The Next War

In September 1918, during the closing months of World War I, Everybody’s Magazine published a prophetic article by Eugene P. Lyle. “The War of 1938” (subtitled “A Terrible Warning Against a Premature Peace”) depicted a future in which the war-weary Allies accepted a peace offer in 1918 rather than pressing the conflict to a decisive victory.

In Lyle’s vision, Germany disarms and pays reparations but immediately begins planning a Prussian “night of consummation.” Her freed merchant fleet begins gathering material with the slogan “Germany must not be merely efficient, but self-sufficient,” and in 1938, at the end of a 20-year debt moratorium, she unleashes a blitzkrieg that sweeps Europe. England is stormed from the air, and her overseas dominions and the United States await a final onslaught in Egypt and India. The article ends:

In all the wretched lexicon of regret there is no word more futile than the ghastly word ‘if.’ It avails nothing, ever, and yet tonight the word is branded deep on the aching heart of humanity — ‘IF we had only seen the thing through in 1918!’

Readers called Lyle an “irresponsible alarmist,” a “sensation monger,” and a muckraker, but many of his fears would be realized. A few years after the armistice Pershing remarked to a friend, “They don’t know they were beaten in Berlin, and it will all have to be done all over again.”