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Sleepwalk to Suicide

Perhaps no war has been treated more tendentiously—and in recent decades more inappropriately—than World War I. Since the 1960s, a fixed view of that conflict has developed in academic and journalistic circles that places the blame almost entirely on one side. The German government, led by an evil, authoritarian emperor and his bellicose general staff, unleashed a struggle that cost more than 30 million lives and wrought untold destruction on the European continent.

According to the scholar Fritz Fischer—who became the German Left’s darling, despite his background as a loyal Nazi—the war was planned and initiated by a Germany bent on world domination. What other belligerents did to get the ball rolling in 1914, Fischer suggests in his 1961 book Germany’s Bid for World Power, was inconsequential. The rest of Europe was pulled into a struggle that Germany had planned for decades, a conflagration its antidemocratic ruling class and ultranationalist public happily initiated.

Defenses of the Fischer thesis and other versions of the outbreak of the Great War stressing exclusive German or Austro-German responsibility have been driven by moral and ideological considerations. Unfortunately, there are facts that historians until recently tried studiously to avoid. As critics of Fischer’s position were already showing in the early ’60s, his singling out of his own country, already burdened with Nazi crimes, for starting an earlier Euro- pean war was based on questionable investigative methods.

Fischer and his followers ignored what other European countries did to provoke the Great War, unfairly blackened the reputation of German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg—who tried earnestly to iron out differences between England and his country for at least three years before the war started—and misquoted key German actors in the conflict, such as the Kaiser and the chief of the German general staff.

In recent decades those who write non-prescribed histories dealing with the outbreak of the First World War typically ignore Fischer and like-minded interpreters. Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War, Konrad Canis in his massive three-volume German work on the failures of German diplomacy leading to the “abyss” in 1914, Christopher Clark in The Sleepwalkers, and Sean McMeekin in The Russian Origins of World War One have all produced estimable studies about the Great War that are clearly incompatible with Fischer’s stress on exclusive German guilt.

All the Great Powers behaved rashly, and to their credit the most scrupulous historians do not spare any of the actors on the Allied side. The avoidable disaster of 1914 teaches us, according to Christopher Clark, how the Great Powers “sleep-walked” their way into a war from which European civilization never recovered. Russia in its drive to dismantle Turkey and control the Dardanelles; Britain in its efforts to reduce a rival’s power even at the risk of encircling the German Empire with hostile alliances; Serbia in its attempts to split apart the Habsburg Empire; and France in its desperate desire to punish the Germans for defeat in the Franco-Prussian War all helped stir the pot.

Canis has shown in staggering detail how German foreign policy after the fall of Bismarck floundered for decades. The German Naval Program designed to achieve a 3:5 ratio in relation to the British navy, which was then the world’s largest, was an irritant to British political leaders. It allowed firebrands like Winston Churchill—who became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911—to exaggerate German hatred for England, which in fact was never particularly great, as Canis documents by looking at the German press.

The German government naively thought it could create a large enough navy to force the British to make an alliance with its fellow Northern European power. The royal families of the two countries were closely related, and the Kaiser believed his British cousins would never go to war with him—indeed, they would seek his friendship— if they couldn’t blockade his coastline.

The Kaiser was wrong. Although Bethmann-Hollweg managed to halt the German naval buildup by 1912, the British government still plowed on and plunged their country into further entangling alliances with Russia against the Germans. The British managed to bottle up the Germans even before the war began and then imposed what was probably an illegal starvation blockade until 1919.

Niall Ferguson argues convincingly that if Britain and the U.S. never entered the war—and even if the Central Powers prevailed after a long, bloody conflict—Britain would have remained Europe’s premier power, blessed with an enormous navy, an extensive empire, and an economic lead over other European countries. No matter the outcome of the war, the U.S. would eventually have become the greatest world power on the basis of its industrial and agricultural wealth.

