Skip to comments.The Foul Tornado: On the centenary of World War I (Outstanding Read)
Posted on 07/14/2014 12:17:39 PM PDT by mojito
To say that that the First World War was the greatest cataclysm in human history since the fall of the Roman Empire is to put it mildly. The war destroyed so many good things and killed so many good people that civilization has not recovered and probably never will. Long after it officially ended, it continued to cause millions of deaths and tragedies, most obviously during its encore performance of 1939-45. But it did not stop even then. Many of its worst consequences came during official periods of peace and are unknown or forgotten, or remain unconnected with it in the public mind.
The loss cannot be measured in cash because it was paid in the more elusive coin of faith, morals, trust, hope, and civility. The war is the reason why Europe is no longer a Christian continent, because too many churches supported it. Pointing to the poverty and scientific backwardness of the pre-1914 world is a false comparison. Who is to say that we could not have grown just as rich as we are now, and made just as many technological and medical advances, had we not slain the flower of Europes young men before they could win Nobel Prizes, or even beget and raise children?
The astonishing thing is that so many conservative, Christian, and patriotic people have yet to understand the damage this event did to their causes. It is at least partly because we can barely begin to imagine the world that we lost.
(Excerpt) Read more at spectator.org ...
h/t The Z Blog.
If the U.S. would have stayed out of it, the Great Powers would have battled to a draw and none of the other problems would have occurred later.
Bump for later.
Thank you for posting this. It’s the best article on the subject I’ve yet come across.
I would critique the statement that churches lost respect because they supported the war. Paul Johnson wrote that the war was universally popular among intellectuals, academics and the elite as a 'great cause' to defeat the Hun. So it wasn't the church only.
Bookmark and Bump.
There is simply no getting around the fact that WWI was totally unnecessary and set in motion geopolitical events that are still affecting the world today.
I am a fan of Rudyard Kipling, who was very much alive and writing during the Great War. The same cannot be said for his son, who died on the Western Front serving as a young officer in the Irish Guards. Kipling spoke of the agony of his generation at what they had wrought:
THESE were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight.
We have only the memory left of their hometreasured sayings and laughter.
The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right.
But who shall return us the children ?
At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,
The first felon-stroke of the sword he had longtime prepared for us -
Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.
They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o’ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour.
Not since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her!
Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marvelling, closed on them.
That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven -
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled on the wires
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes - to be cindered by fires -
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater. For this we shall take expiation.
But who shall return us our children ?
I'm not so sure about that. Up to the first war, there was a race going on between Germany and England.
All over the world, navies were switching from coal to oil power. In nations where resources were available, dreadnoughts were replacing coal burning ships at an incredible speed. The militarism of Germany could not be ignored by a country like England whose security and stability owed SO much to it's navy.
Kaiser Bill HAD to be contained and for the most part, the Imperial Navy was kept off the major oceans. German dreadnought's were more or less bottled up in the northern ports and German submarines were challenged when and where ever the British navy could find them.
It was do or die for the Brits. The British hung on by a thread for a very long time and finally won out.
I just ordered the book on Aamzon! Thanks for the suggestion!
He is spot on in identifying 1914 as the start of a long war that went on until at least 1989; perhaps we are still in the midst of it.
I read “Catastrophe” he cites about the first few months of the War - the book ends with the soccer truce of Christmas 1914.
A possible different take - that Europe was not so calm before the War - is contained in “1913: The Year Before the Storm.” This book does an excellent job of detailing the turmoil already present in Europe, particularly in the arts, that served as a type of omen, at least in retrospect.
Fun fact from “1913”: in January 1913, Hitler, Stalin, and Freud were all living in Vienna and took walks in the same park.
His name was Walter J. Scherer, a private in the 130th US Infantry. Born 1893. Died 1918 in the Argonne Forest.
At 25, he hadn't time to make any sort of mark in history. I used to walk through this peaceful silent city and wonder what sort of man he was, his life cut so short.
The problem with this view is that it runs counter to Britain's foreign policy on the continent since Tudor times, which was that Britain would resist the creation of a Continental hegemon, because a hegemon in Europe would be in a position to thwart Britain's mastery of the seas on which her colonial empire was founded.
