Sunday, April 5, 2009

"No Further Along Than Almost a Month Ago"

Colonel House looked over his previous diary entries on April 2, 1919, perusing them for preparation to be sealed and put in a safe deposit box.  He thought that this piece of his diary of events at Paris would make him seem a "false prophet":  "At the beginning of this last reading, I predicted an earlhy peace, even thought we might be ready as early as March 20 to ask the Germans to Versailles.  It is now April 2 and we are no further along than we were the day this prediction was made, almost a month ago...."

Much had occurred in Paris and everywhere else.  Just to run down a few major events, the Russian Civil War (which had begun in earnest a year before) was intensifying, both in terms of internal opposition to the Bolsheviks and in terms of international assistance to the "White" forces; fighting was taking place in many of the new republics emerging from the western lands of the Russian empire; the revived state of Poland either encouraged or ordered a series of pogroms (attacks against Jews)  beginning in December 1919 in Poznan and other cities and ending with large-scale beatings, murders, and other depredations and killing hundreds of Jews in February, March, and April (see the Morgethau Mission Report);  in March 1919, Bela Kun took control of a socialist/communist government in Hungary, confiscated all property throughout the country; the new German republic fought hard to maintain control, fending off both rightwing and leftwing violence, while the parliamentarians in the city of Weimar created a constitution; the balance of sentiment among American political elites was turning against many of Wilson's plans for the Peace; the Allies at Paris began a very difficult discussion of how to secure France from another attack by Germany in the future; Allied policies in the defeated Ottoman Empire made it possible for the Greeks to prepare an all-out assault on Turkey during April 1919, and they would attack in early May.

As one of Charles Dickens's great characters exclaimed:  "It's all a muddle!"  Things certainly were a muddle ninety years ago.  Still, it is hard to imagine that Colonel House ever thought that a complete overhaul of the modern world could be accomplished in two months.  Perhaps he had not counted on such a many-sided conversation in Paris

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Design of a Violent Century by Hunt Tooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.