Author Topic: World War I - Reassessing the Blame  (Read 61387 times)

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Offline edubs31

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World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« 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?
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Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #1 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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Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #2 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.

Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #3 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?
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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #4 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).
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Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #5 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.
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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #6 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.

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Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #7 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.
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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #8 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.
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #9 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.

« Last Edit: October 12, 2013, 11:44:42 AM by Превед »
Берёзы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

(Афанасий Фет: «Ивы и берёзы», 1843 / 1856)

Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #10 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."
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #11 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.
Берёзы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

(Афанасий Фет: «Ивы и берёзы», 1843 / 1856)

Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #12 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.
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Offline Sergei Witte

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #13 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.


Offline IvanVII

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #14 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.