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Thread: Was World War One Inevitable?

  1. #31
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    is anyone else of the opinion that keegans book on ww1 uses rather stilted prose?

    to me it sometimes seems like he's stringing together a series of lecture notes.

    just wanted to know if i was the only one to find it strange.

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    Quote Originally Posted by patrat View Post
    is anyone else of the opinion that keegans book on ww1 uses rather stilted prose?

    to me it sometimes seems like he's stringing together a series of lecture notes.

    just wanted to know if i was the only one to find it strange.
    I'm enjoying it myself, but then given it is the only book on WWI I've ever really touched, maybe I don't have a comparison by which to see it as biased.

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    Anthro: I am a lawyer. I believe in "free will" and not determinism. There is no set of events which "must" produce a set result. All of you Evolutionists need to open your minds. t

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthropoid View Post
    I'm enjoying it myself, but then given it is the only book on WWI I've ever really touched, maybe I don't have a comparison by which to see it as biased.

    oh im not knocking the books content. its great.

    its just that the phrasing in it seemed a little awkward to me.

    almost as bad as mine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tagwyn View Post
    Anthro: I am a lawyer. I believe in "free will" and not determinism. There is no set of events which "must" produce a set result. All of you Evolutionists need to open your minds. t

    well i know back when i was married the "set event" of me leaving the bathroom a mess would lead to the "set result" of my wive being ticked off at me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tagwyn View Post
    Anthro: I am a lawyer. I believe in "free will" and not determinism. There is no set of events which "must" produce a set result. All of you Evolutionists need to open your minds. t
    !

    Will do!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthropoid View Post
    Interesting. I had of course heard the idea that WWII was an inevitable consequence of the unfair Versailles Treaty before. That seems to be a widespread and largely uncontested idea?
    There's also a different school of thought that says that the Allies' leniency in enforcing the treaty and Germany's getting away with violating it paved the way to WW2. France was pretty much left alone with trying to enforce the matter, while England stood aside and the U.S. wanted to soften the conditions straight from the start.

    The brutality and inhumanity of war stood in great contrast to what I had heard and read about as a youth.
    - Reinhold Spengler, war volunteer 1st Bavarian Infanterie Regmnt., 1916

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    you have a point.

    after ww2 the allies literally sat on germany.

    if you compare the treatment of germany after ww1 to its treatment after ww2, it would seem to me that its post ww2 treatment was much more harsh than the treaty of versialles. futhermore after ww2 ,germany despite its very harsh treatment, did not seek revenge once more, but instead became one of the most sucessful and respected nations in the world.

    now there were some special circumstances following ww2 that were not in force post ww1. but on the whole you have to wonder what would of been the result if the allies had literally sat on germany after ww1 like they did following ww2.

    would it had made things even worse? or would it have prevented ww2?

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    Patrat: But doing so was your choice my friend. Was it not? Even if you knew what would happen, it did not "necassarily" have to happen, did it? t

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    im sorry i don't follow your meaning. could you elaborate?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syt View Post
    There's also a different school of thought that says that the Allies' leniency in enforcing the treaty and Germany's getting away with violating it paved the way to WW2. France was pretty much left alone with trying to enforce the matter, while England stood aside and the U.S. wanted to soften the conditions straight from the start.
    Of course the western allies could have stopped Nazi Germany in its tracks up to '37. The problem was that Hitler's actions were largely doing what seemed right in correcting past injustice. There was no will to resist the various actions; re-militarization of the Rhineland, unification of the Saar into Germany, unification of Austria with Germany (98% of the population wanted it-we're all for democracy), offer not to build an air force if France and GB disbanded theirs-even the Sudetenland situation put Germany in a good moral position.

    IMO, Hitler did not cross the line until the occupation of Czechoslovakia, but even then, he had a good line (request for help from the Slovakian'). By this time it was too late for France or the UK to met out any swift and easy punishment to Germany-it would be a major war.

    The situation was an odd one. Many could foresee that there would be a war with Nazi Germany, but there would have to be a better reason than just enforcing the Treaty of Versailles. The end result was allowing Hitler time to get ready for a war-sort of a "catch 22".

