World War – H. G. Wells Style

Watching Our Betters stumbling ever closer towards an entirely unnecessary global thermonuclear war led me back to an earlier perspective on world war and its consequences – H. G. Wells’ 1908 novel “The War in the Air”, ISBN 9781785435416. It has been a long time since I read anything by Wells. He is a much better writer than I remembered.

This novel begins in something close to England of the early 1900s, but with a few H. G. Wells twists. Monorails have largely replaced the old-fashioned railways. The Wright Brothers have achieved heavier-than-air flight in America, but the hot interest is a flamboyant English inventor who has developed something akin to a helicopter, and is assiduously seeking to sell his invention to the highest bidder.

The story begins in a rather humorous style. Wells’ protagonist is a Cockney “likely lad”, Bert Smallways, son of greengrocer Tom Smallways. Bert is a partner in a marginally-successful bicycle rental shop and moons after the lovely Edna. Through a series of comic misadventures, young Bert finds himself in Germany at a secret airship base – and is mistaken for the English inventor. Bert is snatched up by the German Prince who has been planning for war in the air. Wells observes the impact of technology – it takes about 4 years to build a battleship, whereas the Germans can turn out an airship in only 4 weeks; without most of the world noticing, the Germans have built a substantial fleet. The German air fleet, with Bert unwillingly aboard, immediately launches on a bold attack on the United States.

As the German airships cross the Atlantic, the tone of the novel changes from comic to serious. The airships come across the US Navy’s Atlantic fleet, and destroy the battleships in vicious fighting. The surviving German airships continue to New York City and quickly bomb the city fathers into submission. But securing the surrender of the people is much harder than securing the surrender of their leaders.

The German attack is complicated by the sudden appearance over America of a previously unknown fleet of Chinese airships which attack both the Germans and the Americans, spreading devastation all around. Bert finds himself stranded on Goat Island in the Niagara Falls with a now murderous German Prince. Bert manages to survive, and eventually makes contact with a group of American partisans. “Bert sat in the background … listening. Before his staggering mind passed strange vast images as [the partisans] talked, of great issues at a crisis, of nations in tumultuous march, of continents overthrown, of famine and destruction beyond measure”.

It takes 5 long years for Bert to get back to England in search of his Edna, to find a land ruined by war. By the time he reaches home, the formerly cheerful Bert has become a cold-blooded killer.

Then Wells’ novel changes tone again. He jumps forward another quarter of a century to a discussion between Bert’s aged father Tom and Bert’s youngest son, in which Tom tries to explain to the boy what life was like before the war. But the chasm was too wide, since the small number of remaining Londoners had been re-primitivized to the state of a barbaric peasantry, but “without any of the simple arts a barbaric peasantry would possess”. They had lost the knowledge even of how to make textiles, and clothed themselves only by looting the ruins which surrounded them. The war had destroyed civilization and its good life; Tom concludes that the war should never have begun:

… somebody somewhere ought to have stopped something, but who or how or why were all beyond his ken”.

World War I, which started 6 years after the publication of Wells novel, was in a sense the last civilized war – one in which there was a distinction between the military who fought on the front lines and the civilians who kept the home fires burning. Wells was correct that War in the Air would dissolve that distinction and make everyone a target and a combatant, as we saw in World War II. The development of missiles post World War II has only served to guarantee that everybody will be on the front lines in any future wide war.


I didn’t see this post until now. Thanks.

Coincidentally, I was just thinking about something similar.

I think it was Ron Paul that said the American people have lost every war since WWII. Obviously Ron isn’t referring to military outcome even though it is probably applicable.

I remember during the 2nd Iraq war when many people said it was about the oil. At the time, my brother’s friend said “we didn’t find the WMDs, but least we got the oil.”

Well the American people didn’t get the oil. We got Homeland Security, TSA and the NSA spying on us instead. We got the Patriot Act that infringes on the citizen. We got a lot of dead young soldiers. We got 20 years of military action in Afghanistan and a huge bill paid with made up money so that the US citizen didn’t have to decide if they were willing to pay for it or just let the young mostly men sacrifice.

I missed it if we achieved the objective.

By not having to sacrifice, I wonder if the American people have been lulled into a state of not understanding the consequences of war. Up to and including nuclear war.

A Biden quote from Zero Hedge:
“At a time of war,” Biden wrote, “high refinery profit margins being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable… companies must take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel, and other refined product.”

This isn’t the potato having another dementia moment. Similar comments have been made by members of our Senate, cabinet and Boris Johnson.

If we are at war, I guess it is acceptable if Russia starts killing US and British “advisors” or do something much worse.

I have read historians that claim the announcement that the US would seek the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan prolonged the war and the killing of millions. That it wasn’t wise to force your enemy into a corner and will make them fight to the last man.

Announcing the desire to destroy Russia and depose or kill Putin seem an even worse decision given he has a choice to use nuclear weapons.

I fear nobody even contemplates such an outcome as not only possible, but likely.


Sun Tzu recognized that long ago – Never fight an enemy whose back is against a river. His point was that an enemy who has no avenue of retreat will fight back harder than expected … and may win! Yet Our Betters stumble on, forcing a proxy war against Russia by trying to aid the corrupt regime in the Ukraine that has been fighting its civil war for the last 8 years. It is clear that Russia will not do a Biden and abandon the Donbas in the way that the US abandoned Afghanistan. Their back is against the river.

I fear that Our Betters are seriously under-estimating the potential for escalation to nuclear war. As to the consequences of such a war – H.G. Wells in his novel posited that most people died from the starvation & disease following from the disruption of his War in the Air. My guess is that would apply even more forcefully today – because the same economic specialization which has made us much more productive within our system has also made us individually much less self-supporting if that system gets disrupted.


Deep State, NATO, and Russia are taking actions as if there is no peaceful way out.



It’s bureaucratic overgrowth that has been preventing military victory: America’s First ‘Limited War’ - WSJ

Given how excited my friends in Russia are about Mearsheimer, I’m more inclined to think he’s a Russian strategic necessity more than his theory a historic inevitability.