Bishop Barron is Wrong

Bishop Robert Barron posts on World War I at The Catholic World. Go here to read the post.  He uses as the springboard for his remarks the fact that he had seen the World War I flick on combat on the Western Front in 1917.    He makes some remarks that are factually incorrect.

And a principal reason for the disaster of the War, too often overlooked in my judgment, is spiritual in nature. Almost all of the combatants in the First World War were Christians. For five awful years, an orgy of violence broke out among baptized people—English, French, Canadian, American, Russian, and Belgian Christians slaughtering German, Austrian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian Christians. And this butchery took place on a scale that still staggers us. The fifty-eight thousand American dead in the entire course of the Vietnam War would be practically a weekend’s work during the worst days of World War I. If we add up the military and civilian deaths accumulated during the War, we come up, conservatively, with a figure of around forty million.

World War I was no day at the beach, but the fact that Christians were fighting Christians made it a typical war in the West.  What made it unusual was its world wide scope and the number of non-Christians involved, from the Muslims, most notably, but not limited to, the Turks and Arabs of the Ottoman Empire, and their Allied Muslim adversaries in the Middle East, the Muslims and Hindus of the British Raj in India who fought in every theater of war, the Japanese, the various peoples of Africa, either animistic or Islamic by and large with a few Christians tossed in, and the Jews who fought with their Christian countrymen in every clime and place.  Barron gets the 40 million figure from misreading Wikipedia on the subject.  That figure throws in wounded.  The actual deaths were probably 12-15 million, ghastly enough.

And what precisely were they fighting for? I would challenge all but the most specialist historians of the period to tell me.

The causes of some wars are fairly obscure, like the War of Jenkin’s Ear.  The causes of World War I are fairly straight-forward.  After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Austria used that event as a pretext to go to war against the Serbs.  The Austrians only did this because Germany gave them a blank check in support.  Russia honored its treaty to support the Serbs, and Germany went to war against Russia and Serbia.  France honored its treaty to Russia and declared war on Germany and Austria.  The United Kingdom and the British Empire were drawn in when Germany, in defiance of its treaty obligation to respect Belgium neutrality, invaded Belgium.  As they say, this isn’t rocket science.

 Whatever it was, can anyone honestly say it was worth the deaths of forty million people?

Bishop Barron might ask this question in the next world of GK Chesterton.  Chesterton had opposed the South African War as unjust, and was quite far from being a hawk, but he never doubted that World War I for the British was a righteous struggle, a view he defended till his dying day.  His beloved brother and hundreds of his friends died in the War, but he had no doubt the sacrifice was worth it to prevent Teutonic dominance of the continent.  What that would have likely meant was played out in occupied Belgium and north western France.  The Imperial Germans were not Nazis, but life under the double eagle was bad enough for defeated peoples.  We see the passions that were aroused among the Allied peoples in this war in the poem In Flanders Fields:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The poet, John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer, served in the worst of the fighting on the Western Front and died of spinal meningitis there on January 1918.  He thought it was worth it, and most of the men fighting with him agreed with him at the time.  A century later, and living in safety and security, most people, who know bupkis about the conflict other than maybe the body county, would probably agree with Bishop Barron who, like them, never had any skin in the game.

But I have long maintained—and the film 1917 brought it vividly back to mind—that one of the causes of the collapse of religion in Europe, and increasingly in the West generally, was the moral disaster of the First World War, which was essentially a crisis of Christian identity. Something broke in the Christian culture, and we’ve never recovered from it.

A popular theory but incorrect.  European secularization was a steady process since the Eighteenth Century.  If anything, both the World Wars led to temporary religious revivals, with secularization resuming, and picking up steam, in the Sixties.  It is trite to say that there are no atheists in foxholes, but CS Lewis, who served as an infantry officer on the Western Front from 1917-1918, had the right of it when it comes to the general effect of war on religion in The Screwtape Letters:

