By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
The first few decades after World War II laid the groundwork for the world today. Conflicts like the Cold War and the Soviet War in Afghanistan led to future conflicts in their respective nations. A new Wondrium series connects the dots.
Recent and ongoing global conflicts, such as America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, didn’t come out of nowhere—but they can be traced back further than most people think.
For example, the Persian Gulf War alone is part of a long chain of events. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he didn’t expect much of a global response. World leaders at the time, who grew up during World War II, saw in Hussein the makings of a global dictator, so they chose to invade. After Saddam was defeated, his actions which were meant to keep his neighboring countries in fear are what led to the 2003 war against Iraq, which was launched by the “shock and awe” bombing attacks of the United States, joined by the UK, Australia, and Poland.
When considering the cause and effect and successive events of war, how does a historical look account for how the events are connected? In an exclusive interview, Wondrium producer Adam Vogtman discussed Wondrium’s new series War in the Modern World.
The Best Background on Current Events
“If one wishes to understand the context of contemporary conflicts that are ongoing or just starting, this is basically the prelude to a lot of those conflicts,” Vogtman said. “In a sense, it’s a primer on conflict in the modern world—post-World War II, all the way up until the Ukraine conflict. Although we taped it before the Ukraine conflict, there [are] two lectures in there that are super-relevant to that.”
Understanding Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is best explained in the episodes “From World War to Cold War” and “A New Russian Empire?” The former lays out the post-WWII Soviet Union, while the latter explores the fall of the Soviet Union and subsequent rise of Vladimir Putin—and his obsession with Ukraine.
Although the series was filmed just before the February invasion of Ukraine, it’s noticeably prescient in foretelling the event itself.
“Most of the series is basically comprised of stories and dramatic retellings about how these events kind of unfolded, what factors shifted them one way or the other, human folly [and so on],” Vogtman said. “And then the actual strategic aspects of battles, which we never really get in headlines, which are like supply lines, advancing and holding ground, digging in, and all these kinds of things that you would learn [in] military strategy.”
The Right Person for the Job
The series presenter for War in the Modern World is Dr. David R. Stone, who is the William E. Odom Professor of Russian Studies at the U.S. Naval War College. Vogtman said Dr. Stone, who also taught Wondrium’s series World War II: Battlefield Europe, is an engaging and high-energy speaker.
“He’s delightful to listen to; his cadence and delivery style keep you locked in your chair,” Vogtman said. “He brought energy, passion, and enthusiasm for the subject. He has the ability to take extremely complex historical situations and distill information or summarize [those] situations in pithy sentences. His ability to do that I think makes him a valuable presenter; not everyone can do that.”
Vogtman said that when teaching, there’s a tendency to go into the weeds and explain every minute detail, but Dr. Stone manages to get just as much of a picture across without being too wordy. The CIA’s campaign to overthrow Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz provides evidence of this. It’s a major event described fully in just a few minutes, making it informative but easily digestible.