the start of the end?

Could the Great War have been the start of the end for humanity?

“As the clock struck eleven in the morning, give or take a few minutes, the stillness was deafening, and the guns stopped firing. Everything seemed as if it had stopped, even the earth on its axis. What a sorrowful, dead silence! A maddening silence. It did not seem right. The silence was worse than the noise of battle.”

World War I veteran Daniel Morgan recalled.

On November 11, 1918, the war machinery of Europe came to a grinding halt. Yet, for many soldiers, the silence was not accompanied by jubilation. The haunting memories of death, disfigured bodies, and anguished cries would linger, a constant reminder of the horrors they had witnessed.

In contrast, cities like London and Paris erupted into joyous chaos as the 11th hour tolled. Strangers exchanged embraces, and couples twirled in the streets, as the weight of years of hardship and sacrifice was lifted by the euphoria of peace.

Even the vanquished Germans found solace in the abdication of the Kaiser, rejoicing at the end of their leadership’s belligerence.

“We are finally free from our warmongers!” they thought.

However, few anticipated the bitter consequences of their defeat, which would soon unfold.

the aftermath

The aftermath of the war brought about a seismic shift in the global landscape. The European map was redrawn, with Germany losing its overseas colonies and parts of its own territory. The Kaiser’s throne was vacant, and the once-mighty Austria-Hungary was fragmented into smaller pieces. The Hapsburg dynasty’s reign came to an end, and its ally, the Ottoman Empire, was left powerless.

Russia, meanwhile, underwent a revolution that gave birth to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a new force that would soon become a major player on the world stage. The devastating consequences of the war were evident across Europe, where the graves of over 9 million soldiers and 12 million civilians formed a sombre backdrop.

The Spanish flu pandemic that followed only added to the death toll, claiming millions more lives.

The fulfilment of Revelation’s prophecy about war being followed by a deadly plague (Revelation 6:4, 8) left Bible scholars in awe. Others, however, looked forward to the prospect of a world without war. However, as A Political and Cultural History of Modern Europe notes, the armistice marked not the beginning of a utopian era but the end of one era and the start of another.

The World War had brought about a new Europe and a new world order, characterised by significant political, economic, and intellectual changes.

But what would this new world look like?

attempts at peace

In the final months of World War I, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson unveiled a revolutionary blueprint for global peace, known as the “Fourteen Points,” on January 8, 1918. Wilson’s vision was to usher in a new era of national sovereignty, free from the shackles of imperialism and safeguarded by a collective international body, the League of Nations.

This groundbreaking document laid the groundwork for the Versailles Peace Conference, which convened on January 18, 1919. However, the Allied victors had their own notions of peace, driven by a desire for retribution against Germany.

Versailles Peace Conference

The resulting Treaty of Versailles imposed crippling reparations and stringent restrictions on Germany, aiming to permanently undermine its global influence. The German people seethed with resentment, biding their time to settle scores with Europe.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s League of Nations concept gained traction, although neither the United States nor Germany were among its initial 42 member states. As historian Gerhard Schulz observed, the League ultimately fell short of its ideals, creating a persisting rift between former belligerents. Rather than fostering immediate peace, it merely perpetuated the war’s animosities, giving rise to a new era of enmity.

The League’s ineffectiveness was swiftly exposed. In 1935, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, which was fully conquered by May 1936, demonstrated the organisation’s powerlessness to prevent aggression. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War further highlighted its impotence.

The ultimate failure of the League was capped by the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

From the ruins of this global conflict, the United Nations emerged, its name in stark contrast to the prevailing state of international relations.

Unfortunately, this new entity has also proven itself grossly inadequate in maintaining peace.

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