Re: A Reënactment

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Aw, geez.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 11:28 AM
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I have high hopes for this thread. High hopes!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:02 PM
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Digging the New Yorker Umlaut in the title.


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:07 PM
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Diaeresis, please. </nosflow>


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:20 PM
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The Great Johnstown Flood reenactment at Raging Waters of San Dimas was totally sweet.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:25 PM
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they were going to kill 100,000 Ohioans?


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:25 PM
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6
Somebody's gotta.


Posted by: Mentioner | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:35 PM
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"helped end the war and save lives" is almost certainly true, but it's a grotesque thing for a reenactment. My thinking on dropping the bomb is pretty much the same as the late great Steve Gilliard.

http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/2005/08/ending-wwii.html


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:36 PM
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6: look, if 100,000 Ohioans have to die so that the lives of millions of American soldiers are spared, so be it.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:36 PM
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Oy.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:37 PM
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9: Hey!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:37 PM
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11: not Northeastern Ohioans. The other ones. The bad ones. The inscrutable ones!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:38 PM
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I have high hopes for this thread. High hopes!

Truman was right to drop the bomb, so we could end the war before the Russians could occupy all of Asia from Manchuria. And also to let Stalin know we weren't to be trifled with. Arguably Truman should have dropped it on Tokyo or blown the top off of Mount Fuji instead of hitting Hiroshima. But that's easy to say with hindsight. The decision to bomb Nagasaki was dubious, because it left us without another nuclear device in inventory to threaten the Soviets with until mid September. The main thing is, there is no moral difference between nuclear weapons and any other explosive device.

How's that?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:44 PM
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Why doesn't "diaeresis" have a diaeresis in it? Seems like it oughta.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:47 PM
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Oh, them.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:48 PM
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The really hardcore Hiroshima reenacters play a long game, and pretend to get cancer 20 years before they were statistically likely to get cancer.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:48 PM
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13: you can do better. Try writing it up in German.

16 made me laugh out loud, you sick bastard.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:51 PM
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Thank you for 4, Knecht. You're all right.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 12:57 PM
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||

Jesus H. Christ, Slate! Couldn't you have waited until next week to drop this one on me?

Does your pet's food contain dead pets?

|>


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:01 PM
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I am curious when reenactments of 9/11 will start. Probably as a videogame. When was the first civil war reenactment? Are there precedents in other countries-- maybe reenactments of the crusades, or the battle of Agincourt.

Huh, now that I write that, I guess the thread to pull would be popular song and theater. Then a less lazy version of me could link to the thread here where WWII veterans all knew the same songs, while our descendants will play Garth Brooks or something wailing off-key about kicking ass and look askance whether we, their wrinkled elders, know the song or not.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:06 PM
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Airshows always have pyrotechnic displays. Usually pretty tame, but the crowd gets to say "ooohhhh!" I am not exactly sure how one would depict the difference between Hiroshima and Dresden in such an event. Probably the narrator.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:07 PM
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19. is a concern at least 50 years old, there was a scandal in the US about horsemeat in pet food in the 60s, and at least this rumor was widespread among elderly cat ladies (like my mom) in the 80s.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:09 PM
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20: Germans are bigtime into reënacting the Roman era - I imagine the Varus incident is rather popular.

For some weird reason, a little flag shop just outside Pittsburgh is one of the leading sources of legionary banners.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:10 PM
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21: Do they have fireworks that can emulate a mushroom cloud?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:11 PM
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When was the first civil war reenactment

1866


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:11 PM
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When was the first civil war reenactment?

Almost immediately after the war ended.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:13 PM
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Huh, I wasn't expecting to be pwned on that one.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:13 PM
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Do they have fireworks that can emulate a mushroom cloud

Yep. Mostly gasoline.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:14 PM
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23. Yes, well, the 20th century is pretty well out for them, and even the Franco-Prussian war would be questionable.

Do you know how long they've been doing that? I'm wondering about the change from collective tavern singing to the kind of weird shit Uncle Toby does in Tristram Shandy.

Maybe it's toy soldiers and miniatures, to dioramas and the like to think about, tableaux vivants.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:16 PM
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20. Well, technically a reunion, not a reenactment. Dressing up like your great grandfather in an "authentic" replica uniform? This group dates from 1975 according to their website.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:20 PM
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You don't need fireworks-- fire up a charcoal grill (open space, no flammables nearby and especially not overhead), pour kerosene into a cup, and splash the cup of kerosene onto the hot coals, then retreat. Don't squirt it from the bottle, though, and gasolene seems insane-- it has much lower vapor pressure than kerosene.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:21 PM
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8: and 13: Yeah. My uncles, now dead of natural causes and not Japanese bullets, explosives, or bayonets, thank you.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:24 PM
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and gasolene seems insane

The "wall of fire" I helped rig with our EOD guys was a series of gasoline filled gallon milk jugs hanging from makeshift tripods and daisy chained together with det cord.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:25 PM
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33: I used non-leaded gasoline to start the charcoal grill for decades and no one ever had to go to the ER. A certain amount of care is needed but the "Whomp!" is always fun to hear.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:30 PM
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32: fwiw, my sense of the scholarly consensus is that most people now are willing to grant that, yes, it would have cost more lives (both Japanese and American lives) had Truman not dropped at least the first bomb. The open question, though, is how many more lives. The higher estimates, typically offered by various veterans' groups, sometimes sky into the millions. The lower estimates, sometimes offered by professional historians*, suggest tens of thousands. Either way, this seems like a very blunt instrument for measuring the efficacy/morality/etc. of Truman's decision.

* Who should know better.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:31 PM
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33 describes basically Molotov cocktails. Perhaps your interests could be combined with a surplus tank and vintage partisan clothing. I bet that there are interesting stories along these lines from early hollywood, and also maybe low-budget action TV made in the seventies.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:39 PM
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35: I can't get very excited about the moral issue. They got what they had coming to them; they should have stayed off our lawn.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:42 PM
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The lower estimates, sometimes offered by professional historians*, suggest tens of thousands.

That must require some Rogoff & Reinhart-quality cherry-picking of data to arrive at those estimates. In the one little part of Japan that was invaded (Okinawa), there were more than 100,000 military dead (most of them Japanese), and probably an equal number of civilians. Estimates of millions of dead in an invasion of the home islands are totally plausible, even before you consider the background rate of casualties from the ongoing war in China and the rest of Asia.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:43 PM
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Or 38:, which is what I was going to write before the vast irritability kicked in.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:45 PM
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I bet that there are interesting stories along these lines from early hollywood

One of my favorite Pasadenans, Jack Parsons made extra money as a special effects guy for Hollywood. He also founded JPL on the side. As a bonus, he was a disciple of the wickedest man on earth, Aleister Crowley.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:47 PM
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36: Twice in high school my friends and I managed to get our hands on old five gallon water cooler jugs made out of glass. Both times we made a giant Molotov and chucked them into one of these.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:49 PM
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The Censor of St. Catherine's had an odious task. He must make a speech which should pretend to show that a couple of massacres to a man's credit are not exactly a reason for not showing him honour.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:50 PM
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Man, everything my mother said about cops all being the worst criminals appears to be true. You could hurt someone with something like that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:50 PM
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I wasn't aware that the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were on our lawns.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:51 PM
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Either way, this seems like a very blunt instrument for measuring the efficacy/morality/etc. of Truman's decision.

Well sure, but it establishes a baseline of cost/benefit. As long as one side of the discussion is denying that there was even a benefit, then you can't get anywhere.

A theoretical good faith discussion probably starts with one side acknowledging that a significant number of total human lives were saved, and the other acknowledging that the calculus was probably weighting American lives much more heavily anyway. ISTM that those are the underlying premises that people try to gloss over.

For myself, I see no really sound distinction between atomic bombs and firebombing*, and I suspect that the real moral question was whether the insistence on unconditional surrender was morally justifiable.

*yes, there were the subsequent radiation deaths, but I'm not convinced that's enough to draw a bright line between two horrific practices


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:51 PM
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41. Was there a kaboom? I would expect an earth shattering kaboom!


Posted by: Marvin the Martian | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:51 PM
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No kaboom, but it does make an insane awesome sized fireball.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:53 PM
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38: agreed. As I said, historians should know better. For my part, I'm mostly persuaded by the argument, put forward by Bart Bernstein I think, that every weapon available in a total war gets used, that that's the nature of total war. Not that I don't wring my hands over the moral dimension of Truman's decision* -- sorry, biohazard -- but that's when I'm not on the clock.

* Especially about Nagasaki.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:53 PM
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43: Me wanting to get on the EOD squad will surprise no one who grew up with me.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:55 PM
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Anyway, I think the deeper question, which gets at the moral dimension of the decision, is whether an invasion of the home islands would have been necessary. I'm not persuaded either way (again, fwi).


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 1:58 PM
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Reading through the pamphlet neb linked, I see that Anscombe seemed to agree with 45.last


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:00 PM
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every weapon available in a total war gets used

I don't know the Bernstein argument, so I assume this is addressed, but that wasn't true for chemical weapons in WWII, as far as I know, on either side.

My general sense has always been JRoth's -- I don't see much difference between Hiroshima and fire-bombing Tokyo. The question is whether the insistence on Japanese unconditional surrender, and the use of massive bombing of civilian targets in 1944-45 to obtain that unconditional surrender, made moral sense at all. Given the nature of the Japanese regime I think that's at least a pretty tough question where I'm inclined to give Roosevelt/Truman the benefit of the doubt, but it's definitely a tough question.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:01 PM
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52: sorry, what I meant to say was that he argues that every new weapon gets used. Also, Bernstein does address chemical weapons, I'm pretty sure, by pointing back to the retrospective horror surrounding their use in WWI.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:03 PM
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Given the nature of the Japanese regime

It always goes back to Pearl Harbor, and don't you forget it.


Posted by: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:07 PM
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They got what they had coming to them; they should have stayed off our lawn.

And so shall all nations that unjustly invade others, especially smaller weaker ones...wait never mind...eventually watch their children melt screaming before their eyes? Hmmmm...?

Enjoy this Biohazard Give me a cheer. Laugh a lot.

The 15-yr-war is a subject I mostly avoid, because don't care bout battleships, and hell, every other American is like a total expert on the details and morality of their opponent's capabilities and atrocities. I do study non-military aspects:propaganda, occupations of Korea and Taiwan, domestic economy, Nazi influence. And of course the aftermath and consequences of the war.

However...And I do appreciate the post. Because one nation almost constantly fights to keep their Consitutional prohibition on being able to defend themselves from military attack (fuck Abe) and has been for decades the per capita leader in humanitarian aid...

...and the other nation, 70 years later, still commits atrocities and human rights violations, kills babies, on a weekly basis, still supports and enables the worst
regimes on Earth...and celebrates in public their past murder of thousands of civilians.

Nuff said, but the OP said it better. If not Leonard Cohen, but apparently everybody doesn't know the war is over, and some think the good guys won.

Could America ever learn, change from losing a war?

Well, didn't do the Southron half a damn bit of good. And this century finally taught me that Vietnam didn't help either.

So I doubt it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:07 PM
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44: "Civilian" was essentially a meaningless distinction in WW2 on all sides. They paid taxes, worked in war industries, grew food for soldiers, flew bombers and fighters across the Atlantic, broke codes, worked the sciences applied to military usage, enabled others to go to the front lines, and all that.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:09 PM
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37: Oh, for fuck's sake.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:11 PM
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50: I think that Truman et al had to proceed as if it would have been - the war wasn't a board game, with Japanese pieces all limited to the space representing the home islands, while everyone else would be able to proceed as if Japanese defeat was a fait accompli. Until the actual surrender came, forces were moving inexorably towards that invasion (plus, of course, other battles were ongoing).

That isn't to say that Truman et al couldn't have pursued other paths towards forestalling invasion - offering to let the Emperor stay, a non-fatal a-bomb demonstration, etc. - but I don't think that he could responsibly have made the decision not to use the bomb because an invasion could reliably be otherwise avoided. The guns, so to speak, were drawn, and it's not wise to expect them all to be holstered without incident. Again, that doesn't mean you have to shoot, but you do have to proceed as if bullets are likely to fly.

Is that at all clear? Maybe the better analogy* would be a runaway car - maybe you can find a way to come safely to a stop, but, until that way becomes apparent, you have to assume that the car will continue to run away, and maybe you'll have to do something awful, like jump out at 50 mph.

Wait! Not a car, a trolley...

*as if such a thing could exist


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:11 PM
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My pet-peeve is the whole (the Japanese would of never surrendered, old women charging GIs with spears shit.). Which seems to suffer from the serious problem that they did surrender.

