June 10, 2013

"The Government is never slow to say that Hitler was to blame for the Second World War."

"I think the Government is very frightened of taking any sort of view that might suggest we upset the Germans all over again."
"On the British Government's side at the moment what they call the non-judgmental approach seems to me that they are not willing to say outright what the historians I most respect believe, which is the First World War was not morally different from the Second World War, it was an unspeakable experience for Europe and the British people but it was for a cause worth fighting."

99 comments:

tim maguire said...

What was the cause worth fighting the first WW for?

gerry said...

When the euro union teeters upon Teutonic tenderness, and the Brits are beginnning to fool around with Sterling devaluation, one can't pour more vinegar on the kraut, eh?

traditionalguy said...

The Great War was the cause of the Second World War.
The cause of the First was simply the inbred and insane European Aristocracies belief that the Glory of Periodic European Wars was necessary to make their absurd existence needed.

That clever insanity was why Washington had advised Americans to never become entangled in European affairs.

Those stupid Aristocrats had no idea what massed artillery and massed machine guns meant, much less submarines and aircraft.

Oops! Another half million dead men every spring offensive.

ricpic said...

It's funny in a gruesome sort of a way, "No triumphalism!" is the most urgent lesson our western elites drill into us lesser beings; while triumphalism is the very essence of Islam: wonder where it will end?

buwaya said...

Keeping Germany from dominating Europe. German power and their regimes overtly bellicose stance against nearly everyone were at the root of the formal and informal alliance structures that preceded 1914.

Arguably general war only became necessary after the Russians jumped in; when that happened, for the others there really was no choice in the matter.
If the Russians had stayed out they would not have been at risk of getting crushed, and thus fatally weakening the anti-German alliance. The "cold war" of 1900-1914 could have continued, maybe indefinitely. A minor war in the Balkans was a trivial business.

It was internal Russian political problems that made them get into it.

As each ally made its decision for war it gave the remaining powers even less choice in the matter. France could not see Russia crushed as that would expose it to the full power of Germany, and the French knew that Germany's war plans were based on an invasion of France. Britain could not afford to have France and Russia defeated as they would then face a Germany that could challenge British naval supremacy. Etc.

Oso Negro said...

The Second World War should be renamed the War of Competing Socialisms. We could very well have sat that one out and should never have meddled in the Great War.

madAsHell said...

The article appears to conflate WW1 and WW2. Hitler was a mere sargeant during WW1.

Strange, I have a red squiggle under sargeant, but I can't find a better way to spell it.

buwaya said...

You could argue that in the case of some countries that the nature of the regime predisposed them to war, but it wasn't generally the aristocracy involved in the push for war.
The French were not run by an aristocratic elite, the opposite in fact, as the French Catholic aristocracy was suffering under an anti-clerical left-wing reaction at the time.
The Russians were driven to war mainly by a fear by the regime that its legitimacy was threatened by the extreme pan-slavism of popular opinion.
Etc. This theory doesn't hold water.

Gahrie said...

sergeant

buwaya said...

Hitler made corporal, max.

ricpic said...

The thing is all those cats that graduated from Harvard and Yale and didn't know what to do with themselves went into the foreign service and they were bored to tears and when a nice little chance to get into a nice little war came along WHOOPEE!!!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

What was the cause worth fighting the first WW for?

Well, for one thing it was an attempt to teach the Germans not to believe the lie they had come to believe about themselves. The "master race" garbage was a great deal older than Hitler, and the whole of Europe was already infested with this idea of Teutonic superiority.

Obviously, the lesson didn't take, so to speak. But that idea deserved to be fought.

So did the arrogance of big nations towards small ones. The Great War began with an imperious ultimatum to Serbia from Austria-Hungary, followed immediately by Germany's invasion of Belgium, a small non-belligerent that happened to have the misfortune of being Germany's quickest road to France. What happened in Belgium afterwards I don't need to recount; you could look it up.

madAsHell said...

I gotta quit using google as my dictionary.

edutcher said...

The fear of WWI was that Germany had designs on the whole world (the Kaiser wanted to jump the Panama Canal as soon as it was finished and dreamed of shelling the East Coast of America). Many countries were dependent on their overseas colonies and Germany was making expansionist noises.

The non-judgmentalism of today was born in the 60s "Let it all hang out" nonsense of the hippie crowd, pushed by the New Left.

It survives because the Lefties are scared to death of the Moslems.

traditionalguy said...

The Great War was the cause of the Second World War.

Hardly. WWII was caused by the fascism born out of expansionist Italy and Japan, as well as the National Socialism born of the Depression.

The cause of the First was simply the inbred and insane European Aristocracies belief that the Glory of Periodic European Wars was necessary to make their absurd existence needed.

No, a war was the last thing most of them wanted, but, once the fuse was lit in Central Europe, entangling alliances made it this side of impossible to avoid.

That clever insanity was why Washington had advised Americans to never become entangled in European affairs.

The Zimmermann Telegram made that a little hard to ignore.

Those stupid Aristocrats had no idea what massed artillery and massed machine guns meant, much less submarines and aircraft.

Oops! Another half million dead men every spring offensive


Wrong again. They were hardly cavalier about the losses (that was the propaganda of Socialist and Communist apparachiks).

