Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about Russian History => The Russian Revolution => Topic started by: edubs31 on October 10, 2013, 05:04:07 PM

Title: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 10, 2013, 05:04:07 PM
Since there doesn't appear to be a specific category for this I thought I would slide it into the semi-related "Russia Revolution" topic.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War in Europe I thought it might be worthwhile to analyze the factors that caused war to break out. Specifically to reassess the long held view that Germany was the primary instigator of the conflict and deserves most of the blame accordingly. What countries/leaders truly deserve the lion's share of the guilt, and was there one incident besides the assassination of Franz Ferdinand most responsible for triggering World War I?

Who do you blame and why?
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 10, 2013, 06:17:01 PM
To start things off by sharing my own opinion, I've decided to break things down by listing the eight basic factors that I believe were responsible for starting the war. Under these eight categories are a brief description followed by my attempt to numerically quantify the share of the blame for each country involved.

Colonization
Germany scrambles to keep up with Britain & France who are constantly expanding their territories and influence around the globe. Meanwhile Russia, looking to strengthen its position in the Balkans and dominate the Black Sea region increases tensions with the Ottoman Empire.

Share of the Blame
Germany - 30%
England - 30%
France - 25%
Russia - 15%


Militarism
The arms race between Britain and Germany is in full gear particularly on the high seas. Germany is the only country who does not support disarmament at the Second Hague Conference in 1907, while distancing itself diplomatically from the United States. The First Hague Conference in 1898 was called for by Russian Tsar Nicholas II.

Share of the Blame
Germany - 60%
England - 40%


Nationalism
The reunification of Italy (1861) and German (1871) is a not so distant memory, and lingering bitterness towards Britain and Russia for the role they played in dividing the states consumed Germany. Meanwhile tensions between Austria and Serbia, populated by those from different ethnic backgrounds, has reached alarming levels.

Share of the Blame
Germany - 20%
England - 20%
Russia - 20%
Austria - 15%
Serbia - 15%
France - 10%


Alliances
1879 - Germany & Austria-Hungary enter into a duel alliance against Russia
1881 - Germany & Austrian alliance stopping Russia from gaining control of Serbia
1882 - Germany & Austria create alliance with Italy to prevent Russo-Italian alliance
1894 - Franco-Russian Alliance is formed for greater Russian protection from Austria-Hungary and Germany
1904 - The Entente Cordiale is established between France and Britain
1907 - The Anglo-Russian Entente is formed between Britain and Russia
1907 - The Triple Entente of Russia, France and Britain is formed to counter the German threat
1914 - The Triple Entente countries sign agreement vowing that they will not seek a separate peace with Germany

Share of the Blame
Russia - 25%
England - 20%
France - 20%
Germany - 15%
Austria - 15%
Italy - 5%


Moroccan & Bosnian Crisis / Balkan Wars
Germany almost goes to war with France over the possession of Morocco, given to the French by England in 1904. The Germans are unsuccessful however in trying to drive a wedge between Britain and France. Meanwhile a war between Serbian backed Russia and Austrian backed Germany nearly breaks out over the rightful possession of Bosnia. Russia backs down ending the immediate threat, but war in the Balkans in 1911 creates greater regional instability.

Share of the Blame
Germany - 30%
Austria - 15%
Serbia - 15%
Russia - 10%
England - 10%
France - 10%
Greece - 2%
Bulgaria - 2%
Romania - 2%
Ottoman Empire - 2%
Montenegro - 2%


Policy
Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph ruled over Serbia with an iron fist, and the Serbian population grew increasingly radical in the years leading up to the war. Despite progressive measures towards the Serbs intended by Joseph's ill-fated successor Franz Ferdinand, relations between the two countries was a powder keg ready to explode.

Share of the Blame
Austria - 60%
Serbia - 40%


Assassination
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie are assassinated in Sarajevo by a radical Serbian member of the "Black Hand" named Gavrilo Princip. Questions linger as to the organization's affiliation with the Serbian government, denied officially by the Serbs. The Austrians are skeptical and press for war against Serbian.

Share of the Blame
Serbia - 60%
Austria - 40%


Relations
Despite familial connections between three of the four great leaders of conflict no resolution can be made between Tsar Nicholas II Russia, King George V of England and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

Share of the Blame
Russia - 33%
Germany - 33%
Britain - 33%


TOTAL BLAME ASSESSMENT
Germany - 24%
England - 19%
Austria - 18%
Serbia - 16%
Russia - 13%
France - 8%
Italy - 0.5%
Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Ottoman Empire, Montenegro - <0.5% ea.
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Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: JamesAPrattIII on October 10, 2013, 08:12:35 PM
This is sort of spur of the moment:
You left out the French were humiliated by their defeat in the Franco-Prussian war and wanted revenge big time against Germany.

Austria did not rule Serbia it had been ruled by the Turks.

The Austrian annexation of Bosnia-h in 1908 left the Russians humiliated big time. Coming after their defeat in the Russo-Japanese war and the 1905 revolution. So the Russians when they have recovered somewhat from it embark on a major army and navy expantion program in 1914 which by 1917 was going to make them so powerfull there was no way Germany and Austria could got to war with Russia and win.

For the germans to get into a naval race with England was stupid. it turned England from a bystander to an enemy.

For several years before 1914 the Austrian leadership was almost obessed with crushing those upstart Serbs. The Assassination of FF and Sophie neither of whom were very popular with the rest of the Austrian leadership was the excuse they were looking for.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 11, 2013, 07:38:32 AM
Good contribution as always James.

I realize Austria did not technically rule Serbia at the time, but they, shall I say, lorded over it military. You are right though. Another category I could have included would have been 'Revenge". This would most certainly apply to France after the Franco-Prussian War you mentioned. I could probably have fit this into the "Nationalism" category, and bumped France up to a higher percentage/level of blame.

In my head I wanted those percentages at the bottom to reflect what each country would have to pay in terms of war reparations. Of course this would have to be factored into the actions each took, as well as they numerous other countries who became involved, during the war itself. France probably deserves a little more than 8% of the blame (only 1/3rd that of Germany in my prior assessment). Maybe I'll knock down Germany, England, Austria and Serbia down a point and add it to France's total so they move in just a hair behind Russia.

But I'm dying to hear James...in your considerable estimation who do you think deserves the most blame for starting WWI, and but how much?
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 11, 2013, 10:38:30 AM
For a while, Austria and Serbia were on good terms.  However, all that changed in 1903, when Serbian King Alexander and Queen Draga were overthrown and murdered (sound familiar).   The king that took over, Peter, was very Pro-Russia and anti-Austria and his government was the one that started stirring up trouble in neighbouring Bosnia, which was under Austrian control (got his info from Greg and Susan's book about the assignation of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie).
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 11, 2013, 11:07:47 AM
For a while, Austria and Serbia were on good terms.  However, all that changed in 1903, when Serbian King Alexander and Queen Draga were overthrown and murdered (sound familiar).   The king that took over, Peter, was very Pro-Russia and anti-Austria and his government was the one that started stirring up trouble in neighbouring Bosnia, which was under Austrian control (got his info from Greg and Susan's book about the assignation of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie).

Interesting Tim.

Maybe we should try and do this like a trial. Have one of us represent the defense for Russia, Germany, France, England, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 11, 2013, 05:27:07 PM
So I guess that idea I had about time travelling to Sarajevo in 1914 and stopping the assassination wouldn't stop the war, it would only postpone it.    The geo-political forces has been in motion for a long time before then.  I would have to arrive fifty years earlier, I suppose.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 12, 2013, 09:52:51 AM
Tim) That's an interesting point. In my opinion there is a difference between assessing blame though, and identifying the root cause of something.

By this I mean that while there are numerous countries and their actions that combined to put the wheels in motion, perhaps they represent links in a chain. Remove any one link and it falls apart. Maybe what we need to do is look at the assassination as though it were an isolated incident. Would war have broken out after the assassination took place if you remove some or all of the additional factors; nationalism, militarism, imperialism, revenge, etc?

I for one believe that aside from everything else that happened, if the principal players had simply been able to swallow their pride and overcome internal pressures the war may never have happened. Would it have been so much to ask for the Kaiser, Nicholas and George V to call an emergency session and resolved not to align against each other?

