A Cruel and Unmanly Business
The fire roared on till it burned itself out. Events passed largely outside the scope of conscious choice. Governments and individuals conformed to the rhythm of the tragedy, and swayed and staggered forward in helpless violence, slaughtering and squandering on ever increasing scales, till injuries were wrought to the structure of human society which a century will not efface, and which may conceivably prove fatal to the present civilization.
-- Winston Churchill, The World Crisis ( 1929).
The Great War is a conflict steeped in irony, paradox, and contradiction. For people trying to understand how and why America cast off its traditional isolationism and joined the ranks of the belligerents, the diplomatic struggle between Wilson and the German government over unrestricted submarine warfare is, upon reflection, the most delicious irony of them all. Before the First World War, most naval experts saw no important role for the weakly armed and vulnerable novelty weap-