    There were many that thought war could be avoided if Hitler was allowed to have some success in rehabilitating Germany's position. In hindsight it is easy to say they were fools, but again, it was not carved in stone that there had to be another great war-it was just likely.

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    Well "sat" on them, AND rebuilt them. I think the whole rebuilding and financing part is a big difference b/w post-1919 and post-1945.

    My understanding of Versailles was there were lots of fiscal and territorial punishments, no 'sitting on' per se (military bases, and enforced demilitarization), and little to no financial 'help.'

    Tagwyn: inevitable is too strong a word to be taken literally, but it is efficient for starting a thread. Another way to think of it would be: what was the probability that something like WWI would happen within 5 to 10 years of it actually happening.

    Also, while I can agree with you that individual organisms exhibit behavioral patterns that can be seen to fit with the concept of free will, those same individuals also exhibit patterns (intra- and inter-individual) that suggest probabilistic forces that defy or moderate a concept such as free will. Moreover, when we get to the level of a society and the 'actions' taken by massive social entities like nations (let alone dyads or triads) I think free will is a largely useless concept. Nations may act as 'entities' but they do not even think or feel like individuals, let alone weigh alternative behavioral trajectories.

  13. #43
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    well before the rebuilding and financing came the stripping of large amounts of german industry in all zones, not just the eastern one.

    at first all the allies came down on the germans like a ton of bricks. it wasnt until a few years later when the western allies realized a destitute germany wasnt a very good idea and started rebuilding it with aid like the marshall plan. the russians werent quite so generous, with good reason. not to mention the large territories stripped from germany after the second world war were much worse than what she suffered after ww1. and then theres the forced partition of the country for 45 years.

    i dunno, i think its hard to make a case that the versailles treaty was harsher than the aftermath of ww2.

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    Read a bit more of Keegan last night. He makes an interesting point toward the end of Chapter 3. He basically asserts that: if Austro-Hungary had not been timid, WORLD war one might merely have turned out to be a local and fairly brief conflict b/w Serbia and AH. He argues that, it was the fact that AH sought Germany's backing that effectively turned a local conflict into a global one.

    Now I know some of you are just as skeptical as I am, so I'll acknowledge right now that we can never know, and such alternate histories really make for nothing but interesting 'just so stories' . . . well that, OR interesting Strategy Game Scenarios!

    Some of you guys may know the game "War Plan Orange" which is more or less a mod of the Matrix Game "War in the Pacific." I got really hooked on WPO for quite a while. The learning curve for WiTP is characterized as a cliff (trust me, WWI is just a very steep hill by comparison!) but WPO is an excellent 'trainer' for mastering WiTP, mostly because aircraft are a much less prominent feature.

    In any event, the basic scenario for War Plan Orange is: What if the Washington Naval Treaty had never been signed? Consequently, an alternate Pacific Area history is written by playing the game. Japan and US go to war in about 1926 instead of putting it off until 1945. There are a few slight variations on this basic alternate history that come in the Matrix published edition of the game, and there are also a few good mods for it. Most notably one called "Western Citadel" by a guy that goes by the handle of "Engineer" over at Matrix . . . excellent mod. Incredibly detailed directions, very elegantly thought out alternate history, the basic gist being: a Japanese Admiral who died on Titanic did not die because Titanic did not sink. This sequence of alternate history events led to very different late -teens relations b/w Japan and the Western Powers: Japan built up its navy a lot more (including some designs that were in the planning but never executed) and the U.S. expended large sums of money to turn Guam into a "Western Citadel

    http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=1449113

    Anyway . . . what I'm getting around to is this: brainstorming about alternate early 20th century histories that might lend themselves to interesting mods using the WWI engine.

    I have no idea how moddable this game is, but assuming it is reasonable to work with: it seems to me that one could create effectively a mod that somehow fit in-between WWI and WWII (much the way WPO is intended to work).