It's the age old debate. Just like our discussions of the Russian Revolution and whether it could have been prevented. Do historical factors building up over the course of time lead to inevitable and virtually in preventable outcomes? Or are there any number of opportunities along the way, up to and including the end, to completely alter the course of those events? How long does the wick burn for, and is stopping the explosion as simple as stomping on it with your foot or dousing it with some water?

I'll offer up a real life analogy. Let's say you have a friend who has a drinking problem. One night they leave the bar blitzed and crash their car into a tree, killing themselves. Now the two compelling thoughts that run through your mind after the sadness and anger have subsided, is A) what if someone could simply have refused to let them drive home that night. Someone sober and responsible could have taken the wheel and the friend would still be alive. But then there's always thought B) which suggests that the friend's drinking problems and irresponsibility were bound to cost them at some point. If they didn't hit the tree that night they probably would have soon.

The friends at the bar, mostly sober, are like the leaders of Europe heading into WWI. The drunk driver is the culmination of historical events that led to an intoxicated and unstable Europe. And the tree would be Gavrilo Princip.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 12, 2013, 10:55:49 AM
Quote
I'll offer up a real life analogy. Let's say you have a friend who has a drinking problem. One night they leave the bar blitzed and crash their car into a tree, killing themselves. Now the two compelling thoughts that run through your mind after the sadness and anger have subsided, is A) what if someone could simply have refused to let them drive home that night. Someone sober and responsible could have taken the wheel and the friend would still be alive. But then there's always thought B) which suggests that the friend's drinking problems and irresponsibility were bound to cost them at some point. If they didn't hit the tree that night they probably would have soon.

Well, I would have taken their car keys away.  It's not only themselves they're a danger to, it's other drivers and pedestrians.

So I guess the other drivers and pedestrians here would be the soldiers and civilians that will die because a bunch of stubborn leaders couldn't get together and try to work things out.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 12, 2013, 11:14:32 AM
Since it's impossible to fully ascertain the chains of cogwheels that led to WWI and this being a forum dedicated to the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, one might be as simplistic as to claim that the violation of the 1773 Treaty of Tsarskoe Selo by Germany's annexation of Schleswig-Holstein in 1864 was the root cause. Why did Germany want S-H? In order to get a good naval base (the North Sea Coast (BTW controlled by a British dynasty untill 1866) would not do - see Erskine Childers's "The Riddle of the Sands" as to why) and make its navy operational in the North Sea too (through the Kieler Canal). Proof: When was the Kieler Canal ready to tackle dreadnought size ships? In 1914. When did war errupt....?

And really, among the old monarchies with old rivalries, neutral Denmark was the only country that benefitted from WWI, when South Jutland / North Schleswig was regained by an unscathed motherland. Christian IX and Louise of Hesse-Cassel's marriage diplomacy had paid off. Each square metre of the Glücksborgers' ancestral soil was paid for with thousands of dead Britons, Frenchmen, Germans and Russians.

Really, S-H is indeed a holy place, a Byzantium of the North, both in terms of strategic importance, economic history as an entrepôt (Hedeby) and symbolically, as a vagina gentium, womb of dynasties.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 12, 2013, 05:21:55 PM
I'm guessing you mean Prussia, since Germany would not exist until 1871.


One has to wonder, if the rulers knew the consequences of the war, would they have plunged into it.  Granted George V came out with his throne and Empire intact, but all his cousins were not so lucky.  

Forced to abdicate the German throne in 1918, Wilhelm lived another 23 years (rumour has it that when he died in 1941, he was putting pins in a map of Europe, eagerly following the progress of the German Army, he lived long enough to see his old enemy, France, defeated).  

We all know what happened to Nicholas.

And Karl will forever be known as the guy who was on the throne when an empire that lasted nearly a thousand years was destroyed.

If they all could see the future, they might have said, "Hey, hold on, guys, let's talk this out."
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 13, 2013, 03:32:21 AM
I'm guessing you mean Prussia, since Germany would not exist until 1871.

For practical purposes yes. But Schleswig-Holstein was invaded by the German Confederation, so there you have the same Prussian-German-Austrian alliance as in WWI, with Austria tagging along somewhat reluctantly behind Prussia.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 13, 2013, 06:01:03 AM
Impressive info and assessments there gang. Certainly furthers the argument that Germany was more even more to blame than I originally suggested.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Sergei Witte on October 13, 2013, 09:37:25 AM


Difficult to say who is to blame. If the murder in Serajevo didn't take place, what would have ignited it? The political system of alliances survived more political crises. With no Serajevo murder, the system could have survived.

Russia was weakened after the war with Japan and the 05 revolution. Therefore they backed out in hard times. After 1913 or so, they felt stronger again and put up the pressure. As a result of which was the unnecessary mobilization of july 1914. This cooked up the political system of alliances. Germany felt encircled by Russia, France and England. Therefore they made a pre-emptive strike.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: IvanVII on October 13, 2013, 01:38:01 PM
I think putting blame on George V for not strong arming his cousins is a bit unfair. NII as an autocrat and Wilhelm II as a semiautocratic ruler had much more influence.

I would also put a little more emphasis on France as they were hoping to recoup some losses from the Franco-Prussian war.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 13, 2013, 02:01:12 PM
I think the reason blame for the First World War is hard is because it's not just one thing, it was a series of events possibly stretching as far back as the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.  You really can't point to one event and say, "this caused the war, remove this, and no war."  

It's much easier to fix blame for World War II because the events were much clearer (the military aggressiveness of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan).  For World War I, finding the exact cause is much harder.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 13, 2013, 02:11:24 PM
Russia was weakened after the war with Japan and the 05 revolution. Therefore they backed out in hard times. After 1913 or so, they felt stronger again and put up the pressure. As a result of which was the unnecessary mobilization of july 1914. This cooked up the political system of alliances. Germany felt encircled by Russia, France and England. Therefore they made a pre-emptive strike.

And contrastingly, although the German army was ready to strike, the German navy persuaded the the Emperor (and thus the army) to wait (from 1912/1913 to 1914) untill the Kieler Canal was wide enough and submarine bases had been built on Heligoland, according to Röhl.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 13, 2013, 02:28:47 PM
I think the reason blame for the First World War is hard is because it's not just one thing, it was a series of events possibly stretching as far back as the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.  You really can't point to one event and say, "this caused the war, remove this, and no war."

Yes, we can. The unification of Germany. (Granted, that was more than a generation before the war!)
Few of the reasons go back to the Napoleonic wars. (If they do, it's because things happened that changed the arrangement from the Congress of Vienna.) One of the few things would be that Poland remained partitioned. If Poland was unified the same way that Germany was, it would have acted as a buffer state between Germany and Russia and the alliances would have been quite different.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 13, 2013, 03:02:04 PM
One thing happened before WWI which had practically never happened in centuries of European armed conflicts: (Extended) Prussia and Britain were on opposite sides.
Was this because of?
- German unification, meaning that Prussia now was much closer to Britain, on the other side of the North Sea? Had a dynamic Germany just replaced the Dutch Republic as Britain's neighbouring naval foe?
- German thirst for colonies, which could only be obtained at the expense of Britain? (In this respect too Germany was then an interesting successor to Dutch-British rivalry.)

Speaking of the Netherlands, would Germany have respected Belgian neutrality if the country in question had not been seen as a "small, weak, unnatural, heterogenous state" inclined to British clientelism and likely to fall prey to French annexation, but had been a part of the original Kingdom of the United Netherlands, which, including Luxembourg, would have been Europe's most powerful buffer state, neutral and bilingual like Switzerland?
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 14, 2013, 12:04:30 PM


Difficult to say who is to blame. If the murder in Serajevo didn't take place, what would have ignited it? The political system of alliances survived more political crises. With no Serajevo murder, the system could have survived.

Russia was weakened after the war with Japan and the 05 revolution. Therefore they backed out in hard times. After 1913 or so, they felt stronger again and put up the pressure. As a result of which was the unnecessary mobilization of july 1914. This cooked up the political system of alliances. Germany felt encircled by Russia, France and England. Therefore they made a pre-emptive strike.



