One Century On

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.

Flanders Fields

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a hundred years since the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 that saw an end to the Great War. Sadly, too few are taught the impact that it had on our history because, due to the abysmal state of both lower and higher education, few are taught any meaningful history, other than how America invented slavery and what a terrible country it is. But it set the stage for the continued bloodshed and genocide in the twentieth century, and its affect on nations and borders continues to reverberate, particularly in the Middle East.

[Late-afternoon update]

The guns of November:

In sum, the war to end all war itself has not yet ended, and perhaps never will. That it was the wrong war to fight, and fought at the wrong time, is in retrospect clear. A strong Europe consisting of loosely allied but independent nation-states — the original, professed ideal of the European Union, but since drastically perverted — would have been vastly preferable to the destruction and chaos that followed. Instead, it fell to America to tilt the balance of power in 1918, then refight the war in 1941, and finally administer the nearest thing to a global peace the Western world had seen since the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

How long that peace will last is anybody’s guess. For the sad truth of human history is that peace is the aberration and war the natural state of mankind.

Sadly, yes. The biggest flaw of the leftist philosophy is its denial of human nature and the crooked timber from which humanity is hewn. Like liberty, peace requires eternal vigilance. And the notion that we will be able to prevent war off the planet is also hopelessly naive.

[Monday-morning update]

How WW I created big government in America:

…the most profound transformation wrought in America by the Great War was in the nature of government itself. Woodrow Wilson came to the presidency in 1913 as the prince of the Progressives, and he at once began to assemble the scaffolding of a new administrative state through the Federal Reserve Act. His efforts were aided by constitutional amendments to secure the levy of a national income tax, to institute the popular election of U.S. senators, and to impose a national prohibition on alcohol. Entrance into the Great War widened the scope of administrative control, justifying the creation of a Fuel Administration, a Food Administration, a War Labor Policies Board, a War Industries Board, and a Shipping Board, which created an Emergency Fleet Corporation to build dry docks and piers, commandeer privately owned vessels, and even seize enemy ships. That control reached even into the schools: In Philadelphia, the School Mobilization Committee organized 1,300 public and parochial schoolboys as farm workers. The war, complained Randolph Bourne, licensed the Progressive state to become “what in peacetime it has vainly struggled to become — the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men’s businesses and attitudes and opinions.”

The armistice and the debacle of the League of Nations stemmed the onrush of Wilsonian Progressivism but only until a new crisis loomed in the Great Depression, when the Wilsonian banner was taken up again by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR had served in Wilson’s cabinet during the Great War, and his response to the crisis of the Depression was to treat “the task as we would treat the emergency of war.” The administrative state has marched to that beat ever since.

Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst presidents we had — a racist tyrant who hated the Constitution. And emblematic of his political historically terrible party, which continues to be terrible.

[Update a while later]

Lileks reviews an old movie:

The good news: he reduces unemployment, lifts the country out of the Depression, battles gangsters and Congress, and brings about world peace. The bad news: he’s Mussolini.

Unsurprising, given that Mussolini was held in quite high regard by the American Left (including Roosevelt) in the thirties.

[Late-morning update on the official, but not actual Veterans’ Day]

Occasional commenter, and editor and designer of my book Bill Simon reminds me that the photo of the poppies is one that he took over a decade ago. Which means that it’s not the red poppies in Europe described by the poem, but California golden poppies.

4 thoughts on “One Century On”

  1. WWI was the worst thing that ever happened to the West. It was probably going to happen in some form regardless, because empires have to compete, but it led to the collapse of belief in the West as a progressive force, an increasing desire for ‘peace at any cost’, and the birth of the Soviet Union.

    WWII, which was pretty much inevitable because of the terms of the settlement at the end of WWI, was just the icing on the cake.

    So many of the cultural changes of the last hundred years can really be seen now as PTSD from WWI. Trying to ensure that such a war never happened again led to disastrous decisions that have probably doomed the West.

    We were lucky in that our school had a part-time teacher who’d actually served in WWI (no, I’m not THAT old; he must have been about 90 at the time), so we got to hear about the war first-hand. I’m guessing kids today are just taught about the male privilege of being encouraged to go to the trenches to die by women with white feathers.

    1. Kids today are taught nothing about any of our nation’s wars preceding WW2 except that they occurred and, maybe, the from and to dates. About WW2 we hear of Rosie the Riveter, the Japanese interment camps, an obscure mutiny by black sailors and the Zoot Suit Riots. About America’s wars since WW2 you can probably pretty much guess.

  2. and its affect on nations and borders continues to reverberate, particularly in the Middle East

    The world then was radically different than it is today that it is hard to grasp. Europe was still clawing its way out of the middle ages with actual tribalism and monarchical relationships and the ME still had an Islamic caliphate. While a little over a hundred years ago, in some ways it was like five hundred years ago. Who thinks of WWI as the Allies fighting against an Islamic caliphate?

    When I was in school, a lot of emphasis was placed on how the war affected Europeans. Giving up land and moving populations was framed as acceptable punishment for losing the war. But for some reason when we look at the Ottoman Empire, the same punishments deemed just for Europeans are deemed unjust for the Ottomans.

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