As it was, American intervention on the Allied (read British) side was always a matter of time. The U.S. government, as historians Thomas Fleming and Walter Karp have demonstrated, was never really neutral. Any crisis that put the Central Powers in a bad light was played up by America’s fervently Anglophile political class. The sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915 was not a belligerent act directed against the U.S.: the ship was loaded with arms and other contrabands that were earmarked for the British. The German government had warned Americans and other neutrals not to board the ship because it was a fair war target—as indeed it was.

Already in 1914 the American ambassador to London and a close friend of President Wilson, Walter Hines Page, had announced to British leaders that he would do all he could to bring the U.S. into the war on England’s side as soon as an appropriate pretext could be arranged. No similar assurance was given by Page’s counterpart in Berlin in talking with German leaders.

But Woodrow Wilson and his party were not the major backers of getting the U.S. involved in the bloodbath. Wilson delayed in the face of Republican hysteria about not moving fast enough to stand with England for “democracy.” Today’s neoconservatives are not the first to talk up the “Anglosphere.” One-time Republican celebrities like Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root, and Henry Cabot Lodge were demanding in 1914 that we get into a European war we would have done well to stay out of. The GOP’s horrid habits go back a very long way.

President George W. Bush exceeded in his calls for America to liberate the rest of the world any expression of chauvinism from a major European leader on the eve of World War I. But tactless behavior has not produced the consequences for us that it did for the “sleep-walking” subjects of Christopher Clark’s history. We are lucky about where our country is located and how much wealthier and stronger we are relative to other states. What did Bismarck say about God looking after fools, drunkards and the United States of America?

Paul Gottfried is the author of Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "Sleepwalk to Suicide"

#1 Comment By Scott Lahti On January 21, 2014 @ 2:46 am

Those interested in the hubris prevailing not only within the pre-war diplomatic ministries but also within the green quadrangles of Oxford, Cambridge and London, see Hans Koning, [1], in The New Yorker for March 2, 1981 ( [2]), still primus inter pares, almost a third of a century on, among my Desert Island Discs recorded in the four-color studios:

“As a world view, it was the high point of the Enlightenment, and it came at the end: what the Spanish so beautifully call el siglo de las luces, the age of the lights, which had dawned with the Encyclopédie, was doomed to end when the lamps went out all over Europe in the fatal summer of 1914. (As a world view, it had also been–in words not thought of in its time–white-élitist enough to mitigate our regret at its passing.) Much, if not all, of that almost official, almost religious optimism, confidence, and rationality which had illuminated two centuries became a casualty in the slaughter at Ypres, the Somme, Verdun, and the Argonne. There the certitudes of six generations and the very idea of mankind’s perfectibility must have appeared but illusion or blindness, and the vistas of mankind’s future but mere painted backdrops hiding a chaos of misery and cruelty.”

#2 Comment By John Morrison On January 21, 2014 @ 6:46 am

Lets not forget the J.P.Morgan loan to the triple entente that looked bad as Ludendorf came through Belgium like a hot knofe through butter.We were not neutralDuPont <Remington, Winchester,Colt were selling arms to the ENTENTE.tHEY ALL IGNORED Benedict XV.

#3 Comment By libertarian jerry On January 21, 2014 @ 10:38 am

America in entering World War One in 1917 was one of the biggest blunders in modern history. If America had stayed out of the War there probably would have been a negotiated peace between the belligerents which could have ended the slaughter on an equitable basis to all parties involved. With that in mind,millions of lives would have been saved,there probably would have been no Russian Revolution,thus avoiding the Cold War,Stalin and the murder of millions,there would have been no Hitler taking over Germany and therefore no Holocaust plus World War 2 could probably have been avoided saving perhaps 75 million lives. Thus Woodrow Wilson’s decision to enter the War,goaded on by his Anglophile advisers,was a major turning point in history. A turning point that has had mostly negative effects on the past Century of World history. This,and for other reasons,is why the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson has to be one of the worst failures in American History.

