The tragedy of Gallipoli

100 years ago today, Australian and New Zealand forces landed at what is now Anzac Cove in the Gallipoli Peninsula, suffering heavy losses as they attempted to storm entrenched Turkish positions. Eight months later, having failed to dislodge the Turks, despite the loss of more than 10 000 killed and 20 000 wounded the Anzacs withdrew, managing to conceal the retreat and evacuate their positions with minimal casualties. This much, along with individual stories of heroism and suffering, is known to just about every Australian.

But there are many important facts that are less well known, and many questions that are rarely asked

Some facts

* The ANZACs were only a small part of the forces on the Allied side. British, Irish and French troops also fought, suffering many more casualties. Overall, the campaign cost at least 100 000 lives, with the Allies and the Turks losing about equal numbers
* The attack (which followed a failed naval assault) coincided with the beginning of the Armenian genocide in which the Ottoman government killed somewhere around 1,000,000 Armenian Christians.
* Although the Gallipoli campaign failed, the war objective of dismembering the Ottoman empire was ultimately achieved in large measure, leading to the creation of Iraq, Syria and most of the other states collectively known today as the Middle East. The overlapping wars in which Australian soldiers are fighting today can be traced to this partition

There is a natural human tendency to look for some good outcome from such horrific carnage. In the case of Gallipoli reflected in Australian and Turkish national foundation myths in which both the Anzacs and their Turkish opponents were fighting for their respective nations’ freedom. But the reality is that there was nothing good about the Great War, and that nothing came from it except the seeds of even more war and genocide.

Finally, why was Australia at war with Turkey and what were the Anzacs doing in Gallipoli?

A crucial cause of the War, and the background for the Sarajevo assassination that formed the pretext on the German/Austrian side was the decline of the Ottoman empire and the attempts by the other European empires to carve it up for their own benefit. When the War broke out, the Turkish government judged that Czarist Russia (allied to Britain and France) was the biggest threat, and therefore sided with the Germans. It was the fear that the Armenian Christians might support Russia (along with the usual role of plain evil) that motivated the genocide.

The Turkish judgement was accurate, or perhaps self-fulfilling. In a secret agreement made in early March 1915 (and published by the Bolsheviks after the Czarist government was overthrown in Russia), the British, French and Russian governments agreed to partition the Ottoman empire among themselves, leaving at most a rump Turkish state in existence. The assault on the Dardanelles was an attempt by the British and French to cut off the European part of Turkey (promised to the Russians) and open up a route to provide military supplies to Russia.

The heroism and suffering of those of all nations who fought and died at Gallipoli should never be forgotten. But the campaign had nothing to do with freedom, on either side. One brutal empire was trying to preserve its existence against rival empires determined to get the greatest possible benefit out of its collapse.

When we say “We Shall Remember Them”, we should remember that our best service to the memory of the Anzacs is to resist calls for war.

83 thoughts on “The tragedy of Gallipoli

  1. @Florence nee Fed up

    I didn’t assume that he was.

    If unions only speak out against sackings of their members but remain silent on sackings of non-union workers in the same position – then that would not only be sad, it would also explain why membership is plummeting. On the other hand, if they won’t even speak out for a member…no, that would also explain their increasing irrelevance to workers’ interests.

  2. Why should any union, or organisation for that matter, defend someone who does not bother to join. Would be amiss, if acted without members permission.

    Unions are not charity organisations. They exist to serve their members.

    What is wrong with that.

  3. Why should any union, or organisation for that matter, defend someone who does not bother to join.

    Well, if that union or organization wanted to become decreasingly relevant to the group of people who might join – then the best way to do that would probably be to do what Australian unions have been doing for about 30 years.

    That is, refuse to defend the people who are in their industry but have not joined the union.

    Even then, it might be an incentive to join the union if the union actually DID stand up for members.

    Over the years I have had experience with “no ticket, no start” unions. I have had experience with unions who didn’t care at all about individual members. I have had experience with unions that chase – and threaten legal action against – “members” who were forced to join the union in order to do a few weeks casual work in a “closed shop” workplace.

    If I assume correctly that you are a fervent unionist, maybe you could take those views on board and wonder whether being firstly representative of people (before shaking them down for money, and then ignoring them) might be a good way to increase both union membership and sympathy for unions.

