The Impacts Of World War I That Are Still Felt Today

Published: 24 January 2024

By BP Perry
vis the (UK) website

US Army Soldier-min

US Army soldier, likely in training, in 1917/18 near Washington DC

It’s been more than a century since World War I started and ended, but the effects of the conflict can still be seen across the 21st-century geo-political landscape

2024 marks the 110th anniversary of the start of World War I. Amongst the many commemorations of this momentous occasion will come the inevitable accusation that the so-called ‘war to end all wars’ was ultimately pointless. To many, the devastating conflict that marred the beginning of the 20th century was nothing but a senseless waste of time and lives.

But was it? Was the First World War as pointless as people now claim or was it one of the most important events of all time?

A world transformed

The Great War pitted the armies, navies and fledgling air forces of several powerful empires against one another. While the combating parties were mainly European, they also included the United States, a country that was fast emerging as a dominant force in global politics.

Four years of bloodshed finished with a victory for the Allies in 1918 and the result saw the end of the Ottoman, German and Austro-Hungarian empires. The Russian Empire had also already fallen in 1917. While it is true that what arose from the ashes of defeat was not always an improvement on what had gone before, the world was largely a better place without what were some of the deadliest empires on the planet.

Global cooperation

The enormous loss of life in such a short space of time was a horror previously thought unimaginable in a supposedly civilised, sophisticated Europe. Up until the First World War, battles consisted of infantry squares, cannon fire and cavalry charges. They took place on battlefields far removed from civilisation and were usually over in a day.

World War I, with its battlefields strewn with the decomposing corpses of men brought down in their prime, its machine gun massacres, artillery bombardments, motorised and aerial warfare and even attacks on the Home Front from enemies in countries hundreds of miles away came as a massive shock to the system. ‘Never again!’ went out the cry when the guns fell silent in November 1918, but how was that to be achieved? The answer was the Treaty of Versailles and the formation of the League of Nations.

While both were hugely flawed and ultimately undermined by a growing sense of grievance, particularly in Germany, the League showed that another way to resolve conflicts was possible. Following World War II, the League’s successor organisation, the United Nations, was formed. While it has its own flaws, it has provided nations from across the globe with a way of resolving their differences that might never have happened without the horrors of the First World War.

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