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The end of war.
April 18, 2009 2:49 PM   Subscribe


 
newsflash:
post to metafilter revives interest in additional sequel. newest version promises to be bigger and more spectacular than number 2. mblue considered best instigator since princip.

(seriously, awesome pics. thanks for sharing with us.)
posted by the aloha at 3:05 PM on April 18, 2009


I've been Verdun, and inside the Fort.

This is without a doubt one of those places I will always remember. The idea that behind that wall the bodies of those soldiers still remain... Behind that wall, the war is still there. That was a strange place to be.

I remember that inside Fort Douaumont, there are many rooms outside the guided tours that you can still visit. Those rooms aren't lit and don't have information plaques. When the tour passes by, and you're alone in a room like that... very unnerving.
posted by Harry at 3:17 PM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that the Flickr page hosts a union jack in the heading, when Verdun was a French and German battle.
posted by mattoxic at 4:28 PM on April 18, 2009


See also for Petain.

On a related note, David DeJonge has a series of photographs of surviving (American) WWI veterans. Well, some died in the past year, but that's hardly surprising, is it?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:29 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"...was thought to be the end of war."

By whom, exactly?
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:40 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


the 20th Century War guy on youtube has some excellent war series (not content from the History Channel so they don't suck).

Film from the era lacked sound recording so the sounds are foley work; I found this LiveLeak video (wait for a minute for the US shells to come in) to give a surprisingly realistic impression of what it's like to be shelled.

I believe the incoming rounds are 105mm mortar but it could be howitzer, I've never heard a howizter fire IRL so I don't know how they sound downrange.
posted by mrt at 4:40 PM on April 18, 2009


By whom, exactly?

Yngwie Malmsteen
posted by mattoxic at 4:44 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


By whom, exactly?

Pacifists, socialists, and homosexuals.
posted by mrt at 4:45 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]



The reason I ask is that I've long wondered about this "war to end all wars" business. You hear it often enough, but who said it and what did it mean? If I had to guess, I'd say it was more of a political slogan than a statement of fact. That is, it meant "we really shouldn't do this again" not "this isn't going to happen again, ever, no matter what." So I doubt that anyone really thought WWI would be "the end of war," though some people *hoped* it would be the beginning of the end of war.
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:56 PM on April 18, 2009


From my link above:

"The justification urged for the last war was that it was a war to end war. If that were untrue it was a dastardly lie; if it were true, what justification is there for opposition to this motion tonight?"
posted by mrt at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2009


The Manchester Guardian responded differently: "The obvious meaning of this resolution [is] youth's deep disgust with the way in which past wars for 'King and Country' have been made, and in which, they suspect, future wars may be made; disgust at the national hypocrisy which can fling over the timidities and follies of politicians, over base greeds and communal jealousies and jobbery, the cloak of an emotional symbol they did not deserve".

There's a quote for the ages.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:00 PM on April 18, 2009


"The justification urged for the last war was that it was a war to end war."

I see what you mean, but that just restates the proposition and again raises the question: "urged" by whom? Did anyone actually say (and believe) "let's go to war because if we do there won't be any more wars?" Doesn't seem very likely to me.
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:08 PM on April 18, 2009


Did anyone actually say (and believe) "let's go to war because if we do there won't be any more wars?"

Not to begin with, but when the original casus belli doesn't measure up to the numbers of peopel killed, well, you have to come up with something better.

Think of the American Civil War- it didn't start out as a slave freeing binge, not for the man in the street or even Lincoln, but after you kill off a few hundred thousand youths, you better find a pretty damn good moral justification. What better than to End All War?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:22 PM on April 18, 2009


Yeah, it's just like the way that Jews say "never again." Silly empty political slogan.
posted by XMLicious at 5:48 PM on April 18, 2009


Now, young Willie McBride, I can't help wonder why
If those who lie here know why they have died
Did they believe when they answered the call?
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
posted by Flunkie at 6:10 PM on April 18, 2009


Re: "War to end all wars".

I've heard it attributed to Woodrow Wilson, though I don't know if I believe that. I've also heard it attributed to H.G. Wells (who wrote "The War That Will End War" in 1914) & Kipling. It sounds very Kipling-ish...

Lloyd George, British PM, said on the signing of the armistice "At eleven o’clock this morning came to an end the cruellest and most terrible War that has ever scourged mankind. I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars."

(On preview: it's definitely not Eric Bogle.)
posted by Pinback at 6:18 PM on April 18, 2009


Did anyone actually say (and believe) "let's go to war because if we do there won't be any more wars?" Doesn't seem very likely to me.

