Home > World Events > We shall remember them ? (repost*)

We shall remember them ? (repost*)

April 25th, 2012

On Anzac Day, there are two important things to remember

* Thousands of brave men died at Gallipoli and in the Great War and we should always honour their memory

* The Gallipoli campaign was a bloody and pointless diversionary attack in a bloody and pointless war. Millions of soldiers were killed, and tens of millions of civilians starved and mistreated in a fight over trivial causes that were utterly irrelevant by the time the war ended. The War that was supposed to “end war” only paved the way for the even greater horrors of Nazism and Stalinism. Nothing good came of it.

From what I’ve seen of the last surviving Diggers they were fully aware of both of these things. At one time, it seemed possible that, as the generation who fought in the war passed on, we would forget the first of them. Now the danger is that we will forget the second. We should judge as harshly as possible the political and religious leaders who drove millions, mostly young men, to their deaths, and honour the handful who stood out against the War, including Bertrand Russell and Pope Benedict XV.

* I’ve posted versions of this on previous Anzac Days. There is really nothing new to say, except to hope that we will soon be able to celebrate an Anzac Day without the thought that Australians are still fighting and dying in pointless wars.

Categories: World Events Tags:
  1. Alan
    April 27th, 2012 at 16:43 | #1

    @Chris Warren

    The trouble with copy-and-paste argument is that the examples you choose need to be valid. I am aware of no-one, for example, who promotes a good Obama, evil Bush theory that ignores Bush’s own conduct. Few who regard Bush as an evil approve his conduct in office.

    The good Lenin, evil Stalin theory, by contrast simply ignores much of Lenin’s own record. Lenin used mass executions, deportations and other forms of state terror both against opponents within the Bolshevik party and outside it. The difference between Lenin and Stalin is only one of degree. Stalin would not have been able to industrialise Lenin’s terror if the Soviet state or party had possessed even the most basic forms of accountability or transparency.

  2. Sam
    April 27th, 2012 at 16:46 | #2

    @Paul Norton
    I’m going to post this on facebook.

  3. Alan
    April 27th, 2012 at 18:16 | #3

    @Paul Norton

    I am in two minds. While I agree with everything Russell argues I wonder how Germany’s rulers would have behaved after a short victorious war and how the progressive forces would have fared in Germany in that situation.

    On a separate issue Harry Turtledove wrote an alternate history where the Confederacy succeeds in seceding, the Great War in 1914 is fought between an Anglo/Franco/Confederate alliance and a German/US alliance, and a Hitler-like figure then emerges in the 1920s and 30s in a defeated Confederacy.

  4. alfred venison
    April 27th, 2012 at 19:41 | #4

    hi Alan
    thanks for the considerate response. you start with the treaties & look forward from there, fair enough, i may have inadvertently tilted discussion in that direction. i’d start with commadore perry opening japan’s door in 1854 & end with the treaties to make a modest point. from perspective of japanese nationalists, the treaties were only the most recent humiliation of their country by westerners wielding double standards. japan was on the receiving end of racist exclusionary policies in british columbia, california & australia from almost the moment its door was forced open by perry. its commerce with these jurisdictions was also restricted: open your door, japan was told, but stay at home. henry reynold & marilyn lake go into some of this in their study “drawing the global colour line” (excerpts available at google books).

    japan had embraced western industrialisation, western style of gov’t, western dress, a western style army trained by germany and a western style navy trained by england. it even had an exploitative & cruel colonial empire, with atrocities on a par with britain’s concentration camps in south africa, or the usa’s counter-insurgency in the philippines, or germay’s genocide against the herero in south east africa. not to mention the belgian congo or haiti.

    japan had negotiated a naval treaty with england during the 1890s which was signed in 1904 & which committed japan to provide an army for the defence of india (15,000 men) if russia attacked. imagine, a japanese army, convoyed by the royal navy, fighting shoulder to shoulder with sepoys in defence the raj from the russians; fantastic sounding, but both countries negotiated it & signed a treaty that committed each to it. the japanese navy had patrolled the south china sea on england’s behalf during ww1 allowing england to concentrate fleet resources in the north sea.

    sure the usa has two coasts & england had a far flung empire, but that ‘s no reason, from the japanese perspective, for japan to have an inferior navy, while these countries had bases in the phillipines & singapore; japan had no corresponding bases in, say, iceland or baja california.

