The First World War

Tired of their leaders’ inability to create any sort of harmony on Earth, the world’s nations got together one day to try to work out their problems themselves. This is an account of what transpired at that meeting.

The meeting hall was in shambles. Most of the chairs and desks had been blasted to pieces, their splintered remains strewn haphazardly about the floor. The paintings that lined the walls were ripped to shreds, their broken frames enclosing the tattered remnants of masterpieces. The giant crystal chandelier that had once illuminated the entire chamber lay smashed on the ground. Large shards of glass, broken refugees from the chandelier, were scattered all across the uprooted carpet. The few light bulbs that still worked flickered only intermittently, casting contorted silhouettes on the scene of devastation. 

At first glance, the world’s countries seemed nowhere to be found. Only shadows and destruction greeted the observer. However, if after becoming accustomed to the darkness interspersed with the shattered chandelier’s faltering light, one’s eyes happened to rest upon the center of the room, they would see a writhing, contorted mass of struggling bodies.

Germany was sprawled on the floor, simultaneously wrestling with Great Britain and France. Belgium lay comatose, smothered under the weight of Germany’s chest. Great Britain and France strained with their combined might to pin Germany down, but were themselves trapped in Germany’s powerful embrace. One of the combatants would occasionally free a trapped arm and give its opponent a horrendous blow to the head or gut, though none was able to gain any noteworthy advantage from these savage attacks. Exhausted, and locked in each other’s arms, the two sides struggled against one another with what remained of their strength.

While France and Great Britain grappled with Germany’s torso, Russia simultaneously attempted to grab a firm hold of its legs. However, due to a general lack of coordination, Germany’s feet kept slipping out of its hands. Annoyed by Russia’s fumbling attempts at trapping its lower body, Germany landed a quick succession of terrible kicks to Russia’s face and shoulders. Bleeding profusely, Russia feebly continued to grasp at Germany while doing nothing to protect its head from the pounding it received.

Italy and Austro-Hungary were also on the ground and in each other’s headlocks. Serbia and Romania lay immobile, facedown on the carpet. The Ottoman Empire, barely on its feet, was receiving a terrible beating at the hands of the Australia, New Zealand, India, and the Arabs. Japan, meanwhile, rifled through the broken remains of Germany’s desk, collecting anything therein it considered valuable. A number of countries stood around the mayhem, stunned and speechless.

“My God,” muttered the United States. “How did it get to this?”

“Oh this?” answered Switzerland. “Yeah, they’ve been at this for a while now.”

“But how did it escalate to such a point? We had our differences before, but nothing like this. This is destruction on a scale unimaginable. This is hellish barbarism. This is…”

“This is stupidity at its finest,” interjected Switzerland.

“Huh, what?” asked the U.S. a little surprised. “What do you mean?”

“What I mean is that this,” gesturing first to the dilapidated room, and then countries writhing on the floor. “Is the inescapably logical outcome to what happens when a gaggle of bickering, recklessly moronic states controls the international system.”

“I see. But what was the trigger? What started it all?”

“Oh that? Serbia hit Austro-Hungary with a spitball.”

The U.S. stared at Switzerland in shocked disbelief.

“Well, in Austro-Hungary’s defense,” continued Switzerland. “The spitball did hit it square in the eye.”

The United States gaped at Switzerland, scanned its devastated surroundings, gaped back at Switzerland, and finally roused itself.

“You mean to tell me that the absolute ruin of everything around us is the outcome of a minor country’s petty provocation against its declining, middle-rate neighbor?” asked the United States incredulously.

“Basically,” responded Switzerland.

“But why?” implored the U.S. “Why did it come to this? Why did the European Powers allow what should have been a small regional confrontation to mutate into an all-encompassing, seemingly interminable orgy of destruction?”

“Well, you see, Russia had an agreement with Serbia whereby it would come to its defense if it were ever attacked.”

“So, Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia and Russia attacked Austro-Hungary.”

“Uh no. Not quite. Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia, so Russia stood up from its chair and threatened to attack Austro-Hungary.”

“Ok…”

“So Germany got up from its chair and threatened to attack Russia.”

“Huh? Why would it do that?”

“Because it had an agreement with Austro-Hungary stating that it would come to its defense it if it were ever attacked.”

“So… Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia, Russia attacked Austro-Hungary, and then Germany attacked Russia.”

“No. Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia. Russia threatened to attack Austro-Hungary, so Germany attacked Russia. And then France attacked Germany.”

The United States looked thoroughly perplexed. “Why in God’s name did France attack Germany?”