It's true, as Hitchens states, that Britain stayed out of the wars of German unification. But the chauvinistic and bellicose Germany of 1914 was seen in many circles as an aggressive power (which it was) that had become unmoored from Bismark's judicious realpolitik. Germany had come to be viewed as the most serious challenge since Napoleonic France.
With support from the US, Britain prevailed (sort of), but Hitchens asks whether it was worth the tremendous cost. Which is a question forth asking, even thought it can never be answered.
Bookmark for later.
I have two Great-Uncles who died in their middle to late 20s from the lingering effects of mustard gas attacks in WW1.
Neither ever married, recognizing their recurrent health problems were terminal (not a diagnosis, just personal observations on their part according to their siblings).
The Boer War presaged the end of the British Empire, but WWI doomed it. Britain spent its future on the Great War, and was finally exhausted by WWII. America’s Boer War equivalent was Vietnam, which demonstrated to the world that we were not invincible, and two decades of war in Southwest Asia have taken our treasure and our resolve but left our enemies standing for another, bigger round. Only the devil is truly satisfied by war.
I had a similar experience when I toured Eton. On the walls around the courtyard are the names of the WWI dead from that venerable school. I was appalled by the sheer number and horrified that they were all close to my age, 18, 19, 20. So tragic.
Walter J SCHERER
Notes : Walter sailed for France on the 14th. of May 1918, with the 33rd. Div., 130th. Inf. Company K. He was killed in action in the Arrogone Forest, Oct. 14, 1918 ...
Looked his name up on Google and got this hit, but the link is no longer active.
"Le pantalon rouge c'est la France!"
I thought Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August" was an excellent read about WWI (which is where I first saw the quote about red pants).
My dad was born in 1906, thus too young for WW 1 and almost too old for WW 2. Yet, he volunteered for service in the AAF, flying C-46s over the Hump in the China-Burma-India Campaign.
Japan had over one million troops on the Asian mainland, taking large swaths of territory from the Brits and French who had colonized the nations. Sadly, we sowed the seeds of Europe's blunder in SE Asia and another 58,000 + young men were lost, like Walter Scherer...
Yep. They should send the kings, presidents, czars, parliaments, congresses, politburos of nations to fight one another. All nations would benefit.
Indeed. And the illegals should be housed by politicians/enablers.
Thanks for this post.
I can only imagine the House of Representatives battalion under the command of Major Boehner. They'd file a lawsuit against the enemy and surrender.
My paternal grandfather enlisted early in 1915. He spent most of the war as a prisoner of war. His regiment was the famous "Buffs". The Germans were being slowly starved themselves by the blockade and thus prisoners suffered. He died when I was only four years old and I never knew him. He never really recovered, nor did his country enable him to ever work steadily afterward.
You may have this information but there is a very fine and detailed record of Walter in Ancestry.com
Somehow I was intrigued and checked it out. There he was in various census. Born Eagle Creek, Scott, Minnesota - the 1910 census tells us of his parents. Jacob 59 yrs. and Kate 47 yrs. A farmer with his own farm. Kate born in Canada and Jacob born in Illinois. Both their fathers ironically were born in Germany.
Walter is 17 yrs. and has five siblings all younger. His letter written as a soldier while training in Texas is shown. Also a photograph in his uniform. The telegram telling of his remains being returned is shown. A bit of a ramble on my part, but thought it might interest posters on this thread.
The negative influence of WW I can never be over-stated.
It ushered in the absolute destruction of so much that was civilized, and paved the way for so much that was barbaric, that we can still see the effect every time we stroll through an American city.
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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.
I-35 was the first “improvement” from north to south, then the often flooded old Ferry Bridge across the Minnesota River at Savage was replaced with a new four lane span that moved Prior Lake from a 4th or 5th tier suburb to 5 minutes from I-494.
Walter J. Scherer probably never dreamed that homes on the little “perched” lake would command annual taxes of $10-$12,000 annually but they did when we lived there.