  4. JQ is right that the British alliance with France and therefore Russia in the years just before 1914 led to Britain joining in a programme to break up the Ottoman empire. But for almost a century berforehand, British foreign policy propped up the Ottomans, in a justified fear of worse replacing them. The Crimean war was just an episode of this policy.

    The Ottoman decision to join the central powers rather than staying neutral was a disastrous, régime-ending mistake. I wonder if Franco had studied it. More likely his neutrality in 1940 resulted from native caution and the experience of fighting Russians.

  5. @Jack Strocchi

    Myths are not a firm foundation for dealing with reality. However, they are a method used by the ruling classes to deceive and exploit the other classes. Clearly, you favour this.

  6. @Megan
    So unions and their members should provide free services for all. What other organisation, outside charities does that. Did the man ask for assistance.

  7. @Megan

    I don’t agree with you that unions (in Australia, today) are useless, and I base that on my personal experience and observations. But I also understand from my own personal experience and observations why people think and say that.

    There is a big difference between ‘unions are fascist operatives’ (which is, let’s remember, what you wrote) and ‘unions are useless’.

    If we asked a lot of people whether unions (in Australia, today) are useless, I expect a lot of people would agree (some of them very strongly) while a lot of people would disagree (again, some of them very strongly), but I think very few or none would describe the suggestion as ‘bizarre’ (the word my acquaintance used).

    But if we asked a lot of people whether unions are fascist operatives, I think a lot of them would describe the suggestion as bizarre, or the equivalent.

    If you tell me that unions are useless, although I disagree, I have a fair idea what sort of evidence you’re basing that conclusion on.

    But if you tell me that unions are fascist operatives, I have enormous difficulty in conceiving what evidence you might suppose justifies that conclusion. It is bizarre.

  8. I think that Jack Strocchi’s comment is a good response to the ideas in the OP. I think there’s some validity to the claim that national foundation “myths” are important to maintaining a national community, though the idea that Australia’s wealth is due to our national coherence and not our favoured colonial position is a bit rich. I don’t see Jack’s opinion as necessarily opposed to the ideas in the OP. To me, the problem with the Anzac “tradition” is not its existence, or the importance of its role in establishing “modern” Australian national ideas, but its relevance 100 years after the fact, and the cost of maintaining an uncritical view of it.

    Since Gallipoli we have been through two conflicts with equal significance to our national ideas: WW2 which led us to recognize the value (and threat) of our Asian neighbours, and the weakness of our colonial masters; and Vietnam, which showed us the risks of casting our lot too closely with our new friend, the USA. The difference between our response as a nation to Vietnam vs. Gallipoli is that the former is much more self-critical. After Gallipoli we questioned our role in the Empire and reinforced our national foundations. After Vietnam we more clearly understood the limits of our own political class, and the value of war at all. It’s no surprise that politicians prefer us to continue to base our national self-image on a 100 year-old war with comfortable implications for the national body politic. Venerating Anzacs who fell in Vietnam or Iraq leads us to question our own political masters, some still living, rather than long-dead imperial generals who cannot argue back.

    Contra Jack, I would say that national solidarity is strongest when it is continually renewed and re-examined. The only people who benefit from uncritical acceptance of 100 year old colonial wars are a narrow class of political leaders who don’t like too much intelligent criticism brought to bear on the failings and corruption of their own class.

  9. Pr Q said:

    But there are many important facts that are less well known,..A crucial cause of the War, and the background for the Sarajevo assassination that formed the pretext on the German/Austrian side was the decline of the Ottoman empire and the attempts by the other European empires to carve it up for their own benefit

    The “facts” cited here do not speak for themselves. Pr Q’s interpretation is a species of “plague on both houses” ideological ventriloquism.

    No doubt the history of the Alllies Secret Treaties is pretty sordid, and were a morally worse option than the “Peace without Annexations or Reparations” plan pushed during the second half of the War. But nothing the Allies did to stay in the Great War begins to compare in moral culpability with the actions the Central Powers took in starting the Great War.

