Skip to comments.Britain entering first world war was 'biggest error in modern history'
Posted on 01/31/2014 11:47:48 PM PST by Berlin_Freeper
Britain could have lived with a German victory in the first world war, and should have stayed out of the conflict in 1914, according to the historian Niall Ferguson, who described the intervention as "the biggest error in modern history".
In an interview with BBC History Magazine, Ferguson said there had been no immediate threat to Britain, which could have faced a Germany-dominated Europe at a later date on its own terms, instead of rushing in unprepared, which led to catastrophic costs.
"Britain could indeed have lived with a German victory. What's more, it would have been in Britain's interests to stay out in 1914," he said before a documentary based on his book The Pity of War, which will be screened by BBC2 as part of the broadcaster's centenary season.
(Excerpt) Read more at theguardian.com ...
If someone less distinguished than Jesus College, Oxford, fellow Niall Ferguson had written The Pity of War, you could be forgiven for thinking the book was out for a few cheap headlines by contradicting almost every accepted orthodoxy about the First World War. Ferguson argues that Britain was as much to blame for the start of the war as Germany, and that, had Britain sacrificed Belgium to Germany, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution would never have happened. Germany, he continues, would have created a united European state, and Britain could have remained a superpower. He also contends that there was little enthusiasm for the war in Britain in 1914; on the other hand, he claims the war was prolonged not by clever manipulation of the media, but by British soldiers’ taking pleasure in combat.
Not the soldiers taking pleasure from combat, but perhaps a few rear echelon generals...
The centenary of the Great War has not really been that big of a deal here across the pond but in Britain and the Continent they have been furiously digging up the graves of old resentments and rehashing old injuries. Curious....
I think it would have been in everyone’s interest, if no one had gotten involved in WW 1. I don’t think it accomplished much, except to get millions killed.
I also don’t think it would have prevented the Bolshevik Revolution. Tsarist Russia was ripe to fall one way or the other, and a defeated France would have been another likely spot for the Marxist fire to break out.
A lot of people forget that WWII was an intra family feud. Kaiser Wilhelm was Queen Victoria’s grandson. There’s a story that the Queen staged a parade of the British Fleet to intimidate the visiting Kaiser from attempting to build an overseas empire. The Kaiser’s reaction was to later say “I must have a fleet like Grand Mama’s!”.
Counter-argument from Professor Gary Sheffield:
Britain claimed that it was forced to act in 1914 to secure its borders and the Channel ports, but in reality its borders and Channel ports became less secure when it engaged Germany.
The Russians and Serbs had a legitimate gripe against Germany and Austria-Hungary, who in turn had a legitimate gripe against the Serbs for assassinating Archduke Ferdinand.
Drawing Italy, India, the UK, Australia, Turkey, and France into that war made little sense...dominoes of paper treaties costing millions of lives, and the intervention by Japan, Canada, and the U.S. made even less sense (though far lest costly overall for them, at least).
Worse, besides those geopolitical mistakes, countless tactical mistakes were made such as how to combat submarine warfare, gas warfare, entrenched machine guns, aerial combat, etc.
France suffered 64% national casualties from the above errors...its warrior class was wiped out and its militant culture changed forever, though it didn’t recognize that culture-shift until after WW2.
Argentina stayed out of that war and prospered by selling war materials.
China entered WW1 on the side of the Allies, but after the war all of the German ports and bases in China were instead given to...Japan.
This enraged the Chinese. Students such as Mao Tse Tung and Chou En-Lai rallied mass demonstrations in Tiananmen Square against the results of the peace treaty at Versailles, and formed the Communist Party in China when their demands were ignored by the Allies.
Worse, giving the Chinese ports to Japan merely stoked Japan’s territorial desires instead of enamoring Japan with its Allies.
Combined with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, one can quickly see that not only was entry into WW1 catastrophic, and not only was the execution of tactics in the catastrophic, but also that the conclusion of WW1 was so badly botched that civil war in China as well as global war such a short time later circa 1939 became inevitable.
I think it is more ironic than funny, but all the Russians did, was exchange one set of despots, for another bunch of despots, who were even worse. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It took the Russians 70 years to throw off communism. I wonder how long it will take Americans to also throw off communism?
Repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times in history, and it will continue until there are no humans left.
The counter-argument is weak when one considers that Britain lost fewer people in WW2, being in the position that it feared if it didn’t intervene in WW1.
Moreover, it didn’t put a great value on avoiding that position circa 1932 to 1939.
Yes, Europe on the Continent would have been a bit darker if Germany had won, yet people still dined outside at street cafes in Paris even under an obviously much harsher and nastier 3rd Reich circa 1940-1944.
Kaiser Wilhelm was tame compared to Hitler, and besides, what the French lived under was hardly Great Britain’s concern.
Yes, I have always thought it accomplished nothing but get a lot of people killed, and assure there would be another war.
The same Niall Ferguson behind McCain and Romney?
So which would have been better to have right across the English Channel, a relatively-benign France or an expansionist Germany?
The Schlieffen Plan was devised nine years before WWI started. And what justification was there for violating Belgium’s neutrality?
There are only two options for victory: Beer, wings, and westernization of the degenerate muhammadan hoard, or genocide of the same bunch of imbeciles.
Whatever it takes to stop the slaughter of the innocents is moral.
Curious it is. But perhaps explained by the fact that WWI was the ultimate game changer; it ushered out the entire world order as it had existed and was understood in Britain and the Continent. An entire generation of men were all but wiped out in France which explains their inability to field an army of substance for WWII. It upended the British Empire; it changed everything and rent the fabric of the social contract as it had existed and was understood.
I’ve been studying this phenomenon for years now and having traveled extensively throughout Europe I’ve observed first hand the fact that the effects of WWI and WWII scarred the psyche of successive generations on both the Continent and in Britain. I have no answers but I speculate that it may well explain the near zero birth rates in Italy and Russia. The sense I’ve gotten of it is that this systemic shock has adversely affected the resilience of the societies involved.
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