    in an anarchic society of racist imperialist powers japan was distinguished by being consistently treated by the other’s as an inferior. this was not accidental; it was deliberate & racist. the washington treaty precipitated a split in the hitherto england-friendly japanese navy between accommodationists & radicals; it put japanese cosmopolitans & democrats at a marked disadvantage vis a vis growing militarism. these naval treaties were to japan & japanese nationalists what the versailles treaty was to germany or the loss of alsace & lorraine was to france. a cause celebre of national humiliation like this, which affects national pride at a primal level, leaves redress or overturn as the only response to be countenanced by integral nationalists & its integral nationalists who benefit from national humiliation like this.

    how is it we can readily attribute some responsibility for german militarism after ww1 to our side’s versailles treaty, but ignore the role played in japanese militarism by the insults our side meted out to a proud young power that had bent over backwards for decades to fit in?

    for the record, i ‘m not seeking to excuse japanese atrocities by arguing some kind of equivalence of moral depravity.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  5. Chris Warren
    April 27th, 2012 at 20:03 | #5

    @Alan

    Yes – it becomes a copy-and-paste when the original is pretty common template.

    I realise it was an attempt to derail a thread, but if you want to associate the propaganda terms “mass executions”, “deportations”, “state terror”, with Russia – start with Tsar Catherine and the Ochrana and the White terror (backed by the West) just to give context.

    If you really are concerned about “mass executions”, “deportations”, “state terror” try looking at the Armenians executed and deported to the Syrian desert in the 1890′s, or the Colonial British in China or India.

    Remember Lenin was confronted with intervention from the north and from the far east and from Whites inside.

    The number of deaths in Iraq is well over 100,000 and you will not find the worst types of industrialised terror at Guantanamo Bay and various third-party terror camps employed in the secret renditions programs of Bush.

    It is Obama’s conduct in not closing Guantanamo Bay and continuing Military star chambers that is moot. We all know Bush is evil.

  6. Alan
    April 27th, 2012 at 20:27 | #7

    @Chris Warren

    All of those things happened and no-one with half a brain denies that or can possibly approve it in any way. However, all of those things do nothing either to disprove or justify Lenin’s use of terror. Terror is simply wrong. One side’s terror is excusable but another side’s terror is inexcusable is not a tenable argument.

    For the same reason I don’t think Obama’s embrace of Bush’s terror policies is either moot or excusable.

  7. Chris Warren
    April 27th, 2012 at 21:38 | #8

    @Alan

    No one is saying that terror is right.

    No one has said one sides terror is excusable and another’s is not.

    Only one person raised Lenin-Stalin in isolation and without the necessary context. This is not a tenable argument. The terrorism that fed into the Russian revolution pre-existed Lenin, in such gangs as Narodnaya Volya (Peoples Will), although the violence of a civil war can always be categorised as terror.

    But the colonial United States of America was based on deeper and more structural terror than even Stalin encouraged. It was also much longer lasting.

    But it is hard to find any case of terrorism that exceeds the wanton terror used by settlers as they moved across the Australian landmass in the period from 1789 (NSW, Tasmania, Victoria) all the way through to 1920s when the last known massacre occurred in the Kimberly (WA) in 1926.

  8. April 28th, 2012 at 09:39 | #9

    Gosh, the fact that the anzacs fought for a country that had the White Australia policy is about the only sin of the Anzacs that got left out of this slur against Anzac Day.

    I feel like I’m visiting a website inhabited by the sort of people who would have attended “get out of Vietnam” rallies & the like. Cat called returning troops etc.

    ….. though they had lotsa motivation to “oppose war” or somesuch slogan, one always noticed the irresistable urge to chant never ran deep enough in the backbone of those types for them to be still in the vicinity at the time the troops were dismissed…… gee wonder why?

  9. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2012 at 09:52 | #10

    @Malthusista

    Anything at all with two hyperlinks goes to moderation. For the purpose of this calculation, a link to a prior post counts as one. This process takes no account of the content of the post and is automatically generated to preclude link spam.

    Having read your contributions at “Candobetter” there is no reason that I can see why PrQ would have moderated. Occasionally, when he does, he makes this explicit and gives a reason.

    I appreciate that it’s annoying when someting goes into the mod bin. It happens to me occasionally. The other day my use of the word “g@mbling” {replace symbol with “a”} did it.

    It’s regrettable that you’ve implied that he is engaged in some sort of political censorship. You should apologise and amend your comment, IMO.

