I’ve rewritten this post five or six times by this point. It’s hard to summarise what I want to say, because there’s so damned much to say—about the war, about the peace, about the next war, about the cost, economic, political, above all else human. How the old dogmas of the 19th century—imperialism, nationalism, the balance of power, the romantic-Victorian ideal of a short, victorious war in which Our Boys would rout the Enemy, parade up the streets of their capital on the first day of fall, and be home in time for Christmas—met with the technological advances of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—the aeroplane, the machine-gun, the internal combustion engine, above all else poison gas. How the latter obliterated the former and whelped the 20th century from the former’s stinking corpse. About the hellish nature of the Western Front. About that old aphorism that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it and how critics of the Iran nuclear deal who reference Munich in 1938 should look instead to Versailles twenty years earlier.
The problem is that there’s so damned much to say. Each of those could easily be 2000-5000 words on its own, to say nothing of an in-depth analysis of the War, its causes, and its repercussions. And that would take time and effort. Instead I shall say this—only this—and let more eloquent souls, who unlike me experienced the War firsthand do the rest of the talking.
Ninety-four years ago today, the nations that had dominated first Europe, then the world for the past century or more signed an armistice which put to an end the bloodiest four years of fighting the world had yet seen. Over those four years, an estimated 37.5 million had died, some so badly wounded as to be unrecogizable. The years that followed would see new nations rise from the corpses of the empires that had died as a result of war, new political ideologies rise to prominence. We are still feeling its effects today.