From Lloyd George to George Floyd : How Close Are We To World War III?
By Ted Smillie on Saturday, June 27th, 2020
Features in QESP NewsletterVolume 32 , Issue 6 - ISSN 1325-2070
“The finest eloquence is that which gets things done; the worst is that which delays them.
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
These quotes are good examples of the Lloyd George style of leadership during World War I.
British prime minister (1916–22), Lloyd George dominated the British political scene in the latter part of World War I.
“The key to Lloyd George’s success was that he could be so adjustable and accommodating in what he set out to achieve. He sought to put the best people in charge, whether they be military or civilian, such as the secretary to the war cabinet Maurice Hankey, avoiding static hierarchies and burdensome bureaucracy, such as in his redevelopment and expansion of Britain’s armaments industry.”
This quote is from a November 6, 2018 article in The Conversation, David Lloyd George: the Welshman who won World War I, By Russell Deacon, Visiting Professor in Governance and Political History, University of South Wales.
Disclosure statement November 5, 2018
Russell Deacon is chair of the Lloyd George Society but makes no financial gain from this article.
World War I
The following extracts from World War I by HISTORY.COM EDITORS describe the causes and the legacies of World War I, and how these led to World War II. How close are we to World War III?
Causes of World War 1
“World War I began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and lasted until 1918. During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers claimed victory, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.”
Legacy of World War I
“World War I brought about massive social upheaval, as millions of women entered the workforce to support men who went to war and to replace those who never came back. The first global war also helped to spread one of the world’s deadliest global pandemics, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people.”
“World War I has also been referred to as “the first modern war.” Many of the technologies we now associate with military conflict—machine guns, tanks, aerial combat and radio communications—were introduced on a massive scale during World War I.”
“The severe effects that chemical weapons such as mustard gas and phosgene had on soldiers and civilians during World War I galvanized public and military attitudes against their continued use. The Geneva Convention agreements, signed in 1925, restricted the use of chemical and biological agents in warfare and remains in effect today.”
As we look at the history of World War I, we are reminded of the extraordinary heroism of T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. The film, starring Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, was not factually correct. The True Story of Lawrence of Arabia, By Scott Anderson , Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe, July 2014, gives a full factual account. The following are brief extracts:
Soon after the outbreak of war, he volunteered for the British Army and was stationed in Egypt. In 1916, he was sent to Arabia on an intelligence mission and quickly became involved with the Arab Revolt as a liaison to the Arab forces, along with other British officers. He worked closely with Emir Faisal, a leader of the revolt, and he participated, sometimes as leader, in military actions against the Ottoman armed forces, culminating in the capture of Damascus in October 1918.”
“His presence there had come about almost by chance. Four months earlier, and after protracted secret negotiations with British authorities in Cairo, Emir Hussein, ruler of the Hejaz region of central Arabia, had launched an Arab revolt against the Turks. Initially matters had gone well. Catching the Turks by surprise, Hussein’s rebels seized the holy city of Mecca along with Jeddah, but there the rebellion had foundered. By October, the Turks remained in firm control of the Arabian interior, including the city of Medina, and appeared poised to crush the rebels. When Lawrence learned that a friend in Cairo was being dispatched to Arabia to gauge the crisis, he arranged a temporary leave from his desk job to tag along.”
“From his time in Syria, Lawrence had developed a clear, if simplistic, view of the Ottoman Empire—admiration for the free-spirited Arab, disgust at the corruption and inefficiency of their Turkish overseers—and looked forward to the day when the Ottoman “yoke” might be cast aside. That opportunity, and the chance for Lawrence to play a role, arrived when Turkey entered the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Because of his experience in the region, Lawrence was dispatched to Egypt, the British base of operations for the upcoming campaign against the Turks, as a second lieutenant in military intelligence.”
“Despite the fact that he and other members of the intelligence branch urged that Britain forge alliances with Arab groups ready to revolt against the Turks, the generals in Cairo seemed intent on fighting the same conventional frontal assault war that had already proved so disastrous in Europe. The most immediate result was the Gallipoli fiasco of 1915, in which the British Commonwealth suffered nearly a quarter-million casualties before finally conceding failure. Making it all the more painful for the deskbound Lawrence was the death in quick succession of two of his brothers on the Western Front. “They were both younger than I am,” he wrote a friend, “and it doesn’t seem right, somehow, that I should go on living peacefully in Cairo.”
“It wasn’t until October 1916, two years after his arrival in Egypt, that Lawrence would find himself catapulted to his destiny.”
By odd happenstance, Lawrence had visited Aqaba just a few months before the war began. From that firsthand experience, Lawrence knew that the “gateway” into Syria was actually through a winding, 20-mile-long mountain gorge that the Turks had laced with trenchworks and forts designed to annihilate any force advancing up from the coast.
Lawrence also perceived a political trap. If the British and French took control of Aqaba, they could effectively bottle up their Arab allies and contain their rebellion to Arabia. That done, whenever the two European imperial powers did manage to push into Syria—promised to the French under Sykes-Picot—they could renege on the promises made to Hussein with a clearer conscience.
Since any advance inland from Aqaba would be murderous, Lawrence’s solution was to first take the gorge and then the port. And to thwart his own nation’s imperial designs, he simply kept his plan to himself. On the day he set out from the Arabian coast, embarking on a 600-mile camel trek through the desert to fall on Aqaba from behind, not one of Lawrence’s fellow British officers knew where he was headed or what he intended to do when he got there. Accompanying him were a mere 45 rebels. On their journey, a two-month ordeal that would take them across one of the world’s harshest landscapes, each of the men started with only water and a 45-pound sack of flour as provisions.