    Suppose for example, an alternate history in which Austro-Hungary were not "timid" about their Serb problem. Instead of procrastinating for literally weeks after the assassination of Ferdinand, Kronprinz manages to convince the Emperor to make a quick full-scale mobilization and attack Serbia en masse, without even consulting the Major Powers . . . Not sure about how this part next would be rationalized but . . . lets say that, AH offensive in Serbia is such a crushing success in must a matter of a few days, that concessionary elements within Serbia gain sway and capitulate. The Serbian border zone along the Austrian frontier (including Belgrade) are annexed by Austro-Hungary, and within 10 days, all the shooting is over and some sort of armistice is signed in which Serbia effectively agrees to become a protectorate of AH. Russia had been moving toward general mobilization, but things happen so quickly in the Balkans, that it seems pointless get into a war over an issue that is already a 'fait accompli.'

    In the following weeks, there are purges and "trials" exacted by AH on Serbia, and several hundred suspected 'insurgents' are either executed or imprisoned.

    So that would complete the main hinge point in the alternate history scenario, and from there I could only speculate about what events are 'imagined' to have occurred following the end of the 'First Austro-Servian Conflict of July-August 1914.'

    The other alternate history even that I think would be very interesting to include would be that which is central to WPO: the Washington Naval Treaty is never signed, and instead the battleship arms race continues unabated into 1923, 1924, 1925 . . . WPO could be an excellent building point for an alternate WWI scenario.

    What if WWI had been postponed until the 1926? Or for that matter, what if it had been postponed until 1936!?

    Come on you grogs! Start churning out the creative juices!

  15. #45
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    For what it is worth I know that early German War plans included arrangements for a German Naval Bombardment of New York and a possible landing of German units on Long Island ......all given up when wiser councils prevailed...but I understand that the Kaiser was all in favour at one time? Somewhat bizarre...but an interesting scenario for all you American Johnnies out there in cyberland......of course we Brits had the bombardment of Hartlepool and the hanging of the monkey....so fact is often stranger than fiction!

    TALLY HO!

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    War was on the cards at the begining of the 20th century, but not world war. One should not discount the successes of diplomacy in the previous decades in avoiding conflicts. The repeated colonial clashes in the Scramble for Africa, the Moroccan crises (gunboat diplomacy anyone?), the annexation of Bosnia in 1910, the Balkan Wars and other, minor disputes, were all solved through diplomacy alone. It is worth noting that diplomacy failed through overconfidence in its ability to sort out disputes and most of the time, during previous crises, there was little overt military posturing.

    Truth is that AH was bent on the destruction, humbling or restraining of Serbia. Their diplomats were undecided on what they wanted and were dilatory in containing the damage. One factor that is often overlooked is that Serbia in actual fact had accepted the bulk of AH's demands and only the reports of Russian sabre rattling strengthened Serbian resolve.

    It is also important to keep in mind that both Serbia and AH kept looking over their shoulders to their respective big brothers for backing because they feared of going it alone. In the case of Serbia it was understandable because she was taking on a great power single handedly with a sullen Bulgaria at its back ready to pounce in order to overturn the results of the Second Balkan War. But the dilatoreness of AH is inexplicable except for the advanced state of decomposition of its administrative, military and diplomatic structures, which forced the "nation" to reach decision with frustrating slowness. Imagine if AH had launched its mobilised forces in Bosnia (the Archduke was there to oversee manouvers after all) straight at Belgrade. KO in the first round...

    One last point which is almost farcical but should not be overlooked. The whole thing happened when most of the politicians and diplomats of all countries were actually on holiday. It was impossible to react swiftly enough to the crises especially since at one point, the crises seemed to have blown over (like the others in the past).

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    AH!!? Are they making games again?

  18. #48
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    Regarding the delay of A-H, there were a couple of reasons that have been advanced:

    1. The initial opposition of Tisza, the Hungarian Prime Minister, to any annexation of Serbian territory - his preferred course of action was a diplomatic offensive designed to isolate Serbia from the rest of the Balkans. His concern was (a) that Russian intervention was inevitable & (b) that adding Serbian/Slavic territory to A-H would dilute the strength of Hungary within the Dual Monarchy. He was only won over to a more hardline approach by mid-July.

    2. The fact that the French leadership was in St. Petersburg from July 20th to 23rd. A-H did not want to deliver the ultimatum at a time when the French & Russian leadership could discuss the situation in person. Hence the delay in issuing the ultimatum until July 23rd, right after Poincare & co. left Russia.

  19. #49

    Default WWI inevitability

    First an interesting what-if....

