World War I was one of the worst modern warfare with regards to the amount of destruction it caused. Its impact was based on the use of advanced weapons able to cause massive damage, the involvement of a huge population in the war, huge investments, economic sabotage, and barbarity. Nevertheless, it helped to end the war, allow for negotiations, solve border conflicts, and establish the League of Nations to manage global peace. However, it failed to achieve permanent agreements and left different countries dissatisfied and ready to revenge on their adversaries. There was also antagonism between the negotiators due to different perceptions of their role, they did not agree on war or negotiations, and capitalism vs. communism ideals also caused a lift. The intense negotiations can be understood from the realism approaches which identify that conflicts are a natural means of state formation, but they should be managed through international cooperation and understanding. The liberalism theory also explains the situation where it argues that war is a result of undemocratic activities that threaten national sovereignty. The treaty identified the need for cooperation and commitment to peaceful coexistent and the establishment of international systems to solve conflicts and prevent aggression.
Reasons for WWI Devastation
WWI was more destructive because it was the first modern warfare. Countries rolled out modern warfare equipment like modern battleships, bomber planes, bombs, cannons, shells, machine guns, and poisonous gas were also extensively used by the Germans. The new equipment could inflict significant damage on the targets, including annihilating entire buildings, vegetation, and entire villages like it happened in Verdun, where nine villages completely disappeared. The devastation would be felt for a long term, but evidently it did not make humans learn of the disadvantages of war.
Huge Number of Personnel
WWI was also devastating because it involved massive recruitment of all people fit to serve in battle. As a result, countries enlisted millions of fighters, a significant part of whom were poorly trained and equipped, and therefore, they ended up dying on the battlefield. Both soldiers and civilians died or were wounded during the war. The huge number of deaths and the fact that no justice was served for the innocent who died is one of the worst realities of war, and why people should commit to peace and better conflict resolution instead of armed engagement.
Huge Economic Investments
The devastation of the war also resulted from the fact that countries committed huge economic resources in the conflict, which led to debts and economic collapse. The funds were mainly used to develop or acquire advanced weaponry like the bomber planes, tankers, bombs, and shells, and others that were made by leading economies like the US, which cashed in on the conflict and it embarked on large-scale production of weapons that it then sold to the allies. The huge expenditure was also used for logistics to transfer the equipment and personnel to the warzone. The huge budget was also used to feed and sustain the enormous personnel numbering in the millions. When the war ended, many countries were left in debt, desolate, and bankrupt. The strain led to the worst economic collapse in modern history, dubbed the Great Depression. In addition to the financial collapse, Germany was also to pay reparations amounting to about $10 billion (NFB, 2019). The over-commitment of resources to the conflict led to the resultant economic crises.
Scale of Fighting
WWI was also devastating because it was fought on multiple fronts all over the world. At the height of colonialism, the war that began in Europe soon spread overseas to the colonies. The colonists recruited fighters from their territories and moved them to fight on other fronts, such as Asia. The colonies also became the target of attacks, and each side sought to dislodge the other in critical regions (NFB, 2019). As a result, the war also spread to Asia, Africa, and South America, where crucial battles were fought, and extensive destruction occurred.
The devastation of the war also resulted from the barbarity with which it was fought. As Sir George Lloyd described it, the Germans acted with such savagery that even non-civilized people would find inhumane. They would blast not military objects like residential areas to scare their opponents into retreat and surrender. The allies responded with equal brutality targeted at civilians. In the end, there killed millions of innocent people, including women and children that were not directly involved in the aggression (NFB, 2019). As a result of the tactic, entire occupations were decimated or damaged beyond repair, contributing to immeasurable destruction and the resultant losses.
The war also targeted economic entities like factories, merchant fleets, seaways, airways, and critical infrastructure. Countries elected embargoes against their perceived enemies. One of the major culprits was Great Britain that lost control of the high seas, which made it very dangerous because all forms of operatives were intercepting, looting, and destroying critical cargoes to weaken the opponents. Countries like France and Italy also lost vital ports to the Germans, which crippled their goods movement and hampered their economic operations that largely depend on the ocean. Multiple airplanes were also blasted out of the skies in no-flying zones, which added to the losses suffered by both sides (NFB, 2019). The extensive destruction came back to haunt the fighting nations through an economic collapse.
