Editor‘s note: This column was supposed to be published last Thursday, the 11th, but got pushed aside by travel and work outside TPOL. Our apologies for the delay, but we think you will still find this worth reading and thinking about.
It was the “War to End Wars” that set the stage for nearly a century of some of the most brutal and certainly most destructive wars in the history of mankind. Millions lay dead: civilian as well as military, in four years of bloody conflict: millions more maimed and crippled or mentally damaged for life. Trillions of dollars (in today’s money) squandered, in weapons and supplies of war and destruction of so much.
It was fought “for democracy” although most of the Allies fighting that war were empires – and one was still thought of as a “republic” at the time. (The United States had already gutted the federal republic it constituted (at least on paper) nearly a century and a half earlier, by the combination of the Federal Reserve Act, direct election of Senators, and the massive ramp-up of the alphabet bureaucracy under the progressive direction of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson.) And yes, though France was a “republic” it was STILL an empire: much of Africa and Southeast Asia was ruled from Paris. The Brits and Russkies were both overt empires, as was later entry Japan. And even tiny Belgium was an imperial power.
It was the American government and American people being railroaded into violating what had once been sacred principles. Americans (and their government and big corporations) sticking their noses into a lot of other people’s business on the most flimsy of excuses. Admittedly, sucked into this by a propaganda operation that Lenin, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, and Franco envied and used as a model for their own efforts.
It was a war which was indeed “the health of the state” and which ensured and secured the rise of the second American fascism. (I count Honest Abe as the bringer of the first, together with the Radical Republicans.) Wilson, like his regime’s actions, was and still is the model of a popularly-elected tyrannical, de-facto-socialist “progressive” ruler.
But the real horrific legacy of the War to End All Wars (another propaganda slogan and concept that reaped much for its proclaimers)? Setting in motion not just the century of wars to follow, but the well-trod path to serfdom. Not just an encouragement to create totalitarian government, but providing a whole set of mechanisms that let government achieve levels of control not seen since perhaps some of the most despised and shocking of Egyptian and Roman despots in ancient times, or the most corrupt and intolerable regimes of Arab and Ottoman Muslim rulers in all their opulent glory.
Worse, it came at a time of rapid technological advance: the great industrial age which engulfed the entire planet. Rome, China, the Caliphs, though ruling large expanses of land and people, were nowhere close to world-spanning. But after the Great War, the system of incredibly powerful governments did nearly blanket the globe. We had the Iberian legacy of Latin America, the British Raj, the partition of Africa, the expanding Japanese Empire, the Chinese “republic” and the rising power of Red Russia.
But the impact on the great powers of the era was significant and disheartening to lovers of liberty.
In Britain, the legacy of George V (Windsor), Herbert Henry Asquith, and David Lloyd George gave us not just the totalitarian government of Winston Churchill, but the even greater threat to liberty of Labour and Clement Attlee and subsequent prime ministers as the monarchy abandoned its true responsibilities completely.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Wilson’s efforts were a foundation on which Franklin Roosevelt stretched out and sacrificed the American public to the god of supreme government, athough the technocrat Herbert Hoover assisted in destroying prosperity and setting the stage for FDR’s elected dictatorship, as fascist in its way as the elected dictatorships of Benito and Adolf.
Evil as Lenin, Stalin, and Franco were – they cannot be blamed for “subverting” democracy. But of course, the destiny of the other victors and losers of the Great War was as painful as the UK and the US. Even if there had NOT been the even more insane bloodletting of World War Two in their future, WW1 led directly to Communism’s 80-year reign of terror in Russia, its satellites and more; to the duodecennial of the Dritte Reich, the two decades of Italian Fascism, and the nearly four decades of Falangism (Francoism) in Spain – and more.
And nearly-directly to the current conditions in Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and more.
We must also consider that it was the insanity of the Great War that gave the world the modern Middle East, with its arbitrary boundaries and everything else.
Can the world dare let the memory of the Great War fade? And the lessons which SHOULD have been learned from it and the events of this last century continue to be ignored? Forgetting and ignoring these things will lead only to more of the same.
Especially since perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned is that – however evil individuals and small groups of people can be and behave – it takes government to REALLY reject anything good.
Let me wax religiously and philosophically for a moment. In a sense, evil does not exist any more than darkness does: as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good. Government destroys good. It did 103 years ago, and it does today.