    No competent scholar buys the argument of moral equivalence between the Allies and the Central Powers. It is a matter of historical fact that each of the Central Powers launched an unprovoked war of aggression against its opposite number Allied Power: Austria attacked Serbia, Germany attacked Belgium/France, Turkey attacked Russia and, to top it off, Germany declared un-restricted submarine warfare against America! Each Central Power government was led by a militaristic faction (the “Berlin War Party”, the “Vienna War Party”, the Young Turks). And each Central Power had specific plans for conquest, not just vague intentions to extend “spheres of influence”.

    The “crucial cause of the War” was the drive of the Teutonic powers (Austria and Germany) to contain and control the resource-rich Slavic nations in their region. The major strategic concern of the Teutonic powers at the time was the growth in power of the “Russian Steamroller” and its broad association with pan-Slavic nationalism, the Bosnian Serbs being a particularly pernicious example.

    This had only tangential relation to “the decline of the Ottoman empire”. The rise of Balkan nationalism threatened both the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires. Basically the Hapsburgs wanted to stop the Bosnian Serbias doing to the Austro-Hungarian empire what the Balkan League had done to the Ottoman empire.

    Its true that the Gallipoli campaign did encompass “attempts by the other European empires to carve [the Ottoman empire] up for their own benefit”. Russia had always lusted after Constantinople, a warm water port in the Meditteranean. But Pr Q neglects to mention that the Romanovs also tried to keep the Ottoman empire out of the War, and the Hohenzollern empire too, xome to think of it (In the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution, Russia desperately wanted to avoid war).

    The Constantinople plan would have lain dormant had not the Young Turks acted first to attack Russia in the Black Sea and Caucasias region. So the Turks had only themselves to blame when the Allies went after them.

    The Gallipoli campaign was a Middle Eastern side-show, of the sort much beloved by the British, performed to keep Russia in the War. At the time, the Royal Navy was the British government’s main hammer, so only expeditionary conflicts looked like hittable nails.

    The Fischer Thesis – Teutonic culpability in the Great War Phase 1 (1914-19) – showed that by 1912 the German General Staff had a specific plan to launch a two-front pre-emptive war, “sooner, the better” (Moltke). This was a pre-emptive strike designed to destroy the French army, topple the Romanov empire and annex Slavic lands for German Lebensraum:

    In 1973, the British historian John Röhl noted that in view of what Fischer had uncovered, especially the War Council meeting of December 8, 1912 that the idea that Germany bore the main responsibility for the war was no longer denied by the vast majority of historians…In a major 2011 conference entitled “the Fischer Controversy 50 Years On”, a group of historians and academics debated the legacy of Fischer’s work. The conclusion was that “…a consensus emerged that Fischer had got it right in attributing ‘a significant part of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of a general war’ to Germany and that Fischer’s thesis of the continuity of German war aims still stands fifty years later”. Yet by August, 2014, many new books had appeared which by their divergent views collectively continue the controversy.

    Some of his work is based on Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg’s Septemberprogramm which laid out Germany’s war aims. Controversially, Fischer asserted a version of the Sonderweg thesis that drew a connection between aggression in 1914 and 1939…Fischer’s discovery of Imperial German government documents prepared after the war began calling for the ethnic cleansing of Russian Poland and German colonization to provide Germany with Lebensraum (living space) as a war aim, has also led to the widespread acceptance by historians of continuity between the foreign policies of Germany in 1914 and 1939.

    The dot-connecting proof of the Fischer Thesis is that the entire blood-bath was re-played in the Great War Phase 2 (1939-45). The latter phase of the conflict followed more or less the same strategic logic, a two-front war spiced up with attacks on the Axis “soft-underbelly” (with North Africa and Italy standing in for Turkey and Mesopotamia). Every school boy knows that Hitler was responsible for Great War Phase 2. But the Left wants to let the Kaiser partially off the hook for the Great War Phase 1. Mainly, it seems, in order to breathe new life into the comatose body of the Hobson-Lenin-Trotsky theory of imperialism. Oh what a lovely History War!

  10. @Jack Strocchi

    “But the Left wants to let the Kaiser partially off the hook for the Great War Phase 1. Mainly, it seems, in order to breathe new life into the comatose body of the Hobson-Lenin-Trotsky theory of imperialism. Oh what a lovely History War!”

