Was World War I worth it?

Mar 2019
106
Victoria, Australia
Just going to post my own opinions about World War 1 in terms of whether or not it was "worth it".

The Congress of Vienna had, in many ways, shaped the borders and countries of Europe prior to World War 1 with very few territorial changes between it's set up at the end of the Napoleonic wars and the start of WWI. However, a lot of issues where left completely unresolved. These include Limburg (by Belgium, Netherland and Germany), Eupen-malmedy (Germany, Belgium), Saarland, Alsacen & Lorraine (France and Germany), East Prussia (Poland, Prussia), etc.... Plus, there was a lot of nationalist sentiments in some minorities that were an obvious issue. Particularly the minorities in the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empire is worth noting here.

Whilst in many ways WWI is an odd war since almost everyone believe to be fighting a defensive war, it had a lot of purpose in that it helped resolved centuries worth of conflicts and issues. However, the treaty of Versaille similarly fail to address most of these issues and failed to calm the situation post-war by insisting on a humiliating and unreasonable demand on Germany (which would have been fine if the Allies actually enforced it, their policy of appeasement and all that in the 1930s, In my opinion largely undermined them both international diplomatics and politically).

Similarly, WWI allowed for a lot of new ideas, technologies and ways of thinking to appear. Cars, Planes, Electronics were all highly stimulated by the war. It also finally decided to end the whole "Line warfare" that the European countries had been party to.

So, as a whole, yes it accomplished quite a lot and in my opinion, a lot more than World War 2, which insofar as the European theatre was concerned is little more than a tantrum.

However, the next question to ask ourselves is whether or not this could have been entirely avoided. And to that, the answer is yes. However, I think that many countries were too arrogant or proud to actually do what was necessary and avoid war. Something that we see still today when countries refuse to accept things or help things in some twisted idea of pride or something. (Denial of genocides is one that often goes on this list).
 
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Mar 2019
12
Cisalpine Gaul (Italy)
I would say it wasn't, because it led to a worse situation than what was before: political extremism (it was a factor before too) rised more, instability characterized all europe leading to violence and totalitarianism.
 
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EmperorTigerstar

Ad Honorem
Jun 2013
6,397
USA
The reason for the war was dumb. But I wouldn't prevent it from happening for a number of reasons, such as the butterfly effects that led to me being born.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,925
SoCal
The reason for the war was dumb. But I wouldn't prevent it from happening for a number of reasons, such as the butterfly effects that led to me being born.
By that logic, though, you wouldn't prevent the Holocaust either--or the Cambodian genocide, for that matter.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,767
WW1 was, in my sincere opinion, the worst event in all of human history. Take the decades before WW1: it was the belle-epoque, the period of incredible scientific, economic and social gains, the global economy was developing at incredible pace and even relatively poor countries like Russia and Austria-Hungary were rapidly developing. After WW1 development was seriously set back for nearly 40 years due to WW1, Spanish Flu, German and Austrian hyperinflation, The Great Depression, WW2. After WW2, the series of calamities that began with WW1 did not end: the evil Soviet regime spread throughout the world, enslaving hundreds of millions of people. In China alone, in the 1950's and 1960's, just after a Soviet-style regime was set up that murdered 60 million people.

I argue that none of these events would have transpired without WW1: the totalitarian ideologies of Fascism and Communism grew and managed to take power during the chaos that WW1 opened up and over the following 75 years, up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, approximately 180 million people were killed in WW1, WW2, by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other brutal tyrannical regimes. Without WW1 we wouldn't have have any of these evil regimes. True, European Empires were not very nice as they failed to provide democratic representation for their subjects, however, there was a steady march towards greater representation across most countries in the world: the US in 1910, for instance, was much more democratic than 100 years before, the same applies to France and the United Kingdom, even countries such as Imperial Germany had developed a lot of democratic institutions by the year of 1914. Overall the trend was very strong torwards more and more democratic participation, while WW1 ignited the Fascist and Leninist-Stalinist regimes which were far worse than anything that existed in 1914.
The problem would be the odds against such a positive and peaceful development.

The international political system was highly volatile, based on great-power transactional deal-making at the direct expense of smaller states (losing sovereignty), which often as not included secret clauses meaning all the operatives were playing with parts of the field obscured to them from the outset. It was also based on a logic of military chicken-races. When the crap hit the fan in 1914 it was just the latest iteration of that pattern. Something would have been needed to break it.

And while the pre-1914 world seems in retrospect idyllic compared to post-WWI, that tends to think away the rise of violent anarchism, socialism in general etc at the time. The amount of pre-WWI political murders and massacres (terrorism, anarchists mostly) all over Europe was pretty shocking, if one cares to investigate the matter.

Even the economy wasn't all that. Up to 1873 there was this astonishing long growth period in the international economy. But that broke with the first modern global recession in 1873. It was then a much bumpier start-stop ride up to WWI – and one of the things it also meant was the rise of political populism, various forms of radical politics, including nasty stuff like an outright anti-semitic one-issue party entering the German Reichstag in the 1890's (their specific issue being "It's all the fault of the Jews" of course).

In the US the period is sometime referred to as "The Gilded Age". That seems an apt description of the situation prior to WWI in general to me. The internal tensions and inconsistencies, and the violence, wasn't something that WWI alone gave rise to. It was already there.

Given the starting values it seems hard to see how some form of crunch would not have occurred. Of course I agree that a genocidally large war was about as bad an outcome as there could have been – hard to envisions a worse one. But still, pre-WWI there was already some massive tensions brewing, meaning somehow those chickens would have come home to roost eventually.
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,461
Wirral
The fact the "The war to end all wars" was not, says it wasn't. However, WWI effectively ended the empires within Europe, enabling sovereignty for millions of people. For that reason, yes it was.
I suppose it becomes more “worth it” the further one is in time from the unpleasant consequences. I can’t imagine that the Great Powers would have gone to war if they had known what the results would be but they all believed they would win, or had to pretend they believed so.
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,767
I suppose it becomes more “worth it” the further one is in time from the unpleasant consequences. I can’t imagine that the Great Powers would have gone to war if they had known what the results would be but they all believed they would win, or had to pretend they believed so.
I'm not so sure they all were convinced they would win. The problem seems more that there was a feeling that a Great Showdown was unavoidably coming, sooner or later, and some (like Germany) were more concerned about the timing of it than about the war itself.

It's also a problem of everyone fearing defeat, but no one going into the war really fearing the fighting of it. And then the real hell turned out to be precisely the fighting. That was unanticipated.
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,565
Republika Srpska
I suppose it becomes more “worth it” the further one is in time from the unpleasant consequences. I can’t imagine that the Great Powers would have gone to war if they had known what the results would be but they all believed they would win, or had to pretend they believed so.
I don't think the Entente really planned the whole redrawing of the maps of Europe. Their goals evolved during the war. I doubt that they wanted A-H dissolved in 1914.
 
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Feb 2019
869
Serbia
No, it was not worth it. It brought about a downfall of an order that had been working well for almost 100 years and was fought over something that was far from worth it. The French Revolutionary Wars were fought against a regime that Europe deemed hostile, the Napoleonic Wars were fought against someone that was hostile. WWII was fought against Fascism. WWI, what was it fought for? Just over some disputes between the great powers that could've been settled far more peacefully.