They knew what it meant and spent 3 years trying to figure a way to punch through (British losses at the Somme could be laid at the unwillingness of the Limeys to learn what the French had in infantry-artillery tactics and the German innovations in light infantry tactics). Until the tank came along there was just nothing that could penetrate barbed wire (the real killer in the war).

Our involvement can be laid at the feet of that bull-headed Scotch-Irishman, Woody Wilson.

buwaya said...

The road to war was more complex than that;
Yes indeed the Austrians gave the Serbians a crushing ultimatum; but that was not necessarily based on arrogance. The Austrians had a fracturing empire to keep together and letting the Serbians off easy was perceived to be a great risk. It was fear more than arrogance.
The Russian regime acted out of ethnic solidarity and fear of its own public opinion.
The Germans you could say acted to protect their only important ally from the Russians, and also as a result of years of loud and arrogant rhetoric. They felt they had to put up or shut up.
The French had no choice. They couldn't let Russia go under or they would most certainly shortly follow them, whether or not they declared war at that time.
The Germans invaded Belgium entirely opportunistically, and they acted with great arrogance there indeed.
The British had no choice, strategically. Belgium was just a useful casus belli.

Balfegor said...

He spoke out after Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said the Government will maintain a neutral stance about who was to blame for the conflict and let people make up their own minds.

It was those bloody Slavic ethnic activists.

Re:madashell:

I think Hastings, who is quoted in the article, is trying to contrast the attitude taken by the government regarding the Great War and WWII. The government is happy to say that WWII was someone's fault (Hitler's), but more reluctant to make the Great War into a morality play. And contra Hastings, that doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

Considering the inhuman horribleness of the very terribly modern states which succeeded them -- Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia -- the German Empire and Tsarist Russia and the ancient yet cosmopolitan Austro-Hungarian Empire do not seem markedly inferior to the British Empire and the French Republic. Even the doddering old Ottoman Empire and Egypt under the Khedive come off looking quite good in comparison to the despotic tyranny that for much of the 20th century reigned in the Arab principalities of the Middle East. The old monarchies that grew up in the shadow of the Roman Empire weren't good. But on the whole, they were gentler, more civilized, more humane than the horrors that followed after they were swept away.

On paper, there are winners and losers in the Great War. But really, everyone lost. It was the suicide of the West.

Hagar said...

@madAsHell

Download "Microsoft Bookshelf 2000."

Perhaps not the greatest, but it is free.

Scott M said...

Arguably general war only became necessary after the Russians jumped in; when that happened, for the others there really was no choice in the matter.

All of the major powers in Europe had detailed, day-by-day plans for build-up and deployment. Once those plans were actually put into action, they were extremely hard to stop. From what I've studied, it was almost like a continent-wide case of compartmentalized groupthink.

It didn't help that there were so many familial latitudes among the ruling classes either.

t-man said...

How can someone in a position of authority make this statement:

[WWI] "ensured Europe could continue to be a set of countries which were strong".

This is another way that the concept of "EUROPE" (in terms of E.U.) warps everything it touches, no matter how ridiculous.

Lucien said...

I say we blame it all on the Austro-Hungarian imperial diplomatic corps -- just to see who pops up claiming to be offended.

Crunchy Frog said...

Who the hell is this "we" the Brits say won WWI? When the US entered the war, both sides were stalemated, fighting for weeks at a time to brutal loss of life to go 50 yards to the next trench.

It was the Americans arriving with fresh troops, materiel, and ideas that won the war.

edutcher said...

No, we were only in combat for about 3 months and we took a lot of unnecessary casualties from refusing to learn the lessons of what the Limeys and Frawgs learned.

The Michael Offensive was Germany's last gasp and the Huns screwed it worse than Hitler screwed Kursk (if such was possible).

If anybody won WWI in the West, it was the Frawgs, they bore the brunt of the war, wire to wire.

edutcher said...

PS Never forget our side was the only one with tanks and that was the game changer, and the Limeys were very quick to develop combined arms warfare.

Michael K said...

The cause of the First World War was the cancer that took the life of the Kaiser Frederick and left his unbalanced son as Kaiser.

Beyond that, the foolish English chauvinism of his wife, caused her to insist on poorly trained English doctors to treat his cancer of the vocal cord. There were German surgeons who could have cured him.

When his father had died, Wilhelm took over and his Erb's palsy probably left him with inferiority feelings toward his healthy English cousins.

Considering the effects of hemophilia on the Czarina of Russia, this was probably the most medical war in history.

Napoleon's hemorrhoids probably caused him to lose at Waterloo but that was only one battle, although his last.

buwaya said...

Arguably the British won WWI due to their blockade, which eventually brought Germany to the edge of economic collapse and starvation. Politically that was the most significant factor to the Germans.
The Americans coming in was most effective in keeping the Allies fighting, as once that happened there was no way, short of massive incompetence, that they could lose. The balance of power was just too lop-sided for the Germans to overcome, and if there was no hope of demoralizing the allies then there was no hope at all. The German leadership understood very well in 1918 that they had only one chance of success and if they failed to panic the allies into negotiations they were doomed.

Jon Burack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Burack said...