    If, in 1918, say, you could predict a German economic crisis in 15 years, who would you predict would become Chancellor? Adolf Hitler or Walter Rathenau?

    WWII may have been inevitable, but Hitler was certainly not... nor, perhaps, was WWII's particular character....

    As to Versailles, a major was that the treaty expressed a range of contradictory strategies for dealing with Germany, with the result that the signatory powers all had 'outs' allowing them to 'pass the buck' on enforcing it. It probably would have been a far better treaty were it the second Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire) instead.

    As to WWI... I tend to subscribe to the Dumkopf theory of history. Kaiser W was, needless to say, not the greatest diplomat. I think it is plausiblethat his particular gifts, along with his failure to reign in the German war planning engines, ensured that each of three possible wars occurred at the same time, much to Germany's strategic distress.

    Granted, the growing power of Germany (and the fear that provoked in Sparta... er. France, Russia, and Britain) encouraged a degree of recklessness that Prussia avoided through the 19th century... But it is hard to imagine that there were not better opportunities to let slip the Schlieffen plan.... and, for that matter, better opportunities to maintain American disinterest during the course of the conflict.

    George Kennan's book, the Decline of Bismarck's European Order is an excellent brief against inevitability: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articl...sian-relations

    Kennan's caustic description of Bismarck's successors is probably one of the most erudite yet vicious depictions of Gilded Age statesmen I have encountered -- I just have a narrated version of the quote to hand, but you can get the gist.

    "In introducing The Decline of Bismarck’s European Order, Kennan sharply and explicitly condemned the new policy elites of post-Bismarckian Europe with a vitriol belying mere historical interest. He lamented the "disappearance of the last of those men ... over whose personalities and activities there still hovered something of the atmosphere of the respective anciens regimes in which they had been reared." Against these older "eighteenth-century personalities" he contrasts a group of new "Victorians" "less secure in their values, more self-conscious," with a tendency toward political judgments marked "by a love for the intricate, the indirect, the oversubtle, the allusive, and above all for the pretentious, in place of the blunt, sometimes brutal, but usually elegant and impressive facility of their predecessors for getting to the heart of things." By comparison to their aristocratic forebears, these new Victorians were "uncertain, histrionic, overacted -- always with an anxious eye to the spectators." He continues to comment upon their financial embarrassments, their sexual habits and pecaddillos, and their "bulging bodies" and poor health. "They were, for the most part," he concludes, viciously, "overfed, oversexed, and underexercised."
    I suppose if one is to descend into ad hominem, it is to be wished that one could do it with such elegance.... Needless to say, Kennan was a fan of Bismarck, but rather less impressed with the latter generation of 'statesmen'.

    In general, Kennan was one of a number of 'realists' who would tend to question the necessity or inevitability of World War I -- Keegan and Michael Howard are probably part of that camp. Of course "no permanent enemies, no permanent allies, only permanent interests" is a signature realist view that runs entirely counter to the European alliance systems that fused the conflict(s) -- in both meanings of the term.


    Keegan's World War I was widely viewed as a pot-boiler, btw.

  20. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carrington View Post
    Keegan's World War I was widely viewed as a pot-boiler, btw.
    Now that is a shock.

    That one paragraph of his is really something-I'm going to save that-maybe buy that book. Not that I want an answer here, but I wonder what he would have to say about modern politicians?

  21. #51

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    Keegan's Face of Battle is classic, an excellent dissection of the Somme. His History of War was more controversial, though I thought it was very interesting (even if he profoundly misunderstood Clausewitz).

    But clearly he needed some money or a publication credit... and he had some lecture notes typed up on World War I (and World War II). :-)

    I managed to get Kennan's book on Alibris -- you'd have to look for it through used-book channels. I tend to think he had some particular co-workers in mind, though he was politic enough to save ad hominems for the long dead (for the most part).

    Fascinating character... Though clearly -- perhaps irredeemably -- in the Bismarckian camp. (Wisconsin Protestant, learned his Russian in the late 20s at the University of Berlin's Oriental Institute).