“Because it had an agreement with Russia. If anyone ever attacked Russia, then France would repay the aggressor in kind.”

“Ok. So, Serbia peeved off Austro-Hungary, Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia, Russia threatened to attack Austro-Hungary, Germany attacked Russia, France attacked Germany, and that’s how this war was started?”

“And then Germany attacked Belgium to get to France and Great Britain attacked Germany in retaliation.”

“You’re lying.”

“No I’m not.”

The United States paused and gave Switzerland a skeptical look.

“This doesn’t make any sense. Why would Germany attack Belgium when it clearly wasn’t involved in any of the hostilities, and why would Great Britain come to Belgium’s defense?”

“Because that was exactly what France wasn’t expecting.”

“That’s silly. You’re making this up.”

“I promise you I am not.”

“So why did Great Britain jump in?”

“Because it had a defensive pact with Belgium.”

“And Germany knew this?”

“Correct.”

“And it still attacked Belgium?”

“That’s right.”

“I’m sorry,” said the United States as it sat on the floor and rubbed its forehead. “I can’t believe this. The stupidity of the whole thing is overwhelming.”

“Well, I’m not done yet,” replied Switzerland.

“You’re not?” asked the U.S. wearily.

“I’m afraid not. The Ottoman Empire then attacked Russia. France, Great Britain, and Russia all declared war on the Ottoman Empire. India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Arabs all got sucked into the fray against Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria declared war on France, Great Britain, and Russia. Romania declared war on Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire. Then Greece, Montenegro, Japan, and Portugal did the same.”

“And that’s the end of it?” asked the United States, a rising amount of desperation ringing in its voice.

“And then Italy declared war on Austro Hungary.”

The U.S. cradled its head in its hands and moaned.

“And the Ottoman Empire has been trying to wipe out the Armenians.”

The United States did not so much as look up.

“And that’s the end of it. So far,” said Switzerland.

“So how did you manage to stay out of this?” asked the U.S. after several moments of silence.

“Because I lack an attribute that is practically universal among European nations.”

“What attribute is that?” asked the United States.

“Rock-like idiocy,” responded Switzerland.

The United States mustered a small chuckle.

“The so-called ‘Great Powers,’” continued Switzerland. “Rather presumptuously, claimed the responsibility of being a beacon of emulation for the rest of the world. Besides pointing to their territorial possessions, their technical and technological advances, as well as narcissistically promoting a blatantly fabricated notion of their own racial pre-eminence, they affected this sense of superiority by pointing out how hostilities among the European Powers rarely broke into all-out warfare. According to them, they accomplished this grand feat by keeping a balance of power. To achieve this continent-wide calibration, they spawned an interlocking system of alliances as an insurance policy against their neighbors. No European power, they reasoned, would be foolish enough to attack another if they knew that such an action would automatically bring the entire continent into full-scale war. But, lo and behold, they were exactly that foolish, and as you can clearly see by even a cursory glance around this room, the imprudent spider has been caught in her own web, and the entire world has had to pay for it.”

“Didn’t they know that this war would bring about so much destruction?” responded the U.S.

“Would such knowledge take an iota of premeditative thought?”

“Probably.”

“Then no.”

“But how could they be so blind? How could a war that involved all of the most powerful countries in the world not be so devastating?”

“They believed—certainly hoped—that it would be quick and painless. And, at the beginning, events seemed to prove them right. Germany quickly bowled over Belgium and, after landing some hard hits, seemed poised on defeating France. It traded blows with Great Britain for a while, but then all three countries fell to the ground, and the conflict turned into the static wrestling match you see before you. Russia tried trapping Germany’s legs, but it has quite literally had its face kicked in as a result. Serbia fought hard, but attacked by Austro-Hungary on one side and Bulgaria on the other, it was finally knocked out.  The Ottoman Empire beat off a first attack by Australia, New Zealand, and Canada on its left side. Then they regrouped, and in conjunction with the Arabs, attacked its right, and have been having a pretty good time about it. Finally, Austro-Hungary got caught up in a slugging match with Italy, they both fell to the ground, and they’ve barely moved since.”

“I don’t know if I can believe everything you just told me,” said the United States as it stood up from the floor. “These countries’ actions seem so incredibly short-sighted, so dumb.”

“Probably because they are exactly as short-sighted and dumb as they appear,” replied Switzerland.

“There is no way that I am getting caught up in this mess,” said the United States. “I am staying resolutely on the sidelines with you.”

