Notes on Gas Warfare (Bemerkungen: Der Gaskrieg)


By Lothar Engelbert Schücking

What the pacifists have found out about gas warfare have really shaken our military to the bones, in particular the general staff, who have just started to realize that in the next war it will no longer be possible to distinguish between the historical nobility in their high quarters behind the lines, and the common cannon fodder. Gas warfare makes the whole thing more democratic, and is just as dangerous to the civilians well behind the front as it is to the fighting soldiers. There is no front any more, no deployment, not even really a mobilization. Each country wipes out the life of the other, root and branch, from the air, in a few days.

That is not what our military wants, and that is why Germany voted against gas warfare, in Geneva[1]. Gas warfare ruins war itself, and that would deprive the thousands who earn their living by professional gallantry, of their livelihood. It would make breeding for bestiality, the traditional strategy of the aristocracy, completely superfluous. Strindberg said that human judgement is impaired by its interests. As a lawyer, I get a cold shiver down my spine if someone asserts that there is no need for lawyers. And that is how our military feel, so they quickly also decide to forbid chemical warfare. Suddenly they want to regulate and humanize war, just as though the laws of warfare hadn’t already been shown to be worthless, as if they didn’t know that war is the revocation of law, and putting violence in the place of law. There are no rules of war which were not disregarded in the world war. The rules of war do not have the same status as peacetime law. The rules of war can only be enforced. The process leading up to it, and its rules, are already the subject of international conventions. Whether enforcement should be humanized in this way is the question. The harder the enforcement, the greater the respect for the verdict.

If we consider Germany’s proposal to forbid gas warfare from this perspective, we can see more clearly what it is about. The military apparatus has become an end in itself. The generals fear becoming superfluous, and as good reactionaries, they want to turn back time to before 1914. Germany, which has always been at the forefront of reaction, proposes a motion to abolish poisonous gas. The people might otherwise understand how superfluous the army is, and demand that the budget of the Black Reichswehr[2] be paid out to war invalids. Herr von Seeckt[3] is a wise man indeed.

[1] On 17th June 1925, 37 countries signed a treaty forbidding the use of biological and chemical weapons, in Geneva. Germany ratified the treaty in 1929



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