The war needed something to trigger it, I agree. But I wonder if something was inevitable. Had Princip and has Black Hand conspirators not been successful in Sarajevo that day it seems entirely possible to me that someone else would have finished the job later on. Or perhaps it could have been something as simple as a small skirmish on the high seas. British and German navies crossing into each others territories. Artillery is fired, and what began as an isolated incident and misunderstanding between two crews suddenly turns into a war involving several nations. This of course fueled by alliances and longstanding irreconcilable differences.

It could be argued easily enough that nothing specific triggered to the Russian Revolution either. It's was a number of factors that built up and finally boiled over. Yet despite all of the conditions we normally cite as reasons for why revolution broke out in March, 1917, when it did occur it took almost everyone - including many of the revolutionary leaders themselves - completely by surprise.

Excellent posts by the way Превед!
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: HerrKaiser on October 15, 2013, 10:38:40 AM
Interesting thread. A main aspect of so-called conventional wisdom over the past 100+ years in Anglo-American history and propaganda is that Kaiser Wilhelm II was a war monger and saber rattler. Yet from 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was involved in only three wars up to 1914 while Great Britain was involved in 21 and France 14.

Wilhelm and Germany were edging toward world leadership on many levels. At the turn of the 20th Century, the most important medical, chemistry, and physics studies and papers were published in German first. The growth during the Wilhelmine era was phenomenal and GB and France were particularly fearful and jealous of that growth and domination in fields of science, education, architecture, and more.

The German involvement in colonization was very late and very small compared to the other European powers. This cannot be used as a factor in Germany's aggressiveness, but for sure Great Britain and France reeked havoc in Africa, Asia, and the middle east all of which generated ill feelings that helped fuel global anxiety and balance of power politics.

So it's a myth that Wilhelm and Germany were aggressively stirring up trouble. The war mongering falls squarely on Great Britain and France.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 15, 2013, 12:01:34 PM
Quote
Interesting thread. A main aspect of so-called conventional wisdom over the past 100+ years in Anglo-American history and propaganda is that Kaiser Wilhelm II was a war monger and saber rattler. Yet from 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was involved in only three wars up to 1914 while Great Britain was involved in 21 and France 14.

Wilhelm and Germany were edging toward world leadership on many levels. At the turn of the 20th Century, the most important medical, chemistry, and physics studies and papers were published in German first. The growth during the Wilhelmine era was phenomenal and GB and France were particularly fearful and jealous of that growth and domination in fields of science, education, architecture, and more.

The German involvement in colonization was very late and very small compared to the other European powers. This cannot be used as a factor in Germany's aggressiveness, but for sure Great Britain and France reeked havoc in Africa, Asia, and the middle east all of which generated ill feelings that helped fuel global anxiety and balance of power politics.

So it's a myth that Wilhelm and Germany were aggressively stirring up trouble. The war mongering falls squarely on Great Britain and France.

Good points, HerrKaiser.

But a question or two for you...Since Britain and France had so many more colonies than Germany, doesn't this also mean that engaging in more conflicts is an inevitable by-product? Of course you can certainly criticize them for creating this situation in the first place with their imperialist ambitions, but having far more territory naturally means a lot more territory to defend, and more enemies to protect against. Britain took up the role of world police just as the US has since the end of WW2. Many will argue that it's not our right or their right to do so, and certainly a fair amount of self-interest is involved. But who else is going to "clean up the neighborhood" so to speak? China? India? The UN?!

I think in these instances one could argue that it was less a case of British or French "war-mongering" and more the result of their jingoism and the naive assumption that the people from other lands they conquered would simply welcome their rule (Ancient Rome faced similar problems)

All that said I do agree the Kaiser tends to get a bad rap in this particular area. He seemed reluctant to expand the German empire the way other European powers had. His opinions likely influenced by Bismarck and Caprivi who minimal imperialist ambitions and found colonization burdensome. It's a shame that Germany's leader a generation later (Hitler) schooled himself in the Carl Peters philosophy of empire building and domination by the master race, rather then the sensible (and far more peaceful) approach of Bismarck-Caprivi-Wilhelm.



Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 15, 2013, 12:03:32 PM
Quote
Yet from 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was involved in only three wars up to 1914 while Great Britain was involved in 21


21?  The only major British was I know of from this time frame is the Boer War.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: HerrKaiser on October 15, 2013, 06:17:40 PM
Quote
Yet from 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was involved in only three wars up to 1914 while Great Britain was involved in 21


21?  The only major British was I know of from this time frame is the Boer War.

I did not say "major" because it's not relevant. The point is that the British were fighting, "saber rattling", and otherwise involved in armed conflicts substantially more than anyone else during the prelude to WWI.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: HerrKaiser on October 15, 2013, 06:33:14 PM
Quote
Interesting thread. A main aspect of so-called conventional wisdom over the past 100+ years in Anglo-American history and propaganda is that Kaiser Wilhelm II was a war monger and saber rattler. Yet from 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was involved in only three wars up to 1914 while Great Britain was involved in 21 and France 14.

Wilhelm and Germany were edging toward world leadership on many levels. At the turn of the 20th Century, the most important medical, chemistry, and physics studies and papers were published in German first. The growth during the Wilhelmine era was phenomenal and GB and France were particularly fearful and jealous of that growth and domination in fields of science, education, architecture, and more.

The German involvement in colonization was very late and very small compared to the other European powers. This cannot be used as a factor in Germany's aggressiveness, but for sure Great Britain and France reeked havoc in Africa, Asia, and the middle east all of which generated ill feelings that helped fuel global anxiety and balance of power politics.

So it's a myth that Wilhelm and Germany were aggressively stirring up trouble. The war mongering falls squarely on Great Britain and France.

Good points, HerrKaiser.

But a question or two for you...Since Britain and France had so many more colonies than Germany, doesn't this also mean that engaging in more conflicts is an inevitable by-product? Of course you can certainly criticize them for creating this situation in the first place with their imperialist ambitions, but having far more territory naturally means a lot more territory to defend, and more enemies to protect against. Britain took up the role of world police just as the US has since the end of WW2. Many will argue that it's not our right or their right to do so, and certainly a fair amount of self-interest is involved. But who else is going to "clean up the neighborhood" so to speak? China? India? The UN?!

I think in these instances one could argue that it was less a case of British or French "war-mongering" and more the result of their jingoism and the naive assumption that the people from other lands they conquered would simply welcome their rule (Ancient Rome faced similar problems)

All that said I do agree the Kaiser tends to get a bad rap in this particular area. He seemed reluctant to expand the German empire the way other European powers had. His opinions likely influenced by Bismarck and Caprivi who minimal imperialist ambitions and found colonization burdensome. It's a shame that Germany's leader a generation later (Hitler) schooled himself in the Carl Peters philosophy of empire building and domination by the master race, rather then the sensible (and far more peaceful) approach of Bismarck-Caprivi-Wilhelm.


Of course Great Britain usually excused their actions the same way the U.S. excused its actions in Viet Nam. However, they were aggressive actions taken against other nations; and in the cases of colonies, it's hard to argue any difference. While these military actions were taking place, Germany was not doing so yet was positioned in propaganda as the warring nation. There is a conflict with reality, largely due to the very tight influence the British had on global media.

GB felt it had the right to dominate the seas and control it's empire with force. GB achieved the goal of "world domination"; and let's not forget the long held belief that such a goal is considered insane, provocative, and Hitlerian. That GB was able to gain their power base by force of military action that largely went unchallenged is, I feel, a key reason why GB took a very, very negative view of new nations emerging as competition during and after the industrial revolution.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 16, 2013, 04:35:22 PM
Quote
Ancient Rome faced similar problems

Of course, they preferred to use different methods to take over.

"Hi, we're the Romans, and we're taking over your land.  Here's the deal, however, if you agree to swear allegiance to Caesar and pay your taxes on time, we'll pretty much leave you alone.  Heck, your current leaders can even keep their jobs under the conditions we just offered.  What do you say?"

A lot of countries went along, which is why the Roman Empire lasted as long as it did.

The British Empire pretty much operated the same way.  They let the local leaders run things, while they ran the show from a distance (of course, military matters were handled by London).  Granted, they may have seen Germany as competition, but surely not big enough to be a threat.

Of course, there was Serbia stirring up trouble in the Balkans (like it would do in the 1990's).  Once they got Russia on their side, they got bolder and bolder.  War was inevitable.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Rodney_G. on October 16, 2013, 05:49:02 PM
Without diminishing the role of the major powers Germany, France, and Great Britain, whose conflicts of interest may have ultimately led to war eventually, I still attribute the  greatest blame, maybe equally, to Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The latter, seeking modest expansion and the creation of a Greater Serbia, as well as the weakening of its long-hated antagonist A-H, was determined to provoke lSlav rebellion and war  , and did so with the murder of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie. With a sympathetic Nicholas II and  traditional strong Slavophile sympathy in Russia, Serbia felt its time to move had come.

Austria-Hungary, for its part, felt threatened by a militant Pan-slavism, led by Serbia,especially since the A_H monarchy was aware of its declining military and political dominance in southeast Europe. As it had a powerful German Empire at its back, Austria saw its best opportunity and forced the issue, with its ultimatum to Serbia which it knew foreshadowed either war ,or victory via Serbian concessions and humiliation.

Austria _Hungary , with its restive multiethnic constituents , was appearing an anachronism in a modern  age of political and social change. It really was a powderkeg in a room of arsonists.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 17, 2013, 04:26:39 PM
Quote
The latter, seeking modest expansion and the creation of a Greater Serbia

Sadly, history would repeat itself some 80 years later.  In the 1990's, Slobodan Milosovek (sp?) revived the idea of Greater Serbia in the wake the disintegration of Yugoslavia.  He launched the Balkan Wars, got his country listed as a pariah.   He brought his country to near ruin.  Finally, in 2000, the Serb people had had enough and overthrew him.

In the 1990's, a lot of people feared that it was 1914 all over again.  Thankfully, this time, no world war happened. 
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 17, 2013, 07:37:57 PM
I'm glad to see this thread getting some attention.

Rodney brings up a good point. Wouldn't it be interesting if when all was said and done, after all the debating as to whether the blame rested more with Germany or England, Russia or France, that we circled our way back to Austria & Serbia as they main culprits. Perhaps it's simply too neat and tidy for historians but it may just make more sense to place the majority of the blame on the two countries that started the ball rolling through their aggressive actions in mid-1914.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: nena on October 18, 2013, 12:43:16 PM
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The latter, seeking modest expansion and the creation of a Greater Serbia

 Milosovek (sp?)

Milosevic. And the story about the 1990's war in Yugoslavia is much, much more complicated and it is not at all simply. As for Great War I -- it is hard to overthrow the whole blame at one country -- each one is to blame partly. The Austro-Hungarian empire had intentions to enlarge its territory on the south, and only waited the cause to happen so they could declare the war. The big difference is the cause and the reason of that war. The cause was assasinations in Sarajevo in 1914, but the real reason was simply, enlarging territory of the Empire, which began in 1907, after annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austro-Hungarian Empire, where lived many Serbs. So the Archduke F.F's visit to Sarajevo was seen as provocation, especially since he came in Sarajevo on St.Vitus' day (Vidovdan), June 28th -- a special day to the Serbian people.

Nicholas II wanted to avoid the bloodshed.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 18, 2013, 04:56:08 PM
The governor of Sarajevo (can't recall his name right now, but Greg and Susan mention him in their book about the assassination of the Archduke) is also to blame.  Either this guy was in on the plot, or he was the most incompetent moron that ever walked the planet.  "Extra security, nah, we don't need them."  He knew, or at least suspected, a plot was underway, yet he never beefed up security.  Duhhhhhhh!!

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 19, 2013, 12:19:52 AM
The governor of Sarajevo (can't recall his name right now, but Greg and Susan mention him in their book about the assassination of the Archduke) is also to blame.  Either this guy was in on the plot, or he was the most incompetent moron that ever walked the planet.  "Extra security, nah, we don't need them."  He knew, or at least suspected, a plot was underway, yet he never beefed up security.  Duhhhhhhh!!

I don't necessarily disagree, but what's amazing Tim is that even after all of the screw ups and miscalculations, it all came down to a wrong turn and an assassin who just happened to be walking out of a deli literally right in front of where their vehicle stalled! I mean, come on, if that's no fate I don't know what is!
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 20, 2013, 12:02:47 PM
So Princip just might have gotten lucky the same way Lee Harvey Oswald would in Dallas, nearly fifty years later.  Just being at the right place at the right time.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 20, 2013, 04:31:48 PM
Oswald actually had to do something, like connect with a pair of shots from high atop the book depository. Princip's Black Hand crew failed on their first attemp to get the Archduke on his parade route and found him sitting in his lap the next go round. It's the epitome of luck, or fate. The kid who closes his eyes in the outfield and the ball that miraculously lands in his outstretched glove...
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 21, 2013, 12:05:46 PM
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Oswald actually had to do something, like connect with a pair of shots from high atop the book depository.

Yes, but the fact that he pulled it off shows that fate connection again.  Had Oswald been delayed by as much as a minute, he would have missed his window of opportunity and history would have taken a different course.  Looking at it this way, I can see why many prefer to say it was a huge conspiracy, rather than just plain dumb luck for a nut with a gun.

Sometimes these psychos just have plain dumb luck, thanks to fate.  Princip had it in 1914, Oswald had it in 1963.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 22, 2013, 12:05:12 PM
Is it just me, or has World War I been greatly overshadowed by World War II? 

I can see why, WWII lasted longer, it involved a lot more countries, and there is the Holocaust as well.   Given all that, it's easy to see why WWII is better remembered (and there are still survivors of that was, even thought their numbers are now dwindling).

Still, WWI should be better remembered.  Heck, if it weren't for WWI, there probably would have been no WWII. Sad irony here.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on October 22, 2013, 03:43:23 PM
I think you sort of answered your question here Tim. It's not that World War I has been forgotten so much as it has been overshadowed.

One of the reasons for this you didn't mention is because it's easier for people to identify with the obvious good (Allies) vs evil (Axis) quality of the Second World War, whereas that is so much harder to define with the Great War that preceded. Both wars were awful merciless affairs, but one Pt. 2 makes for a much better story and conclusion.

This very topic devoted to (re)assessing the blame is a perfect example of that. No one needs to ask the question of who deserves the most blame for WW2, but it's a topic we continue to argue to this day when talking about WW1.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 22, 2013, 04:20:12 PM
Quote
One of the reasons for this you didn't mention is because it's easier for people to identify with the obvious good (Allies) vs evil (Axis) quality of the Second World War, whereas that is so much harder to define with the Great War that preceded. Both wars were awful merciless affairs, but one Pt. 2 makes for a much better story and conclusion.


Yeah, there were no "bad guys" in the First World War.  Imperial Germany may have been an autocracy, but it was nowhere near as brutal as the Nazi Regime.  The Imperial Germans didn't round people up and march them off to death camps to be murdered.

The only horrible atrocity of WWI I can think of is the Armenian Genocide that the Ottoman Turks did in 1915.  It is sad to note that even to this day, Turkey will not own up to this crime.  Both Germany and Japan have owned up to what they did in WWII, so why won't Turkey to a crime that happened nearly a century ago now.  Why?  Anyone involved is long since dead.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 22, 2013, 04:34:05 PM
Imperial Germany may have been an autocracy
Only in the delusional mind of Wilhelm II.
You can't really call the German Empire an autocracy. Remember that there was universal male suffrage on the federal level from the beginning in 1871. (Actually from 1867 in the North German Federation.) Decades before Britain had universal male suffrage. Of course the executive branch (the Kaiser and his government) was not elected, unlike the US President, but just like the US the German Empire did not have a parliamentary system, there was strict separation of powers. Thus it was prone to the same dead-end blocks and conflicts between the executive and legislative branches that we see in the US right now. Still, the government got a majority, including all the previously pacifist Social Democrat Reichstag members, to vote for the war credits in August 1914.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 22, 2013, 04:37:14 PM
Yes, but my point was that, no matter how flawed the Kaiser's regime was, it was not a brutal dictatorship like Hitler's was.  So the Germans of WWI didn't get the "bad guys" label the Germans of WWII did.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 22, 2013, 04:46:07 PM
Yes, but my point was that, no matter how flawed the Kaiser's regime was, it was not a brutal dictatorship like Hitler's was.  So the Germans of WWI didn't get the "bad guys" label the Germans of WWII did.

Of course, but it's rather misleading to constantly throw around the word "autocracy" in connection with the German Empire. One can argue that it was an oligarchy and an emerging democracy (at a swift pace) with strict separation of powers, but certainly not an autocracy. If nothing else, the very nature of its federal basis denies it.

In the period 1870-1901, you would be much more correct in describing Christian IX's Denmark, when the King's cabinet ruled through executive decrees because of a deadlock between the two chambers of parliament, as an autocracy, than the German Empire in that period.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 22, 2013, 04:50:56 PM
Well, it wasn't a democracy like Britain was.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 22, 2013, 05:03:09 PM
Well, it wasn't a democracy like Britain was.

Quite apart from the issue of female suffrage, millions of men (sent out to die for king and fatherland) did not have the right to vote in Britain in 1914. General suffrage (for all men and for women over 30) did not come untill 1918, as a direct result of the war. The Wikipedia article on the Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918 concludes with: "The available figures suggest that the 1885-1918 electorate comprised about sixty percent of the adult male population."

In the German Empire there was general male suffrage on the federal level from 1870. On the state level, it varied widely, from quite democratic in many smaller and southern states, to the infamous three-class franchise in Prussia and Saxony. (Which despite its obviously plutocratic nature ensured a general male suffrage and a nascent democracy.) So Germany was both more democratic than Britain on one level and more reactionary on another level.

Interestingly this made the Labour Party / SPD a huge fraction in the German Imperial Diet, while the Prussian House of Representatives followed a much more British pattern, which conservatives and liberals being the biggest groups, and a small socialist fraction.

Both Britain and Germany shared a dual-chamber system with unelected upper chambers which still wielded real power.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on October 22, 2013, 05:44:07 PM
I would describe both Germany and Britain as limited, emerging but working democracies in 1914. (And Russia as a nascent democracy in the making dominated by an autocracy, similar to the Prussian experience.) With hindsight it's easy to say that Britain was more of a democracy in 1914 and it certainly was more of a parliamentary democracy than Germany, but contemporaries might have seen Germany as just as democractic. Especially in light of the prevailing view of democracy as the barbaric rule of plebeian parties - Germany having a 110 man strong Socialist fraction in its 400 member parliament! Yes, Socialists, as in the dreaded bogeymen of the bourgeoisie! If Germany had been an autocracy the autocrat would have shut down this public disgrace called the Reichstag (like the more reactionary elements of his entourage desired) à la the Russian Duma Coup in 1907 and not be dependant upon it for financing the war!
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: JamesAPrattIII on October 25, 2013, 06:46:26 PM
Errata to reply 30 The governor of the provence was General Oscar Potiorek. After WW I started he was put in command of the Austrian force that invaded Serbia In spite of the fact he had never commanded a force larger than a division. To say the 2 or 3 depending on the source 1914 Austrian invasions were failures is putting it mildly. The word moron is a good word to describe him.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 26, 2013, 10:56:32 AM
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The governor of the provence was General Oscar Potiorek. After WW I started he was put in command of the Austrian force that invaded Serbia In spite of the fact he had never commanded a force larger than a division. To say the 2 or 3 depending on the source 1914 Austrian invasions were failures is putting it mildly. The word moron is a good word to describe him.

The way he bungled the job in Sarajevo, I'd have to agree.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: londo954 on October 26, 2013, 02:20:00 PM
I think the chief contributing factors to WWI was the alliance system that was set up in previous years as well as the personalities of ALL the leaders involved
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on October 26, 2013, 04:32:57 PM
When egos get involved, logic often fails.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: londo954 on October 27, 2013, 07:51:38 PM
I know for Nicholas the beginning of the war was a matter of honoring the treaties and obligations....the GIANT what if of this questions
What would have happened if he had halted or not mobilized
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on November 08, 2013, 02:30:23 PM
What made WW1 a very schizophrenic war is the substantial number of soldiers who hoped that the enemy would win and / or that their empire (and all empires) would loose:
Irish fighting for the UK, Alsatian-Lorrainers and South Jutlanders fighting for Germany, Czech nationalists and Italians fighting for Austria-Hungary, Poles fighting for Russia, Communists in all countries etc.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on November 08, 2013, 05:13:56 PM
What made WW1 a very schizophrenic war is the substantial number of soldiers who hoped that the enemy would win and / or that their empire (and all empires) would loose:
Irish fighting for the UK, Alsatian-Lorrainers and South Jutlanders fighting for Germany, Czech nationalists and Italians fighting for Austria-Hungary, Poles fighting for Russia, Communists in all countries etc.

Good point. It's funny to consider nationalism as being one of the major factors for the start of the war. But I suppose we should separate the terms "nationalistic/patriotic" and "loyalty" just as we separate the views and actions of one's government from its citizens/subjects. I guess the divergence is best exhibited by how the governments of Europe simply were not keeping up with the rapidly changing times; culturally, political, technologically. The people were forced to rally around each other rather than their governments and were naturally suspicious of power and privilege during times of military and economic strife.

We see the United States was also in the midst of a progressive era at this time. One Democratic President served for eight years between 1913-21 and even his two predecessors who combined to occupy the White House for the first thirteen years of the century (Taft, Roosevelt) were decidedly left-leaning and progressive by modern Republican standards. The government of the United States proved far more flexible - both in the sense of its political apparatus, and in terms of the individuals of the era who led it - than the conservative monarchies and post-monarchies of Europe.

Of course the government of the United States wasn't tested (not at least since the Civil War) like that of England, France, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman's, etc. Nor was the US ever in any serious jeopardy of winding up on the losing side of the war. Public perception is influenced heavily, not only by the specific conditions unique to individuals themselves, but by broader perspective. Citizens and soldiers alike need hope and to be reassured by the likelihood of ultimate victory. When hope of this is lost, as it was in Russia by the time of the Tsar's abdication and in Germany not much later, people will often choose to pick a fight they can win. Can't beat the Germans? Take down the government. Can't be the allies? Depose the Kaiser.

The oft used phrase in sports is that "winning cures/takes care of everything". Does this not work for societies and governments also? Does anyone think that Nicholas would have been forced to abdicate had that Russian steamroller flattened Germany within a year or two as initially suggested? Maybe Nicholas's downfall, like that of a number of politicians, was not being able to remain popular and a source of national unity while tempering the lofty expectations put forth by his people...Of course you generally win elections and/or stay in power by shouting "Yes we can", not "No we shouldn't".
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on November 08, 2013, 07:13:40 PM
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Does anyone think that Nicholas would have been forced to abdicate had that Russian steamroller flattened Germany within a year or two as initially suggested? Maybe Nicholas's downfall, like that of a number of politicians, was not being able to remain popular and a source of national unity while tempering the lofty expectations put forth by his people...Of course you generally win elections and/or stay in power by shouting "Yes we can", not "No we shouldn't".

The first President Bush won the first Gulf War.  It didn't help him in the 1992 Presidential Election, he got soundly trounced by Bill Clinton.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Rodney_G. on November 09, 2013, 01:34:51 PM
What made WW1 a very schizophrenic war is the substantial number of soldiers who hoped that the enemy would win and / or that their empire (and all empires) would loose:
Irish fighting for the UK, Alsatian-Lorrainers and South Jutlanders fighting for Germany, Czech nationalists and Italians fighting for Austria-Hungary, Poles fighting for Russia, Communists in all countries etc.

One might also include in this regard: many Jews of the Russian Empire; national and ethnic groups within Austria-Hungary other than Austrians and Magyars;  some French and British Colonial troops .
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on November 09, 2013, 05:04:27 PM
Quote
Does anyone think that Nicholas would have been forced to abdicate had that Russian steamroller flattened Germany within a year or two as initially suggested? Maybe Nicholas's downfall, like that of a number of politicians, was not being able to remain popular and a source of national unity while tempering the lofty expectations put forth by his people...Of course you generally win elections and/or stay in power by shouting "Yes we can", not "No we shouldn't".

The first President Bush won the first Gulf War.  It didn't help him in the 1992 Presidential Election, he got soundly trounced by Bill Clinton.

I see your point Tim but the reasons for Bush's defeat differ greatly with Nicholas's abdication. "Operation Desert Storm" looks like a minor skirmish compared to World War I. Needless to say the countries involved had far more invested in the Great War also - aside from Iraq and Kuwait of course. Had Nicholas led Russia to an easy victory over the Germans, like Bush did over Hussein and Iraq, he'd have been viewed as a national hero.

Comparing a Tsar to a President has its limitations also. For one, the American people voted Bush out in the election of 1992 in what was a peaceful demonstration. The Tsar was forced to abdicate under conditions that an American President has never had, and God willing, never will have to face…Losing a global war, economy in tatters, revolution. All taking place at the same time! Even Lincoln didn't have it as difficult.

Were Nicholas II up for reelection every four years its possible he may have been voted off the throne. But choosing not to vote for someone and wanting them dead, as in the radical socialist attitudes towards Nicholas in Russia, are two VERY different things. Really the only thing the two had in common was an economic downturn near the end of their "reign". But again the collapse that took place in WWI-era Russia really doesn't compare to the recession of 1991/92 in the United States. For Bush it was really bad timing. Perot and Clinton had ramped up their attacks effectively enough by the fall of '92 to defeat a sitting President who would easily have stayed in power had those elections taken place in either November '89, '90, or '91 instead.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on November 10, 2013, 11:40:31 AM
What Nicholas should have done is use the same weapons that defeated Napoleon and would later defeat Hitler, the size of Russia and the Russian winter.

He should have pulled back deep into Russia and let the Germans come to him.  The farther the Germans go into Russia, the longer their supply lines get, which the Cossacks could then harry.   The Kaiser's troops would be no more prepared for the Russian winter than Hitler's were.  Let winter hit them, then send in the Cossacks to finish them off. 

I think this might have worked.  The Russians would have had the home turf advantage here.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: JamesAPrattIII on November 16, 2013, 08:29:26 PM
TimM

The Russians did retreat after the Germans and Austrians broke through as a result of the Golrice-Tarnow offensive in 1915. As a result of the retreat just about every politician in the Duma got up and denounced the government for incompetence ect. The german advance into Russia as a result of this offensive ended in September 1915. Falkenhayn was against any farther advances into Russia. It should also be pointed out the germans really could not advance too much farther into Russia because they could not keep their armies supplied. Note: A WW I army really can't advance that far from a railhead. So the germans had plenty of time from September to dig in and bring up winter gear. As for Cossacks harassing them. Russian attempts to send Cossacks and partisans on raids behind German lines usually ended in failure. 1916-17 was a different war than 1812 or 1941-44 they just didn't work out. The Russians did practice "scorched earth" for awhile during the 1915 retreat which created several million refugees. Who if they didn't like the government before sure hated it afterwards as their homes were looted and burned and they were driven off to the East. Taking care of them helped cause the breakdown of the Russian rail system that hekped cause the Feb/Mar 1917 revolution.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on November 17, 2013, 11:33:30 AM
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It should also be pointed out the germans really could not advance too much farther into Russia because they could not keep their armies supplied.

Isn't that exactly what happened in World War II?

Surely, if the more advanced WWII German Army couldn't handle the Russian winter, then surely the Kaiser's army would have been quickly finished off.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: JamesAPrattIII on November 18, 2013, 08:28:00 PM
These are the differences:
WW I 1915: The Germans stopped their offensive in September they had time to dig in, resupply, issue their troops winter gear before winter hit them. They also were not hit by constant Russian attacks all winter all along their front line like what happened in 1941-42. The germans and Austrians also had a fairly straight line to hold from the Baltic to the Rumanian border. Their armies didn't advance as fast as WW II armies so they could be supplied by rail. Thay also never went farther than 175 miles from their own territories which made supply easier. The Germans and Austrians also had good intelligence on Russian movements and offensives. The winter clothing they had back then may not have been all that sophisticated but it did keep you warm. Also in WW I defense had an edge over the offensive.

WW II 1941: The germans kept attacking until the end of November 1941 until their troops couldn't go any farther. When they stopped they couldn't dig in because the ground was frozen solid. They were hit with a series of large scale Russian offensives the entire length of their front which went from then Leningrad to the Black sea. There front line was anything but straight. Defense didn't have it over the offensive like WW I. The Germans had to supply these forces a much greater distance from Germany than in WW I and they could not get the suppies they needed including winter equipment to the front in the amount they needed. The Russians also practiced deception rather well so the Germans were often taken by surprise by the Russian attacks..
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on November 21, 2013, 11:36:16 AM
So if Hitler had done what the Kaiser did, history might have been a lot different.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: JamesAPrattIII on November 27, 2013, 04:02:29 PM
You might say that Hitler implemented some really brutal, racist and inept occupation policies in Russia that soon alienated the people in most of the areas he conquered. They also motivated the Red army to fight harder. This is what lost the war in Russia more than anything else. A number of Germans tried to tell him he needed to change his policies but Hitler refused. Some people then and now think that if a less brutal and more politicaly smart occupation policy had been implemented Hitler would have defeated the USSR. One of them was believe it or not Soviet leader joseph Stalin. So you can say the Kaiser's policy of bringing down the Russian Empire in a campaign of internal subversion worked.

Some other things I would like to point out: It was Hitler and his Generals who decided at the end of October 1941 who decided to launch the final offensive towards Moscow. Having defeated the Red army in battle after another they were thinking one more great battle they will capture Moscow and win the war. Which is why they kept attacking until their troops were totally exhausted. Other things that need to be pointed out. The germans throughout the war underestimated the Red army and what it could do. Also in both world wars the germans  lacked the resources to fight a long multi front war and had real problems keeping their armies adequetly supplied.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Petr on January 02, 2014, 11:44:31 AM
Just started a brand new book The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan. It's a history of the period from 1900 up to 1914. On the eve of the 100th Anniversary of World War I it's interesting to see how there is still the debate of who really is responsible for WWI.  From F. Fischer "The Foreign Policy of Imperial Germany and the Outbreak of the First World War War" (Germany's fault) to S. McMeekin "The Russian Origins of the First World War" (Russia's fault).  Of course you can't leave out the Austro-Hungarian government either.

MacMillan is a professor of international history at Oxford and wrote a wonderful history of the negotiations leading to the Versailles Treaty entitled Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World which won all sorts of prizes.  Looking forward to a good read.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on January 02, 2014, 04:38:00 PM
Sounds like a good book to me.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on January 02, 2014, 04:56:15 PM
Yes Petr please come back and post on this topic thread when you finish reading. I'll be interested in getting this author's take.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Petr on January 10, 2014, 12:35:08 PM
Interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal abut the plethora of books, both fiction and nonfiction, regarding WWI being published in this the 100th Anniversary year of the start of the War. The article points out that for Americans, unlike WWII, WWI bears little significance although arguably in many respects it may have had a more profound impact on world history. The US was only involved from 1917 to 1918 versus the almost four years it was involved in WWII (1941-1945) and suffered fewer casualties (116,516 vs 405,399).  Also no veterans remain to remind us of that tragic conflict.  As I'm continuing to plow through Margaret MacMillan's "The War that Ended Peace " (Note the interesting title -- her omission of "The" before "Peace" -- implying a much more general, far-reaching effect) I keep getting struck by the question is the course of history driven by individuals (Kaiser Wilhelm II and Nicholas II, for example) or are there general inexorable forces at work which mandate a specific outcome. The "what ifs" keep popping up, as events occur, some quite trivial, which seem to turn matters in ever dangerous unrecognized directions.  For example, Emperor Friedrich's and Tsar Alexander III's early deaths. Likewise, I'm struck by the addage "those that don't know their history are doomed to repeat it" which raises questions about events unfolding in the world today.   A parallel is drawn between George Kennan's "long telegram" outlining the policy of containment (generally thought to be successful) and Eyre Crowe's famous memorandum on New Year's day of 1907 to Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary, warning about Germany's aggressive tendencies which needed to be checked (unsuccessful).  Then, in my view, sadly only three decades later we had Chamberlain's "peace in our time" sellout in Munich. It just goes to show that the study of history is essential and to the extent that Universities are cutting back on liberal arts curricula in favor of more technical subjects we may be starting on a slippery slope which could have serious adverse consequences.                 
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on January 11, 2014, 11:18:33 AM
Quote
The article points out that for Americans, unlike WWII, WWI bears little significance although arguably in many respects it may have had a more profound impact on world history. The US was only involved from 1917 to 1918 versus the almost four years it was involved in WWII (1941-1945) and suffered fewer casualties (116,516 vs 405,399).  Also no veterans remain to remind us of that tragic conflict.