  10. Sam
    April 28th, 2012 at 10:21 | #11

    @Steve at the Pub
    ” feel like I’m visiting a website inhabited by the sort of people who would have attended “get out of Vietnam” rallies & the like.”

    Err, yes, I’m sure most of the people here would have opposed the Vietnam war, a conflict in which – unlike WW1 – there really was a good side; just not ours.

  11. Chris Warren
    April 28th, 2012 at 10:51 | #12

    @Sam

    There was a third ‘good side’ – draft resisters and Moratorium marchers.

  12. April 28th, 2012 at 11:14 | #13

    Thank you Fran Barlow and also “Anon-i-mouse” for having taken the time to respond to my own previous comments about Professor Quiggin, which I can now can see were ill-considered. For having written those comments I have apologised to Professor Quiggin on my own site and apologise again here and hope that he can put this behind him. The comment containing my apology is reproduced below:

    It has been pointed out to me that what I had written in my previous post could be taken as an unjust implication that Professor John Quiggin deliberately delays posts which challenge his views until such time as they are no longer likely to be read by others. In fact there was a perfectly innocent explanation of why some of the posts I had submitted had their approval publication had been delayed. It is reproduced below in an explanation provided by another contributor:

    @Malthusista

    Anything at all with two hyperlinks goes to moderation. For the purpose of this calculation, … (See Fran Barlow’s comment above.)

    As has been rightly asked above I do apologise to Professor Quiggin, who has shown himself to an exemplary upholder of free speech and informed critical thought on his web-site.

  13. Fran Barlow
    April 28th, 2012 at 11:38 | #14

    @Steve at the Pub

    You might recall SATP, that the RSL — who were no kinds of left-of-centre radicals, were not all that keen on the Vietnam veterans being counted alongside them.

    I was only 12 when I attended by first Moratorium rally — in Sydney in 1970. I joined the calls for the troops to be recalled but abused nobody. That pattern persisted at other rallies.

    We serious organised left|sts never made our attitude to the troops personal — particularly as in many cases they were conscripts. Culpability always lay with “imperialism” and its governments. The party with which I became involved discouraged its supporters from flight to avoid conscription.

  14. Paul Norton
    April 28th, 2012 at 14:08 | #15

    SATP, I think it’s drawing a long bow to call JQ’s post, or most of the comments here, a “slur on Anzac Day”. Many of us can combine an attitude of respect for the Anzacs and others who have given military service to Australia, and sympathy for the difficult personal circumstances which many of them, and their families, have experienced as a consequence of that service, with a critical political and historical sensibility regarding the wars in which they were and are required to serve by Australian governments past and present.

    Also see Martin Flanagan:
    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/gallipoli-was-a-military-disaster-lets-discuss-20120427-1xq5g.html

  15. Dan
    April 28th, 2012 at 14:17 | #16

    Agreed; support our troops, don’t send them off to fight other people’s wars.

  16. April 28th, 2012 at 17:02 | #17

    (Thanks, Professor Quiggin.)

    Alan wrote:

    Those Trostkyists tend to promote a good Lenin, evil Stalin theory of history that ignores Lenin’s own conduct as head of the Soviet government.

    At least acknowledge that as as Lenin lay in bed mortally ill in 1923, he instructed Trotsky to remove Stalin from the post of Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This is substantiated in many works including “Lenin’s Last Struggle” of 1968 by Moshe Lewin and “The Prophet Armed” of 1954 by Isaac Deutscher, the first of his three volume trilogy on the life of Leon Trotsky. Had Trotsky acted on Lenin’s instructions instead of largely sitting on his hands until 1927 (also documented by Deutscher) history would have turned out very differently.

    Much of the terrible destruction and bloodshed that occurred through the remainder of the 20th century and the early 21st century:

    Purges of both left and right wing opponents of Stalin, the bloody defeat of Chinese Communism in 1927, Nazi triumph in Germany in 1933, the triumph of Franco in Spain, the Second World War in which possibly as many as 70 million may have died, The Korean War in which 3 million North Koreans died, The Vietnam War in which as many as 5 million may have died, the murder of half a million communists by Suharto in 1965, the invasion of East Timor, the invasion of Yugoslavia, the invasions of Iraq in 1991 which may have killed as many as 2 million, the invasion on Libya in 2011, …

    … may have been avoided.