I do not believe Germany can be held solely responsible for WWI. It was a war of utter stupidity all the way around. To start, once Germany unified in the 1860s, it was destined to be far and away the most powerful nation in continental Europe. Great Britain had its enormous overseas empire. Had the British been realistic they would have allowed German dominance on the continent in exchange for their dominance at sea. After 100 years, what nation is still dominant on the continent of Europe? Germany. Realism might have given us 100 years of only moderately irritating Germany arrogance instead of two world wars, a Holocaust and the horror of the Russian Revolution. As we can see with Angela Merkel, small price to pay. And had Wilson stayed out, perhaps the Brits would still have come to their senses and dealt with things that way.

I have little patience with any apologetics for, let alone glorifying of, what any of the European elites did regarding the millions of men they sent to their doom. British, French, German, Russian, Austrian. All the crown heads, big rich and, yes, residual aristocrats deserved the catastrophe of civilization they brought down on themselves. It's just that no one else did (except for falling for the patriotic blarney that sucked them into the vortex). Suggestions here that these elites cared a wit for the men they slaughtered are laughable. I despise them all still - and despise Wilson for his idiotic decision to plunge us into that hideous black hole for the sake of honor or freedom of the seas or whatever idealistic gloss he insisted on later on. Mark the moment with a prayer. Nothing more.

edutcher said...

Not even close.

Nobody was dancing on the graves of those men and I suspect Burack is just another Cook.

Everything I have read (and I do not claim expertise) is that the field commanders tried everything they could to cut the casualties.

As I say, a lot of the folklore of WWI is the product of Socialist and Communist propagandists.

Had the British been realistic they would have allowed German dominance on the continent in exchange for their dominance at sea. After 100 years, what nation is still dominant on the continent of Europe? Germany. Realism might have given us 100 years of only moderately irritating Germany arrogance instead of two world wars, a Holocaust and the horror of the Russian Revolution. As we can see with Angela Merkel, small price to pay. And had Wilson stayed out, perhaps the Brits would still have come to their senses and dealt with things that way.

No, the aggressive tendencies of Kaiser Bill made that an impossibility.

And the US entry into the war was trivial in the way it played out. The war was won by the summer of '18 and all it needed was the final battle.

I despise them all still - and despise Wilson for his idiotic decision to plunge us into that hideous black hole for the sake of honor or freedom of the seas or whatever idealistic gloss he insisted on later on.

Again, the Zimmermann Telegram was hard to ignore.

Goju said...

France did indeed bare the brunt of WW1, but to claim its Army was responsible for victory is flat out wrong. The French Military had several mutinies and was on the verge of collapse when the Americans arrived. The lack of discipline and fighting effectiveness was one of the reasons Pershing refused to allow his troops to be used as replacement troops for French and British armies.

The Americans did suffer defeats when hey first arrived at the Western Front. The major difference is they learned from defeat and changed battle tactics. They also possessed a superior battle rifle that suprised the Germans with its range and accuracy.

The cause of WW2 was the Treaty of Versailles. Even the British did not want to punish the Germans to the extent of the treaty. It was the French who insisted on not only punishment but humiliation of the Germans. The French wanted to save face for what had happened in their last 2 engagements with the Germans.

Jon Burack said...

It is silly to suggest folklore about the horrors of WWI is all socialist and communist propaganda. The disllusion and civilizational despair of the post-war world ran the gamut from left to right. In any case, the socialists and communists were in this one instance perfectly correct.

I am sure commanders wanted to keep casualties down. You do need live soldiers to keep fighting, you know. But as for any of the upper crusts that carried this war on endlessly, they never, never hesitated in the slightest to send men over the top and call for more as needed.

As to the Zimmermann Telegram being hard to ignore, please. The Mexicans ignored it completely. There was never a second of doubt that it was a total dead letter and of no consequence. What provoked U.S. entry was the resumption of submarine warfare which the Zimmerman ploy was connected to, a totally desperate move by a Germany at the end of its rope. And why did the resumption of submarine warfare led to U.S. entry? Because we ALREADY WERE IN THE WAR - as the supplier and banker of Great Britain and France. We had to keep our lines open and keep the debts to us piling up - debts that contributed in the 1920s to the trade and financial chaos of the interwar interim, thereby helping to bring on the next deluge.

I'm sorry, the Kaiser and the Germans were half the equation. Their opponents were the other half.

rcocean said...

I see a link to "The Telegraph" - which includes articles by that Idiot Max Hastings.

Maxy Hastings -as a historian - is useful for one thing. If you agree with him, you should re-check your facts, and then check them again.

rcocean said...

The UK always whitewashes their role in WWI. They attacked Germany because they wanted to destroy a potential naval rival and preserve the "Balance of Power". They attacked Turkey because they wanted to steal parts of the Ottoman Empire.

That the Kaiser and his gang were a nasty bit of work, shouldn't obviate the fact, the UK didn't go to war to enforce morality but because of power & greed.

We got suckered into WWI, one reason why Americans were reluctant to go another crusade in 1939-1940

Tim said...

"I'm sorry, the Kaiser and the Germans were half the equation. Their opponents were the other half."

Hmmm.

Because which nation's troops crossed their border first on the attack?

Not the Allies'.

tim maguire said...

Germany is held responsible by some because it was the strongest member of the losing side, absent Germany the war would have been shorter and less devastating. But that's hardly Germany's "fault." The cause of the war was the system of alliances that made world war inevitable. The assassination of the archduke is simply the particular event that the war grew out of, it was not the "cause" either. The theory of balance of power was the cause.