Of course a war is entertaining. The immediate fear and suffering of the humans is a legitimate and pleasing refreshment for our myriads of toiling workers. But what permanent good does it do us unless we make use of it for bringing souls to Our Father Below? When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all. The Enemy, true to His barbarous methods of warfare, allows us to see the short misery of His favourites only to tantalise and torment us-to mock the incessant hunger which, during this present phase of the great conflict, His blockade is admittedly imposing. Let us therefore think rather how to use, than how to enjoy, this European war. For it has certain tendencies inherent in it which are, in themselves, by no means in our favour. We may hope for a good deal of cruelty and unchastity. But, if we are not careful, we shall see thousands turning in this tribulation to the Enemy, while tens of thousands who do not go so far as that will nevertheless have their attention diverted from themselves to values and causes which they believe to be higher than the self. I know that the Enemy disapproves many of these causes. But that is where He is so unfair. He often makes prizes of humans who have given their lives for causes He thinks bad on the monstrously sophistical ground that the humans thought them good and were following the best they knew. Consider too what undesirable deaths occur in wartime. Men are killed in places where they knew they might be killed and to which they go, if they are at all of the Enemy’s party, prepared. How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition! And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever.

I know that Scabtree and others have seen in wars a great opportunity for attacks on faith, but I think that view was exaggerated. The Enemy’s human partisans have all been plainly told by Him that suffering is an essential part of what He calls Redemption; so that a faith which is destroyed by a war or a pestilence cannot really have been worth the trouble of destroying. I am speaking now of diffused suffering over a long period such as the war will produce. Of course, at the precise moment of terror, bereavement, or physical pain, you may catch your man when his reason is temporarily suspended. But even then, if he applies to Enemy headquarters, I have found that the post is nearly always defended,

Using history to make points in current debates is tricky.  Trickier still when someone lacks fairly basic knowledge of the history involved.  Do better next time Bishop.  If you are unable or unwilling to do so, leave history alone.








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  1. Yes Father Barron is wrong on this. Yes the War was a bloody blow against Christianity, but it was a blow from the left, as a continuation of the very scholarly and civil attacks on the Faith in the previous few centuries
    A culture kampf which is still going on today

  2. I am not an integralist (still trying to figure things out)
    but you can see the nationalism that is blamed for WWOne goes back to Henry 8 and national churches…
    now we have synodality

    The ongoing attacks on
    Christ the Ling

  3. So Britain, Russia, and France “honoring” their respective treaties was somehow more righteous than Germany honoring its treaty with Austria-Hungary after its imperial heir was assassinated by Serbian military intelligence within its own border? How jingoistic of those nasty Habsburghs to consider such political murder an act of war worthy of some retribution! Forgive my ignorance, please.

  4. “So Britain, Russia, and France “honoring” their respective treaties was somehow more righteous than Germany honoring its treaty with Austria-Hungary after its imperial heir was assassinated by Serbian military intelligence within its own border?”

    Yes, since neither Germany nor Austria had any need to go to war. The Serbs had agreed to virtually all the demands of the Austrians.

    The Austrian Chief of Staff, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, had long argued for a preemptive war against Serbia and he finally got his wish.

    The Kaiser was idiot enough to give Austria a blank check for this madness.

  5. Many (effectively all?) US bishops are so effete and effeminate that they do not understand war and are terrified that war makes (or can make) committed and masculine men out of those that experience it. Therefore, they must renounce it at every turn. I don’t even think they know why they do so, they are effectively “Pacifist Monkeys”, akin to the much maligned “French Surrender Monkeys.”

    I’m not arguing the history of any war or Just War Theory, but can say with certainty that it is THE MOST FORMATIVE experience that a man can have in his lifetime. Like no other human endeavor, it forces an experience (or witness) of all virtues and vices at one point or another, not to mention incredible agony & suffering. In retrospect this experience can (potentially, but certainly not a guarantee) galvanize men to strive for living a virtuous life.

    Men who have endured such hardships and come out showing a commitment to TRUTH (i.e., reality) is something that craven bishops & priests (prancing about amongst felt banners while convincing themselves that they are smarter than Aquinas & Augustine) absolutely fear.

    Imagine how St Ignatius of Loyola would be “accompanied” by modern-day Jesuits.