The Treaty of Versailles Successes and Failures
The 1919 negotiations in Paris and the resultant Treaty of Versailles provided an opportunity for talks to end the world. In the period of the conference, the world was governed by a supreme council made of leaders from the leading democracy and with participation from the smaller countries. They negotiated for peace, international responsibility, and the governance of the world. The soldiers were also continually returning from the battlefield during the period, which meant that the War was over and the world was giving peace and opportunity (NFB, 2019). Therefore, the Treaty officially ended WWI.
The Formation of the League of Nations
The Treaty also led to the League of Nations' formation, which pioneered the international organizations tasked with maintaining world order. The League was tasked with handling conflicts and enforcing order by drawing forces from the signatory nations. While it never took shape after rejection in major countries like the US and China, it set precedence for the formation of international organizations, mainly the UN, that has played a critical role in ensuring world stability and abating conflicts. Therefore, the world led by Woodrow Wilson had committed to peace and conflict resolution, but the idea would only be emphasized after WWII, where a stronger organization, the UN, was formed in New York (NFB, 2019).
Solving Border Conflicts
The Treaty also helped to solve the border conflicts that were still causing pockets of conflicts as countries claimed different territories. Led by American President Woodrow Wilson, the delegation redrew the world's map, helping to temporarily solve the raging disputes between nations over borders (NFB, 2019). The agreements propagated the end of the conflict and eventual peace, even if it was short-lasting.
Failed to Achieve Long-Lasting Peace
The Treaty of Versailles's primary shortcoming is that it failed to achieve the much needed global stability and cohesion. The final agreement angered the Germans, who were solely blamed and penalized for the War. Instead, it created a united but frustrated Germany that was keen on retaliating for the humiliation it suffered during and after WWI, which it did through German revanchism where the country began creating new states, which then led to border conflicts that would eventually lead to WWII (NFB, 2019). Therefore, the Treaty planted more animosity.
Failed to Settle the Reparation Claims
The Treaty also failed to solve the contentious issue of war damage and looting and the bearing of responsibility. There were reached agreements for reparations against Germany and its allies for the destruction experienced during the War, to great opposition from the German delegation. They claimed that all the War participants committed atrocities against each other, and therefore, it was unreasonable only to blame and penalize Germany. Eventually, the agreements for reparations were less satisfactory to the allies, most of whom did not get their bargains. The Italians never got the ports they demanded. Britain did not get the 300 billion dollars asked. The French only received an assurance of protection from Germany by establishing shield nations, but the promise never materialized, and the two would face each other again in WWII (NFB, 2019). Nevertheless, it set precedence for taking responsibility and paying damages for starting wars.
Was State-Centered and Ignored the People who Suffered in the War
The Treaty also failed to compensate the people who lost their lives and property during the conflict as innocent people caught in the crossfire. Instead, the reparations focused on nations and the damage they incurred while people were dying in the millions and rampaging in poverty and destruction (NFB, 2019). The action was a form of injustice because while countries incurred huge losses, individuals also suffered and should also have been considered in the restorations. Moreover, post-war societies also see immense suffering due to socio-economic breakdowns. They were never given any form of compensation.
Competing Ideas Concerning a New World Order
Roles of the Participant Nations
The primary point of difference was the role that different nations would play in the stability and peace that were being sorted. The European powers, while beaten, were not out, and therefore, they still sought critical roles in shaping the new world. On the other hand, the US, which had emerged unscathed from the War, sought more control as it played a critical role, which the Europeans opposed (NFB, 2019). The difference was evident in distributing relief to the affected populations, where the Americans claimed controlled because they were making the most donations. However, they faced stiff competition and hindrance from the British and French, who saw it as giving American unwarranted credit and influence.
Negotiations vs. War
One of the major competing ideas in the Paris negotiations was between negotiation and war. Reeling from the First World War damages, the countries in the Peace Conference were keen on avoiding confrontations because they could not afford to finance such expeditions. As a result, they supported negotiations or embargoes and blockades where the opposing party was unwilling to engage. However, there were still conflicts ongoing, mainly in Eastern Europe and Russia, and they posed a threat of insurgency in Europe. As a result, the allied forces were forced to deploy troops into different USSR regions to curb the Bolshevik’s influence or counter each other (NFB, 2019). The conflicting actions show the lack of common decisions in the negotiations and the lack of commitment to one cause of action. The failure would lead to the Second World War as there were not established strict rules of international operations in 1919.
