Why World War One?

The long Failure of Western Arms.


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The Big Question: Why the War? 

The Big Question in relation to the Great War is why it happened? Close to the top of most historian's reasons is Militarism - the growth in Europe of armies and navies prepared for war. But militarism does not grow on trees. It needs promoting, and for decades great industrial munitions companies pushed weapons and what arms could do in winning colonies and wars did just that. Basil Zacharoff, dressed up above, was one of their great salesmen. They persuaded states to arm and trust in weapons. The events of 1914 are riddled with this pattern. There were four great arm races Britain-Germany (naval), France-Germany,  Russia-Germany and Austro-Hungary/Russia/Serbia. The last ignited the conflict but all four set the World War going.  

For decades arms companies through sowing mistrust, pushing new weapons, bribery, political intrigue and buying influence in Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, France, Japan and Russia. Weapons and the arms companies predetermined the Great War and became the world's greatest industry during it. Weapons cause wars. This was the conclusion of the statesmen of the era. Lord Grey, British Secretary of State in the decade leading up to 1914 put it thus, 

“The moral is obvious; it is that great armaments lead inevitably to war. If there are armaments on one side, there must be armaments on other sides…

“The increase of armaments that is intended in each nation to produce consciousness of strength, and a sense of security, does not produce these effects. On the contrary, it produces a consciousness of the strength of other nations and a sense of fear. Fear begets suspicion and distrust and evil imaginings of all sorts…

“But, although all this [diplomatic difficulties with Germany] be true, it is not in my opinion the real and final account of the origin of the Great War. The enormous growth of armaments in Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them – it was these that made war inevitable. This, it seems to me, is the truest reading of history, and the lesson that the present should be learning from the past in the interests of future peace, the warning to be handed on to those who come after us.” 

The gun used in the Sarajevo assassination was a Belgian arms trade weapon, and it is a parable of the whole event. Behind the fighting is the systematic selling of weapons by Krupp, Thyssen, Armstrong, Vickers, Schneider, Mauser, Skoda, BSA, Ansaldo, Du Pont, Remington, Colt and others. They sold, and when the War came, they hit bonanza time. Arms still cause wars and the time has come to close down the biggest failed experiment in modern history - the idea that arms make us safe. It is disarming that makes us safe and we should start it soon. 



War or Peace?

The long failure of western militarism.


WAR OR PEACE?  £3.20

Jesus gives the definitive commentary on war: "Those who take the sword will perish by the sword." War does not work. Christianity suggests peace and disarmament. Christ encourages peacemakers, talks of loving enemies, settling quarrels quickly, not meeting aggression with aggression, and forgiving offences. The Bible focusses on changing swords into ploughshares and not learning war any more. Against the background of the First World War, killing at least sixteen million people, we see how practical and realistic this can be. 


Now is the centenary of Britain's entry into the First World War. After a lot of study and reflection on the writings of others the overall conclusion has to be that the War was a mistake generated by four arms races - Britain and Germany (naval), Russia and Germany, France and Germany and Austro-Hungary, Russia, the Ottoman Empire Serbia and Bulgaria. It was a row about Serbia's refusal to buy Skoda's (Austro-Hungary's) arms that lit the touchpaper. These were backed by the zenophobia encouraged by the arms firms, the merchants of death, and the military leading the politicians and public towards war. As a result 16 million died, a greater number were injured, and three trillion hours of human work were committed to destruction and death. Within the War the deaths were sometimes heroic, but the war should not have been, as all wars should not be.

President Wilson, one of the greatest, put the spiritual battle thus:

"War had lain at the heart of every arrangement of the Europe,—of every arrangement of the world,—that preceded the war. Restive peoples had been told that fleets and armies, which they toiled to sustain, meant peace; and they now knew that they they had been lied to: that fleets and armies had been maintained to promote national ambitions and meant war. They knew that no old policy meant anything else but force, force,—always force. And they knew that it was intolerable. Every true heart in the world, and every enlightened judgment demanded that, at whatever cost of independent action, every government that took thought for its people or for justice or for ordered freedom should lend itself to a new purpose and utterly destroy the old order of international politics. Statesmen might see difficulties, but the people could see none and could brook no denial. A war in which they had been bled white to beat the terror that lay concealed in every Balance of Power must not end in a mere victory of arms and a new balance. The monster that had resorted to arms must be put in chains that could not be broken. The united power of free nations must put a stop to aggression, and the world must be given peace."

We are told that weapons make us safe, but that is the great lie. They promote fear and distrust, strengthen the military within government and sooner or later they have to be used. The practical policy is world multilateral disarmament, 10% cuts a year for a decade, until the tyranny of weapons is destroyed. Lets get to it. Sign: