No World War I

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Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
That make ambition virtue!

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3

 

 

Alternate history has always fascinated me, and Andrew Roberts, a great contemporary historian, I heartily recommend his recent biography of Churchill, does a good job of pointing out the traumas that arose in the wake of the grand blood-letting we call World War I, and how they may have been avoided if World War I had not occurred.  Do I think  World War I could have been avoided?  Well, certainly the crisis over Sarajevo could have been settled peacefully if a modicum of common sense by Austria-Hungary and Germany had prevailed.  However, Europe had enjoyed an unprecedented, up to that time, peace since Waterloo in 1815, interrupted only by relatively brief wars between the Great Powers, but by 1914 this vacation from history was manifestly breaking down.  The Balkans had produced, since the closing decades of the 19th century, a series of minor wars that were always threatening to get out of hand and involve the Great Powers.  For good reason Otto von Bismarck, the man who created Imperial Germany, had predicted the year before his death:“That one day the great European War would come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”   In the decades leading up to the Sarajevo Crisis, Europe had weathered a series of crises that threatened great power clashes.  Below the surface of the stability of the Great Powers were revolutionary movements, waiting impatiently in the wings of contemporary history for their forthcoming moment on center stage.  In retrospect it is not of note that the Great War came, but that its outbreak had been delayed so long by jury-rigged emergency diplomacy, a general hesitation among the Great Powers to risk all on a roll of the iron dice of war and, above all, good luck.  When peace depends primarily on luck, sooner or later the good luck will run out.

 

 

Darryl Bates : What started it?

Col. Andy Tanner : I don’t know. Two toughest kids on the block, I guess. Sooner or later, they’re gonna fight.

Jed Eckert : That simple, is it?

Col. Andy Tanner : Or maybe somebody just forget what it was like.

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No Comment Needed

Hattip to commenter Nate Winchester.

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8 Comments

  1. Two toughest kids on the block, I guess. Sooner or later, they’re gonna fight.

    Still the most depressingly accurate summary of international relations I’ve ever heard.

  2. Common sense from Germany & Austria-Hungary, and also from Russia. Then factor in some decisiveness on the part of Austria-Hungary. The common interests of the crowned heads of Europe should have trumped pan-Slavism.

  3. Or maybe somebody just forget what it was like.

    Also what I fear in the coming age. Which is ironic given that America has been involved in so many skirmishes, some still at home are itching for a fight.

  4. Nate:
    They’re not itching to sign-up, suit up and shoot the enemy themselves, they just like the idea of other Americans doing it for them. I just want to avoid the missteps that led to both WWI and WWII.
    Kids who spend time on the beach are told (1) don’t go too far out and (2) never turn your back on the ocean. So don’t go looking for a fight, but don’t pretend it might not come looking for you. We seem to have a hard time as Americans just staying alert. We either want to fight or go to sleep, and neither is going to work for us. So let’s review:
    1. China is looking to rule the world and thinks it has the economy to do so. Chinese generals are starting to talk a lot like Japanese generals of another era. We need to disabuse them of this notion by an appropriate build up of forces. This won’t be cheap.
    2. Russia is a dead or dying horse and not worth the beating, but we need to be on guard for nasty cyber tricks and espionage. We can do that quietly on the cheap without all the current caterwauling.
    3. The Islamist crazies can’t conquer us, but can sting us real bad if we don’t watch them. The best policy would be to cut them all off economically and let them pound sand and each other, next best to find a few spots of stability, hold our noses and give enough help to keep real madmen out of power. That does not require US forces on permanent station in Islamic countries, although it may require the occasional punitive strike – just to show them what could happen if they really ticked us off.

  5. Don, I too am a fan of alternative histories (usually classified as “what if?” sf). Here are some I’ve fancied, read a couple or more times: “The Coming of the Quantum Cats” (Fred Pohl), “The Alteration” (Kingsley Amis), “The Difference Engine” (Gibson & Stirling), “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” (Michael Chabon),”What if” (essays by various on crux pts in history), “Bring the Jubilee” (Ward Moore). Enjoy!!

  6. @Tom Byrne

    They’re not itching to sign-up, suit up and shoot the enemy themselves, they just like the idea of other Americans doing it for them. I just want to avoid the missteps that led to both WWI and WWII.

    I dunno, Tom… when i see some images of antifa I think there’s a good number of them ready and willing to suit up. The problem is that they are more likely to see their fellow americans as enemies than anybody outside the country. I normally wouldn’t be concerned if it wasn’t for so many on the same side of their political aisle demonstrate a willingness to downplay – if not outright deny – the radicals’ actions.

    1. China is looking to rule the world and thinks it has the economy to do so. Chinese generals are starting to talk a lot like Japanese generals of another era. We need to disabuse them of this notion by an appropriate build up of forces. This won’t be cheap.

    Agreed. It might also be time to make friends in the area and have them start arming as well.

    2. Russia is a dead or dying horse and not worth the beating, but we need to be on guard for nasty cyber tricks and espionage. We can do that quietly on the cheap without all the current caterwauling.

    I phrase I once heard which seems to hold is: “Russia is never as strong as she looks. She is also never as week as she looks.” Jonah Goldberg has floated the idea of issuing Letters of Marque to American hackers (making them cyber privateers) several times. Sounds like you would be in favor of it. I am definitely in favor of giving it a try.

    3. The Islamist crazies can’t conquer us, but can sting us real bad if we don’t watch them. The best policy would be to cut them all off economically and let them pound sand and each other, next best to find a few spots of stability, hold our noses and give enough help to keep real madmen out of power. That does not require US forces on permanent station in Islamic countries, although it may require the occasional punitive strike – just to show them what could happen if they really ticked us off.

    In total agreement with you there. I know the middle east is complicated (my uncle has spent a lot of time there and is there right now) so I don’t have easy solutions. Though I wouldn’t object to the Pope reforming Catholic armies and using one to help shore up refuges for Arab Christians. (Maybe in the fledgling Kurdistan? They do need friends.) It would probably go a long way towards bringing the Orthodox and Catholic back together, give young men a purpose in life and restore a lot of honor to the Church. (Heck such an action would probably persuade me to convert more than anything else.)

    I’ve been reading some things about how the Russians with their connection to the Orthodox are apparently making moves in the middle east in defense of Christians. Of course I don’t believe that is Russia’s ONLY reason for such action (only fools believe that) but such action does oblige our brethren over there to the great bear. Which I am not confident is in their best long-term instance – hence why I seriously consider that it might be better for the Pope – even the current one – to wield the sword in defense of the flock.

    And no, this isn’t an attempt to get Don to do a post on papal armies, though I wouldn’t object to one. 😉

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