Far better is the world of today with just one dominant power having no challengers.

Rusty said...

"Hey, we eat on that table."

I have to disagree. WW2 in europe was the failure of the Treaty of Versailles and the reparations demanded of Germany.
No Treaty. No nazi regime.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Germany was looking to change the established order, via getting it's "fair share" of the colonial spoils, and by challenging the British naval and manufacturing supremacy. The British weren't interested in sharing. Which is not to say that the Germans didn't bear a larger share of the blame, just that it wasn't the black and white scenario as generally portrayed.

edutcher said...

Uh, hate to tell you guys, but Germany was the aggressor.

Not the Limeys.

And, if you read a little about what the Huns did, you'll see that what the Krauts did in WWII was an old German tradition.

Jon Burack said...

It is silly to suggest folklore about the horrors of WWI is all socialist and communist propaganda. The disllusion and civilizational despair of the post-war world ran the gamut from left to right. In any case, the socialists and communists were in this one instance perfectly correct.

No, they were just playing on the opportunity of the moment. And, as we would soon see, the Socialists and Communists were as warlike as the Royals.

More, actually.

And any doubts about their cause could be met with the atrocities of the Central Powers. Sorry, but there was a real moral choice in that war.

I am sure commanders wanted to keep casualties down. You do need live soldiers to keep fighting, you know. But as for any of the upper crusts that carried this war on endlessly, they never, never hesitated in the slightest to send men over the top and call for more as needed.

Last I looked, you don't win a war hiding in the trenches and the object of the war was to win.

Too bad Burack has to fall back on shopworn platitudes to make his point, BTW.

As to the Zimmermann Telegram being hard to ignore, please. The Mexicans ignored it completely. There was never a second of doubt that it was a total dead letter and of no consequence. What provoked U.S. entry was the resumption of submarine warfare which the Zimmerman ploy was connected to, a totally desperate move by a Germany at the end of its rope.

Didn't matter what the Mexicans thought, that the Huns proposed it was the issue.

Because we ALREADY WERE IN THE WAR - as the supplier and banker of Great Britain and France. We had to keep our lines open and keep the debts to us piling up - debts that contributed in the 1920s to the trade and financial chaos of the interwar interim, thereby helping to bring on the next deluge.

This is the big Trilateral Commission-Bildererberger-Rothschild conspiracy thing that comes with every war.

Get a life.

Tim said...

"They attacked Germany because they wanted to destroy a potential naval rival and preserve the "Balance of Power". They attacked Turkey because they wanted to steal parts of the Ottoman Empire."

Citations, please?

Cedarford said...

Even WWII was hard to pin on a single country. Following the defeat of Germany by the Royal Navy's blockade, the Victors freely carved huge chunks of the defeated German, Austro-Hungarian, Turk territories on pure colonial grans of Wilsons asshole "self-determination, majority rule" criteria where ethnic majorities supposedly could form their own nations or merge with similar ethnicity peoples of a larger land.

France got Alsace-Lorraine because it was "French speaking". But the victors ignored Wilson when it suited their interests. So Italy the German Tyrols, the new nation of Czeckslovakia got the German people in the Sudetanland, and Poland grabbed the German inhabited Hanseatic areas that Russia also carved some up..Notably Danzig on the Polish side and the place of some 20 years of tension and systemic abuse of the German inhabitants by the Poles. France went into the Rhineland with a goal of eventual annexation.

The Germans wanted that which was taken from them - taken back.



Mitch H. said...

What was the cause worth fighting the first WW for?

Not getting conquered and butchered by the Boche?

But hey! Don't mention the war!

It was the Americans arriving with fresh troops, materiel, and ideas that won the war.

What fresh ideas were that? AFAIK the Americans fought with French equipment and tactics, and generally fought about as well as any decently drilled fresh body of troops. The difference being that the French and British were out of fresh bodies of troops... The people with new ideas on the Western Front were mostly German, they just didn't have the fresh troops to exploit their invention of storm tactics. Almost gutted the British in Operation Michael, anyways - damned close-run thing.

And the US entry into the war was trivial in the way it played out. The war was won by the summer of '18 and all it needed was the final battle.

Nevertheless, the US and Commonwealth troops made the difference. Without the Americans, the French had no resources to resume the offensive, without the Canadians and the Australians, the British were bled dry as well.

Although admittedly, if the US hadn't come into the war, the German home front probably would have collapsed pretty much on schedule. I dunno, it's hard to calculate the moral effect of the battlefield defeats on whether or not the uprisings of 1918 bring down the German government.

(BTW, damn, they went into some dark places during that war, to quote a Wiki page on WWI barrage tactics:
It was soon appreciated how important it was for the attacking troops to follow the barrage closely (leaning on the barrage), without allowing time for the defenders to recover from the shock of bombardment and emerge from their dug-outs; the French reckoned they should be suffering 10% of their casualties from their own artillery if they were close enough to the barrage)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jon Burack,

To start, once Germany unified in the 1860s, it was destined to be far and away the most powerful nation in continental Europe.

But, see, this is just what I was talking about. It was "destined" to be no such thing. But there was a line of Teutonic propaganda out there that did say so; and there were a lot of people who did believe it -- not just that Germany was great, but that Germans as such were also great.