In many ways, PL is still a small town on the edge of the countryside. There was corn planted just a few blocks from where we lived in 1999-2000. Dairy cows would wander into the lake on hot summer days and it was not unusual to see one of the local farmers whistle the cows up in the late afternoon for milking.
The Bastille Day parade featured contingents from all the Alllies during WWI. Somehow I see it fitting that the French, who set the bar for class and joie-de-vivre as far as I am concerned, commemorate such a human tragedy in this way.
A strong (stronger than Britain's) German Navy meant a German challenge to English control of the seas. The British needed to trade, administer colonies, communicate, and to maintain a standing in world politics despite its small land mass. They couldn't do that without a world class navy.
The Kaiser kept on enlarging and modernizing his navy and was a threat to Britain the whole time. The British HAD to respond or lose it all. No effort against Germany in WWI could be needless for the Brits.
Thanks for the great article.
“it was going badly and had no military, diplomatic, or economic purpose.”
Woah up there, old Hoss. You wrote above, Germany started the war because she wanted and hoped to gain enormous prizes through a swift victory, first over France and then over Russia. Establishing a world in which that sort of thing is not allowed is a good and sufficient purpose.
“flying C-46s over the Hump in the China-Burma-India Campaign.”
I’ve heard you could navigate that route by the wreckage of downed aircraft.
Very interesting indeed.
His first C-46 featured Nationalist Chinese stars on the wings. A later airplane had Army stars. He was a civilian pilot, like a dozen others in this outfit. He wore an Army Air Force uniform with the CBI patch but without rank insignia. He was referred to as “captain.”
He identified the C-B-I as the ‘bump on the butt” of the Allied war effort since nothing of great importance happened during the campaign. It was a temporary patch job, driven by the fall of the Burma supply road to the Japanese. One can make the argument that American, Brit and Chinese forces held over a million Japanese on the Asian mainland vs moving them to defend against the island campaign. I don’t think Japan had the marine capacity to move them and, in any case, the chow was better than what the Japanese troops on the little islands could scavenge for themselves.
A brilliant article, I think, although I suspect Hitchens of an overly nostalgic view of the stability of the staggering Austro-Hungarian empire. Franz Ferdinand was, after all, the last best hope of the thing breaking up gracefully, and had a wall full of hopeful maps to prove it. It was not to be, and the matter had to be settled in a spray of blood inconceivable to the radicals - Princip was only a tool, after all - who envisioned another Europe without considering the price carefully enough.
I am of two minds with respect to the likely results of a German victory. On the one hand, one could hardly imagine a more autocratic approach to government than that of the Hohenzollern, and how that government would have dealt with the centrifugal explosion of its Austrian neighbor is a little hard to project ending happily. On the other, it is an interesting game to imagine the victorious government of the Kaiser left to deal with the dissolution of its principal ally's empire, an exercise left to the United States some three decades hence with the dissolution of the second British Empire and the colonies of France in Indochina. It may be charity to proclaim that we did manage to muddle through it, but we are where we are. I suppose it could have been worse.
That both Germany and Russia have, as they always have, territorial ambitions in the European arena is an observation that is as painfully obvious as it is painfully cliched. The specific ambitions seem to me to reek of Great Powers ambitions: control of the Black Sea and access to the Mediterranean on the part of the Russians; on the part of the Germans, the administrative and economic domination of its neighbors from Greece to the North Sea. Both Peter the Great and Frederick the Great would have understood. This return to the Great Powers approach to geopolitics is a direct result of the fall of the Soviet Union and the oh-so-sincerely desired retreat of United States foreign policy from accused (on the part of the Left) imperialism to accused (on the part of the Right, and with cause) incompetence and disengagement. History, or more precisely human folly, repeats itself: it is the world the radicals thought they wanted and the rest of us are going to have to deal with it.
thanks! I’ve been looking for something new on WWI
Blood red pants, bright blue shirts, and NO helmets (at least in the beginning). No one knew what type of hell they we about to unleash. August 1914 has got to be the most horrible month in history.
Try Dan Carlin’s podcast, Hardcore History. He just finished a brilliant series called Blueprints for Armageddon.
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