Capitalism vs. Communism
The strife between capitalism and communism also emerged in the Peace Conference. On the one hand, the Allied forces represented capitalism, coming under sharp criticism for causing the War. The system was seen as encouraging unhealthy competition for resources that evolved into conflict. On the other hand, a wave of communism was sweeping through Asia, beginning with the capture of the USSR government by the Bolsheviks that sought to clash the capitalist system and establish a centralized and participative government of the working class and also the seizure of private property that was believed to have been acquired by exploiting the workers (NFB, 2019). The two competing ideas would form the centers of World War II and the Cold War, as each side attempted to expand its influence into the rest of the world.
Competing IR Theories Evident In the Documentary
One of the IR theories evident in the documentary is realism, which emphasizes the state's welfare. The theory claims that countries' leaders should pursue power in the international arena to protect their nation from aggressors. The approach claimed that states live at perpetual risk of threats and hostility, a legitimate instrument of state formation. Therefore, countries should safeguard themselves, deter aggressors, and fight if necessary to preserve their statehood. Thus, according to realism, the state is the principal actor in international relationships (Dunne & Schmidt, 2011). The situation is evident in the documentary where nations sent representatives to Paris to negotiate for the protection, respect, and return of their lands that taken during the war. Particularly, France and other smaller nations sort the Supreme Council's assurance that they would be protected from future aggression as had been perpetrated by Germany in WWI (NFB, 2019). Particularly, France demanded the formation of shield nations on its border with Germany.
Realism also claims that state leaders should prioritize their country's self-interests instead of adhering to universal moral standards. They argued that the leaders should first consider political necessity and prudence when making decisions, which means that they can make non-conventional decisions that would otherwise be termed as immoral. The theory claims that the state leaders operate on a dual moral standard. In contrast, individuals should adhere to religious virtues and values, but they prioritize their nation's interests over their personal ideologies as leaders. The state is also a major player in international politics, and the leader represents the will of the people (Dunne & Schmidt, 2011). The situation is evident in the documentary mainly through the negotiation of the Supreme Council members and Woodrow Wilson's character, the US President. A dedicated Presbyterian coming from a family of clergies, Wilson held high morals and ideals. Particularly, he proposed the forgiveness of Germany from retribution due to the central role in starting WWI, to help the crippled country rebuild. However, Wilson yielded to pressure from the French, English, and Italian leaders, who demanded reparations from Germany for the damages sustained during the war. He also made other compromises like the division of territories and colonies, which adversely affected the locals, some of whom were cut off from their identifying heritage nation (NFB, 2019). At the Paris negotiations, Wilson was acting for America, and not for himself.
The neo-realists ideologies also apply it claims that international politics are denoted by anarchy and the lack of a central authority. As a result, primarily depend on themselves for protection (Antunes & Camisao, 2018). The sovereign states regard themselves as having the highest authority in determining their affairs and do not recognize any other higher power. They are committed to the wellbeing of their countries and they accumulate power to protect themselves (Lamy, 2011). The situation was evident in the Paris negotiations that almost collapsed when Italy pulled out because its demands were not met. Others like China and Iran also threatened to pull out because their interests were being ignored (NFB, 2019). Each country was trying to ensure that they got the best deal from the negotiations to better protect themselves from aggressors.
The realists also identify the necessity of the balance of power in international politics to prevent stronger states from threatening the smaller ones' welfare. However, because the approach claims that a country cannot entrust its survival on another nation, the states safeguard themselves by joining forces as equal partners to join alliances of common interests to counter opposing forces (Dunne & Schmidt, 2011). The principle is evident in the documentary where the League of Nations was formed to control international affairs to prevent rogue behavior like has been portrayed by Germany (NFB, 2019). The organization would derive power from its member states, providing it with resources to suppress insurgency and negotiate peaceful coexistence.
The theory of liberalism is based on justice, peace, freedom, constitutionalism, tolerance, moderation, self-restraint, and compromise. It bases on the perception that all citizens enjoy similar basic rights and the states only have limited authority given by the people, which is the foundation of peace. Liberalism also prioritizes the community over individuals and may sacrifice personal liberty for societal wellbeing. Therefore, it accords states certain rights like non-interference and identity (Dunne, 2011). The approach is evident in the documentary where the Paris negotiations centered on state reparations and protection over individual wellbeing, while people had been plunged into despair and desolateness due to destruction and the disruption of their livelihood. The focus of the negotiators was securing their countries from future aggression and external interference.
The theory attributes war to undemocratic tendencies. It blames it on imperialism and the violation of some states' rights by others contributed by the lack of balance of power. As a result, in agreement with realism, liberalism proposed a collective effort to ensure stability and prevent aggression (Dunne, 2011). The approach is evident in the documentary through the formation of the League of Nations to manage international affairs and engagement between states to avoid aggression.