Also on the total war thing, we were in a state of total war with Japan, the reverse was never true.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:11 PM
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"Grew food" and "paid taxes" is really extraordinarily weak sauce and seems to imply that there are no civilians in modern nations at all (except perhaps for tax dodgers, but they might do useful work in some other cpacity, maybe even without meaning to).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:12 PM
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Even income tax dodgers pay sales taxes, though, at least if they make purchases.

("Mr. Truman's Degree" actually specifically mentions raising food.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:14 PM
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53 -- thanks, that makes more sense.

I wonder how much of the absolute insistence on Japanese unconditional surrender was a reasonably-thought-out analysis of the Japanese regime, how much derived from the idea that Japan was linked to Hitler and so demanding unconditional surrender from all parties was necessary, and how much was basically "the inscrutable and insane oriental monster cannot be dealt with"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:14 PM
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58: documents came out a few years back (and maybe were written up in an AHR article? sorry, except for the memory side of things, I'm pretty far afield here) suggesting that the Truman administration had some reason to believe (but still didn't believe, I don't think) that a Japanese surrender was likely sooner rather than later. Again, every comment I'm writing must be read with a big FWIW hanging over it.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:17 PM
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The people you've decided to kill are always guilty of something.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:19 PM
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My pet-peeve is the whole (the Japanese would of never surrendered, old women charging GIs with spears shit.). Which seems to suffer from the serious problem that they did surrender.

...after the bomb was dropped. One can make the argument that the Soviet declaration of war was more decisive than the A-bomb, but you can't pretend the latter had no impact.

Also on the total war thing, we were in a state of total war with Japan, the reverse was never true.

Whaaa?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:20 PM
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Yahoo! Answers is not very helpful in answering my question in 62.2.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:20 PM
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62: when we wrote our lecture on this, we did a bit of all of above, with some Bart Bernstein thrown in for good measure. That said, by that time in the quarter, I was sidelined by my limp, so.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:21 PM
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I don't think you can call the unconditional surrender policy a mistake without measuring it against a deal that would have ended the war, and the follow-on consequences of that deal (which is why the policy was adopted, not because they enjoyed killing). The 60+ years of post-war Japan and Germany have to be judged, from a US perspective, as pretty much the best of all possible outcomes. Even if you could imagine something better, it's still a fool's errand to suppose that some particular possible deal could have gotten there.

Obviously, to the specific individuals who died and might have lived had there been a deal this isn't exactly relevant.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:23 PM
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63: Thanks. That sounds highly plausible.

65.last: Seconded.

66 is a shocker.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:24 PM
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I wonder how much of the absolute insistence on Japanese unconditional surrender was a reasonably-thought-out analysis of the Japanese regime, how much derived from the idea that Japan was linked to Hitler and so demanding unconditional surrender from all parties was necessary, and how much was basically "the inscrutable and insane oriental monster cannot be dealt with"

And how much was Soviet insistence on strict adherence to the terms of Yalta and Potsdam. Stalin had geostrategic interests in Northeastern Asia/Pacific that would have been ill-served by leaving the Japanese regime intact.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:26 PM
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57 also to 56 and to bullshit macho posturing in general.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:27 PM
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65 Japan never had designs to conquer, or force the surrender of the United States.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:27 PM
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I mean, what conditions are we even talking about? Retaining Chinese territory?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:28 PM
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72 was me


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:28 PM
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I agree with 72, but make an exception for the Philippines. And I guess one should make similar exceptions for overseas territories of our non-Chinese allies (and I'd include the Dutch). And China, of course.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:32 PM
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72: You are using a definition of "total war" very different from the one used by every historian I am familiar with. I don't think Herr Goebbels entertained any thoughts of conquering or occupying the U.S., either.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:33 PM
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Japan never had designs to conquer, or force the surrender of the United States.

Irrelevant. See 54. Without the sneak attack it can be argued that the Us retains its isolationist stance. Edith Keeler must die.


Posted by: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:33 PM
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I am honestly trying to stay away, and finding it easier than I expected. I still read blogs too much.

Anybody remember Riverbend? She gave us a tenth-anniversary post.

And I cannot recommend Shin Sekai Yori highly enough. Adapted very well from an award-winning SF novel. Power and privilege, oppression, slavery, genocide and worse, but it puts us in the subject position of the privileged, and makes us feel the horror of coming to terms with being a citizen of an Empire. How does it feel to be a Roman? Well, try not to think about it. Terrorism, hegemony, racism, it has it all. Besides being a beautiful exciting story.

"From the New World" is the title and persistent theme music (mostly "Coming Home".) Dvorak didn't write that about Japan, did he?

Meanwhile: the Japanese economy, Deleuze, and the Situationists are keeping me busy. Carlos Saura, Liu Jiayin, Mika Nakatini, Azumanga Daioh


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:36 PM
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76 -- I think it's fair to say that there was an asymmetry in war aims -- the US was looking for unconditional surrender, and Japan would probably have been happy to make a deal that left them in possession of large parts of East Asia.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:37 PM
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And I wouldn't be surprised (IANAH) if there wasn't, or wouldn't have been, plenty of willingness within the US, as the war wore on, to make a deal leaving Japan in control of large swaths of China, especially with the Communists making some of the gains. Declaring that unconditional surrender is the only permissible outcome cuts off all discussion of this, in Congress, at the War Department, on the front lines, everywhere.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:43 PM
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Without the sneak attack it can be argued that the Us retains its isolationist stance.

The US has not ever been "isolationist." How much money and material did we give Chiang Kai-Shek (who was turning North after the Commies vanished)? What were our commercial relations with the Nazis?

We just do the Empire and hegemony thing differently, and better, than our predecessors. Hire out mass murder and torture whenever possible, preferably with layers of cut-outs.

Ask Assad in Syria if America is neutral. Ask Riverbend if America is the good guys.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:47 PM
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but that wasn't true for chemical weapons in WWII, as far as I know, on either side.

Not completely true, they were used against partisans by the Germans. But yes, they weren't used on a large scale. I suspect that if the Japanese had nukes we wouldn't have used ours. Not quite MAD, but a few hundred bombers loaded with gas bombs could presumably do a hell of a lot of damage on a city.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:53 PM
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Japan was losing before Pearl Harbor. China was kicking their ass, and they were running desperately low on all kinds of materials. They were wrong, in that could win or keep their Empire, but they felt they needed Southeast Asia to beat China. CKS was not the compromising type, and there was a lot of history.

It was all fucking suicidal madness after 1937. A lot of Japanese knew it, even perhaps Konoe. The ways the military and the several civilian camps (bureaucracy, business) questioned each other, and who had control, is one of the major differences between the Nazis and Japan.

And why the current Japanese are so anti-militaristic.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:57 PM
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81. There is a huge difference between commercial ties and even material support for the enemy of my enemy and putting the full power of the United States on a war footing. I'm not even sure if the US goes to war to keep the Philippines without the unpleasantness of Dec 7.


Posted by: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 2:59 PM
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that wasn't true for chemical weapons in WWII, as far as I know, on either side.

FWIW, the U.S. pre-positioned chemical weapons for use by the forces that would have invaded the Japanese home islands. They had previously been used by the Japanese against the Chinese on a fairly large scale.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:02 PM
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I saw an arguement about the definition of total war coming as soon as I left that comment. Anyways I've clarified what I meant. I'd say the same thing about Germany, there are not many plausible paths that in WWII that led to the conquest of the United States or the deaths of large numbers of US civilians. It doesn't mean either campaign wasn't worth fighting, bug the actions were talking about we're taken when we had won, they were actions taken so we didn't have to settle for a slightly less expansive set of war aims.

As to my first point, not that we're doing it, but sometimes people talk about how the Japanese were uniquely reluctant to surrender, but of course they did, and before suffering nearly the level of civilian casualties as the Germans did.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:04 PM
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I think the author of this article was a Bernstein student. There's more stuff at his faculty page, but it looks like everything else is paywalled.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:10 PM
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84 -- We'll never know, but I think it more likely that the Dec. 8 invasion of the Philippines would have led to the same war we ended up having, except with a bigger US Navy at the outset.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:15 PM
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sometimes people talk about how the Japanese were uniquely reluctant to surrender, but of course they did, and before suffering nearly the level of civilian casualties as the Germans did.

Was there anything on the western front comparable to what happened in Iwo Jima and Okinawa? Talk of Japanese reluctance to surrender wasn't invented out of whole cloth by racist Americans. AFAIK, German civilians didn't commit suicide in response to American advances.

And of course we simply don't have the counterfactuals about relative willingness to surrender with or without atomic bombs - maybe the Germans surrender in late '44 if an a-bomb gets dropped on Cologne or wherever, and maybe the home islands really do get invaded in the absence of Hiroshima/Nagasaki - we just can't know.

Question: we all know about the (relatively) numerous plots against Hitler; was there anything comparable against the leaders of the Japanese military (I'm not sure Tojo is the right analogue)? Someone up above mentioned rival factions, but I'm wondering about an actual coup.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:20 PM
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88: Given what was happening in Europe, I think this is correct. Even with Pearl Harbor, the US put 2/3* of its effort into the European theater, suggesting that war in Europe was inevitable, and if peace is foreclosed, then avoiding war with Japan, after an invasion of the Philippines, seems unlikely. Although I suspect the execution would have been very different. Among other things, given what Japan did to every Allied navy in the Pacific, I'm not sure that, in the absence of Pearl Harbor, the USN would have held up very well in the first 6 months of the war regardless.

*made-up ratio


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:24 PM
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88: Given what was happening in Europe, I think this is correct. Even with Pearl Harbor, the US put 2/3* of its effort into the European theater, suggesting that war in Europe was inevitable, and if peace is foreclosed, then avoiding war with Japan, after an invasion of the Philippines, seems unlikely. Although I suspect the execution would have been very different. Among other things, given what Japan did to every Allied navy in the Pacific, I'm not sure that, in the absence of Pearl Harbor, the USN would have held up very well in the first 6 months of the war regardless.

*made-up ratio


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:24 PM
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DAMMIT.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:24 PM
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the actions we're talking about were taken when we had won

Hardly! Or only in the sense that the Soviets had already "won" by the time they reached the Oder-Neisse line, after which they went on to suffer more than a quarter million casualties before the German surrender.

they were actions taken so we didn't have to settle for a slightly less expansive set of war aims.

That "we" has a broader meaning than the U.S., or even the western allies. Continuing the thought from 70, Stalin was equally insistent on unconditional surrender - he knew from Japanese envoys that a negotiated peace was possible, and he deliberately quashed it. The western Allies had made a promise at Yalta to carry the Pacific war to the finish, and it would have carried incalculable risks for the U.S. to renege on that promise.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:28 PM
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60: That sauce got stirred during the Sixties. Some people did try to withhold the portion of taxes that they calculated went towards the Vietnam war effort, others left the country even if they weren't subject to the draft. Yeah, I'm contending the concept of "civilian" as meaning "not part of war machinery" is essentially meaningless now.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:28 PM
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Someone up above mentioned rival factions, but I'm wondering about an actual coup.

There was one*! To continue the war! After the atomic bomb and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, no less!

* an attempt, anyway.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:31 PM
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I think it more likely that the Dec. 8 invasion of the Philippines would have led to the same war we ended up having

On this we will have to agree to disagree. Without Pearl Harbor, the Philippine invasion is a defense of a country that we had occupied for 40 years and given at least lip service to independence. In defeat, Roosevelt ignores MacArthur's boast to return. Let the Japs deal with the Moros.


Posted by: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:33 PM
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Whether or not the concept of civilian means anything to anyone now, it meant something to the US military in 1945. It didn't stop them from bombing civilians, but it affected the decisions they made.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:41 PM
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suggesting that war in Europe was inevitable

Bear in mind that the U.S. formally entered the war in Europe only after Hitler (unnecessarily) declared war on the U.S. It's easy to imagine a scenario where Hitler decides he has enough trouble on his hands with the Red Army and tells Tojo to pound sand, at which point the U.S. is relieved not to be engaged in a shooting war on two fronts.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:41 PM
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Question: we all know about the (relatively) numerous plots against Hitler; was there anything comparable against the leaders of the Japanese military (I'm not sure Tojo is the right analogue)? Someone up above mentioned rival factions, but I'm wondering about an actual coup.

Not that I know of, except on the very last days.

As I said, the difference was that in Germany, the civilians (so to speak) were in charge, and the military instigated coups. In Japan the military were in charge, and the civilians given their marching orders. Harder for civilians to overthrow a military government i time of war. Konoe was one depressed aristocrat from 1937, basically in triage mode.

Oh there are complications, Navy vs Army, Emperor's inner circle, various zaibatsu oligarchs.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:41 PM
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Some people did try to withhold the portion of taxes that they calculated went towards the Vietnam war effort

These people must not have heard about the fungibility of money.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:41 PM
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100: Weak sauce.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:43 PM
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95: Whoa.