#4 Comment By peterc On January 21, 2014 @ 12:04 pm

It is about time to fully reconsider what and who contributed to starting WWI.
Mr. Gottfried’s comment about
“President George W. Bush exceeded in his calls for America to liberate the rest of the world any expression of chauvinism from a major European leader on the eve of World War I” is so true.
The effects of chauvinism can never be predicted.
It is woth mentioning that – in the long term – most of the “winners” from WWI also lost. Britain lost all its empire, Serbia’s Yugoslavia is gone, Russia did not get the Dardanelles.
Was “getting back” Alsace et Lorraine worth 1.7 million dead for France?
The outcome of WWI’s chauvinism was the rise of hiper-chauvinistic fascism and nazism – and its opposie – internationalist communism.
Let’s hope that politicians will some day learn how dangerous is playing with chauvinism.

#5 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On January 21, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

This is an excellent corrective to the usual biased view of the origins of WWI. The image of imperial Germany as a brutal alien threat was a powerful meme in British writing before the war began and spawned a whole legend that continues to this day.

BTW, the photo accompanying the caption is the earliest depiction of the use of rifle-grenades I’ve ever seen.

#6 Comment By collin On January 21, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

As a college educated 90s student with basic WW1 reading, I always understood it was all the colonial obessessed European nations that felt they needed to take sides in WW1. England certainly could have avoided WW1 but it was in their culture that an expansive Germany empire would create greater risk to their empire. (They were constantly fighting battles in India & South Africa) Frankly, I always saw WW1 the beginning of the end of monoarchs and colonial Europe.

In terms the US being drawn into the war, it is fair to say there two acts of war by Germany (Lusitania & Zimmerman telegram) to have the US declare war. By 1917 Germany had decided all ships open to warfare (even non-weapon ships) and had even tried to get Mexico as Allie against the US. It was reasonable (you can disagree if it was right)in 1917 for Wilson to ask Congress to declare war on Germany.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 21, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

“What did Bismarck say about God looking after fools, drunkards and the United States of America?”

Yes, but alcoholics can die from the consequences of their habit as it takes complete hold.

Our country is addicted to the war economy.

#8 Comment By Hetzer On January 21, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

>In terms the US being drawn into the war, it is fair to say there two acts of war by Germany (Lusitania & Zimmerman telegram) to have the US declare war.

With the former, the US could equally blame the British for putting weapons onboard their passenger ships. For the latter, the telegram says the Germans want the US to stay out of the war, and only sought Mexican support in the case of American involvement. It was a silly idea, but not an act of war (though British intelligence snooping on American telegram networks is pretty rude).

Unrestricted submarine warfare was a real, good reason (beyond yellow-journalism-fanned public sentiment) for the war. Germany dun goofed (another bad call in a long series of them).

#9 Comment By Purpleflash On January 22, 2014 @ 4:30 am

To Libertarian Jerry: Your statement, “If America had stayed out of the War there probably would have been a negotiated peace between the belligerents which could have ended the slaughter on an equitable basis to all parties involved.” has no basis in any kind of evidence or fact.

In 1917 when the US entered the war, there was no sign, tendency or any other evidence that the belligerents of the War were moving toward any kind of settlement or negotiated peace. Only that Germany and thus both sides would keep fighting. So your long diatribe of Libertarian alternative historical doctrine is an idea that also cannot be certain or established. But since dogma is more important than facts, evidence or logic, you must make your conclusions and draw your faulty picture.

#10 Comment By seydlitz89 On January 22, 2014 @ 6:56 am

Unrestricted submarine warfare was not a good reason for the war, since Wilson’s demands were to unilaterally restrict Germany in its submarine actions while the British were able to promote their blockade of Germany to the fullest. This is hardly the actions of a neutral power. At one point Wilson was arguing that Americans had “a right” to sail on British ships carrying munitions and Germany was barbarously wrong to do anything about it. It was Britain and Wilson who were not abiding by the Convention of London, not Germany.

Thus German actions at the beginning of 1917, that is that appeasement was not going to work, were the result of a long sequence of events and didn’t really influence Wilson’s/US policy which had been pro-British and pro war from essentially the beginning.