Neoliberalism was also evident in the documentary mainly through sociological liberalism that identifies the importance of the concept of community and relations in global peace. The theory claims that nations have common interests that drive them to cooperate. Therefore, nations are discouraged from fighting each other to avoid cross damage (Lamy, 2011). The situation was evident in the documentary where the US was involved in the negotiations mainly to protect its interests through loans advanced to the allies. The Americans wished for the War to end so that they could recuperate their resources. Therefore, they were not focused on the other conditions that the European nations were interested in including the recovery of their losses and the containment of Germany (NFB, 2019). Therefore, as the world integrates, states will be dissuaded to fight each other due to common interests.
Important of Understand the Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles In 2021
To Understand Best Practices
The Treaty of Versailles is important because it was the first effort to make world peace, but it eventually failed and bred the Second World War. The world leaders assembled in Paris to find a peaceful ending to the First World War. They debated the contentious issues of how to end the fighting and prevent future conflicts. As a result, they came up with critical resolutions like the establishment of the League of Nations and Germany's penalization for starting the war (NFB, 2019). However, the solutions did not assure global peace because a more damaging World War Two was fought in less than two decades. Therefore, it is important to identify the opportunities and shortcomings when negotiating world peace, learn from the incident, and forge a more stable world.
To Appreciate the Role of Negotiations in World Peace
The Treaty of Versailles marked the first global political negotiations to address issues that threatened world peace. It was a large scale attempt at giving dialogue a chance to prevent the damages of war. While imbalanced and focused on Great Britain, France, and the USA, the Peace Conference gave opportunities for nations to present their petitions and conditions for a peaceful resolution for the standoff that led to WWI (NFB, 2019). Indeed, even though the Treaty achieved global peace for a short period, and more importantly, ended WWI. Negotiations have since between given a chance and have played a critical role in averting major conflicts like the eventual WWIII at the Cold War height. While in constant suspicion of each other, and even after coming to inches of war, like in the Cuban missile crisis, the two nations' leaders kept communication lines open and met severally to end the crisis, which averted nuclear warfare. President Bush Sr. and President Gorbachev held most of the negotiations, such as the Malta Summit bore many consequent agreements that ended the conflict between the US and USSR. With the UN Security Council's facilitation, negotiations have become a major tool for handling conflicts, which has enabled peaceful coexistence and the aversion of armed conflicts. Therefore, the general peace and stability enjoyed in the world today trace back to the Treaty of Versailles that primarily sought to prevent future wars through establishing an efficient mechanism for conflict resolution. The world should more effectively adopt negotiations as the priority tool for handling conflicts to avoid conflicts.
To Understand Commitment to World Peace
Another critical influence of the Treaty is its War Guilt Clause, also known as Article 231 that ruled that Germany was responsible for starting WWI. Therefore, they would be penalized through reparations to be paid to the allied nations for the damages caused and the loss of territory that Germany had forcefully overtaken from other countries. While the amount was not equivalent to the destructions sustained, it at least communicated that the world would not tolerate rogue nations. It also set precedence for future handling of war, particularly the Second World War, where Germany was slapped with further reparations (NFB, 2019). Even more critically, it established the culture of pursuing the aggressor to their roots to hold them accountable for threatening another country's peace and stability. The agreement showed that global peace was important, and nations wished for peaceful coexistence, but they would not allow rogue states to threaten others' stability with no repercussions. The same approach was applied later in Kuwait's Iranian invasion, where the international community responded through military action to stop the aggression.
To Understand the Origin and Purpose of International Organizations
The Treaty of Versailles is also relevant in modern times because it pioneered the international organizations tasked with managing global politics and engagements and to develop a world society. The Treaty established the League of Nations, a conglomerate of all nations through representatives responsible for maintaining global peace through coordinated military and economic interventions sponsored by the member countries . While it failed, the League set precedence in international organizations to run global affairs.
