November 11, 2014

Veterans Day and the WWI centennial

Today is the first of four Veterans Day celebrations that also fall within the observation of the centennial of World War I.

I've long contended that:
1. Woodrow Wilson was more British-biased than most mainstream histories present
2. We shouldn't have gotten involved in World War I
3. A true neutrality would have kept us out of World War I.

As we reflect on our veterans today, remember that, from World War I on, most our wars (including, to some degree, Cold War "Red scare" ones) were based in part on Wilsonian idealism. World War II, besides Japan attacking us, arguably had a strong Realpolitik component; all others, lesser ones.

We had no vital interests at stake in 1914, other than, possibly, freedom of the seas, which was threatened just as much by the British blockade by extension as by German unrestricted submarine warfare, if not more so.

Had we stayed neutral, we could have let "old Europe" punch itself even more senseless than it actually did. What would have happened?

At a glance, the British and French would have pulled troops from the Balkans and Near East to stop Ludendorff in 1918 just shy of Paris. But, without American troops, and with British and French senior commanders far stupider than Pershing, no major counterattack would have resulted.

If one realizes that German casualties on World War I on both the Eastern and Western fronts were less than French and British casualties, almost all of those on the Western Front, one realizes just how great the difference in generalship — and training of enlisted men, in general — was between the Allies and Germany (The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary is different; in part, because of rising internal nationalism, it fought about as bad as Russia in the first 18 months of the war, and not a tremendous amount better than Italy.)

Then, the November 1918 revolution would have hit Germany (and the Dual Monarchy) as it actually did.

And spread to British and French front-line troops. All combatants, Allies and Central Powers alike, would have scrambled for some truce.

The Dual Monarchy would have disintegrated anyway. An independent Poland would have formed — but likely without the Polish corridor. Wilhelm might have abdicated anyway, whether for his son in a constitutional monarchy or in a republic, I don't know.

Just a few thoughts from alternative history about how different the world could have been today.

And, beyond that, about how we need more Realpolitik in foreign policy.

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