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The War That Was Supposed to End All Wars

Libi Astaire

During the summer of 1914, Europe was a powder keg waiting to explode. When Serbia provided the match, war broke out on July 28. Yet as armies throughout Europe began to mobilize, no one dreamed that they were about to embark upon one of the bloodiest and most brutal confrontations in the annals of history — a conflict that would later become known as World War I.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the early years of the 1900s, Europe was the center of the world. Its culture was admired, its economic might and military superiority undisputed. It was against this backdrop of wealth and power that an Englishman named Norman Angell wrote one of the most influential books of the 20th century’s first decade, The Great Illusion, in which he argued that war had become obsolete. Angell was no ivory tower optimist. His job as a journalist based in Paris allowed him to observe European affairs up close — and the ideas he set down in The Great Illusion would garner him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1933. Angell’s main thesis was that the economies of industrialized countries had become so intertwined that war would financially devastate vanquished and victor alike. Therefore, in a world where war no longer paid, armed conflict, while possible, was futile. Instead, he recommended that countries resolve their disputes by logical and peaceful means through the agency of a world court and international law. Angell’s 1910 book was avidly read in Britain, France, and the United States. But the following year Germany had its own bestseller, one with a very different thesis. In his book Germany and the Next War,Friedrichvon Bernhardi, a Prussian general and military historian, argued that war was a biological “necessity”; countries either progressed or decayed, and if they couldn’t expand their sphere of influence through peaceful means, they were required by “natural law” to achieve their aims through armed conflict.

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