“Brave new world: the search for peace after the second world war”, The Observer
Andrew Rawnsley, Sun 1 Sep 2019
On the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2, the Observer’s chief political commentator reflects on how the United Nations was created out of its ashes
The founding assembly of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images
At the end of the second world war there was no guarantee that it would not be followed swiftly by a third. Six years of the most intensely murderous and geographically spread conflict in the history of the human species had left unprecedented devastation. From Normandy to Ukraine, vast areas of Europe had been pulverised by aerial bombing and ravaged by savage ground fighting. The landscape was a ruination of flattened homes, wrecked factories and fallow farms.
Great swathes of Asia, especially China, had suffered appallingly. Up to 85 million souls had lost their lives; more millions had been displaced. France and Italy appeared to be on the brink of revolution. Japan’s militarists had been answered with atomic attack and fire bombing by the US. A devastated Germany was starving. The UK had introduced bread rationing, a privation it had managed to avoid during the tribulations of the war. The emergent global superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, started to glower at each other across a Europe divided by an iron curtain. The guns of one conflict had barely fallen silent before peoples and their leaders were trembling in anticipation of another.