Forming the dramatic centerpiece of Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is the moment when Lawrence and his rebel band launch their surprise attack on Aqaba from behind. Led by a triumphant white-robed Peter O’Toole, the rebels bear down on the stunned Turks.
In reality, the crucial battle for Aqaba occurred 40 miles to the north, in the “lost” wadi of Aba el Lissan. It was there, with the hellish two-month trek through the desert completed and Aqaba almost in his grasp, that Lawrence learned a Turkish relief force was marching in his direction. Even if his rebel army–swelled to nearly 1,000 with recruits—continued on to Aqaba, Lawrence reasoned, this enemy column would soon catch up; there was no choice but to destroy it first.
They found the Turks camping in Aba el Lissan on the night of July 1, 1917, and what ensued there was less a battle than a massacre. The Turkish force of 550 soldiers was virtually wiped out at the cost of two Arab dead. With the path cleared, Lawrence and his men rushed on for Aqaba, the Turkish garrison there surrendering after barely firing a shot.
While the Aqaba campaign is considered one of the greatest military feats of the early 20th century—it is still studied in military colleges today— Lawrence soon followed it with a masterstroke of even greater consequence. Racing to Cairo to inform the British high command of what he had achieved, he discovered that the previous British commander in chief, never a strong supporter of the Arab Revolt, had been dismissed following two failed frontal attacks against the Turks. His replacement, a mere two weeks into the job when an emaciated and barefoot Lawrence was summoned to his office, was a cavalry general named Edmund Allenby.
Rather lost in Lawrence’s electrifying news from Aqaba was any thought as to why the junior officer hadn’t informed his superiors of his scheme, let alone of its possible political consequences. Instead, with his newfound celebrity, Lawrence saw the opportunity to win over the green Allenby with a tantalizing prospect.
During their slog across the desert, Lawrence had, with only two escorts, conducted a remarkable reconnaissance mission across enemy-held Syria. There, he told Allenby, he had determined that huge numbers of Syrian Arabs were ready to join the rebels. Lawrence also vastly exaggerated both the strength and capability of those rebels already under arms to paint an enticing picture of a military juggernaut—the British advancing up the Palestine coast, as the Arabs took the fight to the Syrian interior. As Lawrence recounted in Seven Pillars: “Allenby could not make out how much [of me] was genuine performer and how much charlatan. The problem was working behind his eyes, and I left him unhelped to solve it.”
But Allenby bought it, promising to give the rebels all the aid he could and consider them equal partners. From now on, in Lawrence’s estimation, the British Army and Arab rebels would be joined at the hip, the French relegated to the margins. If the rebels reached Damascus first, they might be able to wrest Syria from the French altogether. Or so Lawrence hoped.”
“Despite punching through the Turkish line in southern Palestine and taking Jerusalem in December 1917, the British Army ground to a halt as Allenby’s troops were siphoned off for the Western Front. Operating from the Arabs’ new headquarters in Aqaba, Lawrence continued to lead raids against the railway and into the hill country west of the Dead Sea, but this was hardly the grand, paralyzing offensive he had outlined to Allenby. The desultory nature of the war continued through the summer of 1918.”
“But something had happened to Lawrence in the interim. In November 1917, while conducting a secret reconnaissance mission into the strategic railway town of Deraa, he was briefly captured by the Turks, then subjected to torture—and, by most all evidence, rape—at the hands of the local Turkish governor. Managing to escape back to rebel lines, a far more hardened, even merciless, Lawrence began to emerge.”
He refused a knighthood.
A separate account by Christopher Klein , 10 Things You May Not Know About “Lawrence of Arabia”,
tells that “King George V summoned Lawrence to Buckingham Palace on October 30, 1918. Lawrence hoped that the private audience was to discuss borders for an independent Arabia, but instead the king wished to bestow a knighthood on his 30-year-old subject. Believing that the British government had betrayed the Arabs by reneging on a promise of independence, Lawrence quietly told the befuddled monarch that he was refusing the honor before turning and walking out of the palace.”
Th Lawrence of Arabia film gives the impression that T.E. Lawrence’s death by motorcycle accident may have been suicide. Nothing could be further from the truth. A BBC News report explains that “The man made famous by his Great War exploits in the Middle East finally succumbed to the head injuries he had suffered six days earlier in a motorcycle accident.,,, Lawrence had been pitched over his motorcycle, a Brough Superior SS100, near his Dorset home. A dip in the road apparently obscured his view of two boys on cycles ahead. The manoeuvring to avoid them cost him his own life.”
Treaty of Versailles
“At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Allied leaders stated their desire to build a post-war world that would safeguard itself against future conflicts of such devastating scale.”
“Some hopeful participants had even begun calling World War I “the War to End All Wars.” But the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, would not achieve that lofty goal.”
“Saddled with war guilt, heavy reparations and denied entrance into the League of Nations, Germany felt tricked into signing the treaty, having believed any peace would be a “peace without victory,” as put forward by Wilson in his famous Fourteen Points speech of January 1918.”
“As the years passed, hatred of the Versailles treaty and its authors settled into a smoldering resentment in Germany that would, two decades later, be counted among the causes of World War II.”
To read an eBook version of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, see:
A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBookTitle: Seven Pillars of WisdomAuthor: T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935)eBook No.: 0100111.txtEdition: 2Date first posted: October 2001Date most recently updated: December 2001XML markup by Wesman 05/09/2002