Panel: The 100th Anniversary of World War I
David A. Andelman, editor-in-chief of the World Policy Journal, and Dr. Michael Epkenhans, director at the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the German Armed Forces, discussed the events of World War I and its legacy, 100 years later.
Andelman, on a lack of motivation from German leaders: “When I was researching my book, I paid a visit to the former home of French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau in Paris. Clemenceau’s great-grandniece still runs that house, and she told me that what really motivated her great-grand uncle was the moment he stood on the sidewalk in Paris in 1871 and watched the German forces march through Paris right past him. And he vowed ‘Never again.’ He vowed that whatever it might take, he would defeat Germany and push them back across the Rhine. I don’t know that there was anybody in Germany that really had quite that same motivation.”
Epkenhans, on what Germany faced after Versailles: “The government had to deal with the peace treaty and deal with its consequences – the consequences of a war it had never started. It was a social, democratic, and liberal government and right from the beginning, they were accused of making a treaty that humiliated Germany. They had no option. It might have been wise for the Allies to offer a Wilsonian peace, but this was unrealistic after all of the Allies’ sacrifices. And [the treaty] was bankrupting this new German government. So they had little chance of building up a good democratic regime.”
Andelman, on the creation of the modern Middle East: “The framers of the Treaty of Versailles had a huge map of [Mesopotamia] spread out on the floor. They were crawling around on their hands and knees trying to figure out where to draw the boundaries of Iraq and the route that the Baghdad railway would take. You can imagine these people, who had no conception of Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds, trying to decide the shape of that entire region, and yet the boundaries that they drew are the ones we defend today.”