Also, U.S. soil was totally untouched by World War I.  There was no WWI version of Pearl Harbour.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Janet Ashton on January 11, 2014, 12:58:05 PM
Just started a brand new book The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan. It's a history of the period from 1900 up to 1914. On the eve of the 100th Anniversary of World War I it's interesting to see how there is still the debate of who really is responsible for WWI.  From F. Fischer "The Foreign Policy of Imperial Germany and the Outbreak of the First World War War" (Germany's fault) to S. McMeekin "The Russian Origins of the First World War" (Russia's fault).  Of course you can't leave out the Austro-Hungarian government either.

MacMillan is a professor of international history at Oxford and wrote a wonderful history of the negotiations leading to the Versailles Treaty entitled Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World which won all sorts of prizes.  Looking forward to a good read.

Another one people might enjoy is Christopher Clark's "Sleepwalkers", which one reviewer described as "the best book ever written" on the origins and outbreak of the war. It's been out for about a year but is still selling in bucketloads. Clark seems to place equal blame on them all - with France, Britain and Serbia coming in for particular comment, largely I think because his English-speaking audience will be less familiar with the case against the Allies than against the Central Powers - and it's a most readable book with some nice character sketches of the participants. He works at Cambridge.

McMeekin's book is - IMHO - a bit one-sided, as will always be the case with works which look at a certain country's responsibility in isolation. It's been controversial.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on January 11, 2014, 01:29:26 PM
Clark seems to place equal blame on them all

All in all, this seems to be the consensus now, hundred years after.
I hope the centennial will focus on Belgium, not just as the scene of much of the bloodshed, but also as a political entity. Was Belgium really worth fighting a world war for?
And what about Denmark? Food for thought that it's constantly ranked as the world's happiest nation. Perhaps because the Glücksborgers ever since 1864, in making alliances that would protect Denmark against total extinction, accidentally pitted the major powers against each other in a mutually self-destructive war that spared (even enlarged) Denmark.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Janet Ashton on January 11, 2014, 03:30:23 PM
Clark seems to place equal blame on them all

All in all, this seems to be the consensus now, hundred years after.
I hope the centennial will focus on Belgium, not just as the scene of much of the bloodshed, but also as a political entity. Was Belgium really worth fighting a world war for?
And what about Denmark? Food for thought that it's constantly ranked as the world's happiest nation. Perhaps because the Glücksborgers ever since 1864, in making alliances that would protect Denmark against total extinction, accidentally pitted the major powers against each other in a mutually self-destructive war that spared (even enlarged) Denmark.

Belgium as such seems a sort of red herring to me. :-) Presumably the principle of neutrality and legality was what was theoretically at stake, rather than Belgium itself. But I know what you're getting at with both examples....the unanticipated cause and effect.

What I think makes Clark's book slightly different is that instead of seeing everyone as equally belligerent, with Europe as powder keg moving towards an "inevitable" war, he argues that they stumbled into it - hence "Sleepwalkers" - largely as a result of factionalism within - as much as between - states and governments. The French, Austrian, Serbian, Russian and British governments in no sense acted as unified entities to whom blame can be corporately attached: there were specific individuals pursuing agendas often without the knowledge or consent of the majority of their colleagues. Edward Grey cops a lot of opprobrium for this - as he has elsewhere. Ditto Sazonov. It calls to mind one of my history tutors, who used to argue provocatively that "the assassination which caused the first world war" was that of Jean Jaures - and that had this French socialist had been alive in July 1914 he could have pulled France back from the brink by sheer force of his own personality and popular appeal.  
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Janet Ashton on January 11, 2014, 04:12:49 PM
had this French socialist had been alive in July 1914

August 1914!
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on January 23, 2014, 01:59:57 PM
A little bit off topic but an interesting little article popped up on Yahoo news a moment ago...

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/roubini-doom-scenario-looks-1914-105552501.html

2014 or 1914? From the mind of Nouriel Roubini.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Rodney_G. on January 24, 2014, 02:55:37 PM
Very interesting. I've heard the 1914 era come up recently in other commentary. But in this scenario, the Middle East and its  current turmoil is cast in the Balkans role. I don't see it touching off a world war, but the prospect of small, aggressive, and little-to-lose populations drawing in more powerful regional players seems real enough. And with someone like Putin playing the peacemaker, the grownup in the room, as was the case recently  re:  proposed missile/air attacks on Syria,  well, who knows?
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on January 24, 2014, 08:29:02 PM
I have reached the conclusion where I see WW1 as just the West European version of the Russian Civil War and ensuing genocides. Needless bloodbaths orchestrated by wicked fanatics. 2014 should be a year when Europe admits it was no better in 1914 than Stalinist Soviet.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on January 24, 2014, 10:27:16 PM
I have reached the conclusion where I see WW1 as just the West European version of the Russian Civil War and ensuing genocides. Needless bloodbaths orchestrated by wicked fanatics. 2014 should be a year when Europe admits it was no better in 1914 than Stalinist Soviet.

The millions of Ukranian victims of Stalin's "Holodomor" surely agree with you.

The worst thing about WWI? Bad as it was it paled in comparison to the horrors of the 1930s and 40s largely orchestrated by the newer governments of Russia and Germany.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on January 25, 2014, 11:36:27 AM
Europe was much better off before WWI than after, as I have said before.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Louis_Charles on February 20, 2014, 07:53:10 PM
Will be teaching an upper level on the topic of this thread come fall, and so I have been reading a great deal that has been recently published. I think it is acceptable to say that if there had been no assassination at Sarajevo, there would have been no world war. The impression from the reading is of people of very limited talent dealing with a situation above their pay grade, but not that it was inevitable. I think McMeekin actually makes some very good points, Janet, including the idea that Sazonov bears far more responsibility for things than he is usually given. And Germany really does carry some substantial guilt --- had Wilhelm and Bethmann not essentially given Austria-Hungary a blank check in regard to punishing Serbia, Berchtold wouldn't have pushed the envelope. There is also the interesting sidebar about French/British naval arrangements that all but guaranteed UK involvement in a war between Germany and France, far more so than Belgium (the Germans violated Luxemburg's neutrality a day or so before Belgium's, and no one seemed especially bothered). Where I parted company with McMeekin is his assertion that Germany began the war knowing it would lose, which just strains credulity. The happy surprise was Nicholas II, never what you might call the sharpest tool in the shed, warning his ministers that he didn't want to be responsible that would ensue if Russia mobilized. One of the few involved who actually thought in terms of the human cost of war.

 And thanks for the thread, you guys, it will give me a forum to try out some theories if that's okay.

Simon
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on February 20, 2014, 08:51:28 PM
Certainly Louis Charles. I'm always looking to adjust my earlier percentages doled out to those carrying a share of the blame!

As I theorized earlier. Is it possible that Austria and Serbia actually deserve the majority of the blame? And that history's failure to recognize such overwhelming culpability is simply a result of historians overcomplicating things? Looking for complexity in a story where none exists?
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Louis_Charles on February 20, 2014, 09:31:25 PM
Instead of guilt or blame, could we use the word "responsibility"? Because under that term, I think that all of the European powers deserve criticism. What struck me most during the past three or four weeks of reading is (1) the lack of intelligent leadership in Austria-Hungary aside from Franz Ferdinand and (2) what an utterly un-modern state Serbia was in 1914. Essentially she functioned under the influence of what for lack of a better term might be called terrorists. The history of the country for the thirty or forty years before 1914 is horrifying, incoherent and a potential threat to both herself and her neighbors. These two countries are at the epicenter of the events because two powerful empires backed them. Had Germany and Russia kept their client states under control, there would have been no war. Instead, they encouraged the bad behavior. France fails because she created a situation in which Germany felt encircled, and Britain failed because she paid too little attention to continental politics.

I'm in an irritable mood.  ;) Can you tell?

