If You Wish for Peace, Prepare for War

Spectators at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles

“You will be home before the leaves fall from the tree” were the fateful but hopeful words which echoed in every German soldier’s ears when they departed to the front to defend and fight for the glory of their ever proud Fatherland. The commoners who were to face the worst and most brutal phase of the war had little clue of what really led to the greatest showdown mankind was to ever witness till then, when the World War was officially declared which was signalled to the ignorant masses when the church bells rang fervently and continuously at an uncommon time all over the warring nations.

The story of the events which led to the ‘Great War’ is one that of arrogance, ignorance, vengeance and wasted opportunities for peace. ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ translated as ‘If you wish for peace, prepare for war’, an old Roman maxim was a common saying in Europe as diplomatic tensions simmered and war clouds gathered unceasingly throughout the years leading to the war in 1914. The First World War was suddenly caricatured as a war to end all wars for it was believed that this all-encompassing War will prove to be too costly for a nation to fancy or undertake a major offensive in the future.

Prescient generals and politicians had foreseen German defeat as early as 1917 and a minority among them vaguely pursued for a face saving peace. The Allies were taken by surprise when the new Soviet Russia signed a peace treaty with Germany to end the war on the Eastern Front thus enabling the Germans to wage an aggressive offensive in the west and their fears were realized when the German Spring offensive started in late March with the biggest artillery barrage of the entire war outflanking and piercing the Allied defensive lines by the new shock troops tactics which ended years of trench warfare stalemate.The Germans had realized that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and material resources of the United States could be fully deployed. They also had the temporary advantage in numbers afforded by the nearly 50 divisions which had been freed by the Russian withdrawal from the war. The Storm Troopers advanced at an astonishing pace and again reached the gates of Paris at the river Marne once more after 1914. People of Paris expecting a repeat of 1871, already began leaving Paris in droves expecting a German takeover of Paris in days or even hours to come but soon to Supreme Army Command’s dismay, the German war machine ran out of steam as casualties mounted and supplies failed to reach the front-lines grinding offensive to a halt. The Allies with seemingly inexhaustible supply of men and material launched an all out counter offensive which broke the already depleted and demotivated German Army.

The German High Command privately accepted the inevitability of the impending defeat and sued for peace. Quarter Master General Erich Ludendorff called for a quick ceasefire as revolts and food riots erupted all over Germany. The peace envoys from Germany came in three automobiles that were taken through the charred battlefields of the war scarred by shell craters and stench from rotting bodies. The envoys then boarded a railway carriage which once belonged to the French Emperor Napoleon III who was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War and forced to sign the peace Treaty of Frankfurt

Having promised a seamless victory to a nation never given any reason to contemplate defeat, the Army High Command was reluctant to sign the peace treaty as they feared severe backlash at home. American President’s demands that he will never negotiate with the Kaiser or the Army came as a boon to them and they were exonerated from the responsibility of signing the humiliating and harsh peace treaty put forward by the Allies. As the military expected, the new civilian government who were threatened and compelled by the Allied forces to sign the treaty became ‘November Criminals’ in the eyes of the public and became hugely unpopular from the start.

By war’s end a third of the German male population has been killed, maimed or incapacitated by injury or illness putting six hundred thousand widows on the government payroll. A total of 16 million people died in the war. An entire generation of young men was wiped away. In 1919, sex ratio widened so much that there were 15 women for every man between the ages of 18 to 30. Women began assuming jobs traditionally done by men. A whole generation of men who fought the war lived with post war traumas which they could never forget ever again in their life time. What a common man stood to gain from this great conflict of human interest was very little comparing to what he stood to lose. The end of two World Wars has brought considerable changes in political and social attitudes among which European Union and United Nations are the biggest achievements. The end of the Great War had wide reaching consequences all around the world from Sykes-Picot agreement and Balfour declaration which continues to plague the Middle East to the spread of Communist and Independence movements in the East and West alike.

The remnants of the great war still continues to scar the beautiful landscapes of Europe to this day with a stark warning to the posterity about the futility and horrors of war. Even when the countries all around the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Armistice Day and lay wreaths and pay obeisance to the graves of the unknown soldiers, the lessons learned from the World Wars seems to be often forgotten or suppressed by the weakness of our memory or the present generations emotional and physical disconnect to the war. In the age of Trump where nationalist and Populist governments are once again taking the center stage of world politics, this infamous event’s commemoration stands to remind people that they are less likely to survive another war like this if the present and ever growing Populist governments whom they have willfully elected ever decides to wage another war like this.

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I am a Mechatronics Engineer. I am interested in constructive Politics, Revisionist History, Photography, Technology, Behavioral Economics etc. Bibliophile.

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Jacob Markose

Jacob Markose

I am a Mechatronics Engineer. I am interested in constructive Politics, Revisionist History, Photography, Technology, Behavioral Economics etc. Bibliophile.

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