As we bow our heads to commemorate the millions killed in the First World War, we should also contemplate why they had to die.
For that wasn’t a war between two countries, nor even between two alliances.
It was a war waged by modernity against the last vestiges of Western civilisation and, for that matter, civility.
The following are excerpts from my book How the West Was Lost, in which I argued that modernity was championed by a whole new species I called Modman, whose inner imperative was to destroy Christendom and replace it with a new soulless, philistine, godless civilisation.
Neither side was averse to going from the general to the specific in its claims. They were both fighting to save civilisation in a broad sense, but at the same time they were making the world safe not just for democracy (the marasmatic Wilson was welcome to that one) but also for true faith, world commerce, family, security, children, church and prosperity.
Almost instantly the war acquired a character that went beyond any national grievances or indeed economic interests. The world was rife with proposals for unifying the control of global raw materials in a single body that could also administer international taxes aimed at levelling inequalities among nations.
The air was dense with phrases like ‘World Organisation’, ‘The United States of the Earth’, ‘The Confederation of the World’, ‘A World Union of Free Peoples’ and finally ‘The League of Nations’.
Both sides saw themselves as defenders of international law. The British, for example, eschewed self-interest as the reason for joining the conflict, opting instead for depicting the war as a holy crusade for the law of the nations.
Not to be outdone, the French organised a Committee for the Defence of International Law. The Germans were at first taken aback by this sudden outburst of affection for global legality, but they quickly recovered to fight back.
Belgium, according to them, wasn’t neutral in the international-law sense of the word. It was conducting secret military negotiations with the British aimed against Germany.
The British weren’t squeaky-clean either. They were systematically violating the trading rights of neutrals on the high seas.
So Germany was really fighting for the freedom of the seas and the rights of smaller nations to engage in peaceful trade without being harassed by the dastardly Royal Navy.
However, the Entente wouldn’t allow Germany to claim exclusive rights to defending the small and weak. It was the allies who were after liberating the oppressed nations, and not just Alsace and Lorraine.
They also meant the oppressed minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Polish minority in Germany (not to be confused with the German minority in Poland, whose plight was a casus belli for Germany’s next war).
Funny you should mention oppressed minorities, replied the Germans who hated to be outdone by anybody, and especially the British. It was they, the Germans, who were fighting to liberate the small nations of the world. More specifically, such small nations as India, Ireland, Egypt and the entire African continent.
But never mind puny nations. Both sides had broader aims: they were out to save civilisation. Both carried on their broad shoulders an equivalent of the white man’s burden, ignoring the obvious chromatic incidental of both of them being equally white.
A week after the war began The London Evening Standard was already carrying headlines screaming “Civilisation at Issue”. France was fighting a “Guerre contre les barbares”, while Germany was laying about her for her Kultur.
Germany, the nation of composers and philosophers, had established a spiritual ascendancy over the world thanks to her industry, fecundity, wisdom and morality. She was waging war against the degenerate Latins, barbaric Russians and mercantile British in whose assessment Napoleon would have been correct had he not been French.
The British were usurers (a role they were to cede to the Jews before long); the Germans were Teutonic heirs to Arminius and Alaric.
While the British were unable to see beyond their utilitarian little noses, the Germans had the sagacity to penetrate the meaning of life, as proved by their philosophers. The war was fought for heroic, self-sacrificing Bildung and against the greedy British.
Speak for yourself, sale Boche, objected the French. The war was waged by one (good) race against another (bad). The Gauls of France and Belgium were fighting the Hun, and never mind Bildung.
That argument appealed to the Germans who had been beaten to the racial punch that time but decided to store it for future use.
Race more or less equalled God, as far as the French glossocrats were concerned. While every belligerent country claimed that God was on her side, La Croix in France made the case with a forthrightness not normally associated with the French: “The story of France is the story of God. Long live Christ who loves the Franks.”
“La Guerre Sainte”, screamed L’Echo, and La Croix agreed in principle but wanted to expand: yes, it was “a war of Catholic France against Protestant Germany”. But it was more than just that. It was a “duel between the Germans and the Latins and the Slavs”, a contest of “public morals and international law”.
Hold on a minute, the British begged to differ. The French, while on the side of the angels in this one, couldn’t claim exclusive possession of God.
The Bishop of Hereford explained this succinctly: “Such a heavy price to pay for our progress towards the realisation of the Christianity of Christ, but duty calls… Amidst all the burden of gloom and sorrow which this dreadful war lays upon us we can at least thank God that it brings that better day a long step nearer for the generations in front of us.”
(Which generations were to lose, conservatively, 300 million in assorted wars and purges, but then, to be fair, the good bishop had no way of knowing this.)
Never mind God, or in the case of the Germans the Gods of their Valhalla. As a British musical promoter wrote at the time, this was really a war between different types of music: “The future belongs to the young hero who will have the courage to exclude from his library all the works of Handel, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Brahms and Richard Strauss…, who will… find the vigorous rhythms that will tell of the dauntless spirit of those who go to death singing ‘Tipperary’.”
At the risk of sounding like a Hun lover, I’d still argue that the Hunnish music of a Bach cantata is a long, long way from ‘Tipperary’, even though my preference doesn’t come into this.
