In 1920, Harvard government professor Albert Bushnell Hart accurately predicted Germany and Italy might launch another world war. His prediction that it may occur within five years was a bit pessimistic — it actually took 19.
When you turn to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the patient has taken not ether but hasheesh [sic], and is either submerged in dreams or raving with terror and fury. Germany undoubtedly wants peace for the present, but, as a vigorous and intellectual German has recently written: “We Germans in general remain sound and complete; so much the world will certainly experience in the future.” Nobody can believe that the German people have been made a peace-loving nation by their defeat.
He was right about Germany, which later became one of the three main Axis powers in World War II, along with Japan and Italy. Speaking of which, Hart was also concerned about Italy too.
The cry which went through the world in 1917 was that civilization was dying unless the Western powers could band together “to make democracy safe” and, much more directly, to make safe their capitals, ports, factories, mines, and fields. For this, 2,000,000 American soldiers crossed the sea, and by their actual fighting and their presence turned the balance. And who can fail to see that democracy is still at least unsatisfied, even in the democratic countries of Great Britain, France, and Italy? Public opinion in those countries is still a boiling pot; nobody can say with any confidence what party or what political group will be in power and make the decisions in those three countries five years hence. And all those countries are in a dangerous, and some in a desperate, financial situation.
So what do to if international tensions boiled over into a worldwide conflict again? Hart’s answer reflected a perceived inevitability:
What would we do in those circumstances? What could we do, but what was done in 1917? Declare war and trust in Providence!
He was right… for better or for worse.
The Next War: Demoralized but Bellicose World May Come to It in Five Years, Unless the League and Universal Training Are Adopted as Protection
Published: Sunday, February 8, 1920