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David Andelman has written a book which presents very cogently how the debacle of Versailles 1919 still impacts the world today. The reason why I suggest the book is mis-titled is because the author does not take us in depth into the negotiations which took place at Versailles. Instead, he paints a very vivid picture of the key players, countries and geo-politics that prefaced Versailles and World War I.
In presenting these well crafted pictures, he shows that to some extent, Versailles was a done deal almost before the event. "Across the region, forces of all sides were seeking to establish fait accomplis - bringing further misery, death, and destruction to millions of people."
The level of intrigue, secret agreements and downright Machiavellian behavior which the major and some minor powers involved themselves in the years prior to 1919 is mind boggling. Maybe the saddest element of this book is that many of the key parties understood, even as they were negotiating the treaty that in the words of a disappointed T.E. Lawrence "There will be hell to pay."
There has been hell to pay - World War II, Vietnam, Yugoslavia / Bosnia / Croatia, the Japanese involvement in WWII can all be traced to the Shattered Peace.
Andelman makes it quite clear that three things motivated the major parties
Colonialism, for instance "The view of Allied Statesmen was that Arabs ... needed to be ruled by Europeans for their own benefit";
Ensuring Germany would never be a power again.
The terrible irony of course is that the terms imposed on the German people virtually ensured Europe would be at war again within two decades which is not something that was unexpected. Lloyd George wrote in one prescient document, "I cannot conceive any greater cause of future war" than the transfer of millions of Germans to smaller neighboring nations. "It will lead sooner or later to a new war in the East of Europe." How horribly right he was.
The author provides clear pictures on Arabia, Palestine and the conflict between Czechoslovakia's Tomas Masaryk and Poland's internationally famed pianist turned statesmen Ignace Jan Paderewski. He also paints a very interesting and compelling portrait of the young Ho Chi Minh, initially an idealistic believer in the Versailles process, but who ultimately felt his country's fate could best be served by pledging his loyalty to Lenin. The Vietnamese leaders description of one massacre of his people helps one appreciate why they despised the French colonial rule of their country.
I am sure there have been many lengthier books written on Versailles, but few can be as interesting a read. Excellent reading for anyone who wishes to explore the genesis of many of today's geo-political problems.
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