    Since your narrative describes German imperialism, I’m not sure how it could debunk theories of imperialism. The European powers had been fighting for domination of Europe and imperial domination of the world since 1337 (the commencement of the Hundred Year’s War). With the fading of Spanish and Portuguese power, the stuggle for the control of mainland Europe devolved to France, the German principalities, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Britain pitched in at times but had its overseas empire and its navy. Every great European war before and after WW0 (the Napoleonic Wars) can be seen as part of this overall arc of war.

    In this full picture, blaming only select peoples for a select phase (like the German peoples) smacks of racism. This is especially so when they have to called “Tuetons” or “Slavs” to suggest a racial or cultural difference. The entire European culture in this period was one of a rise in imperialism. Everyone was fighting to be head of that table. All were equally culpable in the long view of history.

  11. there is no such thing as “the long view of history” and the great powers of 1914 were definitely not all equally culpable. i actually have read fritz fischer’s “germany’s aims in the first world war”. fischer makes a strong case supported by reference to archival documentary evidence that in july 1914 highly placed office holders in the german government ran a secret parallel crisis diplomacy the intention of which was to frustrate the efforts of other powers (including austria-hungary) to resolve the july crisis peacefully. the crisis of july 1914 became ww1 where other crises of the early 20th century did not, because in 1914 german leadership wanted it to.

  12. whatever else Jack Strocchi says in extrapolation is his own icing – the basic cake recipe provided by fritz fischer is sound. -a.v.

  13. on a personal point i am pleased to note that at the “fritz fischer after 50 years” conference (open univresity) jack alluded to, the participants pointed out that work on the development of national war aims similar to fischer’s badly needs to be done in french and english national archives. the issue of the origins of ww1 is complex, but it is clear among professional historians that the view they all stumbled into it or it was the railway timetables is simply not tenable, or is at best contentious, after fischer . -a.v.

  14. @Ikonoclast

    Did I mislead you as well as Megan into thinking that I am a member of the MEAA? See my exchange with her above.

    Although I am not a member of the MEAA, I think it’s only fair to point out some of the consequences that could follow if the MEAA called a strike in response to the sacking of Scott McIntyre. I can’t prove that these things would certainly happen, but they’re all so extremely likely that I would consider it foolish to disregard them.

    1. There would be legal action both against the MEAA and against individual striking members; this legal action would result in severe penalties.

    2. There would be serious obstruction of the MEAA’s efforts to obtain improved results for its members in its other current enterprise bargaining and dispute resolution activities.

    3. The MEAA would be seriously weakened by a significant number of members resigning because they regard the strike as an over-reaction.

  15. Shorter Jack Strocchi: War is good for nationalism and nationalism is good for war. A win all round!

  16. As regards the outbreak of the Great War, there’s just as good a case that Russia was responsible

    But the whole game of “who was to blame” is silly. There was, in each of the leading imperialist countries, a strong pro-war lobby. The events of 1914 played out in such a way that the German and Russian warmongers both saw the situation as propitious for such a war. If war had broken out at a different time (say, the Agadir crisis of 1912), a different set of warmongers would have borne the immediate responsibility, but the underlying causes (imperialism and pro-war sentiments like those expressed by Jack Strocchi) would have been the same.

  17. Agree with JQ @66.

    Fritz Fischer and the Sonderweg School of German history were/are acting with the best of motives in seeking to shine the harsh light of historical judgment on their own country’s chauvinists and militarists, but as Christopher Clark points out in The Sleepwalkers, chauvinists and militarists could be found in powerful positions in all the European and Eurasian Great Powers in 1914, and all made a non-trivial (even if not exactly equal) contribution to the catastrophe. History needs to judge all of them, and more importantly analyse the complex of factors that led to the catastrophe with a view to enabling us to avoid repeating it.

