The Treaty of Versailles

How various provisions would hurt the economy

Germany suffered great economic losses during the First World War, and the Treaty of Versailles compounded the problem. First, Germany was required to pay reparations of up to £6,600 billion, which the country could not afford at the time (Graebner & Bennett, 2011). Paying such colossal amounts would require the government to make significant budgetary changes, which would cripple the economy immediately. In essence, even if Germany mortgaged itself together with private assets it could not raise such amount.

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Second, the treaty required the extensive disbandment of Germany’s armed forces, which would lead to massive unemployment rates across the country, thus, hurting the economy. Besides, the country would be required to surrender the gains of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk before freeing the protectorates. This move would deny the country the lucrative opportunity of controlling significant economic activities in the protectorates. For instance, Germany was required to surrender the Saar coalmines to the French authorities, which would translate into economic losses.

How the country would have been treated differently

President Woodrow Wilson envisioned a different approach to ending World War I, which he summarized in 14 points. If Wilson’s 14 points had been followed, Germany would be treated differently. For instance, the first point required open diplomacy amongst nations. However, in the Treaty of Versailles, Germany would be blocked from joining the League of Nations. Such a move would stifle fair diplomatic negotiations with member states. Second, Wilson suggested free trade between states that accepted the peace deal. Therefore, Germany would be allowed to trade freely and negotiate fairly under Wilson’s suggestion as opposed to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

The fourth point required all the countries around the world to reduce the number of weapons and armies, which means that Germany would still be in a position to wage war or defend itself going forward. However, the Treaty of Versailles demanded the reduction of the German armies without commensurate military resizing in other countries. Finally, Germany would have enjoyed fair claims of colonial land and regions under Wilson’s Fourteen Points. On the contrary, Germany was forced to surrender Belgium and Poland among other protectorates without fair and due process.

Higher fundamental laws

Germany’s response to the Treaty of Versailles appealed to two higher fundamental laws. The first one is the right to self-determination. Under the provisions of the treaty, the country would surrender the majority of decision-making powers to the Internal Reparations Commission, which would technically enslave Germans. The authors noted that lasting peace could not be achieved under repression, and thus, Germany had the God-given right to self-determination. Second, the document appealed to basic human rights. The document noted that under the treaty, millions of Germans would be sentenced to death through starvation, as the country would not be in a position to feed its people.

Agreeing with the authors

I agree with the authors of the document that Germany was being treated poorly. The reparation requirement was punitive as Germany was not solely responsible for the war. Besides, excluding Germany from the League of Nations would stifle the process of healing the nations through pursuing peace. Moreover, the starvation threat was real, and it would be unfair to punish innocent Germans, who were not involved in making the decision to wage war against the Allied Forces.

Response to complaints

The defenders of the treaty would have argued that Germany’s woes were self-inflicted as it started the war and time had come to pay for its sins. Besides, they would have argued that the Internal Reparations Commission would ensure the smooth running of the country to address all the raised grievances. Finally, the defenders would point to a possibility of admitting Germany into the League of Nations after showing goodwill to pursue peace after a given period.

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Graebner, N., & Bennett, E. (2011). The Versailles Treaty and its legacy: The failure of the Wilsonian vision. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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