    As others pointed out, Lenin was faced with a savage civil war and an invasion by the troops over ten foreign nations, including Australia.

    So is it fair to damn Lenin for having resorted to harsh measures to keep his government in power, especially given what his opponents, many professing to be for democracy, both outside the Soviet Union and within, have ‘achieved’ since his death?

    Personally I think Marxism is a flawed philosophy (see Robert Heilbroner’s “The Worldly Philosophers” of 1953), but in spite of that I think the Russian Revolution of 1917 presented humanity with its best opportunity to date to establish a workable and humane global society.

    Sadly, that opportunity was lost.

  17. Katz
    April 28th, 2012 at 18:23 | #18

    Gosh, the fact that the anzacs fought for a country that had the White Australia policy is about the only sin of the Anzacs that got left out of this slur against Anzac Day.

    Glad you mentioned this SATP.

    Billie Hughes at Versailles led the charge against a declaration of racial equality. In other words, the Prime Minister of Australia was in 1919 the world’s most prominent racist.

    Either members of the AIF supported Hughes’ racism, which makes them racists too, or members of the AIF opposed Hughes’ racism, which makes them dupes, because the British Empire did not state openly that they were fighting the Great War to perpetuate racism (though, in fact, that is precisely what the British Empire was trying to do).

    Hughes’ crass racism infuriated the Japanese, concluded that they would forever be treated as inferiors. Japanese fascists gained much credit in Japan by pointing out Japan’s inferior status in the post-Versailles world.

  18. Alan
    April 28th, 2012 at 18:38 | #19

    @Katz

    The mark of Hughes’ intransigence on the issue is that South Africa tried unsuccessfully to persuade Hughes to accept a compromise.

  19. Jim Rose
    April 28th, 2012 at 19:18 | #20

    katz, the japanese proposal was problematic for arch-racist and warmonger Woodrow Wilson, who knew he was dependent on pro-segregation Southern Democrats if he was to have any hope of getting the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty in the Senate.

    The opposition from the British Empire delegations gave him a pretext.

    11 of the 17 delegates present voted in favor of Japan’s racial equality amendment to the charter, and no negative vote was taken.

    as chairman, Wilson overturned this vote, saying that although the proposal had been approved by a clear majority, that in this particular matter, strong opposition had manifested itself, and that on this issue a unanimous vote would be required.

    HT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_Equality_Proposal,_1919

  20. Katz
    April 28th, 2012 at 19:23 | #21

    @Jim Rose

    So? Hughes was Wilson’s willing accomplice. Wilson used Hughes as his stalking horse.

    Wilson may have been the most powerful racist at Versailles. But this doesn’t stop Hughes from being, as I said, the most prominent racist at Versailles.

    And the relevant question for this thread is how does this fact relate to the identity of the First AIF?

  21. April 29th, 2012 at 14:53 | #22

    Katz @35 said

    Strocchers goes off half-cocked again.
    Where did I say that annexationism drove participation? I did not.
    However, annexationism, as Strocchers admits by implication, did drive Entente persistence in fighting the Great War. All that palaver about Weber and Fischer is utterly irrelevant to the fact that the governments of Europe lied to their subjects/citizens about the evolution of their war aims.

    I think my burst was short and well-aimed, althougt the butt party likes to play silly buggers by moving the target.

    I have never denied the culpability of Allied powers in rejecting a compromise peace once stalemate had set in -1915, nearly a year into the war began. However I am most eager to affirm the culpability of the Central Powers for starting the damn thing in the first place.

    It can’t be helped if you use ambiguous phrase like “diplomatic history of the Great War” which a reasonable man would associate with the complex system of alliances (Entente Cordiale, Triple Entente) that the Allied powers drew up in the lead up to the war, With the express purpose of containing Prussian militarism which was from the get-go obviously in danger of going off the leash without the restraining hand of Bismark to reign it in. (So far as the Junkers were concerned Bismark was the brake, Kaiser WII was angel gear and Hitler was overdrive)

    Its a bit rich for you to refer to “palaver from Weber and Fischer” given the tripe served up by the revisionists. I favor the Sonderweg theory of the post-unification evolution of the German state and its fundamental role in causing the Great War, because of its predictive power in explaining WWII.

    And in doing so I want to once and for all bury the zombie Left-liberal revisionist theory of the causes of the Great War which attempts to spread a plague on both houses, based on a debunked theory of imperialism. Which theory had the odious consequence of partially exculpating the Prussians against whom my ancestors fought and died to contain.