96: But are you positing a Dec. 7/8 that runs exactly as in our native timeline, except for Pearl Harbor? Because I kind of think that Churchill would have expected our (inevitable) alliance to extend to all theaters. As I say, I can imagine a situation in which our war in the Pacific is limited to holding actions - denial of movement, shipping attacks, etc. - but not one in which we literally refrain from war with Japan entirely.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:43 PM
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Was there anything on the western front comparable to what happened in Iwo Jima and Okinawa? Talk of Japanese reluctance to surrender wasn't invented out of whole cloth by racist Americans. AFAIK, German civilians didn't commit suicide in response to American advances.

The Western Front was a sideshow. Plenty of Germans committed suicide as the Red Army advanced. And the Germans resisted like crazy in various spots long after the front had passed them by - think Courland or the various fortress cities. Or just Berlin. Total casualties in Europe during the last four months of the war were easily in the seven figures.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:45 PM
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98: Yeah, I know, but given all the aid the US was providing to GB pre-12/7, and given the U-boat attacks on US shipping, I can't imagine us staying neutral forever. I mean, if the Japanese leave Pearl alone, and Hitler doesn't declare war, then perhaps we maintain our nominal neutrality in Europe for another 6 months while we pursue limited war in the Pacific, but I think the die was basically cast with Lend-Lease.

Question: can the Russians hold Stalingrad without US assistance? I think the USSR was destined to beat back Germany, but I can't help but think that, had the US remained neutral (and thus giving Russia very limited aid), then the Wehrmacht gets a chunk farther into Russia in '42, and the eventual counterattack takes longer to roll back the Nazis.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:49 PM
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From the link in 87:

Piecing together when (and why) American leaders decided to use the bomb requires us to abandon the simplistic notion that Truman confronted a binary choice between use and non-use. There is no evidence that any high-level American authorities ever considered the question of whether to use the atomic bomb. The "A-bomb-or-invasion" binary that has so enraptured some historians was simply not a question that Truman (or Roosevelt for that matter) ever directly addressed. What American leaders did discuss extensively, and sometimes heatedly, were the questions associated with how, where and when to use the bomb.

Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:50 PM
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100: Weak sauce.

It's true (albeit irrelevant to your proposed understanding of "civilian" to mean "resident of a nation at war"). If you withhold the portion of your taxes that you suspect will fund the war effort, what makes you think that the amount you *do* pay won't go to the war effort, and something else won't get paid out of the taxes you remit?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:52 PM
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102. The counter-factual only works if the declaration of war is translated and delivered prior to any attack. So the 7th/ 8th would also have to be modified. Allow the Americans to withdraw. No dog in the fight.


Posted by: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:53 PM
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103: Right, but suicide in the face of advancing Soviet armies was a much more rational decision than in the face of American. That may sound naive or jingoistic or whatever, but c'mon. We ran the experiment, and I think W. Germany came out pretty clearly ahead.

In fact, we know that a major dynamic was (certain) Germans wanting to surrender to the US and GB in order to hold the Russians at bay, and this was a source of tension among the Big 3.

Anyway, the point remains: actual contemporary Germans were happy enough to surrender to Americans, while actual contemporary Japanese were happy enough to jump off cliffs to avoid it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:54 PM
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106: If you just include a note, the gov't has no choice.

Wait. Did you saps pay for the war in Iraq? Jeez.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:55 PM
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I mean, if the Japanese leave Pearl alone, and Hitler doesn't declare war, then perhaps we maintain our nominal neutrality in Europe for another 6 months while we pursue limited war in the Pacific, but I think the die was basically cast with Lend-Lease.

Maybe. But by your own logic, we still get a Pacific war. In addition to the U.S. lending aid and comfort to the British with Lend-Lease, we are also (beginning with the fall of Singapore at the latest) their only hope to protect their imperial possessions in the Pacific - not just Malaya and Burma, but even Australia and India. The first major U.S. campaign of the Pacific (Guadalcanal) was fought to protect the ocean lifeline to Australia.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:57 PM
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107: I guess I'm not clear what you're laying out. Do all attacks against Commonwealth and other European powers proceed? What about Guam and Wake? And are you really saying that Japan gives us an ultimatum over the Philippines, we withdraw our forces and cede the country, and everything goes forward in pure peacefulness? I'm not buying that at all, so I suspect you mean something else. Isolationist≠humiliationist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 3:58 PM
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110: Well right. I think that at some point we would have had war in Europe, and I think that, in any massive Japanese offensive in the Pacific, we are implicated as well. I can imagine different ways for it to unfold (if we retain our Pacific Fleet, then Japanese expansion is less threatening - every convoy to Australia includes a damned battleship*, plus the IJN is less terrifying), but I can't imagine a world in which it's mid-1943 and the US is still nominally and effectively at peace everywhere.

*one thing I haven't said is that I think that a non-PH timeline features several battles in which we discover that battleships are passe, with disastrous consequences. But that would have taken awhile to sink in


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:02 PM
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We ran the experiment, and I think W. Germany came out pretty clearly ahead.

Now there's a counter-factual to debate until the wee hours. No Pearl Harbor, U. S. does not go to war against the Axis. However, the U. S. now engages in a cold war, much the same as after 1948. End result in 2000, not too different?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:02 PM
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However, the U. S. now engages in a cold war...

A very different kind of cold war (or perhaps none at all) since there would be no A-bomb because no Manhattan Project.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:24 PM
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a non-PH timeline features several battles in which we discover that battleships are passe,

Heck, If I didn't get lost who knows what would have happened. Sometimes luck plays a big part in war.


Posted by: Lt Cmdr Wade McClusky, USN | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:28 PM
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106: So we're agreed. "Civilian" is a branch of the military other than the traditionally named "Army", "Navy", "Marines", etc.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:36 PM
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116: that's an impressive feat of misreading.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:38 PM
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There are no civilians is just another variant of since no one exists completely outside of society, everyone is equally guilty of everything people in your society do. You might as well say you claim to be against racism and sexism but you pay taxes, so everyone is really racist and sexist, it's silly.

The United States was trading oil to Japan in the 30s, so I guess our civilians were just a guilty as theirs.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:40 PM
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Has anyone been making the case that civilians have nothing to do with a countries war effort?


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:44 PM
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I guess our civilians were just a guilty as theirs.

There is enough guilt for everyone. No need to be stingy.


Posted by: Sister Mary Elephant | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:45 PM
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Don't forget that it's the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising today! Yay for killing Nazis!!!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:51 PM
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The link in 87 is great, and will be surprisingly familiar to anyone with experience in how big, bureaucratic decisions get made.

I also read it as strongly supporting the idea that we didn't pursue a diplomatic solution and decided to use the bomb at the end of the war largely out of inertia, rather than an express belief that the Japanese never could possibly accept terms. Of course the article only deals with the US, not the Japanese side.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 4:52 PM
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53

52: sorry, what I meant to say was that he argues that every new weapon gets used. ...

Yes, it is hard to see the government spending billions to develop the bomb and then not using it. The taxpayers would have been annoyed.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 7:03 PM
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59

My pet-peeve is the whole (the Japanese would of never surrendered, old women charging GIs with spears shit.). Which seems to suffer from the serious problem that they did surrender.

The atomic bomb gave them the excuse they needed to surrender.

IIRC Japanese government propaganda was 80 million die together so by surrendering they were breaking faith with all their soldiers who had fought to the death. So they needed an excuse.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 7:12 PM
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68

I don't think you can call the unconditional surrender policy a mistake without measuring it against a deal that would have ended the war, and the follow-on consequences of that deal (which is why the policy was adopted, not because they enjoyed killing). ...

I thought the policy was adopted because the Soviet Union and the Allies didn't trust each other and therefore didn't want each other negotiating favorable terms with the enemy.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 7:16 PM
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but that wasn't true for chemical weapons in WWII, as far as I know, on either side.

Chemical weapons were used a bit in China, by the Japanese.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 9:25 PM
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Don't forget that it's the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising today!

Most of my family was killed in the uprising! Thanks for the reminder! (Er, I mean, we never forget.)


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 9:38 PM
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I don't think there's any way on earth the US lets the Philippines, and then Bataan, just go.

If Japan had stayed away from us, though, then the counterfactual starts to get interesting. Britain probably does come to a separate arrangement with Germany -- it certainly doesn't have the ability to take on the North Africa and Sicilian campaigns -- and Germany fights it out with the Russians.

125 -- That too, and they were right to be suspicious on both sides. But after May 1945, the US could probably have made a deal with Japan over Russian objection, if there was actually some sort of deal that could be made. But I think domestic pressures in both the US and Japan, even if mostly inertia, would have been enough over the short timeline we're talking about to keep the war going to its end.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 9:43 PM
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The atomic bomb gave them the excuse they needed to surrender.

I've heard decent arguments for this, before. Surrendering after defeat in conventional warfare was widely considered dishonorable. On the other-hand, surrendering because you are now faced with a giant destructive super-weapon, that enables a certain measure of saving face.

They knew they were fucked with the Russians in the war, so, when the atom bombs opened the door for them to end the war with some measure of their honor intact, they took the opportunity.

I am slightly suspicious of this explanation because it plays on Western stereotypes about Eastern codes of honor. But it does make sense to me as one significant element among an extensive and complex set of causes.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 9:49 PM
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I've thought about this issue a lot, without ever coming to a firm opinion about the morality of dropping the bomb. In fact, I'm now realizing that my perspective on WWII in general is hugely dominated by the issue of the bomb, due mainly to growing up in NM, which played (and continues to play) such a huge role in the development of nuclear weapons. The fact that my grandfather served in the Pacific, and at least according to family tradition would likely have been at huge risk if there had been an invasion of Japan, has also contributed to this. I'm only now realizing this as a result of coming to Alaska and learning more about the Aleutian Campaign, which gives a very different (but still morally ambiguous) perspective on the war.

I like the way Yglesias framed the issue in a post he wrote several years ago (I think when he was at TPM), to wit: It's really hard for us to figure out how to judge Truman's decisions because the context in which he was making them was almost unimaginably more brutal than our world today. Millions of people were dying as a matter of course throughout the war, as the result of decisions made by all the major players. As MY put it, paraphrasing somewhat because I don't recall his exact words, "This is a war in which the 'good guys' consisted of the world's greatest imperial power and an Apartheid pseudo-democracy, in alliance with Joseph Stalin. And they really were the good guys, because the other side was even worse." (Some of the stuff Von Wafer has mentioned from his recent class has reminded me of this as well.) This doesn't inherently support either side of the argument over whether Truman should have dropped the bomb, but it provides important context.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:07 PM
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130 is really great, teo. Thanks.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:11 PM
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Shorter 130: War is Hell, and Total War is Total Hell.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:11 PM
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131: Glad you like it, although I can't take much credit for the insight.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:15 PM
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Given a couple of days to get some info on the blast and heat effects, and making the assumption the US had more of those bombs, the idea of a defense of the home islands by mass attacks on any beachheads would have seemed futile to any Japanese officer still capable of thinking at all clearly. They would have assumed we could clear any beach we wanted as far inland as we wanted, and leveled Tokyo and Kyoto too.

Teo: Yeah, the ferocity of the Pacific campaigns make current barbarities seem trivial. I don't think Truman agonized over that decision at all.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:33 PM
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I didn't realize people were so skeptical about the existence of civilians. I thought that was the whole thing that made us better than the terrorists? Jesus F. Christ.

The U.S. dropped the bomb, firebombed cities--and then signed and ratified Geneva IV anyway. I would think the latter legacy is at least as well worth defending as the former.

130 is good though.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:35 PM
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130. I'm not convinced anyone was worse than the British empire. Other than that I agree. Well I'd probably describe the United States as a genocidal empire commited to the ideology of white supremacy, but he was writing for a general audience.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 10:55 PM
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I guess I shouldn't be coy. If I was going to rank over all shitty behavior, in general, between Germany, America and England, Germany would probably rank last. But in 1936-1945 they were the ones up to really bad shit , and it turns out the only tool in the chest to stop them was Joseph Stalin. Go human race.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 11:04 PM
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133: I liked it enough that I just put up a post for you.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 11:08 PM
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And you know how much I hate putting up blog posts.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 11:14 PM
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Aw, thanks. It's a good post, too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 11:19 PM
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Bomber Harris was like a character straight out of a Tarantino film. "Hello, old chaps. Let's talk about how we're going to bomb the ever-loving shit out of the Jerrys, shall we? Women, children, old people, the infirm, all shall be incinerated. Let's look forward to it!"


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-19-13 11:27 PM
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There were reenactments of Waterloo in 1820s London, at the Hippodrome* and such: they were basically open-air horse-skills circuses, employing among others cavalrymen who had fought in the actual battle, and knew the moves.

