World War I–Endings and Aftermath

August 22, 2016

The guns and artillery of World War I had barely cooled when troubles began anew, signs that the peace may be short lived. Studying this period reveals some interesting if not amazing aspects of the times and of war in general.  Here are some major themes and axioms to consider–lessons learned from history.

Winning the war does not necessarily mean winning the peace. The victory over Germany was indeed real and complete. Yet the peace afterward was difficult to manage. The Allies were divided on their approaches to reconcile Germany. Moreover, the destroyed economies, lives, and infrastructure of Europe created instability, unrest, and conflict. Finding leaders who understand and manage such chaos requires skills no less acute than those needed in war.  Europe struggled to find those leaders and solutions during the time.

Aggressors like Adolf Hitler exist in periods of peace and can potentially manipulate masses to war and to mass murder. Had the Allies understood the emotional paralysis of the period (war weariness), the danger of popular reluctance to confront major troubles, and the potential for further bloodshed in a major war, no doubt Hitler would not have been given such freedom to violate treaties and impose his will over Europe. The lesson learned is staggering: Had Europe acted decisively against Hitler in his early years of developing his designs and war machine the horrible deaths and brutality of WWII would have been prevented.  Indeed fear and inaction have terrible consequences collectively and individually.

Soldiers from Fort RileyKansas, ill with Spanish influenza at a hospital ward at Camp Funston.

War brings unplanned and unknown consequences that significantly exacerbate plans for peace and stability. The 1918 Flu Pandemic that swept Europe and the globe killed as many as 100 million experts believe, and serves as an example of facing the unknown during and after war. It seems almost too horrible to contemplate that after the world’s first global war, an event that took nearly 18 million lives, another catastrophe of even greater magnitude would occur so unexpectedly–and that by the Hand of God not man.  

Giving careful attention to the endings of war, preparing for natural disaster as well as political ones, and fighting the tendency of war weariness are all critical components of a secure peace. Doing otherwise is to flirt with disaster and undo the hard won victories of war

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