    Pretty obviously it was Teutonic militarism that caused the Great War ((pts 1 & 2) and drove it to its apocalyptic conclusions during both episodes of the conflict. Yet intellectuals including Pr Q continue to spread the myth that the Allied leaders were just as guilty as the Teutonic militarists in starting the war:

    The names of Asquith,  Bethmann-Hollweg, Berchtold and Poincare are barely remembered, yet on any reasonable accounting they belong among the great criminals of history. Not only did they create the conditions for war, and rush (eagerly in most cases) in…How could such ordinary, seemingly decent, men pursue such an evil and self-destructive course, and yet, in most cases, attract and retain the support of their people? I find it hard to understand.

    The war guilt of the Teutons was blatantly obvious to most people (Diggers included) at the time which is why the Allied leaders “retained the support of their people”, even when they prolonged and escalated the conflict long beyond the point of fair and reasonable return. Yet the Teutonic powers primal war guilt has been consistently denied or down-played by Left-liberal commentators who are as ever keen to heap blame on our side, As they always do in all debates, making every post a loser for our horse

    The Allied leaders did not “eagerly rush in” to the War in any “cases”. All the Allied leaders tried to avoid the looming conflict with the Central Powers, specifically by building up defensive alliances in the run-up to the war and then by undertaking frantic last minute diplomatic negotiations to arrest the Conrrad-von Moltke juggernaut. Most obviously Serbia which bent over backward to accommodate Austria’s utterly outrageous demands for reparation and retribution. But also Grey and even Nicky II. All to no avail, as it was in the Second Act, where alliances, defensive fortifications and appeasers were equally useless in arresting the Teutonic juggernaut. (The Romans had the same problem, as the Gladiator said “don’t these people know when they are beaten?”)

    And obviously the public supported the war guilt clauses, together with a Carthaginian peace, never mind revelations of diplomatic intrigues. No doubt un-Christian and un-wise of them. But it just goes to show that it is silly and pointless to contrive some moral gap between leaders and followers when it comes to apportioning blame on our side. Or has the popularity of the “little Digger” been flushed down the memory hole as well?

    .

  22. alfred venison
    April 29th, 2012 at 16:35 | #23

    hi Jack Stocchi
    so there’s life in this old thread yet. i agree with you when you say that the “they’re all equally culpable” theory of the origins of ww1 is untenable, since fritz fisher’s paradigm shattering work in the archives. the “they’re all equally culpable” theory certainly was not taught at sydney uni when i was a grad student in the 90s; it was fischer all the way, and with serious rigour. the origins of the first world war, as we were taught, began with the franco-prussian war & the founding of the reich; with the annexation of alsace lorraine, the prussian franchise, and the bankruptcy of the bavarian state upon unification, the course was well set for ww1 long before the entente cordiale.

    my profs & fellow tutors spoke about the dismay they felt that what was taught in nsw high schools about the “origins of ww1″ did not, despite persistent efforts of professional historians, include anything about fischer’s findings & that students still came to first year modern history at uni with head full of a discredited theory, that had to be untaught before they could learn the fruits of real, modern historiography. you could tell, from the answers they gave to the stock “origins of ww1″ exam question, which students had read their university course material (including fischer) and which hadn’t & who had therefore relied in the exam on what they’d been taught in high school. like them i’m dismayed that fischer’s findings have still not yet penetrated to high schools & the broader community, and that the “they’re all equally culpable” theory is still taught in schools as normative & still forms the basis of historical documentaries & popular discussions. this is a disservice to the country, to the memory of the soldiers, and to the students who are taught as normative a theory that was discredited in the 1960s.

    but i don’t think you’ll get from fritz fischer to ww2 without also taking on board something like paul massing’s “rehearsal for destruction: a study of political anti-semitism in imperial germany” for the complete sonderweg to ww2 road map.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  23. John Quiggin
    April 29th, 2012 at 17:00 | #24

    Jack and AV – exactly how can anything discovered by Fischer in the archives serve to exculpate the Entente powers?

    With ten million dead, the question of whether the shares of guilt were exactly equal or not is utterly irrelevant.