*see name (and not the modern one, which is an ordinary theatre, built c.1900).

There was a fashion in c.1840s UK for staging mediaeval pageants, jousts and such (the Eglinton Tournament was big and famous). It was the Walter Scott chivalry revival heyday. On the whole I think (British) reenactment societies were a 19th century phenom -- they depend on a certain level of literacy and education, which probably wasn't widespread enough in the 18th century? (And the 17th century they are actually still just enacting the Civil War in living memory, so Too Soon...)

The Romans loved big reenactment spectacles (also: bread). I dimly remember there being some catastrophe at a reenactment of a great sea battle where platforms collapsed and lots of spectators were drowned (caveat: I read about this in school, in Latin).


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 3:24 AM
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Stop saying "and such"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 3:25 AM
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142.last: As a middlebrow, I know the same story from I, Claudius.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 3:57 AM
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If I was going to rank over all shitty behavior, in general, between Germany, America and England, Germany would probably rank last. But in 1936-1945 they were the ones up to really bad shit

Yglesias once made a strangely compelling counterfactual argument that the world would have been a lot better off if the Central Powers had won in the Great War. The more I think about it, the more convincing I find it. Most of the major conflicts* of the 20th century have their roots, proximately or ultimately, in the settlement of 1919.

* India-Pakistan might be an exception, as well as Japan-China, though you could at least argue that the latter was catalyzed by the surge in Japanese imperialism after its assumption of the mandate over German island possessions in the pacific.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 4:37 AM
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I'm not convinced anyone was worse than the British empire.

Unless you believe scale trumps everything*, it's hard to argue that British imperialism was worse than Belgian, Spanish, or Russian imperialism. The early chapters of French imperialism were pretty horrific, too.

* or that the British are responsible for the sins of their political heirs


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 4:45 AM
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146.last: You could argue that the Britih mode of disengagement from both Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan set up the ensuing conflicts.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 5:34 AM
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For what it's worth I think the British were the least bad colonial power in Southeast Asia. I don't know enough about imperialism in other regions to judge.


Posted by: Ponder Stibbons | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 5:45 AM
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146.last: You could argue that the British mode of disengagement from both Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan set up the ensuing conflicts.

I guess the meaning of 146.last wasn't very clear: I was referring to Albion's seed in the U.S. (and also in Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia, and elsewhere.)


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 5:50 AM
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For what it's worth I think the British were the least bad colonial power in Southeast Asia.

Also the least bad in Latin America and the Caribbean, maybe also in Africa (could also be Germany*), but not in North America (where the French were the least bad).

*Portugal in Africa is also an interesting case, but if you factor in the size of the mess they left behind, they're can't plausibly contend for least bad.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:02 AM
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146:I might argue that the British ideology of colonial paternalism (white man's burden) and universalism has had long-lasting effects more pernicious than any simple racist exploitation.

We to this day have elites making lesser peoples (like labor during austerity) suffer "for their own good" with perfectly clear consciences.

Obviously a long and complicated story. The Romans "brought civilization" to the savages. The difference is probably to theoretical egalitarianism and meritocracy of capitalist liberalism, in which all pigs are equal, but enlightened responsible pigs are more equal than the others.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:11 AM
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it's hard to argue that British imperialism was worse than Belgian, Spanish, or Russian imperialism.

The general rule of thumb I've heard is that, if you are a country being colonized, your a best off under the British, and worst off under Portugal.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:13 AM
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I mean, when you are thinking, you don't play with unimaginable counterfactuals but try to connect Reinhart and Rogoff "Granny must starve and bankers must get bonuses! For the greater good! This is SCIENCE! Will you fight SCIENCE?" to the 19th century British project and ideology.

But I'm wasting my time.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:19 AM
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I'm both doing science and wasting time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:27 AM
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Peter Frase at Jacobin on "The Perils of Wonkery"

Obsessing over the analytical missteps in this paper reeks of the preoccupation with having correct and empirically supported arguments, while ignoring the importance of power and ideology.

I could have posted this in the previous R & R thread, but as I have said, I am losing my motivation. Y'all just enjoy juggling variables with Krugman and Konczal, proving by SCIENCE your own opposing prejudices and preferences...which means you are really validating what is important in Reinhardt and Rogoff. You are on their side. You think it's fun.

My side says should the world fall and logic die, granny won't starve and kids won't get shot in school.
I don't need confirmation.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:34 AM
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That's just super.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:41 AM
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147

146.last: You could argue that the Britih mode of disengagement from both Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan set up the ensuing conflicts.

Not very plausibly in my opinion. Once the British left trouble seems more or less inevitable and I doubt there is much they could have done about it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 6:50 AM
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135 I didn't realize people were so skeptical about the existence of civilians. I thought that was the whole thing that made us better than the terrorists? Jesus F. Christ.

Isn't it only Biohazard who's saying that? And it's perfectly in line with his usual blog persona.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 8:03 AM
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The article linked by FA in 87 pushes back a bit on Teo's 130 and similar sentiments. Sure, WWII was unbelievably brutal on all sides. But, in fact, up until almost the moment the bomb was used, the US Secretary of War and the head of the armed forces were deeply worried, in moral terms (including the moral worry about the effect of using the bomb on the future of the US and whether it made the US party to Nazi-like atrocities). They were explicitly thinking in moral terms. And it's not like there wasn't precedent for relaxing the terms of unconditional surrender -- it had been done with Darlan in French North Africa, and then later with the Italian government. And an attempt at a negotiated surrender was in fact being pushed by lower (but still very high ranking) US officials at the state department and elsewhere -- and was then ignored apparently out of bureaucratic inertia as much as anything. I think it lets off US policy makers a bit too easily to just say "well they faced a massively more brutal world" when in fact the record seems to be that officials were in fact conscious of and consciously considering the use of the bomb vs negotiated surrender in moral terms.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 8:11 AM
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146, yes scale trumps everything.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 10:22 AM
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I think it lets off US policy makers a bit too easily to just say "well they faced a massively more brutal world" when in fact the record seems to be that officials were in fact conscious of and consciously considering the use of the bomb vs negotiated surrender in moral terms.

I don't think it does, actually, although I haven't read the article in 87. The point is that all of the plausible options they had available involved massive suffering by huge numbers of people, and whatever moral debates they had over their options were over how many people and who they should be.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 2:08 PM
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You could argue that the Britih mode of disengagement from both Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan set up the ensuing conflicts.

This is definitely true for Israel/Palestine, and the Middle East in general. A Peace to End All Peace is a great book on this exact subject. Churchill comes out looking especially bad.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 2:32 PM
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Churchill comes out looking especially bad.

Churchill also looks bad on Indian independence, and on post-colonial movements in general.

But I probably wouldn't disagree, if pressed, with the proposition that "the British were the least bad colonial power," even though I would be reluctant to say so, lest my great-grandfather turn over in his grave. And "least bad" is not necessarily a high hurdle to leap, needless to say.

I don't believe the US should have dropped the A-bomb, but I don't know enough about the specifics of the conflict to debate this on the internet. I appreciate Halford's 159.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 8:20 PM
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161: Two options actually discussed were 1) demonstration of the bomb dropped on a not so heavily populated area and 2) aiming at a military base near a target city rather than aiming at a target city near a military base. Whether or not these were plausible options is a judgement call. The bomb was designed to destroy populated areas with buildings. Stimson (also, Marshall) had real misgivings about targeting civilians and seems to have needed to set up a screen of denial to get behind the bomb.

Anyway, Halford's being silly. No one ever reads links!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 8:41 PM
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162

This is definitely true for Israel/Palestine ...

So if weren't for the British the Israelis and the Palestinians would living together in peace and harmony? I have my doubts.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-20-13 9:24 PM
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But I probably wouldn't disagree, if pressed, with the proposition that "the British were the least bad colonial power,"

I would disagree. In addition for setting up the Middle East and South Asia for massive conflict which cost the lives of 10s, if not 100s of millions, they also initiated genocidal settler colonialism in North America and Australia, and participated initially in the slave trade.

Also, I initially read 'Ohio' as 'Oslo' in the headline, and was extremely confused.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 9:37 AM
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I was thinking maybe Italy, but it's hopeless.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 9:47 AM
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145

Oh absolutely. WW1 was more about national chauvinism and flexing imperial muscle than anything else, and at that point the Central Powers were if anything rather less bad on that front than the other side, so it's hard to see what compelling moral reason there was for any side to win,* and given the disaster which was the Treaty of Versailles, it's hard to see how a Central Power Victory could have been worse. We can trace almost every conflict in Europe and the Middle East in the past 100 years directly or indirectly back to this treaty.**

*I find American/British vilification of Germans in WW1 to be a result of 1) reading WW2 into WW1, and 2) the enduring success of a rather nasty propaganda campaign on the part of the British.

**The Treaty of Versailles also treated many of the winners poorly. Because of the treaty Italy switched sides for WW2, and China refused to sign, instead negotiating its own peace with Germany several years alter and forging an alliance based in part on solidarity over mistreatment in WW1. The only reason China was on 'our' side during WW2 is 1) Japan's invasion of China forced Germany to pick sides between the KMT and Japan, and 2) the Russians switched sides.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 10:14 AM
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145

aah pwned. That's what I get for not reading your comment carefully. Anyways, I find the Chinese part interesting, because it shows how the KMT actually slotted quite well into Fascist movements of the time, ideologically as well as politically. Cold War propaganda has subsequently whitewashed their reputation in the West.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 10:22 AM
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I don't know enough about the specifics of the conflict to debate this on the internet

If I didn't know better I'd ask if you were new here.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 10:36 AM
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the world would have been a lot better off if the Central Powers had won in the Great War.

I avoid counterfactuals, but for only a small part, what happens in Germany if they win the war? It remains repressive right wing, but very broke. The Bavarian uprisings were happening before war's end.

Austria-Hungary was collapsing mid-war, and I have trouble imagining it reconstituting.

Poland would not get independence.

However, Russia was on the winning side but in Revolution. With the Allies losing, broke, and in no mood to help Germany or points east, Germany likely in Civil War, Poland and Hungary receptive, the Balkans in chaos...

...I, a fan of Lenin and Trotsky, really like this scenario. Communism to the Rhine! And then the world!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 11:46 AM
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North Italy?

And France losing another war to Germany? Maybe Wilhelm would demand another victory march through Paris. So maybe Red to the West Coast.

It is almost the nature of History:"Stuff not going as planned."

Hard enough to even know what actually happened, let alone what could have happened.

Counterfactuals are a liberal's game. Utopian Hegelians. They have a plan.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 12:11 PM
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In addition for setting up the Middle East and South Asia for massive conflict which cost the lives of 10s, if not 100s of millions, they also initiated genocidal settler colonialism in North America and Australia, and participated initially in the slave trade.

Yeah, I was thinking about this last night, and I think overall it's pretty hard to escape the conclusion that the British were the worst. Just looking at the early colonization of the New World, the British strategy was hugely successful because, unlike those of all the other major colonial powers, it benefited rather than suffered from the massive decline in indigenous populations, and the settlers themselves were only too happy to help that process along whenever they could. Same deal for Australia except that there weren't any other competitors. For the later period of imperialism in Asia and Africa, I think the British win for sheer scale, although in some specific times and places they were probably better for the locals than some other colonial powers might have been.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 2:19 PM
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It's interesting how these things change. When I was a seventh grader at fancypants academy (not that long ago!) I remember we were taught that the French were the best colonialists because they worked the hardest to integrate into the metropole, plus Senegal and Ivory Coast seemed to be kicking the rest of Africa's ass. Now that seems implausible.

But the reality is that there wasn't one kind of colonialism. African colanialism post 1890s really doesn't have much to do, ideologically or otherwise, with colonialism in 17th century North America.

The only certainty in comparative colonialism is that the Belgians were the worst.


Posted by: Robert Halfordu | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 2:46 PM
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The counter-factual of a happier world with Germany winning WWI has always seemed plausible to me. I hate Niall Ferguson, but his suggestion that the British and Amercians should just have stayed neutral and let the Germans win has always seemed somewhat compelling. The counter argument is that Germany by 1915-16 was already tending to a very repressive, fascist state, but who the hell knows.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 2:50 PM
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You know, I like alternate histories, but I can't remember ever reading one that had a plausible chain of reasoning for WWI going the other way. Even without the US coming in on the side of Britain and France (and the ones where the US is against them are just too silly) it would have been just a matter of time until the gigantic advantage of British and French colonial possessions made their victory inevitable. bob's right about Austria-Hungary too. Even without any war at all, how do you get to 1930 with an intact Austria-Hungary?