  6. Still confused; Germany and Austria had no need to go to war, but their enemies did? I’ ve already posted here that Franz Josef should have accepted Serbia’s proposal. You may have forgotten that Russia mobilized before even Austria did, which allowed the crisis to spread. Even Britain was surprised that Austria didn’ t immediately attack Serbia while world opinion was on their side.
    As to the preemptive war (Hotzendorf) wanted; a greater European conflict was not that. Up to the May, 1903 Coup, Serbia was an ally of Austria, until the PanSlavs, at the behest of Russia, brutally murdered King Alexander to install a new irredentist dynasty. A pattern here which became more obvious in the 1990’s?
    I like Indy’s videos, but they mostly reflect the standard anti-Central Powers viewpoint so nothing ‘ new’ there.
    As for treaties in general, how many did “Perfidious Albion” ignore when it suited some political end? How many did Russia ignore in numerous attacks on Turkey…not that the Turks are any example of amicable international intercourse. What about the USA starting wars of aggrandizement against Mexico and Spain? Did we have to go to war?
    Bad behavior abounds in history which is just a not so simple record of successive score settling….
    As for the Bishop, he’s just spouting the all too typical clerical pacifism most expect. I was much less alarmed by these remarks than I am by his declaration that most people have a reasonable expectation of salvation, much like Pope Dope saying that God ‘wills’ plurality of religion, without a thought as to how that squares with the gospel message, but I digress….

  7. Still confused; Germany and Austria had no need to go to war, but their enemies did?
    YEP. Austria had no reason to war and Germany had less than no reason to go to war. No invasion by Austria of Serbia and there was no world war.

    As to the preemptive war (Hotzendorf) wanted; a greater European conflict was not that.

    He wanted a pre-emptive war not only against Serbia but also against Italy and against Rumania. He was unclear, of course, on how any of this was to be done without other great power involvement due to the treaties his target nations had with other great powers.

  8. Something that frequently gets passed over: Emperor Karl of Austria had proposed a peace settlement that basically would turn the Austrian Empire into something like the British Commonwealth. He transmitted the settlement through the Vatican because the Catholic Church was perceived to be a truly neutral party. Unfortunately Woodrow Wilson was a committed Mason and wanted absolutely nothing to do with any plan that had been touched by the Church. He rejected it, and as a result, the war continued for more than a year and maybe a million soldiers.

  9. The German General Staff wanted a pre-emptive war as well, convinced, as they were, that a general European wide war was inevitable, and the longer it was delayed, the less likely it was that Germany would win it.

  10. The pre-war series of Serb murders on Austro-Hungarian officials in the territory of Austria-Hungary, culminating in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife, Duchess Sophie, was STATE SPONSORED TERRORISM, with the governments of Britain and Russia as well as Serbia, of course, the perpetrators of state terrorism. Sadly enough, America sided with the terrorists, and fought to promote state sponsored terrorism and irredentism during WW-I.
    It is even worse that Americans still don’t get this simple truth today, 100 years later, and America happily goes forward to assassinate Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. Headline from Business Insider: “Iran has a ‘shockingly strong’ war-crimes case against Trump over Soleimani’s killing — and it could win”
    This is a very disappointing article, biased, still defending the terrorists of WW-I, and only commenter Jim Woodward gets it right when he takes the discussion back all the way to 1903.
    The year 1903, and the assassination of Serb king Alexander by this criminal gang of pan-Slav terrorists dreaming of conquering large chunks of Hungary, for their Great Serb Empire, is precisely an event of great importance for understanding WW-I. The Austro-Hungarian government, NATURALLY, allowed Serb authorities (detectives, police) to come into the territory of Austria-Hungary and pursue all leads in A-H territory, if it was found or suspected that Serb king Alexander’s assassins had accomplices in A-H.
    Eleven years later in 1914, A-H’s ultimatum to Serbia only contained the same demand, NATURALLY, that Serb authorities MUST ALLOW Austro-Hungarian police and detectives to follow the leads leading to the assassins of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie and their unborn child, into the territory of Serbia. THIS PART OF THE ULTIMATUM WAS REJECTED BY SERBIA.
    Do you folks, reading about the history of WW-I, ever notice how most articles make some vague statement about “Austria-Hungary making unreasonable demands in their ultimatum”, against Serbia, and then stop right there, never spelling out exactly what those demands were, and why were those demands regarded as unreasonable by the terrorist Serb government, and their terrorist state sponsors the British, Russian, French and American governments?
    Oh yeah, the Austro-Hungarian authorities HAD TO BE PREVENTED from pursuing their investigation into Serbia, because the whole assassination was organized and sponsored by the Serb military, and by the governments of Serbia, Great Britain, and Russia.
    Moreover, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife, Duchess Sophie, was only the culminating point in A STRING OF TERRORIST ATTACKS AND ASSASSINATIONS against Austro-Hungarian government officials, public servants, Hungarian historical monuments, in the territory of Southern Hungary that pan-Slavic Serb terrorists, irredentists, wanted to conquer and take away from Hungary, so that they could create their Greater Serb Empire by attaching those Hungarian territories to Serbia.