    It’s obvious that the Central Powers started the war with imperialist and expansionist aims. It’s equally obvious that the Allies made no serious attempt to end it, except by a victory achieved through attrition. In fact, they rejected all attempts that were made to start such negotiations. Moreover, the fact that their stated war aims were contradicted by secret treaties meant that any position they took was in bad faith. That’s not to say the Central Powers weren’t even worse, but so what?

  24. John Quiggin
    April 29th, 2012 at 17:03 | #25

    And of course, this had nothing to do with either Australia or Turkey. We ended up on the other side from the Turks through happenstance. If negotiations had gone differently, the ANZACs could just as easily been sent to put down the Arab revolt in support of our glorious Turkish allies, or to fight against the Czar for the freedom of some different oppressed minorities.

  25. Katz
    April 29th, 2012 at 17:10 | #26

    @Jack Strocchi

    I prefer not to be your straw man.

    In your hurry to respond perhaps you missed my reference to Germany’s conniving in the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia. I believe that the Central Powers were mostly culpable for the outbreak of the Great War. I am guardedly favourable to the Fischer thesis.

    My sole reason for my “palaver” comment is that we don’t need the Fischer thesis or any other thesis to observe that the Entente lied about the evolution of their war aims.

    But if you really need a straw man, then so be it. Attentive readers, however, may question the reasons for this need.

    Certainly, by 1919, when it was all done and dusted, the citizens of the victorious powers proved to be vengeful. This makes one wonder about their attitudes in 1915-1917. Perhaps if their governments had told them about all the lovely loot they’d get, they might have fought harder and not mutinied, etc.

    Why, oh why, didn’t these governments tell their citizens about those splendidly rapacious secret treaties. Their soldiers may have fought harder and got the war over before revolution broke out in Russia.

    A lost opportunity for truth-driven ruthlessness, perhaps?

    Wimps.

  26. Jim Rose
    April 29th, 2012 at 17:15 | #27

    for xmas reading, I recommend Margaret Mcmillian’s Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. It was a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

    When German governments were resigning daily after seeing the terms of the treaty, France started to remobilise. Those terms were worse than the German foreign office expected but not whole a lot worse.

    The Greek territorial demands initially included Constantinople as the new Greek capital. That was about the level of self-interest and reasonableness shown by many.

    See http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/27/books/books-of-the-times-guide-to-how-not-to-alter-the-world.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

  27. alfred venison
    April 29th, 2012 at 18:18 | #28

    it is well known that the first generation of anglo-american historians cultivated the “equal responsibility” thesis partly in reaction to the severity of the verseilles treaty & especially its war guilt clause. french historians did not feel similarly constrained. fischer had access in 1961 to material not available to earlier historians & he was meticulous in his use of it. he reviewed material available to earlier historians without their preconceptions of “equal responsibility”.

    nothing fischer discovered in the archives “exculpates the entente” nor was that the aim of his research. i do not dispute that entente war aims changed; i dispute that all powers share equally in the responsibility for the start of the war. i think because ten million died it especially behoves us to sort out responsibility (1) for the start of the war, and (2) for its continuation after stalemate.

    here is how australian historian john a moses (a student of fischer) summarised fischer’s thesis: “that germany in august 1914 not only willingly accepted the risk of a world war emerging from the austro-serbian crisis but that the german government wanted this great war, and therefore prepared it & brought it about.” [moses' emphasis]. other powers sought to prevent the crisis from escalating into war, germany did not and in fact had prepared its self to take the crisis to war.

    from the wikipedia article on the historiography of ww1:- “fischer was the first historian to draw attention to the war council held by the kaiser wilhelm II and the reich’s top military-naval leadership on december 8, 1912 in which it was declared that germany would start a war of aggression in the summer of 1914″. germany was responsible for the crisis of august 1914 turning into a world war, it was not solely responsible for the war continuing after stalemate.

    for his trouble fischer was excoriated by german nationalists, personally threatened and denounced in the federal republic’s parliament. his thesis is now (50 years later) considered well founded by anglo-american historians who have reviewed the documentation he relied on and found it solid as well as the conclusions he drew from it.
    alfred vension

  28. April 29th, 2012 at 19:45 | #29

    Alfred Venison is right to point to the culpability of Germany in starting the First World War.

    However, if we were to accept that the French, British, Russians and Italians behaved less cynically towards Germany than Germany did towards them, then what about their conduct in the rest of the world?:

    Most of Africa was brutally conquered by France, Britain and Belgium, with Germany only able to colonise small amounts of leftover territory, the most sizable being South West Africa (which was given to South Africa at the end of WW1 and which only became independent in 1990 after having had to fight a brutal colonial occupation for decades.