#11 Comment By SC Birdflyte On January 22, 2014 @ 7:13 am

U.S. intervention in WWI came too late to have any effect on the Russian Revolution; indeed, it was the Czar’s abdication in March 1917 that cleared away some of the opposition to American entry into the war. Of the recent accounts, I find Clark’s most convincing. I’m still reading Margaret McMillan’s The War that Ended Peace, so my opinion may change.

#12 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On January 22, 2014 @ 8:54 am

Mr.Gottfried’s piece is a welcome corrective to the old canard about Germany and Austria-Hungary being the sole reason for The Great War. He refers to Mr. Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers” which I understand to be a particularly insightful work. The aforementioned empires (and indeed all the belligerents were empires, even the US)must all shoulder the blame for leading Europe into a conflict which marks the beginning of the continuing slide into oblivion of Western Civilization.

#13 Comment By Park On January 22, 2014 @ 10:25 am

Good article, but I wonder if the author is exaggerating the degree to which the “militaristic Germans” narrative still has any purchase. There was a tendency for a few decades after the Second World War (especially among Anglo-American historians) to see Nazism as a retroactive justification of the theory that militarism and authoritarianism were somehow inherent to the German “national character” or some such nonsense, but its hard to imagine a contemporary university history department giving much credence to that interpretation.

#14 Comment By Hooly On January 22, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

Paul Gottfried, and every other commentator I’ve read is missing the point. This constant second guessing and whining about ‘if only …’ If only America didn’t intervene, if only the Kaiser was born without a deformed arm, if only the Germans didn’t build a navy, if only, if only …

My view is that WWI and WWII were inevitable, because Western Civilization contains the seeds of its own destruction. And it’s only a matter of time that this most self destructive of civilizations implodes … again. The fact of the matter is there is nothing particularly special about WWI when put into the context of the whole of the history of the West, … it’s just one war in a spectrum of wars starting with the fratricidal Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, to Roman civil wars, to European dynastic wars, to the Thirty Year’s war, Napoleonic Wars, etc, etc.

#15 Comment By James Canning On January 22, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

Interesting piece, but I think it is not correct to say Britain was “trying to reduce a rival’s power”.

Britain quite sensibly was deeply concerned about Germany’s insane programme of attempting to build Fleet capable of threatening the Royal Navy’s control of the seas.

#16 Comment By sglover On January 22, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

It’s an interesting article, but it’s news to me that blame for the 1914 catastrophe has been pinned on Germany alone. I thought that for decades the consensus view has been that ALL of the great powers erred, and that the war was the sum of their miscalculations. I thought that this was the Great Lesson of the Great War — that systems and schemes that appear rational and necessary from any given actor’s perspective can quickly lead to uncontrollable disasters when they interact with the equally rational systems and schemes of other players.

Anyway, I’m glad to see this article, and I hope this year will see many 1914 retrospectives — but I doubt it. In America warmongers love to yammer on about WW II, and from an American point of view both the cause and the outcome of that war was unambiguous. Broader familiarity with WW I history is the best tonic for endless WW II mythologizing.

#17 Comment By Alex Marshall On January 22, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

“What did Bismarck say about God looking after fools, drunkards and the United States of America?” What DID he say about that indeed? By all verified accounts, Bismarck never did say the quote you are alluding to. It is a variation of an old French proverb that originated in the early 18th century. A similar quote said by Abbe Correa, which dates back to 1849, is commonly misattributed to Bismarck but there is no evidence that he ever repeated it. For an essay that is at least in part about how people need to get their history straight…..or am I nitpicking?

#18 Comment By Sam On January 23, 2014 @ 6:01 am

Sglover
After WWI the official position following the Versaille was that Germany took responsibility. In the 20’s/30’s there was a rise of revisionism that took this position to task. The position until the 60’s was that everybody erred. After Fritz Fischer’s work among others, the blame was put back on Germany. I think this is still the majority view although but there is a sizeable and respectable minority in historical profession that spreads the blame. In the mainstream political/intellectual discussions I think the dominant view is that it was Germany.

It is incredible what a bias can do when we look back in history. Germany is seen as being this aggressive power and therefore Britain was right to step in. But in reality of course the existing big powers had already divided the world among them. Here is a picture of countries not invaded by the Britain:
[3]

Germany and the Kaiser as the big aggressor?

#19 Comment By TANSTAAFL On January 23, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

PurpleFlash, It is equally dogmatic to assume that all would still have turned out the same if the US hadn’t intervened. A massive infusion of manpower, resources, energy and alternate tactics that turned the war from a trench-line stagnation to a full court press of the Germans back into Deutschland. I think it is quite reasonable to imagine a very different outcome along the lines of LibertarianJerry. Do you really think that if the US announce its intention to stay neutral that the political will, resources and manpower necessary for either the Central Powers or Allies to completely destroy the other would have existed? I think your quick and sarcastic dismissal with little evidence to support demonstrates you have spent little time in thinking and more in repeating talking points.
It is like saying that the US never developing or deploying the atomic bomb would have had no effect on the cold war.
OR Rome would still have beaten Hannibal even if Hannibal had found more Italian provinces willing to ally with him. It is as much dogma to assume no change as it is to offer an alternative outcome.

#20 Comment By Philo Vaihinger On January 24, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

For some reason, BBC News seems committed to rehabilitating The Great War. Not a good idea. Stupid, actually.

Anyway, thanks for restoring some perspective even an non-WASP, non-Anglophile can find comfortable.

#21 Comment By Philo Vaihinger On January 24, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

Dear Libertarian Jerry: Goodonya. Or maybe “Like.”

Not a single one of our wars has been necessary, and I do include the Revolution.

The American ruling class just likes war and the larger theater it allows them to strut on.

And the American people, like any other, is a bunch of jingoist idiots.

#22 Comment By Rossbach On January 24, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

There is an excellent analysis of Britain’s role in exacerbating the conflicts that developed into World Wars I and II in Pat Buchanan’s book, “Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War” (Random House, 2008).

#23 Comment By Olav Lie On January 27, 2014 @ 6:18 am

John Michael Greer has written a lengthy piece: “The Nature of Empire” where he among much else looks at the economics surrounding WWI. Firstly, he points out that GB had more than extended themselves on maintaining a naval force that had carried them through the centuries. They were efficiently bankrupt before the war began. The Anglo-American aid was no less than a war on borrowed means, at a great profit to the backers.

The repayment of the war expenses led to the plunder of Germany as well as the roaring 20’s, when the loot of war headed back accross the ocean to the financiers.

#24 Comment By Marie On January 27, 2014 @ 9:57 am

Sure, the other powers did wrong, too. That doesn’t make Germany any less wrong.

It’s distressing to see, as we saw between the wars, the upper classes in Britain and the U.S. trying to diminish Germany’s responsibility for its acts during the Great War. We’ve returned to the fad that says it’s not sophisticated, blaming Germany for invading her neighbors. I don’t know why we’re here again. Weird.

#25 Comment By Ctesiphon On January 27, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

In discussions of World War I, there is usually no thought given to how the war might have gone if the U.S. had joined the Central Powers instead of the Allies. There were certainly strong reasons for the U.S. to turn against the Allies, since the latter continuously violated the trading rights of the U.S. as a neutral power because of the British effort to starve out Germany.

Had the U.S. joined Germany, it would have led to a complete strategic defeat for the Allies almost immediately, thereby ending the war and the carnage in the trenches. Being behind the enemy lines, so to speak, the U.S. could have disrupted the North Atlantic supply convoys to Britain from Canada, threatened Canada itself with invasion, closed the Panama Canal to Allied shipping, seized Allied assets in U.S. banks and ports, and so on. Faced with such a prospect, the Allies would probably have chosen to settle for a negotiated peace that would have left European civilization intact.