And, again, if the first thing that you do when there is a declaration of war is to invade a small neutral and non-belligerent nation and lay systematic waste to it, your "greatness" would appear to be a matter of more guns and more boots. Color me unimpressed with German Ehre in 1914.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Michelle,
It's pretty clear that Germany's size combined with it's natural resources, and the weaknesses of Russia, did destine it to be the most powerful nation on the continent. The problem is what they did with that power.

Methadras said...

Ann, you just Godwin'ed a thread before it even started.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Cedarford,

France got Alsace-Lorraine because it was "French speaking".

Well, actually, France got Alsace and Lorraine back because Germany took them by force in 1870.

But the victors ignored Wilson when it suited their interests. So Italy the German Tyrols, the new nation of Czeckslovakia [sic] got the German people in the Sudetanland, and Poland grabbed the German inhabited Hanseatic areas that Russia also carved some up..Notably Danzig on the Polish side and the place of some 20 years of tension and systemic abuse of the German inhabitants by the Poles.

Cedarford, are you blind to the centuries'-worth of attempts to obliterate Poland? It's not the first time, or the last. Frederick the Great did one. Hitler and Stalin planned another one.

You, for example, say "Danzig." A story for you, which requires a little explanation: There's a German-language music encyclopedia called MGG, for Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Its rough English-language equivalent is the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Anyway, a fellow musicology grad student of mine, who was also a Jew of Polish descent, once caught up with one of the editors of MGG, and asked why there was an entry for Danzig, but none for Gdansk. He didn't get an answer.

exhelodrvr1 said...

And Poland invaded Prussia when it could. They were all guilty of the same behavior - that was standard for that era. If you're going to judge them by modern standards, at least judge them all by the same standards.

Terry said...

The Russians got into the First World War because they had defense treaty with France. The Germans knew this and they anticipated a Russian attack on their Eastern frontier. They needed to take Paris in 2 weeks so they could send the troops to the East to foil an expected Russian attack. This was called the Schliefen Plan.
When the French turned the Germans at Marne the plan failed and the horrors we associate with the First World War followed.

edutcher said...

Cedarford said...

Even WWII was hard to pin on a single country. Following the defeat of Germany by the Royal Navy's blockade, the Victors freely carved huge chunks of the defeated German, Austro-Hungarian, Turk territories on pure colonial grans of Wilsons asshole "self-determination, majority rule" criteria where ethnic majorities supposedly could form their own nations or merge with similar ethnicity peoples of a larger land.

France got Alsace-Lorraine because it was "French speaking". But the victors ignored Wilson when it suited their interests. So Italy the German Tyrols, the new nation of Czeckslovakia got the German people in the Sudetanland, and Poland grabbed the German inhabited Hanseatic areas that Russia also carved some up..Notably Danzig on the Polish side and the place of some 20 years of tension and systemic abuse of the German inhabitants by the Poles. France went into the Rhineland with a goal of eventual annexation.

The Germans wanted that which was taken from them - taken back.


I don't recall Turkey going to war to win back its empire.

Mitch H. said...

And the US entry into the war was trivial in the way it played out. The war was won by the summer of '18 and all it needed was the final battle.

Nevertheless, the US and Commonwealth troops made the difference. Without the Americans, the French had no resources to resume the offensive, without the Canadians and the Australians, the British were bled dry as well.


Commonwealth, certainly. Again, the Yanks only saw about 3 months of action and insisted on re-learning all the lessons the Allies had already learned. Most of our divisions never even got close to combat.

The issue was combined arms warfare. The Limeys had finally straightened up and got the hang of this before anybody else.

That was what won the war.

Although admittedly, if the US hadn't come into the war, the German home front probably would have collapsed pretty much on schedule. I dunno, it's hard to calculate the moral effect of the battlefield defeats on whether or not the uprisings of 1918 bring down the German government.

From what I've seen the German home front had collapsed and the German General Staff was burned out. Wasn't it Ludendorff who kept the body of his dead son for 6 moths or something?

Terry said...

The Russians jumped in because they were bound to do so by a defense pact with France.
The Germans knew the Russians would enter the war. They had a plan -- the 'Schliefen Plan" -- that required them to take Paris in two weeks and then turn their army to the east to face the Russians. The German commander, Von Moltke, failed to execute the Schliefen Plan properly. The German army was turned at the Marne, and the horror of the First World War followed.

Terry said...

I've read that, towards the end of the war, the Germans had worked out a way to consistently take ground: long artillery bombardment of the enemy trenches, then poison gas, then assault by shock troops with flame throwers and 'trench brooms' (short-barreled 10 gauge shotguns).
By the time the Germans figured this out, it was too late.
I've also read that material support supplied by the allies was more important than the men sent 'over there'. Towards the end, German were stripping houses of their plumbing for the lead to make bullets.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The Russians jumped in because they were bound to do so by a defense pact with France.
The Germans knew the Russians would enter the war. They had a plan -- the 'Schliefen Plan" -- that required them to take Paris in two weeks and then turn their army to the east to face the Russians. The German commander, Von Moltke, failed to execute the Schliefen Plan properly. The German army was turned at the Marne, and the horror of the First World War followed.


Yeah, and of course laying waste to Belgium was part of the plan. It might have been a small non-belligerant, but, hey, it was in the way of our march to Paris! But those stupid Frenchmen actually fought back, and therefore, horror. If everyone had just surrendered as per plan, it would all have been much nicer.

edutcher said...