“I hope for your sake that you are right,” responded Switzerland as the chandelier’s staccato light cast long shadows over struggling countries before them.

“Hey!” gasped Great Britain as it tried to fight off Germany’s stranglehold on its neck. “Hey! U.S.!”

The United States walked over to the combatants.

“Be careful U.S.!” cried Switzerland. “Don’t get too close to the conflict or you’ll surely get sucked in!”

“Don’t worry,” replied the United States. “I know what I’m doing.”

“What do you want?” asked the United States, crouching down next to Great Britain so as to better hear what it was saying.

“Can you get me a glass of water?” asked Great Britain. “I’m dying of thirst here. Germany's got a really strong hold on me. I can’t possibly get it for myself.”

“I don’t know,” replied the U.S. “I really don’t want to get caught up in all of this.”

“Please!” pleaded Great Britain. “Please just get me some water. I’ll perish without your help! You have the chance to save me, and if you don’t it will haunt your conscience for the rest of your life.”

“Oh fine!” said the U.S. “But I’d better not get dragged into this damned war!”

The United States walked to its desk, pulled out a tumbler, went off into the bathroom, filled up the glass with water from the tap, and walked back over to Great Britain. It bent down and was about to place the cup to Great Britain’s lips when Germany suddenly slapped it away, shattering it on the floor.

“What the hell?” demanded the United States. “You broke my tumbler! Why on Earth did you do that?”

“Because you were helping my enemy,” grunted an indignant Germany as it shoved France’s hand away from its face. “Allowing you to provide Great Britain with material assistance could shift this war against me. Do you think me dumb enough to let that happen?”

“I am neutral,” responded the United States. “I can provide each side with the same material assistance.”

“Now don’t be dense,” said Germany. “You know damned well that Great Britain won’t let you bring me a glass of water, or anything else for that matter. It has me in a headlock, and would never allow you to get a drop of water anywhere near my mouth.”

“Don’t listen to that fool,” interrupted Great Britain with a jab into Germany’s ribs. “Just please get me another glass of water, or I’ll die here.”

“Alright,” said the U.S. “But I don’t have an inexhaustible supply of cups. Don’t expect me to take these losses forever.”

The U.S. went back to its desk, grabbed another tumbler, filled it with water, and was crouching down next to Great Britain when Germany once more slapped it away, this time breaking the cup in the U.S.’s hand, and imbedding the shards of glass into its skin.

“Are you mad?” cried the U.S. angrily as it grasped its hand in pain. Blood poured out of its open cuts. “I have half a mind to get into this fight and beat you over the head for what you’ve done!”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” replied Germany. “I didn’t mean to cause so much damage. I promise it won’t happen again.”

“It had better not!” responded the U.S. “Or I swear I’ll pound you into a bloody pulp.”

Seeing that the United States was not going to stop supplying Great Britain with the means to carry on the war, Germany decided on a desperate gamble to draw the U.S.’s attention elsewhere, and potentially sap its energy before it committed itself completely to the war. Germany called over Mexico.

“Listen up,” whispered Germany into Mexico’s ear. “I know that you have a long history of being exploited by your northern neighbor. I know that it has stolen valuable assets from you, not the least of which was your pride. I promise that I will help you regain all that you have lost. All you have to do is declare war on the United States.”

“Are you insane?” replied Mexico, aghast at Germany’s proposition. “I am in no position to declare war on the United States. It is far stronger and can draw on more resources than I could ever dream of. Furthermore, how exactly do you plan on helping me regain anything when you are tied down with Great Britain, France, and Russia? God no! Take your crazy schemes elsewhere. I have no use for them.”

As Mexico stood up and walked away, a broad smile crept across Great Britain’s face. It had heard everything, and felt more than obliged to share this newly gleaned information with the United States.

“Hey U.S.!” yelled Great Britain, practically beaming. “You won’t believe what a little German birdie just told me!”

“What do you want?” replied the United States. “What is it?”

The color ran from Germany’s face as it waited in dread for what Great Britain was going to say next.

“Well, apparently, Germany was trying to strike some kind of deal with your good friend, Mexico.”

“What kind of deal?” asked the U.S., the concern rising noticeably in its voice.

“I believe it was something to the effect that Germany would some-crazy-how help Mexico regain its lost territories if it agreed to declare war on you.”

The United States stood in silence. Its fists slowly clenched as its countenance darkened forbiddingly.

“Is this true?” asked the U.S., turning a withering glare onto Mexico.

“I wasn’t going to do anything,” said Mexico, trying to simultaneously deflect the United States’ question and anger.

