Despite the acknowledgment that a world of peace is a better place, our world continues to revert to war and violence to solve conflict. World War I was a monumental part of our history. With more than 30 nations taking part, World War I was a global and total war, affecting everything.
So if war is that bad for us, why do we keep coming back to it? Well, there are supposedly some benefits. World War I brought a strong sense of nationalism. People identified closely with their country and felt a strong connection with it, ready to do whatever they could to defend their home. World War I also led to a technological explosion, as countries desired to have an advantage of one another, they made advances in weaponry and military technology such as tanks and poisonous gas. These few and small benefits stand weak against the huge negative consequences that followed the war. Even these positive aspects of war have their downfalls. The nationalism led to marginalization and extreme hatred of other groups such as people of color or Jews living in Nazi Germany. In fact, nationalism, which is often seen as a positive, is responsible for fueling violence and disagreement. Nationalism also led to propaganda, which aimed to persuade citizens to have this sense of pride for their country so that they were willing to do anything–even fight–for their country. Although the advancement in innovations propelled forward the technological and scientific fields, they were responsible for the millions of deaths that followed.
World War I, like most other wars, came as the result of building tension and disagreement amongst nations. Although the war literally started with a Serbian nationalist killing the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, the conflict was deeper than that. There was tension and division amongst countries, and the war was their way of solving them. After all, one of the main purposes of war is to solve conflict when agreements and discussions don’t suffice. No matter how complicated the relations between nations are, there should always be a way to solve the situation without violence. As we can see from World War I, violence makes problems even worse, leading to death and darkness.
When learning about this darkness of war, it is often hard to fully comprehend just how dark war really was. In a time of war, little is gained because it is mostly centered around things being lost. The major loss that comes from war is lives. In World War I alone, 8.5 million troops died, 21 million were wounded, and 13 million civilians were killed. The amount of death during World War I alone is shocking. Not only were lives lost, but their dreams, stories, and ideas were lost with them. Of the people that didn’t die, there was still so much taken from them. War was the perfect way of removing important values–hope, happiness, and freedom–from the lives of those surviving the war.
The purpose of war is to reach a solution, and in the case of World War I, the solution was the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war. It is ironic, however, because the Treaty of Versailles didn’t even solve the situation. If anything, this treaty left more dissent and tension than before the war began. And in terms of territory and power, little changed once again. By the end of the war, the Central Powers only gained about 9 miles of Western territory. This shows the utter pointlessness of World War I. It resulted because of tension and ended with the entire world affected and very little change. In fact, World War I left Germany even angrier than before, as they had to face all the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles.
War brings devastating consequences and little solution, so if there’s anything we can learn from wars, specifically World War I, it is that they are unnecessary. When learning about World War I, it is also important to look at it not just through facts and numbers, but also through stories and experiences. The soldiers fighting in World War I weren’t simply pawns on the battlefield, but they were real people who each had their own stories, dreams, and relationships. Throughout World War I, more than 2 billion letters were delivered. The Trench: Last Days before the Battle of the Somme, perfectly captures this idea. It showed the personality of each soldier– some were brothers, husbands, or sons. They worried about their families at home, struggled with the rough war environment, and wondered about their futures. All of these soldiers, however, eventually died in the Battle of the Somme, and when they died, their stories, love interests, and dreams died with them.
It is clear that World War I changed the world. 65 million people fought, and they were either killed, wounded, or left with PTSD for the rest of their lives. After all, Soldiers during World War I had to go through so much more than just physical violence. Many were victims to shell shock, leaving them with psychological trauma and PTSD from the war, changing their lives forever. Even those that weren’t soldiers were affected. The war left people without their loved ones, with little food or place to live, and constant disruption to their lives. After the war ended, the world was a completely different place than when it began. It was a world torn apart and disoriented. We must remember the lives lost during World War I, and also learn from the mistakes of our past. Despite World War, I’s traumatic effects, World War II progressed around only a short 20 years later. This cannot happen in the present. We need to remember to value peace and well-being over power. After all, the way to avoid war is to recognize our values. We must learn to value peace and care for one another because this is the only way we can move forward.