Armistice Day and the End of the “Great” War

This is the time of year we often hear people claim that the original meaning of the holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas have been lost to commercialism. The same holds true for Veteran’s Day, formerly know as Armistice Day.

Armistice Day celebrates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I, at that time known as the Great War. It was a celebration of peace, though there were also tributes to the men who died (and those who survived) that war. The name change was an attempt to add recognition for veterans of later wars, since 11/11 is a very specific anniversary. The peace theme has been forgotten; it has become yet another day on which Americans glorify war, under the guise of honoring veterans.

November 11th is, in any case, an excellent day to celebrate, because it marks the ending of what was probably the most pointless, idiotic conflict in human history. This mother of all atrocities cost the lives of 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians. There were no good guys, no Allies versus Nazis, just a collection of aging colonial empires (plus the upstarts Germany and America) jockeying for wealth and power.

The so-called Great War normalized the use of conscription (volunteer armies being dismissed as “unscientific”) and censorship of the press, even in the United States. As a direct result of the war’s toll upon Russia, the Czar’s government fell, giving rise to the 75-year nightmare known as the Soviet Union. The venality and greed of the victorious British and French led them to humiliate and punish the German people, and fragment the Austro-Hungarian Empire, creating the fertile soil that gave rise to Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Iron Curtain.

But wait, there’s more! The years 1914-1918 were a time when technology made the old modes of war obsolete, with weapons that enabled murder on an industrial scale. Yet the military leadership refused to recognize this change, treating their slave armies as disposable cannon fodder. British and French commanders ordered their men to charge into German machine gun fire to be mowed down like cattle. Those who refused these acts of suicide were charged with desertion and murdered by their so-called leaders.

Then there was the introduction of chemical weapons such as mustard gas, a horror that plagues us to this day.

It was called “the war to end all wars,” but it led to an even bigger war just 20 years after the Armistice. It was the “war to save democracy,” yet it, gave birth to totalitarianism and genocide in the world’s largest country, and severely impacted freedom in many others. Even the Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed around 50 million people worldwide, probably would not have been as severe if not for the widespread dislocation of peoples, and the diversion of public resources to warfare rather than health.

Had the United States not been foolish enough to join in the carnage, the war might have ended in a stalemate, saving millions from oppression and annihilation in the years to come. The planet-sized ego of US President Woodrow Wilson, combined with the corrupt greed of J.P. Morgan and other anglophile tycoons, guaranteed that the worst possible outcome would result.

Perhaps we humans will someday learn from our mistakes. We, the common people of the world, can reject the propaganda of the psychopathic elites and refuse to fight. In the midst of the bloodshed of the Great War was the inspiring example of the spontaneous, unofficial Christmas Truce of 1914, in which German and British soldiers crossed the trenches to exchange gifts, prisoners, and well wishes.


Another inspiring result of the Armistice was the Peace Dollar, designed by sculptor Anthony de Francisci, which is in my opinion the most beautiful coin ever minted by the USA. (Lady Liberty is modeled on de Francisci’s lovely Italian-born wife Teresa.) Note that contrary to most US coins, the bald eagle is perched, resting, and minding its own affairs. That’s a symbol for the non-interventionist ideals this nation must learn to live by.

For more information, see Wilson’s War by Jim Powell.


Photograph of Peace Dollar is from


A Writer’s Nightmare

The rapid pace of current events is making it more difficult to be a writer, not just in science fiction but in other genres. For decades the Soviet Union was a staple enemy for spy thrillers. Now it’s gone, replaced by a new bad guy, the Islamic Terrorist. Yet these bearded fanatics hiding in caves and blowing themselves up are just not as menacing as a monolithic dictatorship with the power to nuke the planet. The Russian Federation is a force to be reckoned with, but its relationship to the West is now a lot fuzzier.

Another factor that renders stories obsolete is technology. William Gibson’s novels, at least the last ones I read a few years back, aren’t science fiction anymore. At best, they’re techno-thrillers, possibly even mainstream. Cyberpunk has become reality; maybe that’s why steampunk is now so big. In the latter case, we intentionally rewrite history, so we don’t need to worry about obsolescence.

I experienced a similar dilemma in writing Centrifugal Force. Originally one of the principal characters was the pilot of an Air Force spyplanes. As time passed, I realized that human pilots were on the way out, so I removed her story thread. Now that drones are in vogue, I’ve begun a new novella about drone pilots. I can’t dawdle, though, in case something changes.

Lately I’ve been wondering if the USA itself is going to be the novelist’s newest monkey wrench. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakup of countries such as Yugoslavia, it was fashionable for a time to write about a disunited America. When world affairs settled down, that theme went away. Though with our massive debt, the economy teetering on the brink (what recovery? I don’t see it) and a possible new war in Syria, the USA could meet its end for real. The more we hear mainstream media pundits opining about American power and dominance being glorious and eternal, the more likely we’ll face an ignominious bankruptcy. The United States might even break up into separate countries. Not that this would be a bad thing; my contrarian view of this issue was one of my inspirations for Centrifugal Force. If and when it happens, though, it’ll cause a lot of novels in progress to be hastily rewritten to reflect the new “facts on the ground.”