    One of the interesting WWI changes in American society was the wholesale renaming of "Bismarck" streets, and "Bismarck" hotels -- Bismarck, ND is one of the few surviving relics of strong American sympathy for German culture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Offworlder View Post
    One last point which is almost farcical but should not be overlooked. The whole thing happened when most of the politicians and diplomats of all countries were actually on holiday. It was impossible to react swiftly enough to the crises especially since at one point, the crises seemed to have blown over (like the others in the past).
    You hit on a good ppint here. Not that they were on holiday, but that the politicians of 1914 were not the statesmen of 1878.

    The Blakan criis of 1878 could very easily have been WW1, but people like Disraeli and Bismark were around - very talented and abled men. The period prior to WW1 seems to feature many men of a much more dubious grade.

  23. #53

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    World War 1 was inevitable for one reason. That reason was that Germany wanted a war. They had been planning actions for a war for at least ten years. The Von Schlieffen plan was the German plan to win the war and if they didn't come one mile from Paris, I might be typing in German right now. The Germans knew they could win a war and that is why they did what they did.




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    Last edited by gillianreynolds; May 30th, 2011 at 13:41.

  24. #54

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    Quote Originally Posted by gillianreynolds View Post
    World War 1 was inevitable for one reason. That reason was that Germany wanted a war. They had been planning actions for a war for at least ten years. The Von Schlieffen plan was the German plan to win the war and if they didn't come one mile from Paris, I might be typing in German right now. The Germans knew they could win a war and that is why they did what they did.
    To be fair, the French wanted a war as well: "vive l'Alsace." You might even say that they had been planning for the war for at least forty years.

    As to Germany, it didn't just want a war. It wanted a war that it could win.

    Which, I guess, leaves the interesting question: if anything, Britain and Russia wanted a war with each other, so how did they end up in a war on the same side.
    Last edited by Carrington; May 17th, 2011 at 16:38.

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    Gillian, forgive me, but it seems fishy that you would register for this forum only to resurrect a thread from 2009 and copy-paste an entry from Answers.com. If you are indeed a human being and not some random bot, I sincerely apologize, but in any case I do not buy that argument for one second. Firstly, as a student of history I am wary of using the word "inevitable" to describe any historical event. The chain of causation leading to the First World War is extremely complex and cannot be reduced to any one reason. No one nation was solely responsible for WW1, although the argument can be made that Germany shares more of the blame than any other belligerent, but I don't buy that either. The fact that Germany was planning for a war proves nothing - everyone had war plans, it is only common sense; you may as well blame planning in general for the war, as indeed some historians have cited rigid mobilization timetables and the emphasis on striking first for the failures of diplomacy. Strategically, Germany was in the very vulnerable position of having to fight on two fronts, and the aim of the Schlieffen Plan was to deliver a knockout blow to France so they could focus their attention on Russia before she had the chance to mobilize her vast reserves of manpower. Finally, if Germany had won, you would still be typing in English. It was not intended to be a war of conquest (at least in the west), although they would almost certainly have demanded territorial concessions, mostly from Russia. But it's not as if von Bethmann-Hollweg turned to Wilhelm II and said, "What shall we do today, Kaiser?" "The same thing we do every day, Chancellor - TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD" "NARF!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Sedgwick View Post
    Gillian, forgive me, but it seems fishy that you would register for this forum only to resurrect a thread from 2009 and copy-paste an entry from Answers.com.

    Ouch. Nice catch on Answers.com, Sedgewick. Annoying.

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    Heh, thanks Carrington. Yea, something about the post set off my bot radar, just didn't add up, so I googled the text in quotations. Plus, a female wargamer? Too good to be true
    "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."Coming Soon: RUS Gold

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    Quote Originally Posted by gillianreynolds View Post
    World War 1 was inevitable for one reason. That reason was that Germany wanted a war. They had been planning actions for a war for at least ten years. The Von Schlieffen plan was the German plan to win the war and if they didn't come one mile from Paris, I might be typing in German right now. The Germans knew they could win a war and that is why they did what they did.
    Contrair my friend France wanted the war. It was thier burning desire to avenge the total french defeat of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 , that they declared on Germany and lost not only the war but also the provinces of Alssace and Loraine. Frances diplomatic gain of twenty years was to Isolate Germany and get Revance!

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    :-).

    No need to argue with robots.

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