November 11, 2017

#VeteransDay and the #WWI Centennial

If any Veterans Day is a day to remember the stupidity of war, it should be this one.

Veterans Day, of course, was started to remember World War I, as Armistice Day.

With us in the first year of America's centennial of entering World War I, that gets back to that opening line.

World War I was stupid long before America entered it. It began as a Great Powers conflict, with European nations on two sides of a trip-wire alliance egging each other on, including the Germany that forgot Bismarck's alleged dictum that "the whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." (Bismarck also allegedly said, "If there is another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans.")

Whether true or not, both are true to his spirit and insight.

Anyway, none of the countries was prepared for the war, not even the Germany most closely prepared for it, but most reliant on being totally prepared for it. Moltke the Younger's weakening of the Schlieffen Plan, originally in the west to appease the Crown Prince, then in the pre-Tannenberg east, killed Germany's chance of an early win.

And with that came further horrors.

They were only exacerbated by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson being decidedly NON-neutral well before the war. A truly neutral American president would have told the British that their blockade by extension was just as illegal under international law as German submarine warfare zones, and reminded Arthur Balfour that we went to war with his country in 1812 over freedom of the seas issues.

After that, Wilson would have launched a neutrality proclamation that, as best written, would have applied to both sides, and banned travel into either submarine zones or blockade by extension areas. A truly neutral president also would not have offered guarantees of private loans made to foreign governments.

Had things played out that way — perhaps aided by a threat by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan to challenge Wilson's re-election in 1916 — the play of WWI from early 1915 on would have drastically changed.

By late 1916, both the Allies and Central Powers might well have been feeling out a truly neutral United States for armistice negotiations. Like the Seven Years War, at least on the Western Front, a treaty with no annexations might have resulted. (By this time, Tsarist Russia probably would have imploded anyway. A free Poland of some sort might well have resulted. The Ottoman Empire and the Dual Monarchy probably would have gone the way of the wind as well.)

Still, Communism of the murderist Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist variety might well have been prevented. And in Germany, no Hitler and no Nazism.

The U.S. would have been different, too. No Lenin and no November Revolution, combined with no U.S. war involvement, would have meant no Red Scare, either. Possibly no rise of J. Edgar Hoover. Possibly no xenophobia. Whether the U.S. would have address racial issues more quickly or not, I don't know.

(Reminder, while I'm on Lenin etc, since we're also at the 100th anniversary of the November Revolution, that a bunch of leftists need to start de-romanticizing Communism.)

Remember all of that. Remember the stupidity of Wilsonian idealism. Remember the stupidity of war. Remember that war today isn't all about video games or the drone equivalent. Remember that even professional philosophers can't justify stupid wars, even when they try.

"I tell you, war is Hell!" — William Tecumseh Sherman

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