"Making the world safe for Democracy"

It's a good question. I don't have the sources or the knowledge to know how much "war to end all wars" was wartime reaction/propaganda and postwar recoil at the carnage.

The war was sold to the American people by the East Coast elite much like the Vietnam intervention was 50 years later, however. Seems to be a very profitable line of research to resolve this question.
posted by mrt at 6:24 PM on April 18, 2009


A German military attache at the conclusion of the Versailles process had something else to say:

"See you in 20 years".
posted by mrt at 6:26 PM on April 18, 2009


(I wasn't saying it was Eric Bogle.)
posted by Flunkie at 6:31 PM on April 18, 2009


Falkenheim suggested a new tactic to the Kaiser: a war of attrition...The plan was to bleed France white.

FUCK THAT GUY.
posted by metastability at 6:37 PM on April 18, 2009


previously
posted by shockingbluamp at 6:50 PM on April 18, 2009



The war was sold to the American people by the East Coast elite much like the Vietnam intervention was 50 years later, however. Seems to be a very profitable line of research to resolve this question.


The American people were lucking to have the luxury of the war being sold to them, rather than being wrapped up in the hype of empire- otherwise they would have been in it from the start, and fought under the inept leadership that wasted so many lives.
posted by mattoxic at 7:11 PM on April 18, 2009


I was kind of snippy above. I really do think that a great deal of the retrospective on WWI, and the remembrance of it as "The War to End All Wars", was because of the horror that 16 million people died, tens of millions more were crippled by things like breathing acid, and all of Europe was cast into ruins, all because of trigger-happy jingoistic governments over a completely stupid root cause, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by terrorists not associated with any of those national parties.

But although I don't consider that specific phrase manipulative it certainly should be remembered that WWI marked the first major intentional manipulation of a democracy into warfare by propaganda with the entry of the United States after years of hijacked public debate over it. Creel and Bernays and the other members of the "Committee on Public Information" (an official apparatus of the U.S. government) genuinely believed that the public needed to be led by the nose into doing what smart guys like knew was the best thing for everyone to do, and if some deception was necessary for that so be it.

The Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany weren't the only places Orwell got inspiration for Nineteen Eighty-Four. Bernays in particular was a scary character, at least in terms of free thought; the nephew of Sigmund Freud, he is now considered the father of PR.
It might be better to have, instead of propaganda and special pleading, committees of wise men who would choose our rulers, dictate our conduct, private and public, and decide upon the best types of clothes for us to wear and the best kinds of food for us to eat. But we have chosen the opposite method, that of open competition. We must find a way to make free competition function with reasonable smoothness. To achieve this society has consented to permit free competition to be organized by leadership and propaganda.

                                         — Edward Louis Bernays, Propaganda
posted by XMLicious at 7:16 PM on April 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


That oughta be "…what smart guys like them knew was the best thing…"
posted by XMLicious at 7:31 PM on April 18, 2009


One thing the Flickr set doesn't really convey is the extent to which you can still see the effects of the shelling on the landscape. I went to Verdun last year, and even now there are plenty of places where you can see the shellholes. (NB: those links are to my girlfriend's photos from our trip.) There are also several destroyed villages inside the boundaries of the battlefield, which I didn't know until we got there. At one point during our visit, we turned around at a monument, and I happened to look into the forest. Something looked off about the landscape, and it took me a moment to realize that we were looking at the remains of a tiny little town. Very eerie.

And Harry, I know exactly what you mean; while we didn't go into Douaumont, visiting the Tranchée des Baïonettes evoked a similar feeling.
posted by asterix at 7:55 PM on April 18, 2009


Think of the American Civil War- it didn't start out as a slave freeing binge, not for the man in the street or even Lincoln

Yes, it did -- well not to free the slaves, but the clear, stated reason the Confederate states attempt secession was to keep slavery.

Period. End of statement. Don't believe me? Go read the actual motions of secession the various slave states passed.

The US Civil War was started for one reason -- to keep slavery legal.
posted by eriko at 7:56 PM on April 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


By whom, exactly?


The Human race
posted by joelf at 9:34 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did anyone actually say (and believe) "let's go to war because if we do there won't be any more wars?"

This way of thinking emerged towards the end, and after, the war.

The scale of the killing (a million at Verdun alone) combined with the brutality of the technology (poison gas was the original WMD) and the "new" idea of "total war" (the sinking of the Lusitania and the mobilization of entire populations to produce armaments had not been experienced in living memory, although the Napoleanic Wars memory came close), plus the destruction of an entire political order (there was a Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and there was nearly a revolution in Germany, plus the French army mutinees)... all this was something new.

