by Patrick Gaffney

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Recently, I attended a meeting of the Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals.  The speaker was a US Army strategist who has deployed twice to Iraq and now focuses on the Middle East.  Lieutenant Colonel Katie Crombe plans wars.  It turns out that she also spends a lot of time attempting to avoid wars, and restoring peace after a war.

Lieutenant Colonel Crombe spoke about her own divorce and drew comparisons between the experience of war and the experience of divorce.  In her talk, she made reference to the Treaty of Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end.  The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.  It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war.

Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required “Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage” during the war.  This article, Article 231, later became known as the War Guilt clause.

The treaty required Germany to disarm, make ample territorial concessions, and pay reparations.  In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion marks (roughly equivalent to US $442 billion in 2019).  At the time economists, notably John Maynard Keynes (a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference), predicted that the treaty was too harsh and said the reparations figure was excessive and counter-productive, views that, since then, have been the subject of ongoing debate by historians and economists.

In his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace, Keynes referred to the Treaty of Versailles as a “Carthaginian peace”, a misguided attempt to destroy Germany, rather than to follow the fairer principles for a lasting peace set out in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, which Germany had accepted at the armistice.  He stated: “I believe that the campaign for securing out of Germany the general costs of the war was one of the most serious acts of political unwisdom for which our statesmen have ever been responsible.”

It has been argued by some historians that resentment caused by the treaty sowed fertile psychological ground for the eventual rise of the Nazi Party.  The German historian Detlev Peukert argued that it was widely believed in Germany that Versailles was a totally unreasonable treaty.

The point is that when making peace, whether that peace is between nations or between divorcing spouses, it is most desirable to make a lasting peace.  Importantly, a lasting peace in Germany arguably required giving the Germans more than what they received in the Treaty of Versailles.

Similarly, in divorce settlement negotiations, the end result must afford each party enough of their most important goal to make the peace that is reached a lasting one.  In other words, each party must leave the process with a measure of dignity.  This must be balanced by the contrary notion that neither party is going to leave the process totally satisfied.

Most family law attorneys have experienced the case where there is a settlement that is reached rather easily; however, the post judgement litigation carries on for years.  This is what we want to avoid.

Of all the models of problem solving available to divorcing spouses, perhaps it is the collaborative model that gives them the best chance of avoiding a peace that does not last.  This follows as care is taken to recognize the parties’ goals and objectives at the beginning and throughout the process.

I am grateful for the insights of Lieutenant Colonel Crombe.  From the experience of a war planner, we can gain of wisdom on how to achieve peace for divorcing spouses.1

1 Sources for this piece include the talk given by Lieutenant Katie Crombie September 19, 2019  meeting of the Tampa Bay Academy of Collaborative Professionals, and Wikipedia, Treaty of Versailles, retrieved from

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