    In 1911 Italy started a war with the Ottomon Empire out of which she was able to colonise Libya (which she also helped NATO to re-colonise Libya last year, a century later). Out of the First World War Britain created Iraq from its conquest of the Ottoman territory in which a client state was set up. Another client state was set up in neighbouring Jordan, whilst France colonised Syria, both also conquered from the Ottoman empire.

    So, the claim that virtue and more principled conduct were to be found in the Allied camp of the First World War seems shaky to me.

  29. John Quiggin
    April 29th, 2012 at 20:39 | #30

    AV – against whom, exactly, do you think you are arguing here?

    “The first generation of anglo-american historians” of the Great War are long dead, and no one here has invoked their shades except you. Neither the original post, nor any commenter has denied that Germany and Austria started the war. So what?

  30. John Quiggin
    April 29th, 2012 at 20:52 | #31

    As regards the view that German militarism was unique, it’s worth noting that Britain and France were on the brink of war in 1898, as were Britain and Russia in 1878. And all three had fought the Crimean War over “the keys to a church in Jerusalem”. The peace-loving Allies were quite prepared to war among themselves, or with anyone else if they saw it as in their national interest

    The eventual line-up, and the fact that the Central Powers were the aggressors in 1914 was, as I said, largely happenstance.

  31. Jim Rose
    April 29th, 2012 at 20:54 | #32

    John, tom schelling wrote about the guns of 1914 noting that various sides mobilised, but had no plans in place on how to stop that military mobilisation if they changed their minds.

    with nuclear weapons around, a lot of work was done at rand in the 1950s on controlled escalations and having the ability to back-down with credibility and mutual assurance.

    wars by blunder and miscalculation are common. getting out of a war is not easy because a peace without credibility may only be a short interlude to rearm and fight again.

  32. April 29th, 2012 at 22:03 | #33

    Jim Rose :
    with nuclear weapons around, a lot of work was done at rand in the 1950s on controlled escalations and having the ability to back-down with credibility and mutual assurance.
    wars by blunder and miscalculation are common. …

    On no less than three occasions, the late President John F Kennedy over-ruled the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s plans to launch a first strike nuclear war against the USSR. Humanity’s debt to JFK is inestimable.

  33. April 30th, 2012 at 00:12 | #34

    OK, Jack you’re back on your hobby horse now. Nothing more from you on this thread please. – JQ

  34. Katz
    April 30th, 2012 at 08:53 | #35

    To return to JQ’s elegant OP:

    From what I’ve seen of the last surviving Diggers they were fully aware of both of these things. At one time, it seemed possible that, as the generation who fought in the war passed on, we would forget the first of them.

    Certainly, the last diggers remaining were unanimous in voicing that opinion. I don’t know whether or not these men always had that opinion, or whether they formed that opinion while scrutinising over their long lives the dire consequences of the disaster of the Great War.

    Two possible conclusions:

    1. Left wing opinions promote longevity.

    2. Historical perspective improves judgment. Perhaps, in their heart of hearts, most diggers rejected the notion that their sacrifice produced a positive outcome but were bullied into compliance by the manufactures of consent.

    The Vietnam generation learned from this history, detecting before it was too late the lies of their governments and refusing to knuckle under to the manufacturers of consent.

    It is possible to learn from history but those who do are seldom admired by the conformists who swallow whole government lies.

  35. alfred venison
    April 30th, 2012 at 18:34 | #36

    respectfully, and my last word on the topic:-

    (1) moses, john a., “the politics of illusion: the fischer controversy in german historiography”, university of queensland press, 1975. (148pp)
    -> university of queensland library (fryer research only):- DD86.7.F54 M59 1975A – status:- available
    -> university of queensland library (ssah):- DD86.7.F54 M59 1975 – status:- due 16-5-12

    (2) moses, john a., “the war aims of imperial germany: professor fritz fischer & his critics”, university of queensland press, 1975. (48pp)
    -> university of queensland library (ssah):- DD86.7.F54 M6 1975 – status:- available

    because the ghosts of post-war anglo-american historiography (“that the Central Powers were the aggressors in 1914 was … largely happenstance”) still walk among us.
    yours respectfully
    alfred venison

Comment pages
1 2 10582
Comments are closed.