‘The Centenary of the Great War – and Anzac‘, Pearls and Irritations, 7 May 2016
This overview article links to four others on changing war aims during the Great War and lost opportunities for peace 1914-18. As well as presenting often neglected aspects of the history of the war, Newton seeks to highlight the incongruity of current commemorations during the centenary of Anzac. He suggests that Anzac centenary urgers inflict on Australians today lessons about how well Australians fought in the Great War – so well that they gave birth to an Australian nation and ensured our freedom, displaying qualities that define the Australian character even today.
Much of this [says Newton] may serve to distract the Australian people from deeply significant questions arising from our plunge into the Great War. How did Australia get into this catastrophe? For what objectives, precisely, did the Australian government commit our forces to the fighting? And why were they still fighting there in 1918? … It is the acts of state policy that led to and prolonged the disaster of war that should focus our attention, not just the courageous acts of one small fragment of the men caught up in the quagmire.
The articles mark the centenary of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, which carved up the then Ottoman Empire, and which, in the view of some (but by no means all) commentators, has been a key factor behind war and disputation in the region ever since. Sykes-Picot is discussed in Foreign Policy, The Telegraph (London), and The Conversation. More on Sykes-Picot.
Douglas Newton is the author of Hell-Bent: Australia’s Leap into the Great War, The Darkest Days: the Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War 1914, and other books. He is currently writing a history of the campaign to end World War I by negotiation. Both Douglas Newton and John Menadue (Pearls and Irritations) are distinguished supporters of Honest History.
Newton’s articles are reviewed for Honest History by David Stephens.