Ethics Of The First World War Essay

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The “War to End all Wars?”/ The Ethics of World War I Technology
On April 4, 1917 United States troops marched into the First World War with President Woodrow Wilson’s message echoing in their ears; this would be a “war to end all wars” to “make the world safe for democracy” (Nolte). However, 8.5 million deaths later, the Great War proved far from ending future conflict (“World War I”). The development of lethal gases, stealthy submarines, and destructive artillery made war more gruesome, paving the way for Hitler, Stalin, and later Saddam Hussein. The militaries of the First World War defied the ethics of just war, because new weapons caused unnecessary suffering, attacked innocent civilians, and demonstrated the potential of new technology
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In 1899 and 1907, the Hague Convention prohibited the use of chemical weapons, regulating that weapons must not cause unnecessary suffering (“Germany First”). However, Germany was running out of better options for an offensive tactic, causing them to resort to poison gas (Bohr). While historians argue that poison gas was a significant weapon in aiding the German side by making war more difficult, its use was unethical because poison gas inflicts unnecessary physical and psychological suffering instead of injuring soldiers quickly like other weapons (“Germany First”. For example, chlorine and phosgene are lung irritants that cause severe respiratory damage. Mustard gas, even more lethal, is a vesicant that produces large blisters and rots the material of anything it contaminates. The Great War already had escalated numbers of casualties that adding psychological harm through chemical weapons superfluous. According to Albert Marshal, a World War I veteran, the “gas is still with me today. It makes me itch every morning and at six every night. You can see my skin all dry. Tonight, my arm will itch from the top to the elbow. And so will the back of my neck. It feels like a needle pricking you. And that’s from ninety years ago” (Fitzgerald). Marshal describes how the dispensation of chemical weapons causes psychological consequences that can affect the rest of a soldiers’ life. Chemical weapons used in …show more content…
Germany began to develop submarines to counter the powerful British navy. The Germans were successful in that the submarine was an effective offensive tactic, because it was stealthy, 200-250 feet below the surface, and thus hard to detect. However useful the submarines may have been, nothing justifies the unethical ways in which they were deployed. Often, the German U-boats targeted supply ships, passenger liners, and non-combat even from neutral countries. Thomas Marie Madawaska Hemy, a famous painter, depicts the most famous tragedy when the Germans sank British passenger liner Lusitania, killing British and Americans (see Fig. 1). The sinking of a ship full of innocent civilians was very unethical. Americans were so angered, it was what brought them into the war (Modern Marvels). German Captain Schwieger looks on heartlessly on his victorious submarine attack, “An extraordinary heavy detonation followed… The superstructure above the point of impact and the bridge were torn apart; fire broke out… Great confusion arose on the ship… Many people must have lost their heads” (Schwieger). Schwieger shows the potential submarines have to evily attack civilians who have are not at all involved in the conflict, showing the unethical side of World War

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