Courtesy Reuters

No Peace, No War

THE historian who searches for historical parallels can find little that is relevant to the circumstances of the present day. It is of course true that all great wars tend to conclude not with a spectacular and universal return of peace to an afflicted world, but with a series of smaller wars which gradually taper off until peace is reached. The First World War was no exception to this rule, and not until after the end of the Greco-Turkish War in 1922 -- four years after the Armistice on the western front -- could one begin to talk of a postwar period. Two centuries earlier, the great wars caused by the ambitions of Louis XIV came to a real end only with the northern settlement in the Treaty of Nystadt, in 1721, six years after that monarch's death, and eight years after the principal belligerents had come to terms by the Treaty of Utrecht. Nor is it a novelty that victorious nations should fall out with one another on the morrow of victory. The difficulties caused by Russian and Prussian ambitions at the Congress of Vienna, and the advantage taken of them by Talleyrand, provide a classic instance. It is not, therefore, by the novelty of the situation so much as by the extent of the turmoil, the rapidity of the new alignments and the lack of any signs pointing to a peaceful solution to our predicament that the present period is distinguished from other postwar periods. Indeed, the current preoccupation with subjects such as rearmament would tend to suggest an atmosphere of a prewar rather than a postwar kind.

Many reasons have been and can be put forward in explanation of these facts. One can point to the unparalleled savagery of the Second World War, to the extent of the devastation and of the breakdown in the normal mechanisms of civilized living, to the fears engendered by the exploitations of new and tremendous weapons, and to the unleashing of the passions of

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