On a more meta level, one thing that a lot of alternate history scenarios seem to forget is that people are just naturally cussed and contrary. If you say "sugar", they'll say "shite". So eliminating Hitler or Napoleon or Stalin or whomever makes some changes, but the great men are always in place because of coalitions of other powerful people, in opposition other groupings, which are probably going to fall out pretty much the same way, regardless. Killing FDR in '33 doesn't make Robert Taft and Paul Robeson into best friends.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 3:01 PM
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176 -- I don't really disagree with you, but the Ferguson counter factual is Britain staying neutral and letting the Germans and Austrians beat the Russians and French, which doesn't seem impossible.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 3:06 PM
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But that's basically what you have to do -- change the players and their goals around so much that it doesn't look very much like any reality that was likely to come about.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 3:10 PM
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A friend of a friend wrote his doctoral thesis on popular sentiment in the lead-up to and early stages of WWI. My recollection from discussing it with him is that there was quite a lot of sophisticated political reasoning going on, and a lot of left-leaning and/or ordinary working class Brits were going into the war for exactly the same kinds of reasons they later joined the International Brigades in Spain, and fought in WWII: opposing what they saw as a rightist/authoritarian power. According to him, the idea that [for them, if not for the political elites] it was all about crude patriotism, and people being led sheep-like isn't really accurate.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 5:01 PM
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It really depends on what the German victory treaty at Versailles looks like. Do they get Lyon? Algeria? Senegal? Chad? Martinique? Cambodia? If the Brits are out, do the Germans conquer Holland and take over Indonesia?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 5:45 PM
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176

... but I can't remember ever reading one that had a plausible chain of reasoning for WWI going the other way. ...

It doesn't seem that hard to me. Move Wilson's stroke up and have it keep the US out. Move the French army mutinies back to 1918 and have the French collapse when the German's launch their offensive. Then with France and Russia defeated have the British accept reasonable terms to end the war.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 6:46 PM
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In addition for setting up the Middle East and South Asia for massive conflict which cost the lives of 10s, if not 100s of millions, they also initiated genocidal settler colonialism in North America and Australia, and participated initially in the slave trade.

This idea that Britain set up South Asia for massive conflict is pretty patronising (& in some respects suggests that the Pax Britannica was A Good Thing). South Asians were (& are) perfectly capable of organising wars & genocides all on their very own.

Also, guys, say what you like about Britain & France in WWI, but (a) the Germans did in fact invade a neutral country in contravention of treaties and (b) the Entente's (elected) civilian leadership remained firmly in control throughout the war.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-21-13 11:59 PM
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Me.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:00 AM
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166: setting up the Middle East and South Asia for massive conflict which cost the lives of 10s, if not 100s of millions

Britta, tens or hundreds of millions of people have not died in border conflicts in the Middle East or South Asia. Are you high or something?

Move the French army mutinies back to 1918 and have the French collapse when the German's launch their offensive. Then with France and Russia defeated have the British accept reasonable terms to end the war.

The trouble then is that you have Germany, run by Ludendorff, in charge of most of Europe. And I thought that a continent dominated by an anti-semitic German dictator was what we were trying to avoid here.

173: the best counterargument to that is to look at the situation on either side of the US-Canadian border. Same settlers on each side; same First Nations on each side. One side run by the brutal colonial regime and the RCMP; the other side free and independent.

On which side would you rather have been an Indian?

On the OP, remember that delaying the Japanese surrender, even by a few months, would not have been cost-free. Maybe without the bomb it takes until, say, the end of November 1945 for the junta to see sense, instead of getting a surrender in August 1945.
How many Chinese civilians are going to die in that three-month period?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 1:52 AM
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For laughs, in the spring of 1918, Haig told Lloyd George that in his view we should make peace with the Germans, letting them keep their conquests in the east as the price. Now there's a plan with absolutely no downside. Ll G told him to bugger off and beat the Germans.

[one of the most leftwing people I know, an actual historian, is convinced that the Armistice was a mistake and the British army should have kept pushing to the key railway laterals and turned the retreat into a rout, and gone ahead with the shuttle-bombing raid on Berlin. not sure if he means this because it would have obviated the stab-in-the-back thing and the continued role of the General Staff, and therefore finished the 20th century early, or whether he thinks this would have meant more and better revolutions and teh full communisms]


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:35 AM
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185.1: was that before the MICHAEL offensive in April, or after it?

185.2: just one-up him on that; "No, we should have gone all the way across Germany, toppled the Kaiser and annexed the country as a crown colony." Obviously splitting it with the French and the Americans. In another fifty years or so, maybe the British Dominion of the Rhineland would have been ready for self-government. There's a fun alternate history for you.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 4:22 AM
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184

The trouble then is that you have Germany, run by Ludendorff, in charge of most of Europe. And I thought that a continent dominated by an anti-semitic German dictator was what we were trying to avoid here.

I was trying to come up with a plausible scenario in which Germany won. You want everyone to live happily ever after that's going to be a bit harder.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 4:30 AM
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187: fair point. But see weirdness like 168, with the poor Germans being so unfairly maligned by nasty British propaganda.
Britta reckons all those Belgians weren't refugees, they just all suddenly decided to go on holiday at the same time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_of_Belgium


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 4:39 AM
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I'm with 168. WWI was a world-historical disaster. If you could have prevented it by appeasing Germany in the beginning that seems worth it. Then you quite likely prevent Stalin and Hitler both. Even a later armistice would likely have prevented Nazism, which seems like an outcome which is worth sacrificing a lot for. The actual course of historical events only looks good because it eventually resulted in the complete and total destruction of Europe which cleared the way for the establishment of a new order. I'm not sure how you do utilitarian tradeoffs of that against some hypothetical outcome involving a mean Kaiser.

Britta, tens or hundreds of millions of people have not died in border conflicts in the Middle East or South Asia. Are you high or something?

well, you get a couple of million just out of India/Pakistan/Bangladesh wars...then a few million more out of Iran/Iraq...ten million seems defensible. Seems hard to chalk up Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, China to British imperialism though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 5:53 AM
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I think you'd have a hard time chalking up Iran/Iraq to British imperialism either, to be frank. And even if you do, that still doesn't get you to "tens of millions". Tens = more than one ten. A quick google around shows an estimate of 51 million total deaths in wars since 1945, with the bulk of those in China (the civil war), Vietnam and Korea. Anyone with the slightest awareness of world affairs should have known that talking about conflicts causing hundreds of millions of deaths was lunatic exaggeration.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:08 AM
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I'm with ajay. German behavior in WWI was, by any standard short of German behavior in WWII, well worthy of vilification on its own right. Their treatment of Belgium was both cruel and bizarre in a "why are you hitting yourself"-bullying sort of way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:09 AM
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Propaganda! Fucking Belgians, that'll teach you to be stingy with your chocolates.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:16 AM
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It's a kind of hipster denialism. It's just so mainstream to be a Holocaust denier these days. I'm into denying some smaller German mass murders of civilians from the First World War. They're really obscure, you probably wouldn't have heard of them.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:23 AM
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The actual course of historical events only looks good because it eventually resulted in the complete and total destruction of Europe

This is clearly some new definition of "looking good" of which I was previously unaware.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:24 AM
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Mass murder of civilians in war isn't rare enough to be distinctive. The part that I find really strange is the ultimatum to Belgium ("we're sending in troops to protect you from French invasion so don't fight"). Not that they sent it, but that they apparently believed it in a great number of cases.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:27 AM
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The link in 188 contains the following:

The war crimes of August 1914 are often dismissed as British propaganda.[citation needed]
Can we use a link to 168?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:30 AM
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These discussions always make me think that beyond a tiny window in time around the vent, counterfactual speculation is wildly implausible. To postulate that appeasing Germany in WW1 is better because of WW2 is to postulate that German victory must lead to an era of perpetual peace and the end of history. Based on what, other than our inability to imagine what would happen next? It's exactly as plausible as the idea that Allied victory would mean that World War 1 was the war to end all wars.

Coming up with a body count from Partition and the seccession of East Pakistan, and then lumping it together with other events from 3 centuries to come with a measure of the badness of "British imperialism" is equally implausible. I mean sure, you can point to British policies that lead to Hindu-Muslim tensions that still cause trouble today, but the Indian subcontinent had wars before the British came, so it's not exactly surprising that they had wars after the British left.

Colonialism is wrong because it's wrong, not because it fails some sort of cost-benefit analysis.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:36 AM
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The TIME VENT!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:37 AM
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"Let's do the time vent again."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:38 AM
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184: Wait, can you explain your counterargument? Based on your framing, I'm assuming you'd rather have been a native in the US? Why?


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:51 AM
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200: I think you might be misreading the tone of 184.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:52 AM
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200: You've got it flipped -- he's saying, correctly, that the evil British colonial power treated First Nations in Canada much better (which leaves a lot of room, of course) than Americans treated Native Americans.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:53 AM
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Oh, okay! I was confused but figured I might have been brainwashed by my Canadian education.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 6:54 AM
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Brainwashing and The Barenaked Ladies are the two worst features of Canada.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:04 AM
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Same difference.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:08 AM
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Walt's point is well taken -- of course we don't know if a German victory would have been worse. But I don't understand the rest of the arguments about WWI. The interesting counter factual isn't letting the Germans win in 1918, it's Britain staying out, and France losing the first battle of the Marne in 1914, which is certainly plausible. So a negotiated peace that ends with the German empire strengthened and the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires intact. Or, buying at least a few decades for the conservative/authoritarian European empires, instead of the ways in which they collapsed between 1918 and 1945. The point isn't that these conservative/authoritarian empires were super awesome places or that they didnt commot any bad acts. The question is whether, on net, the world would have been better off with them in place for a few more decades than it was with their collapse, making the war ultimately a strategic mistake. Of course we can't actually know the answer to that question but 1914-1945 really sucked it big time and it seems reasonably likely that 40 more years of (varying degrees of) authoritarian rule plus the populations of those countries getting richer would have produced ultimately a much better outcome than Hitler+Stalin.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:11 AM
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Given that the German plan was always dependent on invading through Belgium, I don't see any real chance of Britain staying out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:13 AM
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Nickleback + Barenaked Ladies = brainwashing


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:15 AM
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||
No more touching yourself to the woman who sang "I Touch Myself".
|>


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:17 AM
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So the first communist revolution is in France rather than Russia? As to whether that's a good thing, it's still too early to tell.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:22 AM
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It at least fits better with Marx's expectations.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:25 AM
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Who knows, but I think 210 is among the least likely counterfactuals. For a start, there already had been a communist revolution in France at the time of the last defeat in 1871, and almost no one in France was excited with how that turned out.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:32 AM
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For Germany to win WW1 don't they just need to have known about the French mutinees and attacked in the sections with no troops?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:36 AM
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Even if the French army was in mutiny, Germany still couldn't have prevailed if they attacked using no troops.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:41 AM
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The interesting counter factual isn't letting the Germans win in 1918, it's Britain staying out, and France losing the first battle of the Marne in 1914, which is certainly plausible. So a negotiated peace that ends with the German empire strengthened and the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires intact. Or, buying at least a few decades for the conservative/authoritarian European empires, instead of the ways in which they collapsed between 1918 and 1945.

Exactly. Also, the Ottoman Empire. It likely would have continued to slowly pull apart, but without the catastrophic collapse and subsequent dismemberment by Britain and France. The Greco-Turkish war in Anatolia and the genocide against the Armenians can also be added to the ledger of evils possibly avoided if the Germans had swiftly captured Paris in 1914 (which, it should be remembered, they came very close to doing).


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:42 AM
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Thanks to my access to the time vent, I can actually say what happens after a quick German victory in WW1. Since German Jewish scientists have no reason to flee Germany, Germany maintains its technological lead, and becomes the first to develop the atomic bomb. The next world war ends with nuclear attacks of London, St. Petersburg, and New York. Historians in the rubble speculate what would have happened if German had failed to win at the Marne, and how the world would have learned sooner the folly of war.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:43 AM
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if the Germans had swiftly captured Paris in 1914 (which, it should be remembered, they came very close to doing).

Just imagine if the French army had been unable to flag down those cabs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:52 AM
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My scenario of France going communist presumed

a) a brutalization by victorious Germany, and I don't know what the counterfacters here think Germany would demand as victor

b) the collapse and communisation of everything to the East of France

Premise Britain and America staying out?

I feel safe in saying that neither Austria-Hungary or Russia has decades of stability left, though what form the Revolution would take is unknown. One guess is that Germany attempts to stabilize A-H.

Even given facts as they were, I would not claim that Hitler and Stalin were inevitable, but I would say, very cautiously, that a last gasp of oligarchic militaristic nationalist state capitalism was inevitable, something close to fascism, irregardless of WW I and how it played out.

