Thursday, April 6, 2017

100 Years of War

100 years ago today, on April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on the German Empire, throwing itself into a European conflict (World War I) that need never have begun. But, having begun, what were needed were courageous statesmen to end it, rather than expand it as Woodrow Wilson disastrously did. This year is, of course, also the centenary of the Russian Revolution, one of many catastrophic consequences of World War I and surely one of the most disastrous over the long term. World War I did not just lead to a second World War and the Cold War, it essentially started a century of wars, revolutions, and unimaginable human dislocation and cultural disruption.

The tragedy that was the 20th century (continuing into the 21st) has been a convincing counter-lesson to the previous century's optimistic assessment of human possibilities. It decisively disproved the myth of inevitable human progress and the false view that the progressive secularization of society represents the "right side of  history." But what a price humanity has had to pay for these revelations that really ought always to have been self-evident!

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