Magazine article The Spectator

A Necessary Horror

Magazine article The Spectator

A Necessary Horror

Article excerpt

From James Strachan Sir: It is difficult to respond briefly to Jane Kelly (Letters, 4 February), particularly as we can all sympathise with her feelings of horror at the cataclysm of war, especially the first world war.

The main motor of the war was the desire of the German government, an autocracy, to dominate the continent of Europe and to extend its empire. That is why the Germans built an army that they thought strong enough to beat both the French and the Russians, and a navy that they hoped would be strong enough to beat, or at least to deter, the British. When they went to war, both their army and their navy failed. But the war had to continue, at great human cost for both sides, for another four years until the Germans were defeated.

From the point of view of the Allies, this was a defensive war, a war to resist aggression. The tragedy of a defensive war is that you are fighting and suffering to keep things the way they are. When you win, and they stay as they were, you may well wonder whether the tragedy was necessary. To find out why the Allies thought it necessary to fight on, you need to look at the impositions that the Germans made on Belgium and occupied France and at the peace terms imposed on Russia at Brest-Litovsk in 1918. …

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