  11. “till defending the terrorists of WW-I,”

    No terrorists were defended. This is a simple factual account of how World War I started. That these facts paint the governments of Austria and Germany in a bad light is a matter of history. Here are the demands of the Austrian government:

    1. to suppress every publication which shall incite to hatred and contempt of the Monarchy, and the general tendency of which shall be directed against the territorial integrity of the latter;

    1. to proceed at once to the dissolution of the Narodna Odbrana to confiscate all of its means of propaganda, and in the same manner to proceed against the other unions and associations in Serbia which occupy themselves with propaganda against Austria-Hungary; the Royal Government will take such measures as are necessary to make sure that the dissolved associations may not continue their activities under other names or in other forms;
    2. to eliminate without delay from public instruction in Serbia, everything, whether connected with the teaching corps or with the methods of teaching, that serves or may serve to nourish the propaganda against Austria-Hungary;

    3. to remove from the military and administrative service in general all officers and officials who have been guilty of carrying on the propaganda against Austria-Hungary, whose names the Imperial and Royal Government reserves the right to make known to the Royal Government when communicating the material evidence now in its possession;

    4. to agree to the cooperation in Serbia of the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government in the suppression of the subversive movement directed against the integrity of the Monarchy;

    5. to institute a judicial inquiry against every participant in the conspiracy of the twenty-eighth of June who may be found in Serbian territory; the organs of the Imperial and Royal Government delegated for this purpose will take part in the proceedings held for this purpose;

    6. to undertake with all haste the arrest of Major Voislav Tankosic and of one Milan Ciganovitch, a Serbian official, who have been compromised by the results of the inquiry;

    7. by efficient measures to prevent the participation of Serbian authorities in the smuggling of weapons and explosives across the frontier; to dismiss from the service and to punish severely those members of the Frontier Service at Schabats and Losnitza who assisted the authors of the crime of Sarajevo to cross the frontier;

    8. to make explanations to the Imperial and Royal Government concerning the unjustifiable utterances of high Serbian functionaries in Serbia and abroad, who, without regard for their official position, have not hesitated to express themselves in a manner hostile toward Austria-Hungary since the assassination of the twenty-eighth of June;

    9. to inform the Imperial and Royal Government without delay of the execution of the measures comprised in the
      foregoing points.

    Here is the response of the Serbian government:

    The Royal Government has received the communication of the Imperial and Royal Government of the 23rd inst. and is convinced that its reply will dissipate any misunderstanding which threatens to destroy the friendly and neighbourly relations between the Austrian monarchy and the kingdom of Serbia.

    The Royal Government is conscious that nowhere there have been renewed protests against the great neighbourly monarchy like those which at one time were expressed in the Skuptschina, as well as in the declaration and actions of the responsible representatives of the state at that time, and which were terminated by the Serbian declaration of March 31st, 1909; furthermore that since that time neither the different corporations of the kingdom, nor the officials have made an attempt to alter the political and judicial condition created in Bosnia and the Heregovina. The Royal Government states that the I. and R. [Imperial and Royal] Government has made no protestation in this sense excepting in the case of a textbook, in regard to which the I. and R. Government has received an entirely satisfactory explanation. Serbia has given during the time of the Balkan crisis in numerous cases evidence of her pacific and moderate policy, and it is only owing to Serbia and the sacrifices which she has brought in the interest of the peace of Europe that this peace has been preserved.

