Journalist David Andelman has just released a book called A Shattered Peace where he examines the impact of The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and its influence on modern conflicts in areas such as the Middle East, the Far East and also Iraq.
Andelman, a veteran foreign correspondent, looks at the unique group of individuals who met in Paris after the nightmare of the Great War and how the Treaty led to worldwide bloodshed from Algeria to Kosovo to Israel and Vietnam. He also reveals how AbeBooks.com helped him write A Shattered Peace.
An executive editor at Forbes.com, Andelman has reported from more than 50 countries for the New York Times and CBS News, and also worked for CBNC, Bloomberg News and the New York Daily News.
Abe - It’s widely accepted that Versailles led to the rise of Hitler and World War II - but did the agreement really influence modern conflicts such as Palestine and Iraq?
DA - “The Treaty of Versailles and the associated documents negotiated in Paris set the stage for most of our major international conflicts today. The peacemakers who assembled for these talks considered themselves the world's government. Their stated aim was to redraw the map of the world very much in their own image and, for the most part, for their immediate profit – political, diplomatic and economic. Accordingly, they were the ones who established the boundaries of today's Iraq, Palestine (which 30 years later became Israel), Yugoslavia and a host of other nations, large and small. These are the frontiers that we are being forced to defend today – poorly drawn, ill-conceived with little or no regard for the bitter hatreds of the various nationalities and religions these statesmen had brought so arbitrarily together.”
Abe - Also did the Treaty really help nurture the modern threat of terrorism that we’ve seen since the 1970s?
DA - “The Treaty did indeed lay the basis for the rise of today's terrorist threat. Certainly these passions existed back then. Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds had existed in Mesopotamia for one thousand years – though largely in the form of nomadic tribes who if they ever came into contact might clash briefly, then separate. Equally, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia were at various times independent kingdoms and part of empires like the Ottomans and Austria-Hungary. The passions that were unleashed by their unification into single nations were powerful. In the 1920s and 1930s, however, these passions had no means of projection beyond the region. Today, those who perceive that their troubles and grievances were a product of western nations and statesmen have the ability to project their revenge far beyond their borders, taking what were once tribal wars to a global stage.
“At the same time, the peacemakers were also having to deal with the Bolsheviks – who, in terms of Lenin's ongoing threat to establish workers' governments from the Urals to the Atlantic, were effectively the terrorists of the early decades of the 20th century. They understood how to deal with this threat as poorly as today's world leaders understand how to cope with today's Islamic terrorists.”
Abe - Would you have liked to have reported on the Treaty of Versailles?
DA - “Swarms of journalists from newspapers on every continent descended on Paris in 1919. For many of these reporters, the peace conference was an exercise in frustration since most deliberations were held behind doors that were sealed, locked and guarded. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's concept of "open covenants, openly arrived at," was far from the reality envisioned by his European counterparts – particularly England's David Lloyd George and France's Georges Clemenceau. Many journalists, like The Times of London's Henry Wickham Steed, fancied themselves as much diplomats as journalists. Certainly, it would be an enormous thrill to have been able to apply today's standards of journalistic reportage, attention to objectivity, detail and context, the ability to develop sources among those operating on the fringe of the great statesmen, to this extraordinary gathering of statesmen who considered themselves ‘the world's government.’
“In the course of my career, I have covered a number of international negotiations and summits. I was present in Vienna in 1979 when Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed SALT II. I was in Geneva when Max Kampelman and Yuli Vorontsov continued their arms talks. I was in Geneva when Reagan met Gorbachev. I was in Bali, Vienna and Geneva for numerous summits of the OPEC nations. All were, in their own way, historic. But none rose to the level of Versailles in their influence on the future shape of the world.”
Abe - Aside from the political activities, the event itself must have been a remarkable gathering of people?
DA - “There were individuals from virtually every major, and many minor, nations from every continent. Some were utterly ignored, others given but a passing glance, others embraced for a moment, then tossed aside, still others were content to observe, dine and dance, attend gala parties and lavish picnics.
“Lawrence of Arabia came, accompanying the Emir Feisal of the Hejaz, and Gertrude Bell. Chaim Weizmann was there to press for a nation of the Jews, while a young attorney named Felix Frankfurter came to represent Louis Brandeis and the American Jewish community. A young Allen Dulles helped set up an intelligence operation that would serve decades later as a model for the CIA which he proceeded to run. A 28-year old busboy at the Ritz Hotel, Nguyen Tat Thanh, pleaded for the independence of his homeland, Vietnam. When he was shunned, he turned communist, left for Moscow and decades later took the nom-de-guerre of Ho Chi Minh. The great pianist Ignace Paderewski pleaded for his homeland of Poland. Queen Marie of Rumania swept into town and took over a floor of the Ritz. Even Elsa Maxwell, who'd become the world's greatest party giver, arrived to offer ‘le jazz Americain’ to the delegates and their women.”
Abe - What do you think is the biggest skill required to an effective peacemaker? Forgiveness? Humility?
DA – “Compromise. Understanding that the needs of your opponent or ally are at least as critical as your own. That your responsibility is to the world and your successors, not merely to your immediate self-interest. That there are parts of this globe that will not readily conform to your own concept of nationhood and parliamentary democracy, that you are negotiating not merely for your own electorate and the next election, but for future generations in your country and on every continent. Instead, hubris replaced humility, and this is where the statesmen in Paris went so badly wrong.”
Abe - Is there a peacemaker of modern times that you admire? Perhaps the late Mo Mowlem for example?
DA - “Mo Mowlem certainly set a standard for the modern peace talks in Northern Ireland. At the same time, Richard Holbrooke, who negotiated the Dayton Accords that brought an end to the widespread violence in Yugoslavia, set the stage for the birth of new nations that should have been created instead of this virulent kaleidoscope of a country assembled in Paris in 1919. Pope John Paul II and his brilliant first Vatican Secretary of State, Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, both of whom I was privileged to know in the 1970s and 1980s, laid the basis for the end of communism and the emergence of free, democratic states in Poland and across Eastern and Central Europe. Each understood for whom they were negotiating, with an eye as much on the future as on the present or the past.”
Abe - We hear AbeBooks.com played a role in the book’s research - how we did help?
DA - “I could not have written A Shattered Peace without AbeBooks. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, a host of individuals at the Paris Peace Conference published a succession of memoirs, diaries, reminiscences and histories of those days – often in small editions. At the same time, government presses as far afield as North Vietnam and the Soviet Union, published useful works putting the views of their countries into perspective. And then there were the huge collections of documents, from Charles Seymour's Intimate Papers of Colonel House, to the series, Foreign Relations of the United States, that are either out of print or accessible only in large university libraries. With AbeBooks, I was able to locate all of these works, often at quite reasonable prices – from as far afield as New Zealand and Paris, London and Australia and of course across the United States and Canada. From A to Z, from AbeBooks to Zubal, over the past three years, I purchased more than 300 such volumes that were the core of my primary research.
“Moreover, the database of AbeBooks provided extraordinary synergies. Often the author or title of one work suggested other related works I had not even considered. Subject searches were equally valuable, as I was able to jump from one field, and one individual to others developing strings and links that I often was not even aware existed before I entered this amazing universe.”