August 04, 2014

WWI — the height of folly, repeated today; above all, the folly of Woodrow Wilson

The senselessly romanticized Tower of London.
You can romanticize it with red poppies, either in the poem "In Flanders Field" or, as shown in the picture, by stringing up ceramic poppies on trellises at the Tower of London.

Or you can, on a romantic peace-making celebration of its anniversary, bury your head in the sand to reality like David Cameron and call it a noble cause, pretending that Wilhelmine Germany, for all its faults, was an evil empire just like the Nazis a generation later, in contradistinction to those who call it senseless slaughter. Here's Britain's more articulate answer to George W. Bush:
"That is wrong. These men signed up to prevent the domination of a continent, to preserve the principles of freedom and sovereignty that we cherish today," he said, only dozens of footsteps away from the headstones of Roy and Dietrich and 241 other Commonwealth and 288 German casualties.

Tosh, to use a good old British word.

First, let's debunk the romanticism.

As for the poppies? I have had friends on Facebook like the whole thing.

Not me, especially knowing those are ceramic fakes, rather than horticulturists doing some hard work with real poppies. Besides, if anybody knows the actual history of "In Flanders Fields," it was a pro-war poem used as a recruiting tool by the British, with their volunteer army.

I prefer the "war is hell" quote from William T. Sherman, which reads in full:
There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.
And, writing a poem about poppies, or putting fakes on the Tower of London, changes that not one whit, per Omar Khayyam.
And, now, let's look at the likely outcome had we simply not gotten involved.

First, it's unlikely Germany would have dominated Europe. Without Hitlerian lightning seizures of Denmark and Norway, with much more limited submarine warfare, despite Woodrow Wilson's one-sided trembling over that (more in a minute on that), and with WWI Germany generals actually looking askance at tanks, no chance that Ludendorff, his puppet Hindenburg, and their joint puppet Wilhelm II dominate Europe. Let alone the whole world.

Oh, yes, back to Woody Wilson and his crusade to make the world safe for Anglophilia.  That's what he really wanted, as anybody who knows of his intellectual love affair with Walter Bagehot can attest. Every time, from the sinking of the munitions-carrying, 4-inch-gun armed Lusitania on, when Wilson pretended to be "neutral," he took another step closer to Britain.

The best example is agreeing with Britain that submarine warfare was illegal while disagreeing with Germany that Britain's blockade by extension was illegal. (Germany also did a poor job of rounding up support from sympathetic neutrals, above all, the Netherlands and Denmark, who stood most to gain from a traditional blockade.)

This knowledge is so rare even among educated Americans that I'm presuming I need to explain a blockade by extension.

A traditional blockade is like the US did to its own rebellious Confederate states in the Civil War. A blockade by extension would have been to also blockade Mexico, because the French, in addition to sending arms to Emperor Maximilian there, were sending further arms, or food, or whatever, through Mexico to the Confederacy.

And, this is what Britain did to European neutrals, namely to the Netherlands and Denmark above all, and also to Norway and Sweden.

If Denmark imported, say, a total of 100,000 pounds of wheat a year, on average, from, say 1900-1913, then in 1915, that's all Britain allowed. It couldn't import an additional 500,000 pounds, with the presumable intent of then exporting the surplus to Germany.

And, until World War I, it was illegal to do that under international law. It was part of the freedom of the seas for which we went to war against Britain in the War of 1812.

In other words, if a secular hell existed, Wilson should be rotting in it.

We should have insisted on the fact that blockade by extension was just as illegal under international law as submarine warfare (the British would have maintained the blockade and worked on better anti-sub work against a relatively small number of subs), and let Europe beat itself senseless. Which it would have.

Had everything else played out, including the Germans slipping Lenin into Russia, with the same result, etc., here's what things would have looked like by November 1918.

On the Western Front, Germany knocking on the doors of Paris, but not quite breaking in. Its army half-starved, but fighting on. The French Army as mutinous as the Germany Navy turned out to be. The British Army close. Defeatism in all three. That said, the British and French would have held the line by pulling troops from their joint front in the Balkans, British troops from the Middle East and scattered troops from colonial Africa.

So, in the Middle East, Turkey tottering, but perhaps not exiting the war, as it actually did in October 1918. In the Balkans, the Dual Monarchy only moderately threatened, not nearly as much as in reality, due to the removal of British and French troops to the Western Front. (In reality, the Allied breakthrough in the Balkans didn't happen until September 1918.) Austria-Hungary, in turn, able to shift troops to the Italian Front, destabilizes that country.

I blogged more here, on the centennial of Gavrilo Princip's assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, about an alternative history of WWI.

Europe would have ended up bloodier if the US hadn't intervened, and at more threat of Lenin exporting the Communist revolution.

Or, it could have come to its senses while a truly neutral American was an honest peace broker.

As for the poppies? I have had friends on Facebook like the whole thing.

Not me, especially knowing those are ceramic fakes, rather than horticulturists doing some hard work with real poppies. Besides, if anybody knows the actual history of "In Flanders Fields," it was a pro-war poem used as a recruiting tool by the British, with their volunteer army.

I prefer the "war is hell" quote from William T. Sherman, which reads in full:
There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.

And, writing a poem about poppies, or putting fakes on the Tower of London, changes that not one whit, per Omar Khayyam.

1 comment:

mrhambre said...

Hey, look. WWI was necessary so we could put an end to war once and for all.

We learned our lesson, okay?