    The Royal Government cannot be made responsible for expressions of a private character, as for instance newspaper articles and the peaceable work of societies, expressions which are of very common appearance in other countries, and which ordinarily are not under the control of the state. This, all the less, as the Royal Government has shown great courtesy in the solution of a whole series of questions which have arisen between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, whereby it has succeeded to solve the greater number thereof, in favour of the progress of both countries.

    The Royal Government was therefore painfully surprised by the assertions that citizens of Serbia had participated in the preparations of the outrage in Sarajevo. The Government expected to be invited to cooperate in the investigation of the crime, and it was ready, in order to prove its complete correctness, to proceed against all persons in regard to whom it would receive information.

    According to the wishes of the I. and R. Government, the Royal Government is prepared to surrender to the court, without regard to position and rank, every Serbian citizen for whose participation in the crime of Sarajevo it should have received proof. It binds itself particularly on the first page of the official organ of the 26th of July to publish the following enunciation:

    The Royal Serbian Government condemns every propaganda which should be directed against Austria-Hungary, i.e., the entirety of such activities as aim towards the separation of certain territories from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and it regrets sincerely the lamentable consequences of these criminal

    The Royal Government regrets that according to a communication of the I. and R. Government certain Serbian officers and functionaries have participated in the propaganda just referred to, and that these have there fore endangered the amicable relations for the observation of which the Royal Government had solemnly obliged itself through the declaration of March 31st, 1909….

    The Royal Government binds itself further:

    1. During the next regular meeting of the Skuptschina to embody in the press laws a clause, to wit, that the incitement to hatred of, and contempt for, the Monarchy is to be most severely punished, as well as every publication whose general tendency is directed against the territorial integrity of Austria-Hungary.

    It binds itself in view of the coming revision of the constitution to embody an amendment into Art. 22 of the constitutional law which permits the confiscation of such publications as is at present impossible according to the clear definition of Art. 12 of the constitution.

    1. The Government possesses no proofs and the note of the I. and R. Government does not submit them that the society Narodna Odbrana and other similar societies have committed, up to the present, any criminal actions of this manner through any one of their members. Notwithstanding this, the Royal Government will accept the demand of the I. and R. Government and dissolve the society Narodna Odbrana, as well as every society which should set against Austria-Hungary.

  12. The Royal Serbian Government binds itself without delay to eliminate from the public instruction in Serbia anything which might further the propaganda directed against Austria-Hungary provided the I. and R. Government furnishes actual proofs of this propaganda.

  13. The Royal Government is also ready to dismiss those officers and officials from the military and civil services in regard to whom it has been proved by judicial investigation that they have been guilty of actions against the territorial integrity of the Monarchy; it expects that the I. and R. Government communicate to it for the purpose of starting the investigation the names of these officers and officials, and the facts with which they have been charged.

  14. The Royal Government confesses that it is not clear about the sense and the scope of that demand of the I. and R. Government which concerns the obligation on the part of the Royal Serbian Government to permit the cooperation of officials of the I. and R. Government on Serbian territory, but it declares that it is willing to accept every cooperation which does not run counter to international law and criminal law, as well as to the friendly and neighbourly relations.

  15. The Royal Government considers it its duty as a matter of course to begin an investigation against all those persons who have participated in the outrage of June 28th and who are in its territory. As far as the cooperation in this investigation of specially delegated officials of the I. and R. Government is concerned, this cannot be accepted, as this is a violation of the constitution and of criminal procedure. Yet in some cases the result of the investigation might be communicated to the Austro-Hungarian officials.

  16. The Royal Government has ordered on the evening of the day on which the note was received the arrest of Major Voislar Tankosic. However, as far as Milan Ciganovitch is concerned, who is a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and who has been employed till June 28th with the Railroad Department, it has as yet been impossible to locate him, wherefore a warrant has been issued against him.

