World War I did not end all wars

The Citizens' Voice - - EDITORIAL -

By the time that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of war­ring na­tions met in a rail­way car north of Paris to sign the ar­mistice end­ing World War I — 100 years ago to­day — nearly 20 mil­lion peo­ple lay dead, in­clud­ing about 10 mil­lion civil­ians. An­other 21 mil­lion were wounded.

This was sup­posed to be the end of the “war to end all wars,” the begin­ning of a per­pet­ual peace in which the hor­rors of in­dus­tri­al­ized war­fare for­ever would con­vince world lead­ers to choose ne­go­ti­a­tions over armed con­flict.

But the ar­mistice did not re­peal geopol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics. The terms of the ar­mistice it­self, cou­pled with the cri­sis of the Great De­pres­sion, helped plant the seeds of an even worse global up­heaval just 20 years later that even­tu­ally took 60 mil­lion lives, about 3 per­cent of the global pop­u­la­tion in 1938.

Per­haps the great­est tragedy of World War I was that it prob­a­bly was un­nec­es­sary. The June 28, 1914 as­sas­si­na­tion in Sara­jevo of Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand, heir ap­par­ent of the Aus­tro-hun­gar­ian Em­pire, was the spark that ig­nited a con­ti­nen­twide bomb of ram­pant mil­i­tarism in sup­port of su­per-na­tion­al­ism. Lead­ers on both sides missed in­nu­mer­able op­por­tu­ni­ties to avoid con­flict and even­tu­ally ma­neu­vered them­selves into war.

The scope of the con­flict, cou­pled with ad­vances in killing tech­nol­ogy pro­duced by the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, caused it to be known as “the war to end all wars.”

But to­day, many of the same forces that pro­duced the un­think­able a cen­tury ago again are loose in Europe.

Fol­low­ing World War II, NATO joined many of the for­merly war­ring na­tions of Europe, along with the United States and Canada, in a com­mon de­fense al­liance that has pro­duced the long­est era of peace in Eu­ro­pean his­tory. And the Eu­ro­pean Union has at­tempted, with less even suc­cess, to do the same in eco­nom­ics.

But ra­bid na­tion­al­ism, fu­eled by an im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis and eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties that the EU has not re­solved, again is on the rise in Europe. Dem­a­gogues like Hun­gary’s Vik­tor Or­ban are as­cen­dant.

To­day near Paris, 60 world lead­ers — in­clud­ing self-pro­claimed “na­tion­al­ist” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump — will gather to com­mem­o­rate the war that did not end all wars. They should not just com­mem­o­rate, but reded­i­cate them­selves to work­ing to­gether against the er­rors that need­lessly pro­duced so much car­nage.

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