Skip to comments.The Tragic Futility of World War I
Posted on 07/28/2014 9:21:30 AM PDT by Borges
If you find human behavior discouraging today, consider what happened a century ago. A Martian might have gazed down upon Europe in 1914 and seen a peaceful, prosperous continent with a shared culture. Pretty much everyone had enough to eat. The English listened to Wagner, Germans savored Shakespeare, Russian aristocrats mimicked the French, Mozart and Italian opera were loved by all. Then, Europe imploded.
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You could travel from London to Vladivostok without a passport, and your money was good everywhere because it was redeemable in specie. Yep. They blew it up.
I was thinking about that - Germany and Austria were, in a lot of ways, the center of culture, music and art. Those never really came back after WWII. 1914 was the end of the Classical Era in a lot a ways.
What we’re seeing in the middle east is a result of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the insanity that was the Versailles treaty redrawing borders the West knew nothing about redrawing.
I watched the WWI documentaries Saturday night on History and the airship show was the most educational piece on the subject I have ever seen. Very entertaining history.
I have to say it’s amazing just how much evil has spawned out of a war that even I don’t know as much about as I wish.
World War I was going happen anyway because the race for foreign colonies and the massive arms buildup by the UK, France and Germany was going to come to a head sooner or later.
In America, the cliche of the music teacher with a German accent in every city was pretty much true. After war broke out, German culture lost some of its prestige and Russian composers like Tchaikovsky started to played much more.
The author AJP Taylor in the intro to one of his books “English History 1914-1945” described life in England at the eve of the Great War as what a libertarian would describe as almost a utopia. All that ended with the Great War.
Sir Edward Grey, at the time British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, is said to have remarked at sundown of the literal eve of the German invasion of Belgium “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”.
To be more accurate, he should have said “We shall not see them lit again in the lifetimes of our grandchildren’s grandchildren”.
The writer artfully skates around the cause of the war - naked German aggression - and instead pretends that war was just in humanity’s DNA.
Yes: it was a futile war. German and Austro-Hungary launched their war of aggression and the rest of Europe had to spend blood and treasure to defend themselves.
Nobody gained from it, in the same way George Zimmerman gained nothing from defending himself - except that he defended himself and his way of life as best he could.
There’s no shared collective guilt for WW1. It’s all on the Kaiser and those who allied with him.
You could make a case that if the Kaiser had won the world would be better off today. No Nazis in Germany and possibly no Bolsheviks in Russia.
One of my favorite historians.
So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens--four dowager and three regnant--and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.
Four years later, their armies were killing each other at the rate of 10,000 men PER DAY, kept up for over four more years.
Take away the hero-worship of the military culture fostered in the German principalities, and petulant, foolish children like Kaiser Wilhelm II would never have come along... or, having existed, would not be able to lead their continent into the first-ever war on an industrial scale.
The Prussian mentality came to dominate all German speaking cultures in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
There certainly wouldn’t have been any Nazis - because if Germany had won WW1 then central Europe would have been ruled by a totalitarian state a few years earlier than it was.
Yes - that is a useful point about Prussian militarism.
It may have been futile, but an utopia was not thrown away. The author ignores way to much to be taken seriously.
You raise a solemn historical parallel.
As you so truly say: Kaiser Wilhelm was a petulant man-child. Also - as shown by the HardenEulenburg affair - a surprisingly large portion of his ministers and courtiers seem to have been homosexuals.
Fast forward one hundred years: the greatest war machine on earth is once again in the hands of a petulant man-child, surrounded by homosexuals.
What could go wrong!
I tend to blame the Russians ever so slightly more than I blame the Germans. But your point applies just as well to them.
The Kaiser's Germany was in no way a totalitarian state. It was in fact more democratic than Britain prior to the war. The Kaiser and the military controlled foreign policy, but the Diet controlled most everything else. Contrast that with Britain where a few hundred families controlled the entire empire and the Parliament was just a rubber stamp.