Former Australian PM says World War I ‘devoid of virtue’


Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating has described World War I as a war devoid of virtue that arose from the quagmire of European tribalism.

The Australian newspaper reports that Keating was forthright as he delivered the Remembrance Day commemorative address at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

He said: ‘Nine months from now, 100 years ago, the horror of all ages came together to open the curtain on mankind’s greatest century of violence – the twentieth century.’

‘What distinguished the First World War… was the massive power of the antagonist, modern weaponry, mass conscription and indefatigable valour produced a cauldron of destruction the world had never seen.’

‘The First World War was a war devoid of any virtue. It arose from the quagmire of European tribalism. A complex interplay of nation-state destinies overlaid by notions of cultural superiority peppered with racism.’

‘The virulent European disease of cultural nationalism and ethnic atavism not only destroyed Europe, it destroyed the equilibrium of the world.’

Australia was dragged into the conflict by its historic links to the UK, Mr Keating added. ‘We had escaped that mire, both sociologically and geographically. But out of loyalty to imperial Britain, we returned to Europe’s killing fields to decide the status of Germany, a question which should earlier have been settled by foresight and statecraft.’

To read the original story, click here.

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2 Responses to Former Australian PM says World War I ‘devoid of virtue’

  1. irinadim says:

    “The First World War was a war devoid of any virtue.” I do not agree with Paul Keating on this one. Those Europeans who were dragged into this war by having to defend their country and fight for freedom can hardly be described as being without virtue.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree it’s a pretty clumsy phrase. Plenty of virtue among the ordinary people caught up in war, though I hope he’s referring more to the crowned heads and generals.
    I’m reminded of Harry Patch – the last fighting Tommy – who wrote: ‘The politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.’

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