  17. The I. and R. Government is asked to make known, as soon as possible for the purpose of conducting the investigation, the existing grounds for suspicion and the proofs of guilt, obtained in the investigation at Sarajevo.

    1. The Serbian Government will amplify and render more severe the existing measures against the suppression of smuggling of arms and explosives.

    It is a matter of course that it will proceed at once against, and punish severely, those officials of the frontier service on the line Shabatz-Loznica who violated their duty and who have permitted the perpetrators of the crime to cross the frontier.

    1. The Royal Government is ready to give explanations about the expressions which its officials in Serbia and abroad have made in interviews after the outrage and which, according to the assertion of the I. and R. Government, were hostile to the Monarchy. As soon as the I. and R. Government points out in detail where those expressions were made and succeeds in proving that those expressions have actually been made by the functionaries concerned, the Royal Government itself will take care that the necessary evidences and proofs are collected.
  18. The Royal Government will notify the I. and R. Government, so far as this has not been already done by the present note, of the execution of the measures in question as soon as one of those measures has been ordered and put into execution.

  19. The Royal Serbian Government believes it to be to the common interest not to rush the solution of this affair and it is therefore, in case the I. and R. Government should not consider itself satisfied with this answer, ready, as ever, to accept a peaceable solution, be it by referring the decision of this question to the International Court at The Hague or by leaving it to the decision of the Great Powers who have participated in the working out of the declaration given by the Serbian Government on March 18/31st, 1909.

    The Austrian government was unpleasantly surprised when the Serbian government agreed to all their demands. They went to war anyway.

  20. The German General Staff wanted a pre-emptive war as well, convinced, as they were, that a general European wide war was inevitable, and the longer it was delayed, the less likely it was that Germany would win it.

    True. They were greatly concerned by the rapid growth of the Russian economy.

  21. In regard to the peace proposal of Emperor Karl wikipedia actually does a decent job:

    Charles succeeded to the thrones in November 1916 after the death of his grand-uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph. On 2 December 1916, he assumed the title of Supreme Commander of the whole army, succeeding Archduke Friedrich. His coronation as King of Hungary occurred on 30 December. In 1917, Charles secretly entered into peace negotiations with France. He employed his brother-in-law, Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma, an officer in the Belgian Army, as intermediary. However, the Allies insisted on Austrian recognition of Italian claims to territory and Charles refused, so no progress was made.[6] Foreign minister Graf Czernin was only interested in negotiating a general peace which would include Germany, Charles himself went much further in suggesting his willingness to make a separate peace. When news of the overture leaked in April 1918, Charles denied involvement until French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau published letters signed by him. This led to Czernin’s resignation, forcing Austria-Hungary into an even more dependent position with respect to its seemingly wronged German ally.[7]

    The Austro-Hungarian Empire was wracked by inner turmoil in the final years of the war, with much tension between ethnic groups. As part of his Fourteen Points, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson demanded that the Empire allow for autonomy and self-determination of its peoples. In response, Charles agreed to reconvene the Imperial Parliament and allow for the creation of a confederation with each national group exercising self-governance. However, the ethnic groups fought for full autonomy as separate nations, as they were now determined to become independent from Vienna at the earliest possible moment.

    The new foreign minister Baron Istvan Burián asked for an armistice 14 October based on the Fourteen Points, and two days later Charles issued a proclamation that radically changed the nature of the Austrian state. The Poles were granted full independence with the purpose of joining their ethnic brethren in Russia and Germany in a Polish state. The rest of the Austrian lands were transformed into a federal union composed of four parts: German, Czech, South Slav, and Ukrainian. Each of the four parts was to be governed by a federal council, and Trieste was to have a special status. However, United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing replied four days later that the Allies were now committed to the causes of the Czechs, Slovaks and South Slavs. Therefore, autonomy inside the Empire for the nationalities was no longer enough. In fact, a Czechoslovak provisional government had joined the Allies 14 October, and the South Slav national council declared an independent South Slav state 29 October 1918.

    The proposal can be summed up with too little, too late. In any case, Imperial Germany was not going to let Austria-Hungary make a separate peace. By the time Karl came to the throne, Austria-Hungary was completely militarily dependent upon Germany. This is illustrated by the fevered denials by Karl of being in peace negotiations when the news broke in the press in April 1918. Karl was a good man in a very bad situation.

