Author Topic: World War I - Reassessing the Blame  (Read 59204 times)

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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #15 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.
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #16 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.

« Last Edit: October 13, 2013, 02:13:34 PM by Превед »
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #17 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.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2013, 02:45:57 PM by Превед »
Березы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

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

Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #18 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?
« Last Edit: October 13, 2013, 03:14:33 PM by Превед »
Березы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

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

Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #19 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!
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Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #20 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.
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Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2013, 12:01:34 PM »
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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.



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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2013, 12:03:32 PM »
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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.
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Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2013, 06:17:40 PM »
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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.
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Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2013, 06:33:14 PM »
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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.
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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #25 on: October 16, 2013, 04:35:22 PM »
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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.
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Offline Rodney_G.

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #26 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.

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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #27 on: October 17, 2013, 04:26:39 PM »
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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. 
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Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #28 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.
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Offline nena

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #29 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.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 12:51:55 PM by nena »
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