Editorial Exchange: The Great War to End No Wars

By Record, Waterloo Region | The Canadian Press, August 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Editorial Exchange: The Great War to End No Wars


Record, Waterloo Region, The Canadian Press


Editorial Exchange: The great war to end no wars

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An editorial from the Waterloo Region Record, published Aug. 2:

Why have we still not learned the lessons so painfully, and long ago, taught by the First World War?

A full century has passed since the great European powers embarked on a four-year slaughter that incinerated much of their continent and dragged large swaths of the so-called civilized world into their inferno.

Among the hapless bystanders sucked into this cauldron were the 7.8 million residents of Canada who, on the warm, summer's day of Aug. 4, 1914, discovered an act of the British Parliament had put them at war, despite the thousands of kilometres of ocean separating this country from the conflict and despite the fact that no enemy army lurked at our borders. Many Canadians, by the way, were delighted with the news and hoped only that our soldiers might win glory before it was all over by that Christmas.

Thousands of books have been written since then about what we initially called the Great War, and then referred to either with the adjective "First" or the number "One" because of the even greater, though related, bloodletting that followed it two decades later.

Thousands of historians have placed the events of 1914-1918 under an academic magnifying glass in an attempt to isolate the peculiar viral strains of human greed, stupidity, pride and cruelty that infected the world in a pandemic of destruction. Millions of high school and university students have attended the lectures, read the tomes, written the exams and received at least passing grades on the subject.

Brilliant artists, musicians and writers have poignantly conveyed the tragedy of these years. We have wept reading the tale of one young life cut short in the trenches. We have reeled at the incomprehensible numbers felled by bullets, bayonets, poison gas or artillery shells. As many as 16 million people perished in this war, though the exact number can never be known.

New international institutions have been created, new international laws written with the express purpose of avoiding a similar large-scale conflict. And each year the leaders and citizens of former combatant nations pause to solemnly remember the carnage, and whisper sincerely though impotently, "Never again."

And yet there is no one, not the greatest rhetorician, most grandiloquent attorney or most passionate politician, who could mount a convincing case today that humanity has learned from the errors of its grandparents and great-grandparents well enough to avoid repeating them. …

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