Skip to comments.The Foul Tornado: On the centenary of World War I (Outstanding Read)
Posted on 07/14/2014 12:17:39 PM PDT by mojito
To say that that the First World War was the greatest cataclysm in human history since the fall of the Roman Empire is to put it mildly. The war destroyed so many good things and killed so many good people that civilization has not recovered and probably never will. Long after it officially ended, it continued to cause millions of deaths and tragedies, most obviously during its encore performance of 1939-45. But it did not stop even then. Many of its worst consequences came during official periods of peace and are unknown or forgotten, or remain unconnected with it in the public mind.
The loss cannot be measured in cash because it was paid in the more elusive coin of faith, morals, trust, hope, and civility. The war is the reason why Europe is no longer a Christian continent, because too many churches supported it. Pointing to the poverty and scientific backwardness of the pre-1914 world is a false comparison. Who is to say that we could not have grown just as rich as we are now, and made just as many technological and medical advances, had we not slain the flower of Europes young men before they could win Nobel Prizes, or even beget and raise children?
The astonishing thing is that so many conservative, Christian, and patriotic people have yet to understand the damage this event did to their causes. It is at least partly because we can barely begin to imagine the world that we lost.
(Excerpt) Read more at spectator.org ...
h/t The Z Blog.
If the U.S. would have stayed out of it, the Great Powers would have battled to a draw and none of the other problems would have occurred later.
Bump for later.
Thank you for posting this. It’s the best article on the subject I’ve yet come across.
I would critique the statement that churches lost respect because they supported the war. Paul Johnson wrote that the war was universally popular among intellectuals, academics and the elite as a 'great cause' to defeat the Hun. So it wasn't the church only.
Bookmark and Bump.
There is simply no getting around the fact that WWI was totally unnecessary and set in motion geopolitical events that are still affecting the world today.
I am a fan of Rudyard Kipling, who was very much alive and writing during the Great War. The same cannot be said for his son, who died on the Western Front serving as a young officer in the Irish Guards. Kipling spoke of the agony of his generation at what they had wrought:
THESE were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their hometreasured sayings and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.
But who shall return us the children ?
At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,
The first felon-stroke of the sword he had longtime prepared for us -
Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.
They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o’ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour.
Not since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her!
Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed on them.
That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven -
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled on the wires
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes - to be cindered by fires -
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater. For this we shall take expiation.
But who shall return us our children ?
I'm not so sure about that. Up to the first war, there was a race going on between Germany and England.
All over the world, navies were switching from coal to oil power. In nations where resources were available, dreadnoughts were replacing coal burning ships at an incredible speed. The militarism of Germany could not be ignored by a country like England whose security and stability owed SO much to it's navy.
Kaiser Bill HAD to be contained and for the most part, the Imperial Navy was kept off the major oceans. German dreadnought's were more or less bottled up in the northern ports and German submarines were challenged when and where ever the British navy could find them.
It was do or die for the Brits. The British hung on by a thread for a very long time and finally won out.
I just ordered the book on Aamzon! Thanks for the suggestion!
He is spot on in identifying 1914 as the start of a long war that went on until at least 1989; perhaps we are still in the midst of it.
I read “Catastrophe” he cites about the first few months of the War - the book ends with the soccer truce of Christmas 1914.
A possible different take - that Europe was not so calm before the War - is contained in “1913: The Year Before the Storm.” This book does an excellent job of detailing the turmoil already present in Europe, particularly in the arts, that served as a type of omen, at least in retrospect.
Fun fact from “1913”: in January 1913, Hitler, Stalin, and Freud were all living in Vienna and took walks in the same park.
His name was Walter J. Scherer, a private in the 130th US Infantry. Born 1893. Died 1918 in the Argonne Forest.
At 25, he hadn't time to make any sort of mark in history. I used to walk through this peaceful silent city and wonder what sort of man he was, his life cut so short.
The problem with this view is that it runs counter to Britain's foreign policy on the continent since Tudor times, which was that Britain would resist the creation of a Continental hegemon, because a hegemon in Europe would be in a position to thwart Britain's mastery of the seas on which her colonial empire was founded.
It's true, as Hitchens states, that Britain stayed out of the wars of German unification. But the chauvinistic and bellicose Germany of 1914 was seen in many circles as an aggressive power (which it was) that had become unmoored from Bismark's judicious realpolitik. Germany had come to be viewed as the most serious challenge since Napoleonic France.
With support from the US, Britain prevailed (sort of), but Hitchens asks whether it was worth the tremendous cost. Which is a question forth asking, even thought it can never be answered.
Bookmark for later.
I have two Great-Uncles who died in their middle to late 20s from the lingering effects of mustard gas attacks in WW1.
Neither ever married, recognizing their recurrent health problems were terminal (not a diagnosis, just personal observations on their part according to their siblings).
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