“Is. This. True.” repeated the U.S. slowly, its mouth barely opening enough to let the menacing words pass its pursed lips.

“It’s true, but I was never going to act upon such a stupid…”

Its words died off as the United States turned its back on Mexico and marched toward Germany.

“I have had enough of your provocations!” shouted the U.S. “Consider this a declaration of war!”

France, Great Britain, Russia and Italy cheered as the United States removed its coat and tie and prepared to enter the fray.

Sensing that the U.S.’s entrance had the potential to fundamentally shift the course of the war, Germany decided to redouble its efforts on Russia so as to knock at least one of its enemies out of the conflict, and launched a series of truly horrific kicks at its face. Stunned by the ferocity of the attack, Russia stopped trying to snatch at Germany’s legs, staggered up to its feet, walked a few paces, and collapsed into convulsions.

“Russia!” yelled France, thoroughly alarmed at its ally’s condition. “Russia! What’s going on? Are you ok?”

Russia continued in its seizure unabated. Foam started to collect at the corners of its mouth as its eyes rolled to the back of its head.

“Russia!” screamed France frantically. “Say something!”

Its tremors suddenly stopped. It opened its eyes, blinking hard as the blood that flowed down its forehead tinged its vision red, and slowly, painfully, got to its feet.

“I am no longer Russia. The Russian Empire is dead.”

“What was that?” asked the Great Britain. “What did it say?”

“It must’ve suffered one hell of a knock,” said France. “The poor country doesn’t even know its name.”

“I do know my name, and it is no longer Russia. I am the Soviet Union!” proclaimed the U.S.S.R., “I am the Union of Sovereign Socialist Republics, and I am removing myself from this pointless war.”

The United States, Great Britain, France and Italy could only gape in horror as a chorus of celebratory shouts rose from Germany, Austro-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria.

“I am done sacrificing my blood for cause I never believed in or understood,” continued the Soviet Union. “I am leaving this conflict, and I am leaving it now.”

The Soviet Union limped away from the combatants, sat down on a stool, and began the agonizing process of tending to its many wounds.

As elated as they were by the U.S.S.R.’s exit from the war, Germany and its allies soon found their own reason to despair.

Beaten into a corner by Australia, New Zealand, India, and Arabs, the Ottoman Empire remained but a broken shadow of its former self. Recognizing that it could no longer continue fighting, it threw its hands up in surrender, and decided to sue for peace.

“My empire, which has stretched back five hundred years, is nothing but a memory, alive only in the history books which are sure to proceed this terrible struggle. I am finished. I am defeated. I am ready to sign over everything that you have already taken from me.”

“I get to keep your pants!” cried Great Britain.

“And I want your jacket and tie!” said France.

“Hey!” exclaimed the Arabs. “We get something too, right?”

There was an embarrassing pause.

“Yeah. Sure. Of course,” said Great Britain.

“Just let us hash that all out at the end of the conflict,” added France.

“And you’re sure about this?” pressed the Arabs. “We did not spill our blood to simply change one taskmaster for another.”

“Oh yeah, yeah. Don’t worry about that,” continued France. “You’ll get your piece of the Ottoman Empire. It’s just going to be super complicated to figure that out right now. Let us finish up the war against Germany and we’ll get right back to you. Promise.”

“Take what you will,” said the defeated. “I can hardly be called an empire anymore, stripped as I am of everything I had. The name of the Ottoman Empire is dead. I have looked to my past for a more appropriate, more basic title, and by doing so have found inspiration in the appellation of my forbearers: the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. From this day forth, I cease being an empire and begin my life anew as Turkey.”

“What’s all this about everyone changing their names?” asked the United States while attempting to hold down one of Germany’s arms. “Is this some sort of Old World ritual or something?”

“I don’t even know anymore,” responded Great Britain. “Just try to focus on the task at hand, and lets knock our enemies out of the war. As long as it surrenders, Germany could damn well change its name to the United Gumdrop and Lollypop Federation for all I care. Just keep your head down, follow my lead, and we’ll wrestle Germany into capitulation in no time.”

“The hell I will,” replied the U.S. “There’s a reason France and you haven’t made any headway in years. All you do is grapple and ass-grab each other. I’m not getting involved with this wrestling business. I’m doing things my way.”

“What are you going on about?” asked France from beneath Germany’s half nelson. “Listen to us or you’re going to get slaughtered!”

“Oh be quiet, you,” answered the U.S. as it raised started to raise its head. “I know perfectly well what I’m…”

Germany connected a massive haymaker to the United States’ nose before it was able to finish its sentence.