Terry said...

I've read that, towards the end of the war, the Germans had worked out a way to consistently take ground: long artillery bombardment of the enemy trenches, then poison gas, then assault by shock troops with flame throwers and 'trench brooms' (short-barreled 10 gauge shotguns).
By the time the Germans figured this out, it was too late.
I've also read that material support supplied by the allies was more important than the men sent 'over there'. Towards the end, German were stripping houses of their plumbing for the lead to make bullets.


All very true, although the Huns also developed the light machine gun, the submachine gun, and the had grenade for this purpose. They also developed the system of giving greater responsibility to junior officers and NCOs in such situations. This was the beginning of the modern light infantry tactics used today.

The idea of the highly authoritarian German army was something of a myth.

And, yes, Germany was eating itself alive the last year of the war.

rcocean said...

Citations, please?

Right after I prove water is wet

rcocean said...

The real tragedy of WWI is the utter failure of the Allied power elites to compromise when the war had reached a statement in the 1916-1917 time-frame.

They thought they had Germany on the ropes on were going to wipe her out forever. Sadly for them, the Russians collapsed first and the Italians almost did.

rcocean said...

In 1918, it was the Germans turn to be destroyed by Hubris. After the success of the spring offensive, a compromise peace should have been offered. Instead, the German Generals and the Kaiser absurdly thought they were on the edge of victory and imposing a German peace on France and the UK. Then even as late as September 1918, they believed Germany could hold off the allies and negotiate a favorable peace, with Germany in control of everything west of the Rhine.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Well, for one thing it was an attempt to teach the Germans not to believe the lie they had come to believe about themselves. The "master race" garbage was a great deal older than Hitler, and the whole of Europe was already infested with this idea of Teutonic superiority.

The Germans needed to be taught not to consider themselves inherently superior... and the British and Russians were chosen to do that?

Hm. :)

Tim said...

"They attacked Germany because they wanted to destroy a potential naval rival and preserve the "Balance of Power". They attacked Turkey because they wanted to steal parts of the Ottoman Empire."

Citations, please?

rcocean said...

"Citations, please?

Right after I prove water is wet"


So, it should be easy then, to prove the British attacked the Germans.

So why don't you do it?

Because you can't, that's why.

You, like anyone else, are entitled to your own opinions.

Not your own facts.

Try harder. The internet is full of stupid.

Don't add to it.

Tim said...

Simple test of World War 1 History:

Which was the first nation to declare war?

Which nation was the second nation to declare war?

Which nation was the third nation to declare war?

Which nation first launched an attack?

Which nation first sent troops across it's borders?

What nation was invaded in that attack?

rcocean said...

"So, it should be easy then, to prove the British attacked the Germans."

Hello? The UK declared war on Germany. Germany NEVER attacked the UK before the British declared war on them.

BTW, the invasion of Belgium was a Pretext for the declaration of war. The real reason was the secret Franco-British protocol.

edutcher said...

What????

The run down the Channel coast wasn't a threat?

Get real.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Revenant,

The Germans needed to be taught not to consider themselves inherently superior... and the British and Russians were chosen to do that?

I don't know what you mean by "were chosen." The British and the French and the Russians and the Polish and the Belgians and the Serbs and the like did their best, with some Americans from 1917 on. You know, after Germans sunk an American passenger liner with 1100 or so people on it, just because.

Tim said...

"BTW, the invasion of Belgium was a Pretext for the declaration of war. The real reason was the secret Franco-British protocol."

Curious interpretation of events...how long had Britain guaranteed Belgian neutrality?

And, again, who's troops crossed who's borders first?

Not Britain's.


Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

rcocean,

BTW, the invasion of Belgium was a Pretext for the declaration of war. The real reason was the secret Franco-British protocol.

Somehow the name doesn't suggest that Belgium was a party here. To me, invading a neutral country doesn't sound like a capital-P "Pretext" for a declaration of war; it sounds like a casus belli. Great powers that launch massive, unprovoked invasions of small neutral countries are dangerous.

Joe said...

German citizens are to blame for World War II. Just like too many Americans today, they traded freedom for economic and physical security.

Tim said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

rcocean,

BTW, the invasion of Belgium was a Pretext for the declaration of war. The real reason was the secret Franco-British protocol.


Somehow the name doesn't suggest that Belgium was a party here. To me, invading a neutral country doesn't sound like a capital-P "Pretext" for a declaration of war; it sounds like a casus belli. Great powers that launch massive, unprovoked invasions of small neutral countries are dangerous."


Naw, you got that wrong.

See, the dastardly Brits signed a secret protocol with the French, the Triple Entente (with Russia, too), that was such a secret, everyone, including the dimwitted, easily duped Kaiser, knew about it. So, the Kaiser, not knowing about the Triple Entente that he and everyone else who was paying attention knew about, foolishly allowed the dastardly British to trap him into invading first Luxembourg and then Belgium and then France, because, you see, the British had this Empire they could not wait to waste away in a vain effort to win the war in the west all on their own, the French notwithstanding.

See?

Because water is wet.

Amirite?

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

And, that secret Triple Entente?

It preceded the war for seven secret years. Almost to the day (31 August, 1907), and followed the end of the Russo-Japanese War by almost exactly two years (5 September 1095)

Lots of similarity with dates here.

