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Carnegie Europe: All Not Quiet on the Western Front

Author: Jan Techau, Director, Carnegie Europe
November 8, 2013


"On November 11, it is worth remembering that the investments involved in preserving peace in Europe are peanuts compared to the price of war. In terms of value for money, the EU is a bargain. So too is NATO. Even the largely dysfunctional UN is, on balance, a cheap asset. Today's anniversary can still offer quite a few political lessons. Unfortunately, they are all about hard work."

Ninety-five years ago today, the First World War ended with the signing of an armistice in Compiègne, France. For Belgium, home to Carnegie Europe, and for many other nations in Europe and elsewhere, November 11 is a national holiday.

What does this date mean for Strategic Europe? What meaningful lessons can the European meat grinder of 1914–1918 offer for the Europe of 2013?

In today's political debates, World War I has been almost completely supplanted by World War II. That is understandable. Enough people are still alive to remember the latter conflict; and for those born thereafter, World War II's principal outcomes—the Holocaust, the division of Europe, and the Cold War—are the dominant, formative building blocks of collective memory and identity. For younger citizens, World War I is not history, it's prehistory.

But that is a treacherous readjustment of memory that cuts Europeans off from groundbreaking events that left a deep and lasting mark on the continent.

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