As the war recedes even farther into the past, the experience of the Great War risks sliding out of our collective memory. The centenary of WWI challenges us to renew our understanding of the conflict and reconsider its contemporary meaning. In that same spirit, my office is hosting Lest We Forget, an exhibition of WWI-inspired paintings by celebrated contemporary artist Charles Pachter.
Just as no one living in 1914 could have foreseen the exponential horrors of the Second World War a mere twenty-five years later, likewise today we face the simultaneous onslaught of technological advances and government-sanctioned invasions of privacy, whose combined long-term ramifications for humanity are simply unknowable.
The inadmissibility of chemical weapons on the battlefield was as early as 1899 an international principle of war. As is often pointed out, even Hitler -- himself the victim of a gas attack -- recoiled from their use in battle. The First World War scrubbed battle of its supposed virtues and in the place of heroism instituted the practical diplomacy of a League of Nations.