I blame the illuminate and, of course, GW Bush, by which I mean Darth Cheney.

Terry said...

The real reason was the secret Franco-British protocol.
What secret British-French protocol, rcocean?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Michelle,
The Lusitania was carrying a considerable amount of war materiel, and thus was considered a valid target.

exhelodrvr1 said...

And the British and French were as good as any at considering themselves superior.

William said...

The very act of apportioning blame for this tragedy preps the stage for the next tragedy. In some battles there were hundreds of thousands of casualties and, at the end, only a few hundred yards of land changed hands. Every year the brightest people thought of new, more painful ways to kill their enemies. They were quite inventive. Every year it got worse. It was madness and everyone recognized it as madness. And everyone was mad. The enlisted men lined up in neat rows to go over the top to their certain death. And the officers went over first and died first. These officers were the beloved sons of the important people who sent them there to die. And it went on and on. Year after year.......It would be pleasant to blame the Germans, or the aristocrats, or the munition makers, but it was a madness that infected everyone. Nothing of value was achieved by the war, and no lesson was learned.

Revenant said...

I don't know what you mean by "were chosen."

It was a veiled reference to the fact that the Russians and British had the same inflated opinions of themselves that the Germans did.

You know, after Germans sunk an American passenger liner with 1100 or so people on it, just because.

The Lusitania was British, not American. Also, saying the Germans sank it "just because" is childish; it was a listed British auxiliary carrying war materials.

rcocean said...

IOW, the supporters of Grey and the declaration of war on Germany can only resort to lame internet snark and sophistry.

Yeah, what secret Anglo-Russian-France alliance? It was known to EVERYONE in 1914.

LoL.

Tim said...

"Nothing of value was achieved by the war, and no lesson was learned."

While true enough - Dulce et Decorum est - some are more implicated than others.

And, among these, the Kaiser sits, if not first, second to the Austrian-Hungarians (even as histories indicate, from mere suggestion to outright indictment that the Kaiser's unconditional support for Franz Joseph intended to provoke the Austrians into war with Serbia).

Yes, many others could have stopped it - the partial mobilization in Russia comes first to mind (but Russia's antiquated and inept governance seems somewhat exculpatory) - but the Kaiser very clearly sought to exploit the events in the Balkans rather than play peace-keeper.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The Lusitania was carrying a considerable amount of war materiel, and thus was considered a valid target.

By whom? Seriously. What were the passengers? Collateral damage?

Somewhere in Chesterton's wartime propaganda is a piece about a German plot to sink several ships in such a way that there would be no trace of them. Chesterton pointed out that this wasn't a plan just to sink the ships; it was a plan to make elaborate provisions to kill every sailor.

Tim said...

...can only resort to lame internet snark and sophistry."

It got better than it deserved.

Revenant said...

Great powers that launch massive, unprovoked invasions of small neutral countries are dangerous.

And which of the major WW1 participants does that sentence NOT describe?

Revenant said...

By whom? Seriously.

Read a history of the war sometime.

The Lusitania, like all ships carrying military supplies, was a valid target under the laws of war. Germany's offense was that it sank the ship without warning, a tactic it adopted in response to the British habit of having "civilian" ships suddenly attack the surfaced submarines.

Tim said...

"By whom? Seriously. What were the passengers? Collateral damage?"

The British blockade of Germany was tremendously effective; in turn, the Germans knew the British (and French) were heavily dependent upon imports from the US, including armaments.

In response, the Germans declared the seas around the British Isle a war zone, and that ships, excluding ships from neutral nations, would be sunk without warning.

The ship was carrying rifle cartridges, thus making it a legitimate target under the announced policy (and consistent with the rules of war, at that time).

Obviously, though, for the reasons you've alluded to, it was a huge public-relations disaster, particularly in the US (which had a sizable German-American population, which was with pro-German or neutral - most certainly not pro-France or England).

Tim said...

"And which of the major WW1 participants does that sentence NOT describe?"

Well, that depends. Contemporaneously, or at any time in history?

Revenant said...

Well, that depends. Contemporaneously, or at any time in history?

Either one, really. Circa WW1 you have French Indochina and the British curb-stomping of the Boer Republics as good examples of soon-to-be Allied powers picking on smaller nations for no valid reason.

Really Germany just suffered from bad timing. They got into empire building just when the supply of unconquered non-white territories was running out. They had to resort to conquering actual European territories instead, and that always makes people nervous. :)

rcocean said...

Tim: the only WWI Troll on the internet.

rcocean said...

Seriously, its says something the inter-tubes that even an almost 100 year old conflict can't be discussed with some character in Mom's basement (or is that Mum's cellar) chiming in.

LoL!

traditionalguy said...

Download The Guns of August for a quick primer on the stupidity of European Aristocracies in 1914 that still ran the Monarchies while sometimes holding an election or two for appearances sake.

What they did was pure stupidity. Why fall for the excuses they made afterwards for destroying Europe out of complete arrogant ignorance.

traditionalguy said...

One result of the "madness' that one can view as WWI + WWII having had was the historical miracle that occurred when the UN under the clever ploys of a miraculously selected Scots-Irish, Southern Baptist, American President (who had not an once of ancient European anti-Semitic idiocy in him) created the State of Israel in one day.