Too many nations went to military Keynesianism, including the US from 1940 til umm today, even before it had a name, for me not to wonder if it was historically inevitable, and look for social mechanisms.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 7:58 AM
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Oligarchic, militaristic, nationalist, state capitalism is to politics what the Barenaked Ladies is to music.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:00 AM
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216 is great.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:06 AM
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You know, we had a very great man and genius look very carefully at the first third of the century and try to find a solution.

John Maynard Keynes was not a Friedman-Christine Romer-Krugman technocrat who thought fiddling with the money supply or building bridges would insure against madness. The Great Depression and Totalitarianism were not technical problems.

He was serious about the "euthanasia of the rentier class." Keynes was fucking radical.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:07 AM
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the collapse and communisation of everything to the East of France

Are you assuming that the war on the Eastern fronts continues? Otherwise this makes no sense.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:08 AM
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My impression is that the WWI Germans did much less killing/destruction in Belgium than, say, the U.S. did in Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq. Or the Israelis in the West Bank or Lebanon. Or, frankly, than the Allied civilian bombing campaign in WWII. Of course they did it in a shorter period of time. It was shocking mainly because warfare was more civilized then and era of bombing civilians had not yet begun. WWI had amazingly limited civilian casualties by the standards of later wars.

So I don't think writing off German actions in Belgium from today's perspective is that unreasonable...it was really shocking by the standards of the time but not by the standards of WWII and after.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:34 AM
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It's not super-clear to me that the German atrocities in Belgium were worse than what the British did in the Second Boer War (or what we did in the Phillipines, for that matter). But I don't know that much about either conflict.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:52 AM
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It's not super-clear to me that the German atrocities in Belgium were worse than what the British did in the Second Boer War

Good God, man! You can't be serious. Why, those were Boers. Harumph!


Posted by: Colonel Oliver Bromley Tagliaferro-Cholmondeley, British Army (Ret.) (Mrs.) | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 8:58 AM
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It is clear to me that there was never a war of sufficient intensity to affect civilians at all in which atrocities were not committed by at least one side and usually both. Arguing over whether German atrocities in the Great War transgressed some undefined threshold of "really bad atrocities" seems to me to be a self-defeating exercise. The western entente powers and the Americans didn't perpetrate civilian atrocities in that war because they fought it on their territory.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:03 AM
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Good point. We killed massive numbers of civilians in the Phillipines, far worse than Germany in Belgium. But those weren't even Boers, they were wogs! (Though there was some domestic opposition at home...Mark Twain came off very well).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:05 AM
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223: well, maybe. The German Army in Belgium deliberately murdered thousands of civilians in 1914. We're not talking about innocents getting caught in the crossfire or the blast radius here, or being shot by mistake for insurgents; this is soldiers, under orders from their superior officers, grabbing unarmed people at random, knowing them to be civilians, standing them up against a wall and shooting them anyway. I think you'd have difficulty finding similar outrages happening during the invasion of Iraq.

And there is a definite distinction between saying "well, it's not shocking compared to what happened in WW2" and "it never happened, it's all just British propaganda". The first is entirely correct. The second means that you are, basically, a monster.

It was shocking mainly because warfare was more civilized then and era of bombing civilians had not yet begun.

It hadn't quite begun but it would soon. Three months later the German Navy was shelling British coastal towns (not naval bases, just towns) killing 130 civilians. The objective was to use them as bait to entice elements of the British Fleet into a trap.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:07 AM
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The Youtube comments to the second link in 167 are really quite something. I mean, even by those standards.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:13 AM
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The western entente powers and the Americans didn't perpetrate civilian atrocities in that war because they fought it on their territory.

Indeed. I don't know enough of the history of the period to say, but one wonders about the fate of civilians caught up in the advance of the Entente Powers on other fronts: German East Africa, Namibia, Iraq, Western Arabia, Salonika/Macedonia, and Gallipoli.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:14 AM
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The second means that you are, basically, a monster.

Or mistaken or poorly informed.

German atrocities in Belgium in WWI are something I have mentally flagged as "There's at least some question about what actually happened there" -- that is, I've certainly read that British propaganda included vastly inflated horrors, and I haven't read enough to know what was certainly left after the inflated claims. I know that I don't know enough about it to get into arguments, but I could easily have been convinced of something incorrect without being a monster.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:15 AM
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.... though come to think of it, I'm not sure the Gallipoli campaign ever advanced far enough to overrun any populated areas.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:17 AM
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So the emerging consensus is that Truman's greatest moral failure was in not bombing England back to the Tudor age? I haven't really kept up with the thread.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:21 AM
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It hadn't quite begun but it would soon. Three months later the German Navy was shelling British coastal towns...

And there were the Zeppelin raids of 1915 and 1916 which deliberately targeted civilians killing about 500 total.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:23 AM
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The German army systematically burned Leuven to the ground over five days, building by building, including the intentional burning of historical artifacts and buildings. That kind of thing hasn't happened very often, even though other more damaging and violent events certainly have.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:24 AM
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one wonders about the fate of civilians caught up in the advance of the Entente Powers on other fronts: German East Africa, Namibia, Iraq, Western Arabia, Salonika/Macedonia

The Allied war effort in Salonika featured, among other things, my maiden great-great-aunt Florence, who was spoken of only with hushed respect, and who was subsequently redeployed to Serbia (possibly at the request of the Salonikans) in order to get the Serbs to pull themselves together. From the evidence that remains she sounds like a cross between Lady Sale and Bertie's Aunt Dahlia. She went out to the Balkans on her own, after the war broke out, because she thought it would be a good thing to do, and attached herself to a field hospital when she got there.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:34 AM
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Nearly all of what I know about World War I in sub-Saharan Africa comes from watching The African Queen.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:38 AM
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This is actually a thread in which I'd like to participate and in which my participation might be somewhat useful (for some value of "useful"). But, because of the other thread, I can't. I HAVE BEEN CHILLED!

(As it is, I'd like to retrospectively and prospectively endorse everything ajay has said or will say. I'd also like to make good-natured fun of PGD for signing on to Britta's comment, but I can't because CHILLED.)


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:44 AM
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I seem to have thawed.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:44 AM
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235 -- yeah, but from digging around on Wikipedia, it looks like the British were responsible for the death of about 20,000 civilians during the Boer War, and had a systemic policy of burning farms, houses, villages, etc. Not that this somehow "excuses" the German actions in Belgium but it may provide some context about the WWI Germans as uniquely horrible for the time.*

*Also, IIRC, Ferguson argues that the British treated German POWs in WWI pretty miserably, with many examples of British officers ordering murders of German prisoners.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:46 AM
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I'd like to retrospectively and prospectively endorse everything ajay has said or will say.

This cries out for shameless abuse.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:46 AM
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233 is excellent. And 236 is as good a start to a family history/memoir or work of historical fiction as I can imagine. Write a book -- fiction, non-fiction, a mix* -- ajay. LB will review it, and we'll all buy it.

* It's au courant.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:49 AM
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And 236 is as good a start to a family history/memoir

Tied with ajay's other cousin? Great great uncle? Something like that? I've probably got the details wrong, but I'm remembering gunner in the Ottoman Navy and mathematics tutor in the Sultan's harem?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:52 AM
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241: I thought of it more a blurb to be used on the back of ajay's forthcoming book.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:52 AM
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And 236 is as good a start to a family history/memoir or work of historical fiction as I can imagine. Write a book -- fiction, non-fiction, a mix* -- ajay. LB will review it, and we'll all buy it.

I am - set in that very period, but not (so far) featuring Great-Great-Aunt Florence.
LB has already seen the first chapter, but her review must remain behind the veil of the Sanctity of Off-Blog Communication.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:52 AM
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I'm remembering gunner in the Ottoman Navy and mathematics tutor in the Sultan's harem?

Pretty much! (Pasha of artillery in the army; maths, ballistics, artillery, you see. Naval gunnery in those days was more of a point-and-shoot thing.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:54 AM
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236. But did Great2 Aunt Florence actually constitute an atrocity?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:56 AM
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245: I hadn't wanted to put pressure on, but there is more coming, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:57 AM
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224 -- The Germans already balanced that account in Namibia.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:57 AM
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240: Burning farms and the like was part of a coherent strategy to deny the Boers a base from which to operate. It is very cruel to civilians, but that always was and remains a common tactic for dealing with guerrilla opponents. Burning a city because you almost had to fight a battle there, even though you didn't, strikes me as very much strange.

I don't know about POWs during World War I.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 9:58 AM
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During the Boer War the British rounded Boer women and children up into camps and starved them, which was the first documented use of concentration camps to systematically kill civilians in a war. During WW1, the British set up a Naval Blockade to cut off food supplies to Germany, a violation of international law against targeting civilians during warfare. The Naval Blockade also extended into Norwegian territory, a direct violation of the rights of a neutral nation, and one that caused significant hardship. My Norwegian relatives at one point had to eat bark during the war, because of food shortages caused by the blockade. But hey, what's the death of 400,000-700,000 German civilians compared to the death of 6,000 Belgians?

My impression is that the WWI Germans did much less killing/destruction in Belgium than, say, the U.S. did in Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq. Or the Israelis in the West Bank or Lebanon.

Yes, but those people aren't white! White people aren't supposed to kill other white people the way white people kill brown people. Obviously, the death of any civilian is terrible, and the German invasion of Belgium was brutal. What really happened there is hard to know because much of the information was fabricated by the British propaganda department.

But yes, I don't think the Central Powers were more moral* or "deserved" to win, but rather, that they weren't the barbaric Huns British propaganda made them out to be, and certainly not really worse than the other side, if we factor in, say, treatment of colonial soldiers. I'm not a fan of chauvinist empires at all, so frankly I don't think either side had any leg to stand on, and the whole thing was an act of complete nihilism.

Finally, on Hitler's rise to power, it was actually not inevitable at all. When the Nazis reached power in 1933, they had already passed their popular peak and were on the decline as a fringe rightwing populist party. Being handed power by Hindenburg was one of those one-off events that really did 'change the direction of history.'

*The Germans turning a blind eye to the Armenian genocide, for example, is another major moral failing.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:04 AM
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Yeah, OK, but again it doesn't really seem like Belgian atrocities alone are super-radical outliers or make WWI worth fighting on their own.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:05 AM
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252 to 250.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:06 AM
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246 That's the one who fought in the Battle of the Pyramids IIRC. Did you ever get a look in that family history book? I want to know the details about the sexy harem maths tutoring.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:06 AM
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: I hadn't wanted to put pressure on, but there is more coming, right?

Oh yes.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:08 AM
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Right, but your counterfactual, and the hope of German leadership for a quick victory, is that Britain doesn't join the war, invading Belgium with unnecessarily provocative violence is very counterproductive.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:09 AM
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256 to 252.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:09 AM
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Life was hell in German POW camps in WW1 because Schultz and Helga weren't born yet.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:12 AM
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Sure. I think the Ferguson argument (which I should go home and read) is that better British diplomacy, up to and including not allying with the French and the Russians, could have kept the war to a more localized conflict in the first place.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:12 AM
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Oh, and on the numbers thing, yes, obviously I wasn't thinking when I was typing. I would still hold that, factoring in deaths caused indirectly by conflict, the number would be over 10 million.

Despite what may be appearances otherwise, I am not some sort of weird German nationalist. I'm not even German. I am just rather sick of the pervasive and rather uninterrogated Anglo-American bias that somehow the British and Americans have brought nothing but sweetness and light civilization and freedom to the world. The idea that the British & Americans can do no wrong leads to things like, say, the Iraq war, since who doesn't want FREEDOM?

Clearly German bad behavior stands out in the 20th century, but at least the Germans have had the decency to spend the past 70 years self-flagellating/plumbing their psyches. In contrast, the British royals hold "Colonials and Natives" parties, and I've met British people my age who were completely ignorant of their colonial past.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:17 AM
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I understand that you aren't some German nationalist. However, when you say, "What really happened there is hard to know because much of the information was fabricated by the British propaganda department," that just isn't true.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:19 AM
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During the Boer War the British rounded Boer women and children up into camps and starved them, which was the first documented use of concentration camps to systematically kill civilians in a war.

No, this is not true. It was not the first use of concentration camps, nor were they the site of systematic killing of civilians.

During WW1, the British set up a Naval Blockade to cut off food supplies to Germany, a violation of international law against targeting civilians during warfare.

This isn't true either. Blockade is entirely legal as a tactic of war. It's true that, nowadays, a food blockade is illegal under the law of the sea, but that wasn't the case in 1914.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:24 AM
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I think the Ferguson argument (which I should go home and read) is that better British diplomacy, up to and including not allying with the French and the Russians, could have kept the war to a more localized conflict in the first place.

