The treaty of Ver­sailles

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - — The writer is a free­lance colum­nist based in Is­lam­abad. Muham­mad Ali Baig

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”.

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