  18. where to begin. first imperialim is an underlying cause or condition it is not a proximate cause. see r.g. collingwood for a famous explanation of the difference. imperialism did not cause the july crisis to escalate into ww1. no more than it caused ww1 to be averted during earlier crises. something else was at work something other than underlying conditions.

    historians don’t play games, amateurs play games. if a professional historian’s inquiries lead him or her to the conclusion of national responsibility then so be it. that’s called following the evidence and reporting truthfully, to call that a “blame game” is to fundamentally misunderstand the discipline of history. or is henry reynolds playing a “blame game” with what he finds in archives and reports truthfully on?

    you should have a closer look at purdue’s the review of mckeekin’s book. even within the confines of this slight review, purdue, a professional historian, points out that mckeekin “does not entirely exonerate germany for its role as the unfolding crisis moved”, i.e. his book does not displace fischer.

    on the other side of the atlantic, richard j. evans, also a professional historian (cambridge) reviews mcmeekin in the new republic. this is a more substantial review, running to several pages, which includes, inter alia, a fair summary of the significance of fischer’s thesis in the context of the history of ww1 histories. evans is much more critical of mcmeekin than purdue. he is critical on three counts: (1) mckeekin does not demonstrate in his book that russia is responsible for starting the war, i.e. he does not prove his thesis, (2) mckeekin in his book does not absolve berlin of the brunt of responsibility, his book does not displace fischer, (3) mckeekin is very wrong about the armenian massacres, perhaps, evans opines, because he teaches at a turkish university. this is apropos to what i mean by following the evidence & reporting truthfully about national responsibility, if that’s where the evidence leads, versus some notion of “playing a blame game”.

    so mckeekin does not displace fischer. neither does the book i’m reading now: richard clark – “the sleepwalkers: how europe went to war in 1914”, allen lane, 2012 – another current favorite of publishers & reviewers from this decade’s crop of “structuralist” interpretations of the origins of ww1. (the history of ww1 histories – especially histories of the origins – is a very interesting ww1 subject in its own right). reviews have been mixed – some (like thomas laqueur at london review of books & the reviewer at the guardian) favourably cite clark’s claim to be avoiding the “blame game”. others are critical that he (again) does not demonstrate his thesis in his book and that while he asserts fischer is wrong he does not come anywhere near even beginning to demonstrate this.

    the value of fischer’s findings on the july 1914 crisis have not been displaced by recent scholarship and do not depend on the sonderweg theory being right. they are solidly grounded in old fashioned copiously footnoted archival research among primary documentary evidence. the sonderweg theory has many problems & many cogent critics who i respect and many of its problems are problems in cultural history generally, which i won’t go into here.

    the on-line outline of the conference “the fischer controversy fifty years on” (open university, proceedings published by sage) alluded to by strocchi, j. is worth a look for anyone who is really interested in what professional historians of the “intentionalist” persuasion are saying amongst themselves right now about the origins of ww1. you can searchengine it using the conference name. conversely, for the “structuralist” minded, richard clark was interviewed by dragan stalhjanin on radio free europe last sunday april 26, 2015. anyone interested in reading the transcript to make up their own minds can searchengine it using those names.

    whether you hold to what may be called the “structuralist” view like christopher clark or sean mckeekin or j.q. or whether you hold to a more “intentionalist” view a la fritz fischer, you should know before you wield cheap polemics like “blame game”, more suited to right-wingers, that key questions around the origins of ww1 are far from settled among professional historians who specialise in the subject today and address their evidence based findings to peers at conventions. -a.v.

  19. alfred venison, thanks for your efforts and references, and the link.

  20. @alfred venison The article you link is a striking case of “burying the lede”. The central point is the final para

    More generally, the whole spirit of the age, which affected the actions and the attitudes of the statesmen in whose hands the fate of Europe lay in 1914, was imbued with what a century later appears as an irresponsible, almost frivolous attitude to war, egarding it as a sort of duel on a gigantic scale, fought for honor and glory; or an inevitable outcome of the Darwinian struggle for survival and supremacy between Anglo-Saxons, Germans, Latins, and Slavs

  21. Alfred, there is an argument that Fischer over-estimated the status of Bethmann-Holweg’s September Program, and also that there is a lack of strong evidence that it represented actual German aims before the July Crisis and the outbreak of war. What is your view on this?

  22. @John Quiggin

    I’ve seen English writing from the time that reflects the attitude that war is a sort of duel on a gigantic scale fought for honour and glory (or something along those lines); I’ve sometimes wondered how strong that attitude was in Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, and/or Russia.