I think there's a lot to that - the British policy of deliberate ambiguity ended up as the worst of both worlds, because the French and Russians were entirely confident that Britain would intervene, while the Germans still hoped that (in the absence of a firm treaty commitment) they might not. What they wanted was a situation where the Entente would be sufficiently uncertain of British help that they wouldn't do anything rash like intervening against Austria, while the Central Powers would be restrained by the fear that Britain might intervene. Instead they got the reverse.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:28 AM
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262 -- Well, the Boer War concentration camps were (as far as I can tell, I'm not an expert) the site of systematic deaths of civilians due to disease, malnourishment and mistreatment (which the British knew was happening and likely), which isn't quite the same thing as intentional killing camps but isn't exactly going to win you a medal for humanitarianism.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:29 AM
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I think that 263 is basically Ferguson's argument.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:30 AM
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It might. Kissinger has a medal for humanitarianism.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:31 AM
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So I was reading up on Hogan's Heroes (because I care about this blog), and I learned that the people started calling Germans Huns in part because Kaiser Fricking Wilhelm likened his own troops to Huns when he sent them to China during the Boxer uprising. He specifically called for them to be so horrific in their behavior that they would "establish the name of Germans in China for 1000 years, so that a Chinese will never again dare to look askance at a German." And then excerpts from letters of German soldiers about the atrocities they were performing were read aloud in the Reichstag - as good things.

I guess there's a debate to be had about whether you'd rather have a country commit atrocities in the name of freedom or in the name of barbarity, but it seems pretty clear that both Wilhelmine and Nazi Germany were consciously, intentionally barbaric in their military practices.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:32 AM
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I understand that you aren't some German nationalist. However, when you say, "What really happened there is hard to know because much of the information was fabricated by the British propaganda department," that just isn't true.

You might know more about this than I, I got that from the wikipedia article you linked to, which claimed there was serious dispute among historians as to what happened during the Rape of Belgium.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:33 AM
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266: In fairness to the Nobel Committee, every other living human being was even worse that year. In retrospect, they should have just skipped the award, but there's always bureaucratic inertia.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:34 AM
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264: this is true, they were hideous places and unnecessarily brutal and unpleasant. The people who ran them were rightly excoriated and should have been prosecuted (just as Breaker Morant was for murdering Boer POWs). But Britta makes it sound as though they were extermination camps, which they weren't.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:35 AM
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245 brings me real joy. If you want another reader (or a blurb! seriously!), feel free to send it to me. Even if you don't want another reader or a blurb, I'll buy it the day it's available.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:36 AM
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268: I haven't linked to anything. There certainly was British propaganda and there are always disputes, but events like the burning of Leuven and many episodes of executing civilians are not in serious dispute.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:39 AM
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268: that's a bit disingenuous. There's no serious dispute among historians about the fact that atrocities, including mass murders of civilians, occurred in Belgium in 1914. Sure, there's dispute about the details and the motives, just as there is around any historical incident. That's what historians do.
But the basic facts of the atrocities are as well established as are the facts around the Holocaust, and I am picking that comparison very carefully indeed.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:42 AM
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271: drop me a line at the linked address and I'll bring you up to date with chapter one.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:44 AM
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I am just rather sick of the pervasive and rather uninterrogated Anglo-American bias that somehow the British and Americans have brought nothing but sweetness and light civilization and freedom to the world. The idea that the British & Americans can do no wrong leads to things like, say, the Iraq war, since who doesn't want FREEDOM?

Are you arguing with people here? With scholarly consensus? Or with popular sentiment? If the former or the middle, who, exactly? And if the latter, you should probably realize that almost everyone here agrees with you, and that people are only arguing with you because you're wildly exaggerating certain things and making other errors of fact.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:44 AM
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Hmm. I wouldn't call people here (or, to be more specific, me) guiltless of falling for popular sentiment along those lines a bit. It's not that I don't know it's not true, but my knowledge of history is horribly unscholarly and anecdotal, and the anecdotes I've picked up thoughtlessly (and I assume the same is true for other reasons) have a strong bias toward "somehow the British and Americans have brought nothing but sweetness and light civilization and freedom".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 10:50 AM
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275/276 -- I think the more interesting question is to what extent the (pre-Nazi) Germans were substantially and significantly worse than the British and Americans in the sweetness and light department. Almost everyone agrees that they were a little bit worse, but sentiments like JRoth's in 267 (basically, that the Germans were just naturally brutal assholes until we occupied their ass from 1945-49) are pretty common in the British/American imagination.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:01 AM
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I personally blame America for starting the inevitable march toward communism by creating fractional reserve banking and fluoridating the water.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:01 AM
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270
Turkish concentration camps also weren't extermination camps in the way that the Nazi camps were, but we still consider them to be part of the Armenian genocide. Putting people in camps without food or proper sanitation to starve to death on their own volition may not be the same as actively killing them, but that's pretty nitpicky semantics, and somewhat dicey moral ground.

267
George Steinmetz has a good account of German colonialism in China "The Devil's Handwriting." Interestingly, after a pretty terrible beginning, Qingdao ended up as the only(?) completely integrated colony where, Chinese and Germans lived side by side, socialized together as equals, and sent their children to the same schools. To this day, Qingdao has a very strong connection with Germany. Even "good" colonial rule is still colonial rule and was resented by the Chinese, but when I lived in Qingdao, the Germans were often talked about as the "good" colonialists vs. the Japanese "bad" colonialists.

On the atrocities in Belgium, it is of course fact that thousands of Belgians were killed and towns, including important buildings containing things now lost to posterity, were burned by the Germans. This is of course terrible. What this doesn't show is that the Germans were uniquely evil or brutal in comparison to the other belligerents of the day. What IS up for dispute is much of the behavior which earned the reputation for brutality, such as bayoneting babies, or cutting off women's breasts. Secondly, the German rationale for killing civilians is that they were engaging in guerilla warfare, of which there is some evidence that is was the case (e.g. sabotaging rail lines). Did the Germans use a few isolated cases of resistance as an excuse to massacre thousands of Belgians? very likely, but that doesn't really make them different from most other invading armies.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:05 AM
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None of the other armies in WWI were invading neutral countries. Belgium wasn't even a belligerent. It was just on the path of the march.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:08 AM
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276: the key here, I think, is "a bit." Most active unfogged commenters*, including you, I suspect, are much more willing to think critically about British or American imperialism than popular sentiment allows. But offering up sweeping generalizations, massive exaggerations, or errors of fact won't lead people to think critically, perhaps especially not about the struggle over the memory of German conduct in Belgium during World War I or Truman's decision to drop the bomb.

* About the lurkers and the e-mail, who knows?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:12 AM
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280 -- the details are too complicated for me to remember, but IIRC the WWI allies invaded Greece at a time when it was nominally neutral.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:14 AM
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Greece finished the war on the Allied side, so whatever it was couldn't have been that bad.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:16 AM
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Most active unfogged commenters*, including you, I suspect, are much more willing to think critically about British or American imperialism than popular sentiment allows.

Oh, certainly -- I'm talking about background impressions rather than beliefs I'm committed to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:17 AM
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Also, Persia, I guess.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:17 AM
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I'd like to clarify that 277.last is probably accurate among the broader populace, but is completely incorrect about me. I mean, I have a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm* in my house, for cryin' out loud. I'm about as Germanophilic as one can be without getting suspicious looks from other Americans. But that Hun speech is something else, and it does help explain why the Nazis thought it was actually a good idea to put Totkopf on their own uniforms.

* to be specific, it's a pewter miniature of the statue at the confluence of the Rhein and Mosel, which is visible from my FIL's balcony, so it's a souvenir rather than a political statement


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:19 AM
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Didn't mean to wrongly attribute Germanophobia to you, JR.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:22 AM
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I don't even allow Kaiser rolls in the house.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:23 AM
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d it does help explain why the Nazis thought it was actually a good idea to put Totkopf on their own uniforms.

I do like the Mitchell and Webb take on this.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:23 AM
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I should click on people's links. I am so, painfully, pwned.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:24 AM
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And for that matter, I've been reminded by recent reading of the apocryphal A-H regiment that was sent into Serbia in 1914 with a kilometre of rope and an instruction not to bring any back (only to request another kilometre a few weeks later).


Obviously treat the attached with the hint of caution one gives WWI propaganda, and I should give a warning about very graphic images and descriptions, but the link of Austro-Hungarian atrocities in Serbia ties in with the enormous civilian deaths there.


http://libcudl.colorado.edu/wwi/pdf/i73447250.pdf


Posted by: Richard J. | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:24 AM
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The Brits were all educated in the classics. Persia was fair game.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:25 AM
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Von Wafer,

Actually, the reason I am commenting is because I actually am surprised by the vilification of the Central Powers on this thread. My attitude towards WW1 is "fuck them all," so I get surprised that people can hold strong attitudes on the moral rightness of one side winning. I agree that the people who comment here are very likely critical of colonialism, which is why I'm so surprised by the WW1 jingoism. Aside from the 10s/100s of millions figure, which was made up without much thought, I don't think I'm offering up "sweeping generalizations, massive exaggerations, or errors of fact." I've actually been pretty careful to provide citations for most of my claims. If you feel like I've made a factual error, I'd appreciate it if you could point it out. The Blockade of Germany did directly cause the deaths of at least 400,000 Germans.* The British did use concentration camps in the Boer war, which did systematically kill civilians. You don't have to take my word for it, because I provided links to the wikipedia pages.

*I was actually surprised that this number was so high.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:27 AM
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I'd never heard of Mitchell and Webb. That was great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:30 AM
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I do recall being shocked to learn (possibly from East of Eden?) that whether to enter the war on the German or British side was at least something of a live question, but of course the shock comes from having watched the sequel so closely. It's like how people forget that, in the original Rocky, Apollo Creed wins.

294: I clicked on a few other clips; the Farmer one is pretty good IMO


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:34 AM
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Weren't there passionate arguments here recently to the effect that the stated intentions of leaders are very important? The soft treatment that the Americans and the Brits receive in historical judgement I think stems from believing that the speeches matter, at least to the guards in their prisons.

Possibly the speeches do matter, it probably depends on how centralized the government is and how closely low-level people identify with their bosses, or at least their bosses ideals. But if the argument is how to have retrospectively prevented the rise of Hitler or of Stalin, paying attention to exactly how those two actually got power trumps broad currents of poorly remembered history. That means tedious details about Hindenberg or Zinoviev rather than alternate history fantasies.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:35 AM
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One of the greatest 20th century American lawyers joined the German army in 1914 as an American citizen, and received the Iron Cross. He then went home and tried to join the US Army after the US entered the war, with the US Army basically saying "no dice bro you have a motherfucking Iron Cross."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:41 AM
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Good golly. The Bramble Bush guy. Surprisingly strong opinions about briefing cases on gummed slips of paper for a man with the Iron Cross.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:48 AM
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I don't have a fuck them all attitude about WWI. Whatever France may have done in Africa, Asia, etc, they didn't do anything that excuses the German invasion, and all te death and destruction that came with it. US conduct in the Philippines (or in the conquest and settlement of North America) doesn't tell you anything about whether its involvement in WWI was "good" or "bad."

War is messy and ugly, and zillions of non-combatants get killed, have lives ruined, etc. Peoples/nations who start wars (or continue them when a reasonable settlement is at hand) deserve a disproportionate share of blame for all of it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 11:57 AM
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Well, OK, but in WWI in particular there's plenty of blame to go around for who "started" the war. Pretty much no warring power is free of fault.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:05 PM
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I think the US got in late enough to be free of any accusation that we started it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:07 PM
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301: Not if bob comes back. Or stras.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:11 PM
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Fair enough, though the need for/merits of our participation are also questions without obvious answers (and I mean that on both sides -- it's not clear that we should have gotten into the war, but the Germans sure did their best to be stupidly provocative).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:12 PM
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but the Germans sure did their best to be stupidly provocative

Comity on that. It's why I'm dubious about arguments that British diplomacy could have been good enough to prevent a broader war.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:14 PM
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Whatever provocative things one might see on the part of France or Britain, I think you have to give Germany some credit for actually sending its army deep into France. Through Belgium. But, maybe more importantly, for not moving mountains to get a settlement after the Marne, once it was clear that the lightning conquest of Paris wasn't going to happen.

Nobody is without sin, obviously. Not even those Norwegians whose ancestors pillaged the English coast centuries ago. But really, that doesn't mean one can't differentiate between parties with respect to any single particular turn of the wheel.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:21 PM
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The people who ran them were rightly excoriated

In real time, as it happens. A sizable anti-war movement emerged on the British home front during the latter phase of the Boer War, with the concentration camps figuring prominently in anti-war rhetoric.

The phrase "concentration camp", like "collaboration*", is one of those terms that began as a deliberate euphemism and only acquired the pejorative connotations after WWII.

*I think I have commented here before about my initial astonishment that Vichy sources use the word "collaboration" and its cognates so blithely.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:22 PM
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But, maybe more importantly, for not moving mountains to get a settlement after the Marne, once it was clear that the lightning conquest of Paris wasn't going to happen.

