Thursday, November 11, 2010

The War To End War

I'm not a fan of the trend toward generic holidays located on Mondays. I see the markets are open today, even if the Post Office isn't. Probably the stores are having sales, unless they're saving that for the Thanksgiving weekend.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice was declared in the Great War - World War I. It was a new kind of war in Europe, as devastating in its killing as the American Civil War had been a half-century before.

It was called the war to end war, for reasons that aren't clear to me, although they probably had to do with the mindset before the war among many Europeans: things were pretty good, and that wasn't likely to change.

Of course, the peace of Versailles only set the stage for World War II, two decades later.

It's hard to see the direction, let alone the eventual outcome, of events when you're in the middle of them. I'm reading Tony Judt's Postwar . So far I'm up to the 1950s and 1960s. Europe was developing some of the structures that really would end their internal wars, but it didn't look like it at the time. Britain hung back, and France was determined to do as it would. Everyone expected a World War III.

Whereas, in 1910, the interwoven treaties that were supposed to assure peace actually helped to bring about the wars of the twentieth century, the intentions of the fifties to end European wars went in the right direction, assisted by the earlier mistakes of the century.

The United States has escaped that sort of devastation on its own territory since the Civil War. So it's easy to come to a lot of conclusions that aren't supported by other countries' existence. And easy to say that we're different, it's different this time. Which the recent economic disaster should have taught us about.

Humility and balancing history's lessons with the need to innovate ended the twentieth century European wars. We could use a bit of that in America now.

Steve Hynd and Tom Levenson and the Balloon Juice commenters give us some of the traditional poetry for remembering the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.


Anonymous said...

"...a decade later" ??

Am I missing something?

Since when did WW2 start in 1928?

Cheryl Rofer said...

Fixed! Thank you!