#26 Comment By D. A. R. DeSegnac On January 27, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

“Serbia in its attempts to split apart the Habsburg Empire;” ???

Someone ought ask this question:

How an agricultural nation of about 4 million people, without industry and natural resources could exhausted after 2 years of Balkan wars could possibly attempt to “split the Hapsburg empire” an industrialized and superbly armed country of more than 50 million people? With a “sling and a pebble”?

It rather was another way around! Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 and treated the Serbian populace as the second rate race and was – archive document show – looming ominously over Serbia for a long time (archive documents available). The resentment of the Serbs for that kind of treatment culminated in the Sarajevo tragedy thus in 1914 Austria-Hungary wanted a quick victorious “promenade walk” through Serbia (archive documents available) and got a punch on the nose – twice before being indeed destroyed by the remnants of the Serbian army but only in 1018. The atrocities committed by the Austria-Hungary forces against Serbian civilians during the war – as being instructed by their commanders – crosses the border of genocide (archive pictures available).

The article shows that the Clark’s “sleepwalkers” are still working their somnambulic endeavor.

#27 Comment By D. A. R. DeSegnac On January 27, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

Corrections for the post – with apologies:

“The resentment of the Serbs for … ” should be:

The resentment of the Bosnian Serbs for …

The year is not 1018 but 1918.

#28 Comment By Saw Hill country On January 28, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

“the latter continuously violated the trading rights of the U.S. as a neutral power “

I think we eventually recognized this. It doesn’t get the acknowledgement that one might expect, but our current alliance with Germany is the most important one outside our hemisphere, followed by Japan and (at some distance) the UK, Australia, and Turkey.

#29 Comment By steve On January 29, 2014 @ 2:42 am

The unnecessary singular catastrophe that was the Great War put old Europe into its coffin. Any missing nails were later proffered in WWII. Under the top leaders there were many abettors to push for war. That said, it ultimately was the Kaiser, Prime Minister, etc. who gave the green light. There are plenty of known and lessor known adults who held government positions and who ought to have been charged with crimes against humanity. But many went on to live charmed lives or prepared for starring roles in the next disaster – e.g. Churchill. That really none were held to account by the millions of the families of the dead and maimed is telling as to the state of human psychology and condition. Not much has changed 100 years on. It’s really stunning when one reflects on it all.

#30 Comment By David L Wheeler On January 29, 2014 @ 8:46 am

A point that is consistently missed: “…banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.” T. Jefferson

The Rothschilds have played a behind-the-scenes role in every great conflict since the late 1700’s. He who controls the money controls the country/people. They have always been the-elephant-in-the-room, and until we acknowledge and finally rid ourselves of these filthy parasites the human condition as we know it currently will never move to next level of development: mainly spiritual, emotional and cognitive. A new paradigm, if you will, will be stunted indefinitely.

#31 Comment By John On January 29, 2014 @ 11:54 am

Hooly says:
“The fact of the matter is there is nothing particularly special about WWI when put into the context of the whole of the history of the West, … it’s just one war in a spectrum of wars starting with the fratricidal Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, to Roman civil wars, to European dynastic wars, to the Thirty Year’s war, Napoleonic Wars, etc, etc.”
Truer words have never been spoken.

#32 Comment By John On January 29, 2014 @ 1:01 pm

As an addendum, if WWI had occurred 25 years earlier, before smokeless powder, the submarine, the inventions of Ford and Marconi, Browning and Maxim, Wilbur and Orville, Nobel and Krupp, the casualties would have been drastically lower. The rapid advancement of technology in the years prior to the Great War, and its immediate incorporation into military applications (with aircraft a mere 11 years)is what set the war apart from all previous ones. Ever since the 1914-1945 experience, the Thirty Years war of the 20th century, humanity has been held hostage by his own inventive genius. What that same inventive genius has prepared for the next World War is too horrific to imagine.

