the stupidity of " the war of Northern aggression ".

    Paul L. Quandt

  10. The history folks keep trying to extrapolate the Syrian Civil War into precedents, and given that the majority of deaths in the Thirty Years war came from bubonic and other plagues and diseases – it doesn't quite wash.

    The British were wise to steer clear of the American dust up in the 1860's with a hat-tip to Mr. Quandt below. I think that they'd planned on coming in on the side of the Confederacy. I wrote a dissertation on the subject of the British Secret Service's involvement pre-war and through the first two years of the war. The death of Prince Albert in December 1861, knocked Queen Victoria for a loop and created a situation where the British didn't join in. The Royal Navy could have broken the Union blockade and aided the Confederacy with money and weapons that would have made the Union's industrial edge moot. As it was, there were several moments when the contest was close when Lee invaded the North and at Second Manassas. (the point can be endlessly argued) If you added British money and weapons and possibly several divisions of redcoats, who knows?

  11. I believe that it was Harry Turtledove who wrote one or more books with the plot line being the entry of Great Britain on the South's side. Good tale from an outstanding writer.


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