Reflection on Armistice Day — One War Ended by Planting Seeds for Another — What Is Not so Different Now

© 2014 Peter Free


10 November 2014



A bench for reflection — on the nature and causes of war


Photograph of Memorial du Mardassons, Mardassons Memorial, Battle of Bulge memorial by Pete Free for his article on Armistice Day.


This photograph is of Belgium’s memorial to the Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945).


The Mémorial du Mardasson’s geographic proximity to World War I’s battle grounds invites us to contemplate why the First World War was followed so quickly by the Second.



Europe’s 11 November Armistice Day


In some of Europe, Armistice Day commemorates the end of World War I. Significant to my theme, the Entente Powers’ (Allies) subsequently imposed Treaty of Versailles required that Germany accept unilateral guilt for beginning the conflict. This was not an accurate representation of fault, and the condition grated on the Germans.


One can reasonably argue that the unfair apportionment of responsibility — along with its forced demilitarization and onerous financial penalties — significantly encouraged blooming the seeds of murderous nationalism that turned Germany into a legitimate villain by 1939.


Nasty-minded retribution from the victors of World War I eventually created the very enemy they feared.



Why should we care?


The United States has been doing essentially the same thing with regard to Islamic extremism and Russian expansionism.


Our policy of murderously militarizing everything to do with terrorism essentially forces non-radical Muslims in affected regions to transform themselves into implacable foes. Unnuanced imposition of total blame on the Russian Federation for its Crimean/Ukrainian invasion aggravates equal feelings of resentment.



The outcome of these two processes will predictably not be much different than that which resulted from the loss of reasonable perspective at Versailles. We are seeding messy retributions down the road.



The moral? — Most commemoration days originally had purpose


And most of us ignore the potential lessons that go with them. This Veterans Day, it would serve us to reflect on the meaning of Europe’s same-dated Armistice Day and what happened afterward.


Self-righteous stupidity, xenophobia, and unreasoning militarism are our most dangerous enemies. Looking outward for them misses the spiritual and geopolitical points.