Today is Veteran’s Day in the US, Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth countries. In earlier times, today was known as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the Armistice which ended fighting in the First World War, at 11:00 AM Paris time, November 11, 1918 — 95 years ago today.
I don’t have much to say on the occassion, but I will direct your attention to this 2010 post by John Quiggin at Crooked Timber.
Please do read the whole thing; an excerpt appears below (emphasis added):
The Great War cost the lives of 15 million soldiers and civilians, with another 20 million wounded, many maimed for life, by bullets, high explosive and poison gas. Far from being a war to end war, it brought forth the horrors of Nazism and Bolshevism and paved the way for World War II, and for the long series of conflicts that were collectively called the Cold War.
The consequences of the Great War are easy to see, and some are still with us…. The causes, on the other hand, are obscure to the point of invisibility. The spark that set off the war was the assassination of an Austrian archduke. At a marginally deeper level, the rush to war reflected simmering disputes between the European state over colonial possessions, economic rivalry and the like.
More fundamentally, though the cause of the War was a belief in war itself. Political and military leaders, along with the mass of the population, believed that countries could, and should, advance their interests through military force.
A few years before the outbreak of war, British writer Norman Angell had demolished this idea, in a book called The Great Illusion. Angell pointedg out that, in a modern economy, an expansion of national territory through war can provide no significant benefit to the citizens of the ‘victorious’ country, any more than New South Wales would benefit if it could annex Queensland. Any attempt to profit from military victory by confiscating the wealth of the conquered will cause economic damage to the country pursuing such a path, and such damage will far outweigh the temporary benefits of plunder.
Subsequent writers have suggested that Angell’s argument that militarism had become obsolete was refuted by the outbreak of war. But in reality, the whole history of the 20th century demonstrates Angell’s points. The great empires that went to war in 1914 had mostly been destroyed by the time the war ended.
Thanks to all our veterans, and Happy Armistice Day.
Image Credit: Photo by Christian Pagenkopf, June 2007, and used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.