#33 Comment By RockLibertyWarrior On January 29, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

@purpleflash in his response to libertarian Jerry “In 1917 when the US entered the war, there was no sign, tendency or any other evidence that the belligerents of the War were moving toward any kind of settlement or negotiated peace.” So was that any of our business? That was Europe’s business, not ours. Americans were warned not to board the dreaded “L” ship because it contained armaments destined for Great Britain and would’ve been used against Germany in war time. Its YOU who is buying into the flawed establishment history and not looking at the facts. Go back into that slimy little neo con hole you crawled out of and stay there with the rest of your failed ilk. World War 1 destroyed the enlightened European civilization. The destruction, the treaty of Versailles, the chaos and destruction it plunged all these countries into made them clamor of strong men. Men like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini etc. Try to deny that and it is YOU who are ignoring the facts.

#34 Comment By Permanent Interests On January 30, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

Marie wrote “Sure, the other powers did wrong, too. That doesn’t make Germany any less wrong.”

Of course, but it is important to gauge shared culpability and the matter of degree. The US might have maintained strong relations with Britian AND Germany (our best strategists advised this), leaning to one side or the other as seemed wise. Instead we pursued a dishonest policy of spurious neutrality, encouraging the worst tendencies in both and with catastrophic results for all concerned.

#35 Comment By bricktown On January 30, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

Gottfried’s piece could have included the U.S. entry into S. Vietnam along with other wars throughout history. As 2014 begins Japan’s Prime Minister Abe in Davos, Switzerland, giving the opening speech to the World Economic Forum said that the Asiatic theatre is akin to the atmosphere of 1914. Wash, rinse, repeat. Keep your eyes on that region, look carefully to see how the mass of people, who will be asked – or forced – to die on behalf of the decisions made by a small clique of political psychopaths called ‘leaders’ behave. Will they say hell no, or will they blindly go? Same old story, just different faces, names. Man’s spiritual and reasoning doesn’t equate with the advancement in technology which is used to inflict descent. Good luck to all.

#36 Comment By Jack On January 30, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

My impression is that all the European elites were feeling a good deal of pressure from demands for socialism and/or democracy and allowed the slide to war to happen (with varying degrees of intent) partly because they saw war as a way to rally people around the existing order. It backfired universally as such strategies often do. But I totally disagree with the idea that war is a specifically European thing. War and imperialism were well established (e.g. Assyria) when Europeans were still too primitive to get a good war going.

#37 Comment By Todd Lewis On January 31, 2014 @ 10:57 am

I would only add that, while the Revisionism that Mr. Gottfried mentions, is quite good it is far to tepid. No one slept-walked into war, it was a deliberate conspiracy by a Franco-Russian cabal to plunge Europe into a World War in order to destroy the state of Germany.

George Kennan proves incontrovertibly that in the years 1892-1894 France and Russia planned a World War in order to destroy Germany. See The fateful alliance: France, Russia, and the coming of the First World War.

England was later dragooned into this alliance.

#38 Comment By Old Man On July 19, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

Thank you very much, RockLibertyWarrior, for your rebuke of Purpleflash, who has absorbed the counterfeit history of the neocons using, among other things, the spurious work of Fritz Fischer (who incidentally had been a fervent Nazi before 1945, but who cares? After all, when you turn into a victor’s lickspittle after the war, everything can be forgiven).

Well, after all, neocons are nothing but another form of what all leftists have been throughout history, all the way from the Jacobins in the French Revolution to the Revolutionary Guards of Mao, Pol Pot and the Kims: fascists masquerading as humanitarians. It is just a matter of degree, not one of general bent).

And for Ms. Marie: as history proceeds, it is continually being revised, new opinions are discussed and new evidence surfaces, as more and more formerly sealed archival matter is opened to the public. Thus, historiography changes in due course, and so do established opinions on many a historical subject.

My friendly recommendation for you, Ma’am: get an education and come back thereafter to discuss historical matters with grownups.
That same advice goes for Purpleflash as well. No, sir, attending a neocon indoctrination center – with or without a degree – does not count as an education. Thank you very much.