What Have We Learned from the Great War?

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The Great War, also known as World War I, started 100 years ago in August, 1914, as all major European players mobilized for war. The principle players, France, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey all sent their armies against each other in he belief the war would be over in a matter of months. They totally miscalculated that the war would last four years and leave 16 million dead (not counting civilians) and well over 20 million wounded—many maimed for life.. The war went on and on simply because the belligerents did not want to give up despite the enormous casualties and widespread destruction being wrought over the whole of Europe and other parts of the world. Only the intervention of the United States on the side of France, Great Britain and Italy ended the war. It was a war that left too many wounds and too many bitter feelings among so many countries all over the world. This in the end led to the next world war, and beyond that countless little wars.

Far from being the “war to end all wars,” the Great War became the first to start the countless little wars with all the same deadly weapons (minus nuclear weapons of course) that are used by so many countless armies and rebel armies all over the world today—the tank, the machine gun, chemical weapons (in a number of cases), the submarine, and the airplane. In too many ways the Great War was the preparation for modern guerrilla war (the well-known German General Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck led a force of 3,000 Germans and 11,000 Africans in German East Africa in a hit-and-run war against 300,000 British and Indian soldiers), and also for the modern atrocities that would occur throughout the 20th Century (the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turks). Perhaps the only thing that can be said to be a positive is that wars as a rule have gotten smaller (the next world war is obviously an exception).

The Great War tore the old order apart in Europe, and would eventually be the catalyst for the end of European imperialism, the end of colonial rule for much of the rest of the world then dominated primarily by the European powers, and ironically a Europe that would be more at peace with itself than at almost any time in its long history. The war was the beginning of the United States playing a major role on the world stage, and would eventually lead to the rise of modern Asia. But probably the greatest lesson in all this is how the world should avoid as large and as catastrophic a war as the Great War was.

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