The treaty of Versailles
JOHN Mearsheimer, an American political scientist and professor, argued in his book named as “The Tragedy of the Great Power Politics”, that great powers shape and shake the international system. Apart from the opinion of the critics and analysts, the argument of Mearsheimer finds its genesis in the history of the world. First World War reached a preliminary conclusion and ceasefire on November 11, 1918; when an armistice was signed between The Central Powers and The Allied Powers. The armistice was merely an instrument to stop the fighting. To ensure long-term peace in Europe, the Treaty of Versailles was concluded along with a series of treaties at the Paris Peace Conference.
On June 28, 1919; great powers exhibited their attribute perfectly under the paradigm of Mearsheimer, and imposed a treaty known as The Treaty of Versailles on the Central Powers especially on the German Empire. The empire had to lose almost 14% of its territory along with 7 million people and deprived of its all foreign colonies. Belgium was given regions of Eupen and Malmedy, East Prussia was given to Lithuania and German speaking region of Sudetenland was given to Czechoslovakia. Ruhr which was Germany’s industrial hub was to be occupied by the Allied troops. Schleswig was given to Denmark and West Prussia was given to Poland; a state that did not existed before the war.
The Treaty of Versailles was a sheer humiliation for the German nation. The responsibility was fixed on Germans for the outbreak of the war and the subsequent damages. It is quite strange that the treaty contained 440 articles and 414 of them were devoted to punish the German Empire. The nation was apparently no more allowed to have troops, air force and navy. The armed forces transformed in to merely law enforcing agencies. “Hang the Kaiser” was a widespread slogan in the Allied countries. Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France; an ardent advocate to punish Germany, moved one step forward and even took away the mineral and ore rich Alsace-Loraine region. The region was conquered by German blood under the remarkable leadership of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck during the Franco-German War of 1870-71.
The German Empire, Ottoman Empire, Kingdom of Bulgaria and Austro-Hungarian Empire comprised the Central Powers. Germans, Italians and Austro-Hungarians were in an alliance known as the Triple Alliance. Italian Empire was a part of the alliance but it did not enter the war on the behalf of its allies. On the other hand Russian Empire, British Empire and French Empire were also in an alliance known as the “Triple Entente”, perhaps a historical version of the NATO vs. Warsaw Pact.
The Great War was a perfect example of Clausewitzian concept of “Total War”. Both sides employed maximum effort to win the war decisively but the alleged sinking of RMS Lusitania by a German U-Boat on May 7, 1915; and the Zimmermann Telegram turned the tide of the war and America intervened in the European affairs under the concept or perhaps pretext of “Manifest Destiny” and U.S. Foreign Policy principle “Pragmatism”.
People remember U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for his famous Fourteen Points, liberal ideas and the concept of international institutionalism. He is believed to be the father of “The League of Nations”, though conceivably he intentionally did not become a member of it under the excuse of “The Congress”. He was there at Paris with all of his optimism and wisdom regarding the international peace, but none of his liberal ideas can be seen in the content of the treaty.
It would be quite astonishing for the readers that Germany paid its last installment of the World War I reparations on October 3, 2010; a continuous extortion of almost US$ 400 billion from Germans for almost 92 years after the war. Germans were given no chance to discuss the terms of the treaty; instead they were given two options, i.e. to sign the treaty or to be invaded by the Allies. The historical date for signing of the treaty was a slap on the face of Central Powers; since exactly five years before on June 28, 1914 the Archduke Ferdinand Franz of Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated. The event actually became the foundations of the war.
Perhaps sometimes great powers shake the international system in such a way that they themselves come within the shockwaves. The end of World War I and the unjust Treaty of Versailles can be said as the case. The Allied aim to divide German power by disintegrating it actually backfired with the rise of Hitler. It is pertinent to mention here that after the Second World War, no formal peace treaty has ever been signed between Germany and the Allied Powers i.e. the United States, United Kingdom, France and the former Soviet Union. Technically it can be concluded that Germany is still under the Allied occupation. At least one dimension can be drawn with confidence regarding the behaviour of the great powers that “justice is defined by the powerful and history is written by the victor”.