Honouring the Dead to end all War : Remembering the start of World War 1

Honouring the Dead to end all War

Kevin P Clements

Monday the 4th August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One. This year many people throughout New Zealand will observe this moment at 5.45 pm with silent, candle lit vigils at central war memorials. There will be one in Dunedin. It will start at First Church and then move in silence to the War Memorial.
These quiet vigils will provide a chance to remember those who fought and those who died a hundred years ago. They will also help us focus on those who resisted and those who did not. It is hoped that remembering the First World War will remind us of “the pity of war” and ensure renewed dedication to ensuring that such wars never happen again.
These commemorations take place against a backdrop of continuing bloody wars in Syria, Gaza, Iraq, Africa and South Asia. The challenge confronting us in the 21st century is how to remember and honour the war dead of the First World War by ending all war in the present. If we can do this we will truly honour their sacrifice. .
This First World War laid the foundations for the Second World War and, in different ways, stimulated many of the colonial wars of the latter half of the 20th century. We are living with its legacy still.
Its important to try and understand its lessons for the 21st century. Nathan Gardels , in a recent issue of the Huffington Post, (31 July 2014) asked 7 Harvard academics for their views on the lessons learned from the First World War and this is what they came up with. I have truncated six of their arguments and added my own comments.
1. “Just because war would be folly and self-defeating does not mean that it cannot happen. None of the leaders of Europe in 1914 would have chosen the war they caused — and in the end all lost -Graham Allison . This raises some important questions about the capacity of modern leaders to understand the short and long term consequences of their actions. Does Israel, for example, understand the likely consequences of its current engagement in Gaza?
2. “History is typically assumed to be the result of great forces, strategic trends, well-thought-out plans, but is often a function of unimportant and unintended events, a ‘shot heard around the world’. ” -Chuck Freilich Its important that we respond to these small events with calmness and insight if we are to avoid major cataclysms.
3. “A salient lesson of World War I for decision-makers should be humility about predicting consequences in a transitional epoch. The leaders of the era were wrong about almost everything “ -Ben Heineman It’s rare for decision makers to get things right when making decisions to use violence. It’s a fundamental ethical principle not to make irreversible short term decisions,.
4. “Historical analogies, though sometimes useful for precautionary purposes, become dangerous when they convey a sense of historical inevitability. WWI was not inevitable…. War is never inevitable, though the belief that it is can become one of its causes.” -Joseph S. Nye We need to learn from the past if we are to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. We should certainly avoid self fulfiulling prophecies. We are the masters our own fate.
5. “The main lesson to draw from the onset of the Great War is that serious miscalculation leading to war is possible even in a modern world that is well connected and deeply integrated. -Kevin Ryan. No decision to go to war should be taken lightly and most political decision makers would be wise to incorporate popular as well as intelligent wisdom into their decision making before making such decisions.
6. “‘You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees,’ Kaiser Wilhelm told his troops in August 1914. Yet, before autumn had ended, a million combatants lay dead. Fifteen million more — soldiers and civilians — would perish before the armistice” William Tobey. Its important not to take political leaders comments on war at face value. Its really important to interrogate all that passes for political wisdom so that we do not stumble into catastrophe.
I hope that these candlelit vigils on Monday night will help us all focus our minds on how to learn these lessons from the First World War so that never again will we sacrifice whole generations to false political principles.


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in Conscientious Objectors, First World War, Israel, Remembering History, Russia, Violence and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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