The gentleman displayed a great deal of prescience, however. His future, and our present, indeed belong to the young hero who courageously excludes Handel and Brahms, while including, with equal courage, Sex Pistols and Band Aid. The impresario inadvertently displayed much insight: the underlying aims of the war weren’t geopolitical but cultural.
The role played by America in the First World War is instructive. On the surface, this wasn’t America’s fight: her geopolitical or economic interests would not have been unduly threatened by any possible outcome.
Wilson’s sloganeering about “making the world safe for democracy” would have sounded ludicrous to any other than a modern audience. Such an aim presupposed that the Great War was waged against democracy, and only Gen. Pershing in shining armour was there to save it.
That simply wasn’t the case. All major combatants were already either democracies or constitutional monarchies – or else were moving in that direction with no outside help necessary.
So the big slogan would be a big lie, but only if we insist on using words in their real meaning. Of course by then Modman glossocracy had taken over, so the word ‘democracy’ didn’t really mean political pluralism. It meant Modman’s rule.
By the time the United States entered the war, Russia had already been paralysed by the pacifist propaganda waged by the Bolsheviks and paid for by the Germans. She had been almost knocked out of the conflict and, with her armies deserting en masse, was months away from falling to the worst tyranny the world had ever known.
And on the Western front supposedly civilised people were no longer fighting a war; they were engaged in mass murder for its own sake.
Under such circumstances, it didn’t take a crystal ball to predict that any possible conclusion to the massacre would come at a cost to traditional institutions. As Western holdouts were being mowed down, so was the habitat in which the West could possibly stagger back to life.
Woodrow Wilson didn’t need fortune-telling appliances to predict such an outcome. And this was precisely what he craved.
Alone among the wartime leaders, Wilson had clear-cut objectives that went beyond simply winning the war. He had heard the clarion call of modernity not as a distant echo but in every tonal detail, and responded by employing every technique at his disposal.
Shortly after the war began, and two years before America’s entry, Wilson set up the greatest advertising agency ever seen, the Committee on Public Information. It included America’s leading propagandists, and was headed by George Creel whose own political sympathies lay far on the left.
Their task was clearly defined: America had a mission to convert the world to her way of life. The President had come to the conclusion that this mission could be fulfilled only by entering the war. Ergo, the American people who, in their ignorance, opposed such a move had to be made to see the light.
Anyway, the American people hardly mattered: Wilson had in mind a programme for all mankind, not just parochial interests, and if the programme could be put into action only at a cost to American lives, then so be it.
Having won the 1916 re-election on the glossocratic slogan “He kept us out of the war”, Wilson went on to demonstrate that every means was suitable for dragging America into the meat grinder.
Technically neutral until April 1917, she had begun to violate the provisions of neutrality from the start. The House of Morgan, for example, floated war loans for Britain and France in 1915, while supplies were flowing from America across the Atlantic in an uninterrupted stream.
The Germans were thus provoked into unrestricted U-boat warfare (not that they needed much provoking), which in turn helped Wilson to build a slender pro-war margin in the Congress.
Wilson viscerally knew exactly what he was after: the destruction of the Western world and its replacement with a world of Modman led by the philistine American sub-species.
That’s why the propaganda spewed out by the Creel Committee went beyond amateurish attacks on the bloodthirsty Hun. Every leaflet put out by Creel, every speech by Wilson, was an incitement to revolution, both political and social, across Europe.
Thus America had no quarrel with the industrious people of Germany; it was the oppressive Junkers class that was the enemy. No sacrifice was too great to liberate the Germans from their own domestic tyrants.
No peace, no armistice was possible until the existing social order and political arrangement were destroyed – in other words, until a revolution took place.
Likewise, Wilson had no quarrel with the quirky people inhabiting the British Empire; it was the Empire itself that he abhorred.
Even though for tactical reasons that particular message couldn’t yet be enunciated in so many words, dismantling the offending institution was clearly one of Wilson’s key objectives.
A fanatic of a single world government, Wilson was at the same time a great champion of national self-determination. There was no contradiction there at all, at least not to a glossocratic mind. The first was the end; the second, the means.
The marginal peoples of the empires, all those Czechs, Serbs and Finns couldn’t make good any promise of self-determination without a prior destruction of all traditional governments. QED.
It was no concern of Wilson that the demise of, say, a rather senile but still workable Austro-Hungarian empire would lead to the creation of artificial and ultimately untenable states. For example, fashioning a federation out of the culturally and religiously hostile peoples of Yugoslavia was tantamount to pushing the countdown button on a time bomb.
But such concerns were never a factor in glossocratic calculations. Nor did it matter to Wilson on which side a traditional government fought.
He was as hostile to the British and Russian empires as he was to the Central European ones. So it stood to reason that he would welcome the destruction of those institutions, even at the cost of reversal in the fortunes of war.
Thus, when the Tsarist regime collapsed, Wilson was ecstatic. Here was another democracy hatched out of the dark recesses of absolutism.
That the new ‘democracy’ was so weak that it couldn’t keep her troops at the front mattered little. For Wilson this wasn’t about winning a world war but about winning the war for the world.
This is the time to pray for the dead – and rage about the vile new world that killed them to advance its own ignoble cause. RIP.