Active Pacifism: Bertrand Russell s Views on the First World War The British philosopher A.J.

Ayer considered Bertrand Arthur William Russell as one of the foremost philosophers for his direction of human conduct in the biography Bertrand Russell as a Philosopher (Ayer 127). As a close friend of Ayer, Russell was an outspoken social critic who protested against the First World War, and was later convicted to six months in prison under the Defense of the Realm Act (Godfrey 1). The British philosopher called the First World War a meaningless battle between two dogs in the street. His description is a well-constructed metaphor that has a solid foundation of truth, yet it is slightly biased in that Russell overlooks the rationales behind the war and its positive impacts. Any war with the size and intensity of WWI will inevitably have a deadly impact on the world. The war began because of an unreasonable dispute that erupted into conflict from militaristic tension, though the true outcomes of the war could not have been and were not entirely forecasted. Nevertheless, the First World War has had a constructive effect on the global economy and serves as a reminder of the difficulty to resolve conflict with further conflict an example used to support pacifism. The human casualties and negative social effects of the First World War have devastated the world as a whole both on a humanitarian and social basis. The naval blockade used to weaken the German war economy had a noteworthy effect, since Germany s food supply relied heavily on imports from the United States. It brought about the starvation of 763,000 German citizens, not including those who died from other causes such as the Spanish Flu ( The Blockade of Germany ) The World War I reparations that Germany was forced to pay under the Treaty of Versailles were excessively expensive as they took a total of 90 years to pay off (Hall). The Germans denied that they were the sole cause of the war, and that the conditions were too expensive; the foreign minister von Brockdorff-Rantzau said, You demand from us to confess we were the only guilty part of war; such a confession in my mouth would be a lie (Köster).

- Intense feelings of nationalism for fending off Germany from these accusations created pressure leading to the Second World War. present and to come. as demonstrated in WWI (Vasily). with the Armenian genocide in WWI. triggering a more angry response from the Russians and making the situation seem more deep than intended(Causes of WWI) . the two deadliest conflicts in history. in that the countries did have specific incentives for being drawn into conflict. Wars are currently used today as a means of eliminating black Africans in the War in Darfur. in that their plans led them off track into the turmoils of the Great War. Within the remnants of a city. a symbol of death and the darkness of war. though it was not clear enough that Germany s true aims were to eliminate France to protect itself before France (with their enmity since the Franco-Prussian war) and the advancing Russian troops surround her. and the two atomic bombings that ended the war killed twice as many civilians from bomb-related causes as the number of people who died from other causes of conflict ( World War 2 Atomic Bomb ). and the Holocaust in WWII. Germany promised to support Austria-Hungary s invasion of Serbia. - In the two world wars. This caused AustriaHungary to attack both Russia and Serbia at the same time. Sudan. one sees a pyramid of skulls encircled by ravens. . The mixed causes of each country in the war makes Russell s judgment of the war as meaningless both false. Large exterminations have occurred throughout history from racial conflict as well as the chaos created amidst war (Genocide). and at the same time true. a continuation and magnified version of the Great War (Sommerville 5). past. large-scale massacres took place. as in Vasily Vereshchagin s oil painting The Apotheosis of War. Over half of the 100 million combatants in WWII were killed (5). There was originally a lack of communication among the Central Powers. - Pacifist views on the effects of war are depicted in art. The artist etches his dedication to all conquerors.

Although the belligerents were not all able to achieve what they had intended to acquire from the war. was sensitive to political conflict. - The main reason for the spread of WWI after Russia launched an attack on Germany was due to the failure to execute the Schlieffen Plan. making war a precarious choice for the Triple Entente (the Entente would have to switch to the offensive side if they attacked Germany. In this case. Austria-Hungary. - The Balkans. and it underestimated the resistance from Belgium. and Italy. . though Germany s intention was not to attack Britain. instead of defending France and Serbia). Germany. Great Britain and Germany were in a naval race. and thus the war was not expected to last as long as it did. Germany needed a route to Asia through Balkan territory. Germany and France both wanted Alsace-Lorrain. Britain. as well as Russia s declaration of war in spite of Germany s demanding that it does not interfere. - However. and France had better reasons to go to war. Germany had not expected Russia s quick arrival to the battlefront. and Britain and France wished to further their imperialistic reaches (Conflicting National Interests). it had not expected that Britain would be able to rush to France s aid quickly enough. Austria and Russia would best fit Russell s description of dogs fighting in the streets because of Austria s harsh and unjust ultimatum. some other gains did come by unexpectedly. Germany had not expected Britain (which was neutral at the time) to attack them. also known as Europe s powder keg. Britain considered Germany s offensive as a threat. but to use early offense as a method of defense in the arms race before the Triple Entente could catch up and become a more serious threat to the Alliance.- At the same time. the war may have halted since Italy would join forces with Germany to split off a part of France. Had the Schlieffen plan succeeded.

After the conclusion of WWI. In a shortage of workers. women were brought into the workforce ( Find women are apt ). Under the rule of Adolf Hitler. Germany temporarily ceased to pay any reparation costs until later (Taylor) - The global economy was changed as a whole. including that of John Keynes. largely widespread today in remembrance of the soldiers who died in the First World War (McCrae) While Russell s criticisms of the war are valid in that its aftermaths were underestimated at the outbreak of the war. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields. that the cost of reparations would ruin Germany s economy. Germany s iron. he fails to recognize its subtle positive effects and the confusions that were involved. and at the same time. and to supply the needs of war. metal. as well as the Nobel Prize in Literature.- Fearing that American Jews would support Germany. however. new technological advancements take place. by the late 1920s. The war helped serve as a target of pacifist criticism both before and after the war. . The weak and timid can reasonably seek security by blending in with the crowd. such as the use of airplanes in combat and the cracking of the German Enigma in World War Two (Giesler) - In 1995. Russell became famous worldwide in academic circles. being awarded the Order of Merit by King George VI. after witnessing the death of his friend at the Battle of Ypres. and coal production each increased by approximately 30% as compared to before the war. all change in history depends on the truthful and unreasonable man who speaks his thoughts. its harm helps in serving as a future example for those supporting pacifism. Britain issued the Balfour Declaration from the League of Nations for the nation of Palestine to be shared by Jews and Arabs and helping lead to the creation of Israel (Trueman) - The hyperinflation caused by the German government attempting to pay of its debts gained worldwide sympathy and persuaded France to lower her debts under the Dawes plan (Marks) - Despite beliefs from many economists.

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