The Treaty of Versailles

From the National Post:

A century after the Treaty of Versailles, its anniversary passes largely unobserved

The treaty that formally ended the First World War was widely seen as a failure, but to forget about it is to risk romanticizing the war

One hundred Junes ago, the world had a go at ensuring peace for Europe. Heads of state convened in a palace in the suburbs of Paris and tried to resolve 51 months of war. One of the products of the meeting, the Treaty of Versailles, is now treated as a failure.

“I think that Versailles is tinged almost forever with this kind of air of disillusionment and sorrow that all that suffering didn’t lead to something more conclusive and inspiring,” says Ian McKay, director of the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University. “So maybe that’s why we’re not celebrating the anniversary.”

June 28 marks the centennial of the signing of the treaty, the document that formally ended the First World War. It was a product of the Paris Peace Conference, which also created the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. The treaty focused on Germany, to which it assigned new borders and — most controversially — blame for the war.

Other centenaries of the Great War have attracted great ceremony. For the Armistice in November 2018 and the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined other world leaders in France.

The prime minister is not marking the anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles; his office says Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will post about it on social media. The lack of celebration could be explained by the treaty’s failures. It is criticized for being too harsh on Germany and contributing to its aggression in the 1930s and ’40s. The treaty also did not prevent wars in the Balkans, Turkey and Eastern Ukraine. Still, some historians urge people to remember the treaty not so much to learn from it as to prevent them from romanticizing the war’s legacy.

“What Versailles really did was humiliate Germany,” says McKay. “I really appreciate people who want to say, ‘Okay, thank goodness our boys died for something heroic and noble, and the world is a better place as a result of it.’ I would really love to believe that, but when you look soberly at the history of the 20th century, maybe 90 million deaths caused as a direct application of warfare, it’s hard for me to draw that optimistic conclusion.”

Tragic or not, the Treaty deserves to be remembered.

Normally the Canadian media never misses an opportunity to play up the Canadian angle, and I’m surprised that this article did not mention Canada’s participation at the Paris Peace Conference. From Wikipedia’s entry on Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden:

Convinced that Canada had become a nation on the battlefields of Europe, Borden demanded that it have a separate seat at the Paris Peace Conference. This was initially opposed not only by Britain but also by the United States, who perceived such a delegation as an extra British vote. Borden responded by pointing out that since Canada had lost a far larger proportion of its men compared to the U.S. in the war (although not more in absolute numbers), Canada at least had the right to the representation of a “minor” power. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George eventually relented, and convinced the reluctant Americans to accept the presence of separate Canadian, Indian, Australian, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South African delegations. Despite this, Borden boycotted the opening ceremony, protesting at the precedence given to the prime minister of the much smaller Newfoundland over him.

Not only did Borden’s persistence allow him to represent Canada in Paris as a nation, it also ensured that each of the dominions could sign the Treaty of Versailles in its own right, and receive a separate membership in the League of Nations. During the conference Borden tried to act as an intermediary between the United States and other members of the British Empire delegation, particularly Australia and New Zealand over the issue of Mandates. Borden also discussed with Lloyd George, the possibility of Canada taking over the administration of Belize and the West Indies, but no agreement was reached.

At Borden’s insistence, the treaty was ratified by the Canadian Parliament.

Narva, Estonia

Disquieting news in The Atlantic:

NATO Fears That This Town Will Be the Epicenter of Conflict With Russia

Chinese Diplomacy

Interesting article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, courtesy Lachlan Mead:

Chinese students being taught ‘us and them’ brand of diplomacy

Future diplomats in the Chinese foreign service are taught that a particular set of ideas and ways of thinking are “correct”. Above all, they are being taught the importance of maintaining correct-ness.

While the future of Chinese diplomacy is without doubt exceptionally intelligent, talented, earnest, and hard-working, many budding diplomats have been immersed in a socialisation process that may not equip them to deal with the fast-paced global environment in which they will find themselves.

Recently, an article was published describing the global public relations challenge looming for China as its experienced and savvy diplomats age, with no clear replacements lined up to take their places. While the shortage in numbers of diplomats is important, what is also noteworthy is how new diplomats are being trained to think and operate in the international arena….

The first and most fundamental element in students’ socialisation process is the overriding sense of identifying themselves as part of the great imagined community of “we Chinese” above all else.

Students would often describe world affairs in terms of “women zhongguoren” (“we Chinese”, translating as “middle country people”) and “nimen waiguoren” (“you foreigners”, literally “outside country people”) — a vast and generally undifferentiated mass of everyone else….

Students also tended to articulate strong views around what China’s role in the world should look like in the future. They argued that the era of hegemony was at an end, and it was now the time for a multipolar international order. They saw China as one of these poles, of course, with others including the US, the EU, and Russia.

China was almost without exception understood to be a force for good, a peaceful and benevolent actor, and the leader and representative voice for the developing world.

This was based on the premise that China — according to them — had always been a peaceful world player, who, although powerful in the past, had never viciously conquered or invaded others. The example of the Ming dynasty maritime explorer Zheng He (1371-1433) regularly featured in the discussion.

More at the link.

Trade ya!

Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, has given his permission for the famous Bayeux Tapestry to visit England for the first time ever (or rather, for the first time since it was manufactured at Canterbury in the eleventh century, if you subscribe to this theory). Some believe this is an attempt at enticing the Brits to abandon Brexit. If so, perhaps the notice that Winchester has offered to loan the Winchester Round Table to France in response is an attempt at diffusing this. Anthropologically, the Brits will have met their obligation to reciprocate with a similar loan, and they can proceed with Brexit otherwise. (Although Councillor Roy Perry claims that it is only to get the Bayeux Tapestry displayed in Winchester and not in London.) My thanks to Chris Berard for the link.

The Winchester Round Table is not really from King Arthur’s reign, of course. It was fashioned during the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307), and painted during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-47) – thus the famous double “Tudor” rose at the center. It is on display in Winchester Castle. A good book about it is Martin Biddle, King Arthur’s Round Table: An Archaeological Investigation (Boydell, 2000).

Wikipedia