On this day in 1918 - a group of generals and politicians were sitting around a table getting ready to sign a cease fire. They weren't especially concerned by the millions of working class German, French and British soldiers who had been pointlessly slaughtered over the last four years. If they were, they would have ended the war a lot earlier.
But they were concerned about the number of Russian dead. Or more accurately, the changes that the number of Russian dead had brought about had made them feel a little class conscious. They weren't signing for peace, they were signing against Communism. All of a sudden, German Princes, French Generals and British Aristocrats had a lot in common, and a lot to lose.
At first, the Germans had seen the collapse of the Russian Empire as an advantage for them. The Russians had dropped out of the war, Germany was no longer surrounded. True it had lost control of the Iraqi oil fields (which it would have needed to be able to challenge the British Empire) but with the Russians out of the war, it could probably have beaten the British and French in the field and then reinforced the collapsing Ottoman Empire and re-secured its oil supplies with the 'Berlin-Baghdad' railway that had led to the war starting in the first place.
Ya'see, in the early 1900's Germany and Britain were in alliance negotiations (yes, you read that right) but they fell out because Germany wanted too many warships, and Britain had a policy that it would have twice as many warships as all the other powers in the world put together, so that it could defend its empire and continue to control world trade as it had done for the previous 100 years. So when the Germans started producing a new generation of modern, super long range, oil powered war ships, the alliance negotiations were cancelled as both Britain and Germany looked to the newly discovered oil supplies in the middle east.
The German dream was to bring oil to Germany via land, building a railway all the way through the Balkans and Turkey to Iraq, thus avoiding the British Fleet. This little fact helps us to understand why the war started in Serbia - which was on the rout of the rail road, and makes a tad more geopolitical sense than an Austrian Duke being shot (the official reason).
So when the war first started, Britain committed its main force to invading Iraq and only sent a serious force to Europe once it became clear that the french were ballsing it up. But the Russians dropping out gave the Germans a chance to crush the British and French armies in Europe and take back the Iraqi oil fields. With control of Europe and the middle east, Germany would have been able to build and fuel as many ships as it liked and the British Empire would have been stuffed.
So why the famous 'armistice' of 11/11/11? Well the Germans overlooked something. The British naval blockade had taken its toll (increasing the German need to build warships) and the German working class was either starving, fighting, pissed off or all of the above. So the communist revolution in Russia was not quite the advantage the German elite thought it was. By mid 1918, socialist uprisings had begun all over Europe including Germany itself. The very centre of the capitalist world was rotting from the inside out as workers realised that they were slaughtering each other to defend the pies of one fat bastard from another fat bastard. So when the prospect of working class power became a real potential, it was amazing how fast these 'enemy' elites sat down and hammered out a deal.
Almost immediately after the ceasefire was signed, German troops left the front line to crush the socialist republic of Bavaria, Italian troops crushed the uprising in Northern Italy, and US, British and French troops redeployed to Russia to try to halt the revolution at its source, but they failed because they didn't send enough troops (for fear that their troops might get funny ideas if the Russians started chucking English language copies of the communist manifesto at them over the tops of the trenches.) So only Russia turned communist, creating the USSR.
Oil, power politics, elitism, empire, class - starving people getting fed up of slaughtering each other and fat bastards doing dirty deals to secure their own power. Its nice when history makes some kind of logical sense. Or you can believe that a million British soldiers died for 'freedom' and that the Germans surrendered even though there was not one foreign soldier on German soil because they were in a peace-nik kinda mood.
What the media leads us to believe may poison our minds and shape our opinions of current wars, but is cannot change the historical facts.
Oh, and yes, Iraq. In WW1 Britain conquered Iraq for the first time (starting 100 years of oil wars in defence of anglo-saxon naval power), gave Jerusalem to the British people as a 'christmas present' - which im sure didn't turn messy at all - and betrayed post war Germany so badly that they felt they turned to Hitler and US weapons manufacturers redress the balance. But those are all different stories :-D