Some wars are necessary, but tragic. Others are unnecessary and tragic. The political powers of Europe had reached a certain zenith by July 28, 1914. The old regimes were prosperous, rich in culture and civilization and political liberties were flowering among classes of people who had always been subservient to an old order caste system. Things were good and the 20th century looked promising. There was no reason for England and Germany to fight one another. The reason was a profound misunderstanding of economics and what makes countries rich. Both adhered to a mercantalist economic world, where they viewed the other’s sphere of influences as a threat. Yet 138 years earlier, Adam Smith had written the Wealth of Nations, providing a blueprint for how nations could get along and get “more rich” at the same time. What happened was unncessary and tragic. The British lost their empire which brought order, civilization and prosperity to much of the world. Russia had come out of the darkness, was quickly becoming an economic power and its people had been granted liberties that they still do not even have today. The reparations imposed on Germany led to economic collapse and bitterness. The 1917 Revolution would not have occurred, but for the War and perhaps upwards of 100 million lives would have been spared the evils of Marxism. The trench warfare and open frontal assaults of fortified defensive positions led to incredible carnage. England would never be the same. America wanted to retreat from the world. A political vacuum developed which enabled the demonic maniacalism of Hitler and Stalin.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
While we should always remember those who bravely fought and died for their countries, we should always remember and study why we went to war and learn from the lessons of the past, else we will experience unnecessary and great tragedies in the future.
Below are my two grandfathers, James Gordon Smith (Bampoo) and Kenneth Boardman Hanson (Big Ken). Both ordinary citizens, who answered the call, became officers and led men into battle into WWI. Both mourned the loss of their comrades in arms, and I am sure asked themselves, “why me, why am I still here and they are gone?”