Simon
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Petr on February 25, 2014, 04:54:58 PM
Simon;

You must read The War that Ended Peace  by Margaret MacMillan (she had previously written a wonderful book called Paris 1919  about the Versailles Treaty negotiations). In this latest book she writes about the period 1900 up to 1914 and its clear that the assassination in Sarajevo was just the last act in a rather long play.  What struck me was the ample evidence that the people of Western Europe and not just Wilhelm, Franz Joseph and Nicholas, etc., had long been primed for a war. She has a chapter on the rise of general and popular militarism during that period. She points out that despite the anti-war rhetoric of the Second Internationale, the Socialists in France and Germany supported the War (Jaures' assassination didn't help). Its as if after a long period of Victorian stability people wanted change at all costs. As a prelude, people seem to forget during that period you had the Bosnian annexation, two Balkan wars, two "Morrocan Incidents" and the Russo-Japanese War. While some might see WWI as merely an attempt at Imperial expansion, in fact, there was fear in Austria-Hungary that the failure to go to war might doom the duel Kingdom. Also, it wasn't as if people went to war blythly ignoring its consequences. The dismal results were predicted in Russia by P. Durnovo in his famous memo to the Tsar, in Germany Moltke expressed his doubts (and early on so did Bethman) and in Austria-Hungary Tisza, the premier of Hungary, predicted potentially disasterous results. In fact, despite Wilhelm's optimistic hopes, the whole premise of th Schlieffen plan was to knock out France as quickly as possible so that troops could be sent to the Eastern front. I was struck by the seeming inevitability of the War, almost a deus ex machina quality as if people were not really in control of events as the whole ship of state slid under the waves. Ukraine anyone?           
     
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on February 25, 2014, 04:56:38 PM
As I have said, we're still reaping the bitter harvest that war planted.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on February 25, 2014, 05:36:39 PM
As I have said, we're still reaping the bitter harvest that war planted.

You don't think the rebirth of Poland outweighs the negative consequences?

I think we Romanov fans with our related fascination for the other two empires in the Holy League (Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns) (and horror of both Spała and Franciszka Szanckowska?) easily forget the tragedy of Polish partition and what a cause célèbre it was, like a 19th century Tibet.

It's fascinating that the Central European power shift that was the main change on the European scene 1814-1914, the unification of Germany, continues with the reunification of both Germany and Poland and the evolving autonomy of Ukraine.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: edubs31 on February 25, 2014, 09:32:29 PM
Slightly off topic but another interesting thing to do would be a country by country assessment on what the lasting effects of World War I would have been on their destinies were it not for World War II. Did WW2 wipe the slate clean and completely alter the trajectory of a particular country's future, or did the effects of WWI, unrelated to their direct influence on WW2, have significant and lasting effects unaltered by the global war of the late-30s and early-40s?

For a country like Japan or the United States clearly WW2 had significantly greater impact on their respective futures making their limited (especially in the case of Japan) involvement in the First World War pale in comparison. Both countries experienced greater change in the 25 years after WW2 than in the roughly 25 years between the end of the First World War and latter half of the Second. Russia on the other hand, despite the devastating loss of life was clearly altered more by the events during and immediately after WWI than WW2. Germany I suppose is debatable. A humiliating defeat and political regime overthrow (first time from within, second time from without) in both wars. Most Germans in, say, 1917 would have been shocked to see what came of their country 20-25 years later and wouldn't have believed it possible. I would imagine the same could be said for Germans in the early-1940s glimpsing into a crystal ball of their country circa-1960s. Barely recognizable in both instances.

Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on February 26, 2014, 11:10:22 AM
Quote
You don't think the rebirth of Poland outweighs the negative consequences?

One good thing.  However...

-Russia is cast into a dark age that it's still struggling to emerge from.

-Germany is left with a weak and ineffective government, paving the way for the rise of Hitler.

-various ethic groups are thrown into new counties without any say in the matter, something which led to the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990's.

-the Middle East is divided up between Britain and France, and many of the problems there today can be traced back to those idiotic decisions.

Tell me again how WWI left the world a better place?


 
Quote
United States clearly WW2 had significantly greater impact on their respective futures making their limited (especially in the case of Japan) involvement in the First World War pale in comparison

Well, the U.S. didn't get involved in the First World War until relatively late in the game (there was no Pearl Harbour).  After the war, the U.S. took an isolationist stance, thinking that the oceans would protect them.  December 7th, 1941 laid that idea to rest.  World War II also ended the old colonial powers hegemony, and the U.S. filled that void.  Yes, quite a difference.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on February 26, 2014, 11:56:36 AM
-Russia is cast into a dark age that it's still struggling to emerge from.
Although Russia has always been in another, darker age than the rest of Europe, this is of course true. It is food for thought that the Stalinist genocides were products of WW1, while the truly genocidal WW2 put an end to them.

Quote
-Germany is left with a weak and ineffective government, paving the way for the rise of Hitler.
Sure, but you could say the same of France in 1871: Left with a weak and ineffective government and a national anti-German sentiment that paved the way for WW1.

Quote
-various ethic groups are thrown into new counties without any say in the matter, something which led to the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990's.
It's too easy to blame that on WW1: Where there were problems before WW1, there are still problems, as we speak. (Bosnia)

Quote
-the Middle East is divided up between Britain and France, and many of the problems there today can be traced back to those idiotic decisions.
Very true.

Quote
Tell me again how WWI left the world a better place?
E. g. (parliamentary) democracy with universal suffrage triumphed in the West and the economic crisis following the war was solved with Social Democracy, not a bloody revolution.

But of course it would probably have been better if WW1 could have been avoided. I think the question narrows down to whether the minorities in the Austrian-Hungarian and Russian (and to a lesser extent German) Empires could have reached modernity / been pulled out of poverty without full national autonomy, i.e. education, media and civic life in their own mother tongues and whether this would have been possible within the existing structures.

When reading about how the Imperial Government treated the Lithuanians (actually punishing them for smuggling or owning books in Latin-script Lithuanian) it struck me how some things never seem to change in Russia, whether it's useless laws against Lithuanian (books were smuggled in from Prussia and the US) or homosexual propaganda.

History shows that the minoriy peoples in Eastern Europe were much more resistent to Russification / Germanification / Hungarification than .e. g. the Irish were to Anglification. Yet still the British Empire failed with regard to Ireland. Thus it was quite obvious that these empires would fail, wasn't it?
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: TimM on February 26, 2014, 04:08:30 PM
Quote
Thus it was quite obvious that these empires would fail, wasn't it?

Maybe it was the speed of which those empires fell.  Whoosh, gone, after centuries.  Leaves a honking big vacuum for any dictator or nut case to fill.

Perhaps if they had gradually been dismantled, like the British Empire was (which would be replaced by the Commonwealth Of Nations), thing might have gone better for all.
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on February 26, 2014, 06:04:24 PM
Greetings from pre-war Europe: Dreikaisereck / Угол трёх императоров / Trójkąt Trzech Cesarzy / Three Emperors' Triangle, at the confluence of the Black and White Przemsza in Upper Silesia:

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ae/Dreikaisereck-1902-2.jpg/800px-Dreikaisereck-1902-2.jpg) (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f3/Tr_3_cesarzy_20005.JPG/800px-Tr_3_cesarzy_20005.JPG) (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e2/Tr_3_cesarzy_10004.JPG/640px-Tr_3_cesarzy_10004.JPG)
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on February 26, 2014, 06:39:22 PM
Maybe it was the speed of which those empires fell.  Whoosh, gone, after centuries.  Leaves a honking big vacuum for any dictator or nut case to fill.

Perhaps if they had gradually been dismantled, like the British Empire was (which would be replaced by the Commonwealth Of Nations), thing might have gone better for all.

Yes, if you compare with really slow deaths like that of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (from superpower to ghetto!), but 4+ years of war really is a long time too.
Everybody "knew" Austria-Hungary and the Tsarist regime in Russia were heading for the history books, what probably was surprising was that Imperial Germany only lasted 50 years. Fascinating how there were people who lived to see both the rise and fall of the Second Reich!
Title: Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
Post by: Превед on February 26, 2014, 06:54:26 PM
I think we Romanov fans with our related fascination for the other two empires in the Holy League (Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns) (and horror of both Spała and Franciszka Szanckowska?) easily forget the tragedy of Polish partition and what a cause célèbre it was, like a 19th century Tibet.

Another possible reason for Romanovophile Polonophobia: Marshall Józef Piłsudski's and his brother Bronisław took part in the Narodnaya Volya plans to assassinate Alexander III, together with Lenin's brother. (But on the other hand Piłsudski defeated the Soviet Union by the Wonder on the Wistula.)