Photo: At war: Lieutentant Colonel Winston Churchill with the 6th Battalion, The Royal Scottish Fusiliers, during the First World War. (Image Source: Daily Mail)
Winston Churchill left for posterity a great mass of writings about the Western world in war and peace, from the perspective of a military leader, politician and historian.
On this hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the below reflections in the aftermath of that war, as originally published on January 1, 1929 in Churchill’s “The Aftermath,” and quoted in his “The Gathering Storm” are as striking and prescient as they are eloquent. Not only do they provide a telling window into the state of the world following “The Great War,” but serve as an eerie precursor to World War II, the Cold War and even today.
It was not until the dawn of the twentieth century of the Christian era that war began to enter into its kingdom as the potential destroyer of the human race. The organisation of mankind into great States and Empires, and the rise of nations to full collective consciousness, enabled enterprises of slaughter to be planned and executed upon a scale and with a perseverance never before imagined. All the noblest virtues of individuals were gathered to strengthen the destructive capacity of the mass. Good finances, the resources of world-wide credit and trade, the accumulation of large capital reserves, made it possible to divert for considerable periods the energies of whole peoples to the task of devastation. Democratic institutions gave expression to the will-power of millions. Education not only brought the course of the conflict within the comprehension of everyone, but rendered each person serviceable in a high degree for the purpose in hand. The Press afforded a means of unification and of mutual stimulation. Religion, having discreetly avoided conflicted on the fundamental issues, offered its encouragements and consolations, through all its forms, impartially to all the combatantts. Lastly, Science unfolded her treasures and her secrets to the desperate demands of men, and placed in tehir hands agencies and appartus almost decisive in their character.