  23. @J-D
    The Germans were certainly noted for being fans of duelling. A duelling scar was considered to be a fashionable accessory for young aristocratic men in Germany from the 19th though to the early 20th centuries, and fencing remains a traditional sport at elite German universities even today.

  24. @Tim Macknay

    Yes, I know about that, but that isn’t quite what I meant — sorry, I expressed myself poorly. The point I was getting as is that I know there was a widespread (although far from universal) romanticisation of the war in the UK, at least at the beginning — that has nothing to do with duelling, which had fallen into desuetude there long before it did in Germany. Now that I think of it, there’s reference to the same kind of early romanticisation (without reference to duelling) in at least one German novel, All Quiet On The Western Front.

    The kind of romanticisation I mean is also reflected in a scene in the film of Testament Of Youth, which I’ve just seen, in which one of the characters refers to the war as an ‘opportunity’ of a kind that not every generation gets, the word being used clearly in a highly positive sense.

    But just because there was British and German romanticisation of the war doesn’t mean there must also have been the same thing on the same scale in Austria-Hungary, France, or Russia, and I feel there’s reason to doubt it.

    But just because British and Germans (at least at the beginning) romanticised the war

  25. @J-D
    Ah. Well, unfortunately I have no more idea than you do about whether the romanticisation of war was as popular in the continental European powers as it apparently was in Great Britain in the years before WWI. It is certainly an interesting question.

  26. There is a column on this issue by Gerard Henderson in today’s Weekend Unlinkable, but I have done my comradely duty by reading it and can thus assure you all that you undoubtedly already know what’s in it and don’t need to put yourselves through the ordeal.

  27. @alfred venison

    That’s a useful article, and could have been extended with reference to the conscription referendums in Australia. Still, the war was sustained for four bloody years, with no real attempt to negotiate a peace, no statement of war aims on either side, and no successful popular resistance except in Russia – the breakdown of discipline on the German side happened only when the war had already been lost on the battlefield.

    It’s hard to believe that this would be possible today. But we are already inured to indefinite small wars on the 19th century model. If the cult of the military continues to grow, perhaps popular support another Great War could be sustained.

  28. i wasn’t seeking to bury anything. i was responding to the assertion “there’s just as good a case that Russia was responsible” and that that case is found in mcmeekin’s book. to this end i cited mcmeekin’s peer evans who says mcmeekin does not demonstrate that claim in his book, my point (1). it is fair to say therefore mcmeekin has not displaced fischer, my point (2). i made a further point (3) from what evans said about the unsatisfactory nature of mcmeekin’s account of the armenian massacres because i thought readers might be interested, not to obfuscate. on reflection i would make that point today without the index.

    what is at issue generally is the relative weight one gives to structure & agency in historical explanations.

    with regard specifically to the weighting of agency and structure in the question of the origins of ww1, i cannot improve on historian david stephenson from the lse who is cited by gary d. sheffield at the conclusion of his survey of books (recent & not so recent) on the origins of ww1:

    “The European peace might have been a house of cards, but someone still had to topple it.” War was not inevitable; it occurred because key individuals in Austria-Hungary and Germany took conscious decisions to achieve diplomatic objectives, even at the cost of war with Russia and France. The actions of the Great Powers in limiting the damage during the previous Balkan crises strongly suggests that, had the Austrians and Germans wished, the crisis of summer 1914 could have been resolved by the international community. Serbia could have been isolated and punished but left its independence. On this occasion, however, Austria-Hungary and Germany wanted war with Serbia and accepted the risk of escalation. The War Guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty got it right: The outbreak of World War I was caused by “the aggression of Germany and her allies.” [ http: // ]

    the question of responsibility (national or collective) was put recently by the bbc to ten practicing historians (including richard clark). it shows an interesting range of views. [ http: //www ]

