Armistice Day: WWI was meant to be the war that ended all wars. It wasn't.
By Orlando Crowcroft
via the euronews.com web site
It was the British author, H.G. Wells, that coined the expression: "The war that will end war" to describe World War One, which had broken out in Europe in September 1914. Wells believed the conflict would create a new world order that would make future conflict impossible.
It would do so, Wells believed, by crushing the militarism of Germany under the Kaiser and its allies, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The Allies - Great Britain, France, and Russia - were, Wells wrote, not only soldiers in a war but “crusaders against war”.
“There shall be no more Kaisers [...]. We are resolved. That foolery shall end! It is the last war.”
Wells’ belief was that the militarisation of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, and particularly the manufacture of heavy armaments and modern weapons, had been pioneered by Germany and had spread outwards, forcing Europe as a whole down the same path.
He was making the argument at a time when many in Britain did not believe that the country should join France and Russia in fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary in the war, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb nationalist.
'The opportunity for revenge'
Wells first wrote the phrase in August 1914 and within weeks it had become a mantra. But while in 1914 its sentiment was optimistic - positive, even - by 1918 it was desperate. Europe was in ruins, millions were dead. It had to be the last war because Europe could not have another.
World War One was the end of a number of things: It led to the collapse of no less than four empires. The Weimar Republic replaced the German Kaiser, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires fell, and in 1917 the Bolsheviks overthrew Tsar Nicholas II.
But the Europe that came next was certainly not the new social order that Wells had hoped to see - and it was not the end of war. Just 15 years later, Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor and Europe was again on the path to a brutal and epoch-defining conflict.
Even in 1914, there were those who did not approve of Wells’ prediction. Philosopher Bertrand Russell argued, in an open letter to Wells published in a British journal, that even if Germany was defeated: “Why should Germany not wait [...] for the opportunity of revenge?”
Russell said that the only way to make WW1 the “war to end war” would be a new era of leaders that were quite different from those that had taken Europe into war, and - crucially, as things would turn out - the avoidance of “intolerable humiliation for the vanquished”.
Read the entire article on the euro news web site here:
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