Although the treaty of Versailles had tremendous potential, its effort to build a long lasting peace failed; the peace was built on quicksand. The ideas proposed in the treaty such as Wilson’s 14 points were good in theory, but not effective in practice, because the only point that was implemented was the formation of the League of Nations. Every participant country in the war had a different definition of justice in his mind, because different countries underwent different struggles. What could be viewed as just from the American viewpoint could’ve been viewed as the complete opposite from the French viewpoint. France suffered greatly because of the war since most of the war had been fought on their soil, so they felt that Germany needed to be punished more severely. The United States entered the war relatively late, and did not undergo what France did, as a result they didn’t feel as strongly as France did regarding the punishment of Germany. As countries’ opinions differed, they had to come to a compromise. Compromises do not always provide satisfaction, and this particular compromise left the victorious as well as the vanquished countries bitter; the countries were not satisfied and wanted more than what the treaty offered.
The seeds of conflict began to be sown even before the actual treaty as Russia and Germany were deliberately alienated from the treaty. Germany and Russia were purposefully excluded from the treaty leading to the growth of the strong feeling of bitterness within these two countries. Germany was excluded because it was seen as the country ‘responsible’ for the war, while Russia was excluded for its early withdrawal from the war and its current civil war. Decisions were made concerning the fate of these two countries while both of them were not present. Obviously the peace would be temporary if not all of the participating countries were present to decide on matters and come to compromises, especially on matters concerning their own country. Russia alienated by the allies lost territory, while Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (formerly part of Russia) became independent nations. Russia suffered land loss and wasn’t even present when these decisions were made. As for Germany, it suffered much more than land losses. If these two countries were present in the treaty, it would have definitely been more effective. All participating countries should’ve taken part in this treaty, not just the ‘winners’. Russia and Germany did not have a say whatsoever in what was happening to them, and as a result were left embittered and unsatisfied with what they viewed as unjust decisions concerning them.
As for Germany, it was held completely responsible for the war, by having to sign the War Guilt Clause. Germany undoubtedly played a big role in the war, but should have the sole responsibility of the war been put on its shoulders? Germany not only had to claim sole responsibility for the war, but it had to pay for it as well both in the literal and metaphorical meanings. Germany suffered a great deal of territorial losses, for example Alsace Lorraine was given back to France. All of Germany’s colonies were stripped away from them becoming mandates. This was a significant loss to the Germans, because a large fraction of their economy depended on resources gained from its colonies. The creation of Poland and the Polish Corridor- an area that separated Germany from Russia aggravated many Germans, because their land was being reduced and new states were being formed. Rhineland, an area between France and Germany, was occupied by the allies planting a seed of future conflict as well. The actual financial costs that were supposed to be paid by Germany were about 33 billion dollars over the course of thirty years. Germany also suffered militarily, for its land force was reduced to 100,000 men, and it was not allowed to produce or import weapons, nor was it allowed to have U-boats or aircrafts. Germany paid for the war through territorial losses, economic losses, military losses, and most importantly through the humiliation of signing the War Guilt Clause; the Germans were embittered. Aware that they were going to pay for the war for the rest of their lives, the Germans grew hateful and bitter.
The territorial changed also contributed to the presence of future conflict. Not only were Germany and Russia affected by the treaty, everyone was. Austria-Hungary, a central power, suffered land losses, for several new counties were created from its empire such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia was composed of three types of peoples, the Germans, the Czechs, and the Slavs. This mixture of peoples obviously was going to lead to nationalistic movement, leading to future conflict. As for the Ottoman Empire, it lost a lot of its empire, for its lands in South West Asia were carved into a mandate. Palestine, Iraq, and Trans Jordan were under British control, while Lebanon and Syria were under French control. This also led to nationalistic fervor and hatred in the hearts of the conquered peoples. Britain’s control of Palestine eventually led to the development of the State of Israel, thus releasing a conflict still evident today. As for Italy and Japan, they entered the war on the Allies’ side hoping to gain land, but they were left unsatisfied when they gained less than what they wanted. Finally, the people in the mandates (formerly German colonies) were furious at the way in which the allies disregarded their desire for independence, thus also leading to nationalism and bitterness.
People were left embittered after the Treaty of Versailles; everyone felt cheated and betrayed. This feeling of betrayal undoubtedly would lead to emerging conflicts between nations. No country was satisfied, some countries were alienated, they suffered from territorial, economic, and military losses, they were mistreated, etc. The decisions made in the Treaty of Versailles did not please the majority of people, leading to the growth of bitterness within countries. Instead of building a long lasting peace, the Treaty of Versailles did the opposite by failing to satisfy the needs of the people.
Samar Al Ansari