“You damned fool!” cried Great Britain. “Now do you understand what we’ve been telling you? Keep your damn head down!”

“Agh!” responded the U.S. as blood rushed out its nose and down its face, “Fine. We’ll do it your way.”

“Good,” replied Great Britain. “Maybe that punch you received knocked some loose screws back into place.”

The United States, Great Britain, and France combined their efforts into a large, coordinated attack that steadily ground down Germany’s remaining strength. Perceiving the disadvantage under which it was placed, Germany decided on an armistice.

“That’s it!” said Germany. “Let us stop the bloodshed and sit down to talk about a peaceful solution to this conflict.”

“Very well,” said the United States. “We will stop fighting for the time being and talk once more as civilized nations instead of bloodthirsty animals.”

France, Great Britain, Austro-Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, and Japan assented and disentangled themselves from each other. The formerly warring parties wearily scrounged around for anything they could sit on, and formed a circle around the broken chandelier at the center of the room.

“Well, let’s start this meeting,” said the U.S. “I motion that our first course of action should be to figure out what to do with the former Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian Empires.”

“What do you mean by ‘former Austro-Hungarian Empire?’” demanded Austro-Hungary indignantly. “You can’t just will a country out of existence. I still very much exist and intend on existing till…”

Austro-Hungary disappeared out of reality in a small white cloud of irrelevancy.

“Alright then,” chuckled Great Britain. “It seems that we can indeed will countries out of existence.”

“Right,” continued the U.S. “We will take the remnants of Austro-Hungary’s desk and fashion four smaller desks for Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.

“Wait a moment,” said Japan. “Although we have taken upon ourselves the power to dissolve centuries-old nations as suits our desires, should we also use our preponderant positions to redraw the map and create new countries when and where we please?”

Austria, Hungary Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia simultaneously popped into existence with a loud pop—much to the surprise of all the delegates.

“Hell!” cried Great Britain. “That almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Well I guess that answers that question,” said the U.S. “Moving along, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland will have desks fashioned with parts from the old Russian and German Empires.”

 Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland also diligently popped into being.

“That’s all well and good,” said France. “But I want Germany to pay for what it did. Literally. I want it to pay for everything. From the broken chandelier we are gathered around, to the torn carpet we are sitting on, to the destroyed desks, to the paintings, to the wallpaper, to the leak in the bathroom faucet…”

“Hey hold on there!” interrupted Germany. “That’s not even remotely fair! You and your allies are just as responsible for this war as I am. You did just as much damage to our surroundings. And I couldn’t pay for all of this even if I wanted to! I don’t have anywhere near that amount of money!”

“You will pay!” screamed France. “Or you will face utter destruction!”

Germany seethed with embarrassment and rage, but held its tongue.

“Ok,” said the U.S. “Let us move on to a matter of the utmost importance. I wish to create an organization that will guarantee that a war like this will never occur again. It will replace Europe’s old system of alliances with a worldwide pact to stop aggression before it ever produces anything near to the amount of destruction that we see before us today.”

“And what will bind this organization together?” asked the newly minted Czechoslovakia.

“An agreement stating that all member countries are bound to come to the aid of any other country that is the victim of aggression.”

“And how do you propose that we enforce this agreement?” asked Lithuania. “What’s going to give it some teeth?”

“Oh we can figure that out later,” replied the U.S. “Besides, a country’s word should be enough to bind it to its duty.”

The other countries shifted nervously in their seats.

“So come on!” cried the United States as it grabbed frayed piece of paper from the floor. “If any country wants to join this League of Nations, line up and put your signature right here.”

Forty-two countries rose from their seats, shuffled down to the broken chandelier, and signed the paper. Last in line, the pen was finally passed to the United States to place its signature next to everyone else’s. The U.S., however, stood frozen, rooted to the spot with the pen in its hand.

“What are you waiting for?” asked Argentina.

The U.S. did not respond.

“Are you going to sign the damned thing or not?” asked Great Britain.

The United States roused itself, looked at the pen in its hand, down at the paper, and back at the pen.

“Well?” asked Belgium.

“I’m not going to sign it,” said the U.S.

A cry of shock and disappointment rose from the other countries.

“Are you kidding me?” demanded Great Britain. “The whole thing was your idea to begin with! Without you, we might as well roll up the blasted paper and wipe our arses with it!”

“Yeah, well, I changed my mind,” replied the U.S. “Do we have any other business to attend to?”

Stunned silence was the only response it received.

“No? Good. Meeting is adjourned.”