  29. glad you liked it, John Quiggin, i did too. its for an english newspaper audience in the first instance and short at that, but i liked thatwithin those limitations she didn’t focus mainly on the record of the literate & articulate. i also liked the way she pointed out how the photographs taken in germany show crowds gathered in city squares, etc. but not in country towns or villages, and how they showed no persons in worker’s clothes among the crowds. in showing critical thinking at work like this and in providing a modest corrective to a prevalent myth she did good service in a small space.
    that’s annika mombauer, she’s at work on a larger canvass as section editor of “1914-1918-online – international encyclopedia of the first world war”. this is a very impressive project – i’ve bookmarked it & i urge every genuinely curious denizen of threads like this one to consider it for themselves, too; it is open source & fully exportable in a number of formats, peer reviewed, self-contained articles of academic standard, provided with a breathtaking net of semantic links, and truly international in ethos & product. the “about” section & “faq” give full background, modus operandi, scope & aim of the project. and because you mentioned a topic dear to my heart, i’ll link you into it at their article on the australian conscription referendums:-

  30. Pr Q April @ #65 said:

    Shorter Jack Strocchi: War is good for nationalism and nationalism is good for war. A win all round!

    I’m not going to get into a snarking contest with a person who can always have the last say by way of comment deletion. So I’ll confine my self to refutation, chapter and verse, of his key points whilst setting the record straight.

    I have never said the Great War was “good” thing, either absolutely or on balance. Or even justifiable, at least past the time the stalemate had set in by late 1914. Quite the opposite, I’ve repeatedly said that the Great War was the greatest disaster to ever befall Western Civilisation. And that the traditional Establishment –  spur-jingling, sabre-rattling, jackboot-crashing Prussians I’m particularly looking at you – was to blame for letting their patriotic instincts get the better of them. Although the general populace were as enthusiastic, if not more so, as their leaders. As I pointed out nearly ten years ago:

    The Great War was certainly the central disaster that befell our civilization in modern times and toppled the Proud Tower that was European power. Dr Knopfelmacher pointed out that the WWI bloodbath was promoted by reactionary“God, King and Country” types. The irony was that it lead to the down fall of five Imperial Monarchies (Romanov, Ottoman, Hohenzollern, Hapsburg and Savoy). It was an act of civlizational suicide which was undertaken by the leaders of civilization. Proving that conservative tories can match “constructive” liberals in their tolerance of the civlizational Death Wish.

    FWIW, there are plenty more of my comments in the same vein published on Pr Q’s annual ANZAC day threads. So his characterisation of me as somehow pro-war does not even rise to the level of wrong.

    Needless to say in the comment upthread I did not express outright pro-war sentiments about the Gallipoli campaign. I said that the campaign generated in me a feeling of “ambivalence”. FTR, here is what I actually said:

    The Gallipoli glass is both half-empty and half-full. The campaign, although a disasterous military venture and the scene of appalling bloodshed, demonstrably strengthened national unity in both Turkey and Australia. So it was both a tragedy and a triumph, an ambivalent sensibility familiar to artists but perhaps a little too subtle for others.

    The same feeling is implicitly expressed in the OP which acknowledges the “heroism” of the expedition. I do not deduce from this that Pr Q is a closet militarist. It would be nice if he would extend the same courtesy to me.

    I did not argue that “nationalism is good for war”. My point about nationalism stressed the civic benefits of national unity (“Durkheimian communitarian solidarity”) in reducing social pathologies (crime, suicide) and accumulating social capital (“cheap infrastructure”). Undoubtedly nationalism is a philosophy of exclusion, which carries with it the risk of conflict and war. But globalism is a bridge too far at this stage of the game. And tribalism just multiplies points of friction.

    Nor did I argue that “war is good for nationalism” I merely pointed out that “some” wars can generate progressive social solidarity. The national sentiment generated by the Dardanelles campaign is still celebrated by AUS & TKY, and surely has had some thing to with their subsequent societal success. It’s impossible to imagine the UK Beveridge welfare state or the U.S. GI Bill without the social solidaritygenerated by the War. Thats why the post WW2 cohort was dubbed “the greatest generation”.

    But most wars cause more conflict than they cure. And there are other ways of generating social capital besides mlitary conflict, such as religion and team sport. So best stay out of them, if possible.

    All this is pretty much a truism, and not doubted by competent social scientists. Which makes it puzzling why Pr Q, who is competent in economics alright, took exception to such innocuous remarks. I suppose even pacifists succumb to the urge to pick fights now and again.

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