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A Century Later, the Versailles Treaty Still Haunts Our World

January 17, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

A century ago, the peace conference convened that drafted the
Versailles Treaty. It was a time of hope. World War I, then
variously called the Great War, the War to End War, and the War for
Democracy, had mercifully ended. The worst conflict in modern
history had yielded mass death, destruction, and chaos. Now a new
world would be built.

Unfortunately, we are still living and suffering in that world.
Today’s social engineers are pikers compared to the
sanctimonious, hypocritical megalomaniacs who in early 1919 sought
to reorder the globe to their fantasies. In doing so, they planted
the seeds of World War II a generation later, as well as
innumerable smaller conflicts in succeeding decades. Their legacy
warns us against the modern Sirens who insist that America’s
responsibility is to reorder the world, enforced by constant war if
necessary.

On June 28, 1914, Serbian Gavrilo Princip, armed by nationalist
government officials, fired what may been the two most
consequential gunshots in history, when he assassinated the heir
apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne on the streets of Sarajevo
in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Princip thereby loosed Europe’s many
fears, hatreds, ambitions, and fantasies, and within weeks armies
were on the march. Eventually, more distant nations, most notably
the U.S. and Japan, joined in. Princip did not survive the war,
dying of tuberculosis in prison, but his handiwork left at least 20
million people dead, four ancient empires in ruins, widespread
economic destruction, mass social dislocation, multiple violent
revolutionary movements active and dangerous, and conflict still
raging in Europe’s east, across Russia, and throughout the
Caucasus and Middle East.

It was supposed to end
World War I and usher in a new era of peace. Instead it nearly
broke the West.

On January 18, 1919, the allies gathered in Paris—though
the treaty would be signed in June at the Versailles palace, most
of the negotiations took place in the French foreign
ministry’s more mundane surroundings. French Prime Minister
Georges Clemenceau, a tough, ruthless nationalist who bore much of
the credit for his nation’s victory, admitted, “Making
peace is harder than waging war.” In contrast to the
aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the losers were excluded. In
fact, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire had ceased to exist
and the Hohenzollern monarchy had been extinguished. The
representatives of their democratic successor states, most
importantly Germany, were to be dictated to rather than reasoned
with.

The story of the succeeding five months has been told in
excruciating detail. The “Big Four”—Clemenceau,
Italy’s Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, Great
Britain’s Prime Minster David Lloyd George, and
America’s President Woodrow Wilson—dominated the
proceedings. Wilson refashioned the war as a crusade, and many
around the world looked …read more

Source: OP-EDS