People genuinely thought that the "great powers" of Europe would never go to war again, that everyone had learned from the mistake of this awful war. The people who thought this were politicians, the intelligentsia and literati who made up the press, and ordinary folks... in Britain and the US.

I suspect the Germans had other things on their mind during Weimar.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:42 PM on April 18, 2009


Verdun was such an unfortunate collision of classical infantry strategies with mass production and industrialization. God rest their souls.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:59 PM on April 18, 2009


As it happens, I'm reading Dos Passos' Nineteen Nineteen, the second book of his USA trilogy. If you want to get an idea how Americans felt about the war, and how it was sold to them, they're worth reading.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:17 AM on April 19, 2009


On a related note, David DeJonge has a series of photographs of surviving (American) WWI veterans. Well, some died in the past year, but that's hardly surprising, is it?
posted by IndigoJones at 7:29 PM on April 18 [+] [!]


Here's another look at
Frank Buckles,
who can be seen in some of the stills mentioned above. Buckles is the last remaining American World War I vet.
posted by etaoin at 4:52 AM on April 19, 2009


One explanation to the "end of wars" quote can be taken from Karl Kraus' The Last Days Of Mankind, which unfortunatly still isn't fully translated into english after nearly 100 years.
"While politicians and generals celebrate the victory over the enemy, their profits, and the alliance with God, out in the world, the writer, still grumbling, witnesses the butchering of mankind and the defeat of civilization:

Why was I not given the mental power to force an outcry out of desecrated mankind? Why is my shout of protest not stronger than this tinny command that has dominion over the souls of a whole globe?

Like a madmen, he speaks to the dead: "They wanted you to stay alive, for they had not yet stolen enough on their stock exchanges, had not yet lied enough in their newspapers, had not yet harassed people enough in their governmental offices, had not yet sufficiently whipped mankind into confusion, had not yet sufficiently made the war the excuse, in all their doings and circumstances, for their ineffectuality and their maliciousness-they had not yet danced this whole tragic carnival through to its end…. "
posted by kolophon at 7:17 AM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


erico,

The Union did not go to war to free slaves. It went to war to preserve the country as a whole, at best it was some distant ancillary goal. Yes, the war happened because of slavery, but it wasn't until later that the cause of emancipating the slaves became a major rallying cry for why the war should be fought. You are correct that preserving slavery was a rallying cry for the South, though.

Back on topic, I'm extremely fortunate that the war ended when it did. At the time, my great-grandfather, a newly married young farmer from the mountains of Southern Appalachia was only days away from being sent to the front. If November 11th had never happened, a single shell or bullet combined with unfortunate circumstance could have ended my existence some sixty-one years before it even began. Even with the war over, the army made him stay a year in France guarding prisoners, so I'm sure he had the chance to tour the shattered landscapes. To this day, we still have his uniform, letters he wrote home (scanned, but not deciphered - shame on me), and some interesting war memorabilia including a pamphlet warning about STDs that uses some amusing turn of the language.

One can only wonder what was lost in the arts and in the sciences in the death of so many millions, and as an extension, the unknown and impossible to imagine impact of the children that were never born of these men.
posted by Atreides at 7:31 AM on April 19, 2009


Can we refrain hashing the Civil War in this thread which is about a completely different one? Please?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:31 AM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, it did -- well not to free the slaves, but the clear, stated reason the Confederate states attempt secession was to keep slavery.

Period. End of statement. Don't believe me? Go read the actual motions of secession the various slave states passed.


I think you mean the ordinances of secession, which were not declarations of war. In any event, it takes two to tango, and certainly the man in the northern street didn't see slavery as a reason to take up arms.

(Sorry, Kirth. My initial comment was intended as illustrative. No doubt I should have chosen a less volatile example.)
posted by IndigoJones at 10:49 AM on April 19, 2009


Final survivors and more on Frank Buckles.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:12 PM on April 19, 2009


Edward Bernays! Holy shit that man is truly responsible for everything. I'd already learnt from the frequently recommended Century of the Self that he was single handedly responsible for the development of modern advertising techniques as well as the American breakfast of eggs and bacon. Now WWI....
posted by kaspen at 7:03 PM on April 19, 2009


Awesome link kaspen, thanks for it, I hadn't seen that before. I wish I could say that I knew about Bernays because of my thorough study of history and politics or something but I only found out about him and the Creel Committee because a friend who was obsessively reading about Freud (ha!) happened across it all.
posted by XMLicious at 7:29 PM on April 19, 2009


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