- 04 May 18
The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria is not new. Indeed the callous disregard for human life has been a mark of how wars are prosecuted. The only question, it appears, is one of degree.
A century ago last week the Mansion House Conference against conscription was convened and chaired by Dublin’s then Lord Mayor Laurence O’Neill. There had been no conscription to the British armed forces in Ireland during World War I but the German Spring Offensive of 1918 threatened to overrun British lines and the government drew up plans to impose conscription in Ireland to bolster its exhausted forces. A one-day general strike followed on April 23rd 1918 and it brought the country to a halt, other than in Belfast. The deadly and intractable conflict was deeply unpopular and the unions had widespread backing from politicians and religious leaders. The campaign had a significant impact downstream, in the victory of separatist republican candidates in the election of December 1918.
The Germans launched the Spring Offensive because the United States had joined the war and was training a large army in preparation for hostilities. The Germans needed to strike quickly and decisively, and they attacked on March 21st 2018. By the time the offensive was ended on April 5, they had captured 3,100 km and taken 90,000 prisoners.
In fact, their commander Ludendorff made a string of flawed decisions. Quite probably he could have won the war in three months. In May his forces advanced to within 90km of Paris. But he didn’t cut off railheads, transport hubs, nor did he wipe out British legions that were at his mercy for a time. By July he had shot his bolt.