That would never have happened without the bloody events starting 33 years earlier...or maybe the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob just had an accident.

A year later the greatest political miracle seen since America began voting happened when a little farmer and machine politician from Kansas City , Missouri who had no respect and no political support from either party ran a four man race in which he was declared a sure loser by everyone but refused to quit and won the 1948 election on guts and maybe some Devine favor too.

Revenant said...

Are you drunk?

Terry said...

While "Guns of August" is a great narrative, Tuchman was no historian. There are better books about the causes of WWI available these days.

traditionalguy said...

Rev... Yes. Tonight was my birthday, and my son's birthday too. And we did drink lots of wine.

In vino veritas!

Eric said...

You know, after Germans sunk an American passenger liner with 1100 or so people on it, just because.

Because it was carry munitions to Germany's enemies. You can't really blame them for that.

edutcher said...

This was an excuse used by the Huns
AFTER the sinking.

She was sunk because of German unrestricted submarine warfare.

And the rifle cartridges were openly carried on her manifest, so they probably weren't intended for a military destination.

traditionalguy said...

Download The Guns of August for a quick primer on the stupidity of European Aristocracies in 1914 that still ran the Monarchies while sometimes holding an election or two for appearances sake.

France was a monarchy?

Britain was a monarchy the way it was at the time of the Spanish Armada?

You must be joking.

The Central Powers were. Russia was.

But Britain and France?

Rusty said...

Mitch H. said...
What was the cause worth fighting the first WW for?


Because France could mobilize her forces in twenty four hours and Russia in two weeks.
Arch duke Ferdie gets assassinated. Germany declares war on Russia and then immediately attacks France. There being a mutual assistance treaty between France and Russia.
The causes were nonsensical the results were devastating to all involved.
Personally I blame Queen Victoria. She was a rotten mother, aunt, and grandmother.

Terry said...

perhaps the controversy could be ended by declaring that Hitler was to blame for the First World War as well as the Second World War. After all, he was there.

Rusty said...

Rusty said...
Mitch H. said...
What was the cause worth fighting the first WW for?

IOWs All the combatants were lined up waiting for a spark to light the tender.
After all. What was the point of having all those wonderful toys if you couldn't use them.

Mitch H. said...

Did I see someone blame Russia's entry into the war on their treaty with *France*? That gets the direction of the obligation exactly backwards.

What was the neutral country invaded by Britain and France? Britain had an arrangement with Persia for the cordon sanitaire, and the Greek situation was complicated beyond belief, and pretty much beyond the scope of the current discussion.

As others have pointed out, Britain had been the guarantor of Belgium's neutrality since the kingdom's creation, and pretty much enabled that kingdom's founding in order to keep the Channel Ports out of hostile hands. Since Germany was directly challenging British naval supremacy, the prospect of German occupation of those ports *RIGHT ACROSS THE CHANNEL* from the mouth of the Thames was an existential threat.

Speaking of Persia, did y'all know that the Germans spent the war deliberately trying to provoke a full-bore Jihad throughout the Muslim world? That cordon sanitaire I mentioned was set up to keep German provocateurs from reaching Afghanistan, arming the ghazi, and whooping them off on a full-bore invasion of India. They printed up calls for jihad, claiming that the kaiser had converted to Islam, etc, etc. The Mesopotamian Front soaked up most of the resources intended for this effort, so it never came to much of anything, but the WWII Nazi-jihadi entente was not exactly without precedent.

Tim said...

rcocean said...

"Seriously, its says something the inter-tubes that even an almost 100 year old conflict can't be discussed with some character in Mom's basement (or is that Mum's cellar) chiming in."

Of course you'd say so...yet there you are, still unable to prove your first assertion.

Peter said...

"What was the cause worth fighting the first WW for?"

The proximate cause of WWI was the two ultimatums issued by Germany. One could argue that the ultimatums were necessary once Russia began to mobilize (as many interwar "revisionist" historians did), but it's not so- without the ultimatums the crisis could still have been resolved with diplomacy; after, the armies of Germany, France, and Russia had to march.

The proximate cause of England's entry into WWI was German violation of Belgian neutrality. From an English PoV, one can certainly argue (as Niall Ferguson has done) that England would have been better off had it remained neutral, as it surely lost huge blood and treasure in the War and gained little for it.

Perhaps a tougher question is why the USA went in. Yeah, I know, Zimmerman telegram and the Lusitania. But that's pretty thin justification for entering a world war.

exhelodrvr1 said...

edutcher,
"And the rifle cartridges were openly carried on her manifest, so they probably weren't intended for a military destination"

Seriously? In the middle of a war, there's a huge market in Britain for the hunters for .303 Enfield cartridges?

Tim said...

RCOCEAN:

Please provide me one link (or two, or more) to one reputable history asserting Britain starting the war by "attack(ing) Germany because they wanted to destroy a potential naval rival and preserve the "Balance of Power," and that "the invasion of Belgium was a Pretext for the declaration of war. The real reason was the secret Franco-British protocol," and I promise you I will read it and let you know my thoughts.

Deal?

William said...

I suppose a fair argument can be made that Germany was the most bellicose of the great powers, but, my God, they were all so stubborn, self destructive, and stupid. How many men have to be killed for a few hundred yards of barren terrain before someone says "let's stop". Apportioning blame is like making a Venn diagram out of a plate of spaghetti,