We are now gearing up to the big commemoration next year of the outbreak of the first world war and the immense slaughter it brought with it.
Most of the press and certainly the Con-Dem government will no doubt dwell on the heroism, the "supreme sacrifice" made by so many and the need to cherish our armed forces.
Few will look at that war in terms of what we can learn from it and how we can best avoid future wars.
Despite the long peace in most of Europe since the end of WWII, we have witnessed continuous conflict elsewhere, driven largely by a corrupt and immoral arms trade.
It fuels conflict and condones human rights-abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources, and it does so with the full support of governments around the world.
If we examine history, there are very few instances where violence, even against oppressive regimes, can be convincingly argued to have been a) unavoidable or essential or b) have achieved successful outcomes.
While the first world war is often cited as an example of senseless mass slaughter, the second is usually claimed as an example of armed opposition having been the only option to avoid a tyrannical fascist world.
It is a strong argument given Hitler's ruthless and seemingly unstoppable war machine.
Another very different example that one could cite is Cuba's guerilla war against the Batista dictatorship, where democratic opposition had become virtually impossible given US support for the dictatorship.
The only problem with such examples is that we can't know what the outcome might have been if opponents had relied on well-organised non-violent opposition alone.
The Spanish civil war led to the loss of a whole swathe of courageous class-conscious workers and intellectuals from around the world and to the massacre of tens of thousands of anti-Franco Spaniards by the victorious fascists.
The defeat of the republican side ushered in 40 years of fascist dictatorship. Could that have been avoided if a concerted campaign of non-violent opposition to Franco's coup had been organised instead?
The South African apartheid system was brought down not by force of arms - although the armed struggle did contribute, as did the defeat of South African forces in Angola, largely due to Cuban armed intervention - but it was the relentless and well-organised, largely non-violent, opposition within the country that eventually brought the system down.
Even where armed struggle has been initially victorious, consequent developments have often been disastrous or have fallen far short of the original aims of the insurrectionary combatants.
Look at Mozambique, Angola or even Zimbabwe - in each of those countries the liberation movements were, in the end, successful, but what pyrrhic victories they have turned out to be.
In today's world with its super-sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, its surveillance systems and professional armies it would seem that armed struggle is no longer an acceptable or indeed rational option.
Look at Afghanistan - Western forces are certainly not winning the war nor is the Taliban. It is very much a stalemate, but a stalemate costing untold millions of dollars wasted on weaponry and tens of thousands of dead and maimed that will leave behind a country more devastated and impoverished than ever before.
We can see the same scenario in Iraq, in Libya and in Syria.
Africa, the world's poorest continent, is the focus of massive arms trading and of conflict.
For decades, the countries in the Horn of Africa have been plagued by organised violence.
During the decade 2001-10, non-state conflicts were by far the most common - 77 of them (35 per cent of the global total).
These wars are causing irreparable destruction to whole peoples and their cultures, resulting only with one set of petty oligarchs replacing another to reign over ruined nations.
In 2008 the then foreign secretary David Miliband stated: "A key element in helping prevent conflicts, and making them less deadly when they occur, are better controls on arms supplies.
"Weapons themselves don't cause wars, but they are the fuel that keeps them burning."
Rachel Stohl and Suzette Grillot, in their book The International Arms Trade, state: "Studies of conflicts during the past two centuries show that the build-up of arms does not necessarily lead to war but that almost all wars throughout this period have been preceded by an accumulation of arms by one or more of the parties involved."
Why then is proper arms control not high on the agenda of world organisations?
While world military expenditure did not actually increase in 2011, for the first time since 1998, the world total for that year is estimated to have been $1,738 billion, representing 2.5 per cent of global gross domestic product or $249 for every single person.
Seventy-two per cent of the world's conventional weaponry is supplied by just five countries - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France.
The Stockholm Institute for Peace Research in its 2012 report argues that the main cause of this apparent halt in military spending growth is the economic policies adopted by most Western countries in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis that started in 2008.
These policies prioritised the swift reduction of budget deficits that increased sharply following the crisis. It does not represent a genuine attempt at reducing spending on armaments.
Africa was the region with the largest increase in military spending during 2011- 8.6 per cent. This was dominated by a massive 44 per cent increase by Algeria, the continent's largest spender.
Algeria's continuous increases in recent years were fuelled by increasing oil revenues and were justified by the activities of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, although Algeria's regional ambitions may be a more important motive.
The only way to break this cycle of apocalyptic violence is to enforce a total arms embargo and to begin genuine world disarmament - a goal that has been frustrated and undermined for far too long by the big weapons-producing countries and supine governments who still trot out the mantra of "necessary defence."
The lessons of the first world war still need to be learned.
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