Hanson urges a review of the facts of WWI

Victor Davis Hanson explains for National Review Online readers why it’s important to learn the proper lessons from the Great War that started nearly 100 years ago.

This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and we should reflect on the “lessons” we have been taught so often on how to avoid another such devastating conflict. Chief among them seems to be the canard that the Versailles Treaty of 1919 that officially ended the war caused a far worse one just 20 years later — usually in the sense of an unnecessary harshness accorded a defeated Imperial Germany. …

… In truth, by the Germans’ own standards of Diktat, Versailles was not harsh. The problem was not so much its terms per se, but its timing, its language, and the methods of its enforcement. By the time the treaty was accepted by the major parties — over seven months after the cessation of fighting (an armistice rather than an unconditional surrender) in the West — many of the Allied forces in the field had stood down. There was certainly less chance of seriously occupying Germany to ensure enforcement. And while the Allied leaders often talked loudly and harshly about German culpability, they failed to grasp that such tough rhetoric without commensurate consequences would only incite a wounded adversary in ways that a combination of quiet and coercion would not. One of the lessons of the aftermath of World War I is that danger mounts when threats go unenforced, and sermons prove both annoying and empty.

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