It was succeeded by the UN, which has had more success in managing international affairs through its security, economic and social interventions. The UN has played a critical role in resolving major security crises such as the Korean War of 1950, The Suez Canal crisis in 1956, the Gulf War in 1990, and the interventions in Somalia and Yugoslavia 1990s. Besides, the UN conducts extensive humanitarian and development programs in conflict areas to promote peace. The League inspired other global organizations like the International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, and others specializing in different worldwide economy sectors. The organizations help coordinate policies and operations to ensure that all countries are working towards the common good, and no state is endangering another through its plans and actions. The organizations have facilitated the globalization of the world through collaboration and collective decision-making to tackle global problems. They have helped ensure global stabilization and interconnectedness, supporting all other critical sectors of the economy. In addition to their specific roles, the organizations also cultivated a sense of international responsibility for all players by recognizing that an event on one side of the globe impacts the rest of the world due to socio-economic, political, cultural, and religious integration. For example, conflict in one nation means an increase in asylum seekers and refugees and the need for foreign aid, and therefore, countries would better intervene to stop the insurgency. Thus, nations respond when called upon to address an issue that threatens world peace and stability. Nations also have shared resources and investments, which they would move with speed to protect. The organizations also offer a platform for global discussions such as the UN general meetings, which are attended by all heads of states and governments or their representatives. They get a chance to address issues of international concerns. Such actions have then developed a global consciousness, where individuals and countries see themselves as citizens of the world, with the same responsibilities as people have to their country. It has also cultivated a greater sense of responsibility in maintaining global peace.
The Importance of Cooperation and Commitment to International Affairs
The Treaty is also a great lesson in 2021 in that it shows that international affairs are complex and require cooperation, commitment, and honesty. Global issues should not be taken lightly, or minor disagreements could result in a large-scale conflict that could destroy modern civilization with the current military powers. The Treaty was a golden opportunity to prevent future disputes because it brought together most of the world leaders because it focused on punishing Germany and planning to combat the USSR instead of forging peaceful coexistence and more efficient dispute management structures (NFB, 2019). As a result, it did not achieve consensus between the nations, which bled the dissatisfaction that led to the Second World War. Among its failure is the lack of recognition of the sovereignty of the people and giving colonies freedom. Instead, the territories were assigned to the nations of the Supreme Council's four members, which still left them in bondage. The Treaty of Versailles failed to get all the countries to commit because leading nations like the US and China did not adopt it. With such weaknesses, the goal of conflict prevention was reduced. The Treaty teaches the modern society that to address global conflicts; there is the need for commitment and determination to adopt them even when they do not favor one's country for global wellbeing. Also, in international negotiations there should be not favorites, especially in the 21st century when more countries are attaining stability and influence. The concern has emerged in the UN Security Council's composition where countries and regions are demanding representation and challenge the permanence of the five seats assigned to the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China and their possession of veto power. The concerns address the fundamental issue that it is high time to achieve global equality where everyone has an equal say on matters that affect them. In the future, measures to promote equality should be sought.
The Importance of Peace
The contention raised by the reparations slapped in the Germans also demonstrated the importance of peace over wars. On the one hand, Germany claimed that it was being victimized for a conflict that it did not solely cause. On the other hand, the allied nations, mainly the Europeans, left disgruntled because they did not reach their demands. The situation then reveals the fault of the Paris Conference of 1919. The Allied leaders were quantifying damage, which then leads to the question of the cost of human lives. As a result, they placed their priorities wrongly. Instead, they should have focused on establishing a mechanism for containing rogue nations like Germany, as would be proven less than two decades later when Germany started the second, more devastating offensive. The situation then teaches that the nations' concerns should be the least of the priority when addressing global problems. Instead, the focus should be on forging a peaceful future and addressing the disagreements among the nations. With an emphasis on the greater good as the Americans led by Wilson Woodrow were, decisions become easier to make. The stance is demonstrated by his mantra of 'peace without victory,' which means that the greater good preceded the American interests, mainly recovering their loans. Therefore, it is evident that international problems should be handled from a global standpoint, which should focus on ensuring all humans' wellbeing.
With the increasing integration of the current world, both internally and externally, disagreements are more likely to emerge. They are also likely to be more complex to the widespread interests vested all over the world. The competing West and East ideologies are likely to cause major clashes. As a result, a conflict between two small nations is likely to evolve into global warfare. A war between leading nations likes the US, and China has also proven to be not as far-fetched as demonstrated by the South China face-offs between the two countries. As a result, international negotiations are still a major component of global existence. Modern warfare would be more destructive and could threaten global existence. Therefore, the lessons learned in the Paris Conference of 1919 and the Treaty of Versailles are still relevant to date. There is an identified need for prioritizing negotiations over conflicts. There is a need for international cooperation and collaboration in running global affairs by recognizing that we are largely citizens of the world. Therefore, global stability should precede national interests. To achieve this purpose, a global alliance is necessary. Thus, international organizations should be enhanced by giving them more authority over issues threatening global peace. However, they should be more representative to ensure that every state has a say in the final decision. The future of the world is based on continued peaceful coexistence, which is regularly challenged, and need to be maintained at all costs.
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