Author Topic: World War I - Reassessing the Blame  (Read 60840 times)

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Offline edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #75 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?
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Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #76 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?

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Offline Petr

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #77 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?           
     
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Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #78 on: February 25, 2014, 04:56:38 PM »
As I have said, we're still reaping the bitter harvest that war planted.
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #79 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 célčbre 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.

« Last Edit: February 25, 2014, 05:38:24 PM 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 edubs31

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #80 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.

Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline TimM

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #81 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.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 11:13:15 AM by TimM »
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #82 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?
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 12:05:29 PM 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 #83 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.
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Offline Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #84 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:

« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 06:11:40 PM 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 Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #85 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!
« Last Edit: February 26, 2014, 06:41:29 PM 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 Превед

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Re: World War I - Reassessing the Blame
« Reply #86 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 célčbre 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.)
Берёзы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

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