  22. Repeating the same opinion doesn’t turn it into a fact. And, Conrad’s harping on attacking hostile neighboring countries lusting after Austrian territories was well known and dismissed by most of his peers and the Throne as fanciful musings of an otherwise gifted tactician and logistician. Indy did get right the fact that A-H was the most parsimonious of the great powers in its national defense expenditures, a fact unfortunately often overlooked by Conrad.
    Thanks J V for fleshing out the history of Serbian and Russian subterfuge. You said it better than I did.

  23. “And, Conrad’s harping on attacking hostile neighboring countries lusting after Austrian territories was well known and dismissed by most of his peers”

    Until they adopted his policy in July 1914. After the War he blamed Austrian politicians and the Austrian Court for starting the world war.

  24. Of all wars, it seems WW I was among the most pointless. It seems that the various countries that were involved got reluctantly pulled into due to “entangling alliances.” It does not seem that there was any central point at issue that all combatants were fighting for or against. Unless a better informed person can enlighten me.

  25. And by the way, I am tired of hearing people identifying folks as “Christians” etc. implying they were really fervent believers. Cultural more likely. Like “Catholics” referenced today, the bulk of them are cultural, not believing.

  26. No, there wasn’t, but in that regard it wasn’t too different from wars in which lots of nations are involved. Coalition wars by their nature tend to be amorphous as to goals. From Barry Lyndon

    It would require a greater philosopher and historian than I am to explain the causes of the famous Seven Years’ War in which Europe was engaged; and, indeed, its origin has always appeared to me to be so complicated, and the books written about it so amazingly hard to understand, that I have seldom been much wiser at the end of a chapter than at the beginning, and so shall not trouble my reader with any personal disquisitions concerning the matter. All I know is, that after His Majesty’s love of his Hanoverian dominions had rendered him most unpopular in his English kingdom, with Mr. Pitt at the head of the anti-German war-party, all of a sudden, Mr. Pitt becoming Minister, the rest of the empire applauded the war as much as they had hated it before. The victories of Dettingen and Crefeld were in every-body’s mouths, and ‘the Protestant hero,’ as we used to call the godless old Frederick of Prussia, was adored by us as a saint,a very short time after we had been about to make war against him in alliance with the Empress-queen. Now, somehow, we were on Frederick’s side: the Empress, the French, the Swedes, and the Russians, were leagued against us; and I remember, when the news of the battle of Lissa came even to our remote quarter of Ireland, we considered it as a triumph for the cause of Protestantism, and illuminated and bonfired, and had a sermon at church, and kept the Prussian king’s birthday; on which my uncle would get drunk: as indeed on any other occasion. Most of the low fellows enlisted with myself were, of course, Papists (the English army was filled with such, out of that never-failing country of ours), and these, forsooth, were fighting the battles of Protestantism with Frederick; who was belabouring the Protestant Swedes and the Protestant Saxons, as well as the Russians of the Greek Church, and the Papist troops of the Emperor and the King of France. It was against these latter that the English auxiliaries were employed, and we know that, be the quarrel what it may, an Englishman and a Frenchman are pretty willing to make a fight of it.

  27. Hilary Belloc always thought the ultimate cause of WWI was the failure of the Romans to conquer and civilize Germany. Paul Johnson blamed Napoleon for altering the balance of power within the German nations between Austria and Prussia.

  28. The Republic of Poland celebrated it’s Independence on November 11 every year.
    The partitioning empires were each defeated.
    World War I was worth it. I dislike the Catholic infatuation with the Hapsburgs. The Kaiser was a nasty POS and don’t get me started on Russia. Each of those empires conscripted Poles and put them on the front lines to be used as cannon fodder. This, after more than a century of stealing Polish land and suppressing Poles.
    The fact that Lenin took over Russia, as well as the rise of Hitler, is the fault of Germans. Blame THEM….and I’m part German. My mother is of mostly German descent….due to the Kulturkampf of the Lutheran Prussians.

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