I don't think that one can be put squarely on the Germans -- remember, at that point, in the race to the sea, the allies were on the offensive and definitely thought that they could and wouid win. Also the Germans actually did send out peace overtures in 1916, only to be told that they had to pay reparations to the allies and basically dismantle much of eastern Germany and the Austrian empire.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:39 PM
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only to be told that they had to pay reparations to the allies

Given that Germany charged Belgium war reparations, basically for not being willing to surrender, I don't find that very wrong.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:53 PM
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307 was me. I don't know that I find it "very wrong" either, but the idea that the allies were totally willing to have a negotiated peace on reasonable terms and the Germans were militaristic and intransigent seems wrong in context.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:54 PM
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301, 302: Well...no, not in any direct sense did Americans start WW I. However...

Just read last night in Marius Jansen, something I had heard before, that the British started the First Opium War largely because American Clipper Ships had been cleaning British clocks in the Tea Trade in the 1830s-40s.

And it is my theory stated here before, that the "vision" of the American economic abomination, with its vast resources, dynamism, aggression, moral hypocrisy, genocidal and chattel slavery cruelty was readily available to all who could see in the early 19th century. That vampire squid was coming to turn all other nations into their servants. As eventually happened.

And that drove most of the 19th century imperialism, a desperation to survive and compete against the coming hegemon.

So America didn't start WW I, but was a partial cause of WW I.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 12:57 PM
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Counterfactual:What if the British had settler colonized the sub-Continent, with genocide, so that today there was not a Hindu or Sikh or Muslim left alive in India and nothing but British descendents living there?

Then you can get an idea what Europe was watching with the United States march from coast to coast in the 19th.

By 1850 the American Century was really inevitable and obvious by the time oil became important.

The protection of the two oceans was critical.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 1:17 PM
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What if the British had settler colonized the sub-Continent, with genocide, so that today there was not a Hindu or Sikh or Muslim left alive in India and nothing but British descendents living there? Then you can get an idea what Europe was watching with the United States march from coast to coast in the 19th.

Right. Except for the fact that the indigenous population of the present-day United States at the start of colonization was somewhere under 10 million and possibly as low as two million, while India under the Raj was between 200 and 300 million, it's exactly the same.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 1:46 PM
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The fact that it took until this thread for people to discover the awesomeness of Mitchell and Webb demonstrates that this blog has failed.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:02 PM
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307 -- I didn't say they were the only ones looking for a fight after the Marne. But being in possession of quite a bit of France gave real leverage, had there been any interest in using it. By 1916, it's a different world, of course.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:10 PM
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293: 10s, if not 100s of millions

Getting the number of dead wrong by at least 10 million and perhaps by 100s of millions -- literally (and not Joe Biden literally) -- is both an error of fact and a massive exaggeration. If you're going to talk about how many people were killed in some of the world's most horrible, modern tragedies, and you're going to set up your comment as a corrective to pernicious misconceptions (whether among unfogged commenters, scholars, or the public at large), the quoted statement is a problem.

that doesn't really make them different from most other invading armies

This is the generalization that caught my attention. Yes, what the German army did in Belgium during WWI, as others have noted, was very different from what other armies did in that war.

Turning to the question of whether the United States and Britain have been given too much credit and too little blame for the great triumphs and tragedies of the twentieth of the twentieth century, I think yes and yes. But diminishing the extent of German atrocities during WWI and inflating, in a thoughtless way, the number of people killed as a result of British imperialism seems to me like the wrong way to do that.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:17 PM
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I am just rather sick of the pervasive and rather uninterrogated Anglo-American bias that somehow the British and Americans have brought nothing but sweetness and light civilization and freedom to the world. The idea that the British & Americans can do no wrong leads to things like, say, the Iraq war, since who doesn't want FREEDOM?

Sorry, that was the sweeping generalization that really jumped out at me earlier, but then I re-read your comment about all invading armies being exactly alike.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:21 PM
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I hadn't really been aware of the extent of allied-blockade-caused famine in Germany (400,000 people is a lot!) until reading Britta's comment, so there's that.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:25 PM
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317: you (and everyone else) should read Bloodlands. It's a genuinely great book.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:29 PM
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262: This isn't true either. Blockade is entirely legal as a tactic of war. It's true that, nowadays, a food blockade is illegal under the law of the sea, but that wasn't the case in 1914.

Wikipedia disagrees:

this blockade violated accepted international law codified by several international agreements of the past two centuries

Reference: Keene, Jennifer D (2006), World War I, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 5, ISBN 0-313-33181-2, OCLC 70883191


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:34 PM
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Sorry, 318 was apropos of the broader discussion of the brutality of war.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:35 PM
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318: I'm more of a Thunder Road kind of guy.

PS - that's not actually true


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:36 PM
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I'm still trying to finish your book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:36 PM
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322: give up. Give up before it's too late.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:40 PM
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I hadn't really been aware of the extent of allied-blockade-caused famine in Germany

I don't think the blockade during the war was especially blameworthy, especially considering that Germany pursued the same policy against England, only with less success. But the Entente powers bear some serious moral culpability for the hunger deaths after the Armistice, caused by the decision to maintain the blockade in order to twist the arm of the Republican government into signing whatever peace treaty the victors came up with.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:41 PM
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323: That's a terrible thing to say to a man with cholera.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:43 PM
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313: I am very fond of Numberwang.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:44 PM
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317: There's a reason the winter of 1916-17 was called the "Turnip Winter".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:44 PM
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you (and everyone else) should read Bloodlands. It's a genuinely great book.

It is indeed a genuinely good book, but I wouldn't second the blanket recommendation that everyone read it. Read it only if you are prepared to lose any remaining shred of faith in humanity you might possess. Also, you should have a strong stomach.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 2:44 PM
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327: They hadn't discovered kale chips yet?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 3:04 PM
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In Imperial Germany, kale chips turnip YOU!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 3:34 PM
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Compared to Brest-Litovsk, Versailles was very, very mild on the Germans. And it was about the same or milder than the settlement that the Germans imposed on the French in 1871 (Comparable territorial losses, less in the way of reparations relative to economic size.) In any case I haven't seen anything that would indicate that the Germans were willing to go back to the status quo ante in 1916.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 3:35 PM
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Also, French civilian deaths were about on the same order as German ones, adjusted for population size.

Well, OK, but in WWI in particular there's plenty of blame to go around for who "started" the war. Pretty much no warring power is free of fault.

While no warring power if free of fault, it's pretty clear who wanted the war. THere's a huge literature on the subject, and most historians writing over the past half century (i.e. since Fischer) have agreed that the Central Powers are a lot more to blame than the Entente.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 3:51 PM
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I thought the Fischer thesis was pretty much toast at this point.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 3:53 PM
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It wasn't the last time I checked which admittedly was several years ago. Or at least not in a milder form. Though having had a Fischer student as an advisor may have biased me.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 4:08 PM
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The fact that we're arguing about this is part of Niall Ferguson's plan to sow dissension and enslave humanity. The correct counterfactual is that France should have won the Franco-Prussian war. Germany would have continued as a disunited land of science, philosophy, and music, and avoided the decisive turn towards nationalism than ruined it in the 20th century. It's all Bismarck's fault.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 4:11 PM
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The correct counterfactual is that France should have won the Franco-Prussian war.

Bonapartist.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 4:23 PM
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Well, OK, but in WWI in particular there's plenty of blame to go around for who "started" the war.

I blame that fucker, Gavrilo Princip.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-22-13 5:57 PM
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A few years ago, at Terezin, the guide we were with took us into Princip's cell, closed the door and turned off the light. He didn't get the death penalty as he was too young, but got TB in the bone [the cell wasn't a super pleasant place to be] and died weighing 88lbs.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:09 AM
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Secondly, the German rationale for killing civilians is that they were engaging in guerilla warfare, of which there is some evidence that is was the case (e.g. sabotaging rail lines).

Oh, this is a particularly nasty one. Thirty years later they'd be blaming the Jewish-Bolshevik partisans. And, after all, some Jews were involved in partisan activity.

Arguing over whether German atrocities in the Great War transgressed some undefined threshold of "really bad atrocities" seems to me to be a self-defeating exercise. The western entente powers and the Americans didn't perpetrate civilian atrocities in that war because they fought it on their territory.

Well, that's not an excuse. That makes it worse. The entente powers didn't perpetrate atrocities because they were fighting on their own territory, and they were doing that because they were defending themselves against aggression.



Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:28 AM
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The correct counterfactual is that France should have won the Franco-Prussian war. Germany would have continued as a disunited land of science, philosophy, and music

It's quite striking to read about 1870 and see the extent to which (at least in Britain) France was the horribly aggressive militaristic state that threatened all of Europe, while Germany was just this harmless country full of musicians and eccentric philosophers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:29 AM
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The fact that it took until this thread for people to discover the awesomeness of Mitchell and Webb demonstrates that this blog has failed.

I'm pretty sure I've been doing my best to spread the good word, but just in case I haven't done enough, here's Mitchell and Webb doing Bond villains:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cazkHAHiPU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6cake3bwnY


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:33 AM
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It's too late, ajay. They had their chance -- they should be denied Mitchell and Webb links forevermore.

I will make exception for this sketch, which involves both Halford's life's work, and a gratuitous WW1 reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4JS5YFnsDs&feature=player_detailpage#t=721s.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 3:34 AM
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The bottom line to me is that given the massive destruction created by WWI turning to arguments about German atrocities in Belgium to justify it is very lame. German actions in Belgium hardly rate on the scale of 20th century atrocities, many of which can be directly linked to the consequences of WWI. WWI seems to me to be a good argument for appeasement, in this case appeasement of Germany the rising power. And this is still a live debate as the 'appeasement' thing is trotted out every time we want to fight a dumb foreign war. It is always brought up in relation to Munich 1938 but Munich 1938 would quite possibly not have happened if Allied powers had been more accomodating to Germany at the beginning of the century.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:04 AM
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And Versailles was not mild, it was a disaster just on pragmatic grounds -- check out 'The Economic Consequences of the Peace' sometime.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:07 AM
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I still take WWI very personally as you can tell. Although not as personally as if I were Belgian.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:11 AM
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See, this argument makes no sense to me. It relies on the fact that a) you know what happened in history, and b) you are unable to imagine the consequences of what would have happened in an alternative history, so you assume they wouldn't be as bad.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:15 AM
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343: actually, WW1 is a really good argument against aggressive war, given what happened to Germany during and after it. "Germany was a rising power" isn't a description of some sort of irreversible natural process like global warming or something. It is a description of policy decisions taken by successive German leaders who wanted a large, powerful Germany, at the expense of their neighbours. Germany wanted a war and Germany got one, and they were smashed. Germany wanted its place in the sun; Germany encouraged Austrian intransigence towards Serbia; Germany joined in the war when Russia mobilised; Germany invaded France and Belgium. All the terrible consequences you list wouldn't have happened if German rulers hadn't been so desperate to gain power and territory at the expense of others. They weren't being strangled by economic warfare like Japan in 1941. They were already the fastest growing economy in Europe, one of the world's three economic superpowers (along with Britain and the US). But they wanted more.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:15 AM
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My argument in convenient cartoon form.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:20 AM
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Actually, a Germany united under the Hohenzollerns didn't want as much territory as possible, they wanted as much Protestant territory as possible, within the bounds what could plausibly be incorporated into a united Germany, in order to ensure a Prussian controlled German state. Hence the differing outcomes of the Austro-Prussian War vs. the 2nd Schleswig War. As I learned in school, Bismark's plan was for the Franco-Prussian war to follow the same pattern as the Austro-Prussian war where Germany wouldn't demand any territory, precisely to avoid turning France into an enemy, except he was overruled by Von Moltke et al.

My counterfactual of the day would be, if Kaiser Wilhelm hadn't dismissed Bismark, WW1 would not have happened. I'm not quite sure what early 20th century Europe would look like, though.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:31 AM
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344: "The Economic Consequences of the Peace" was written in 1919 and the terms of the Versailles were loosed after it was written.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:35 AM
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Also, what 347 says. I find it much more convincing that the atrocities of the 20th century, at least those in western Europe through 1918, are because of German actions in Belgium instead of that German actions are just a minor example of 20th century atrocities.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:37 AM
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Actually, a Germany united under the Hohenzollerns didn't want as much territory as possible, they wanted as much Protestant territory as possible, within the bounds what could plausibly be incorporated into a united Germany, in order to ensure a Prussian controlled German state.

No, we know what they wanted from a victory, because we can look at what they extorted from the one enemy they defeated: Russia. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk gave Germany vast areas of land in what's now Poland, the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine, most of which is Catholic (with bits of Orthodox). Not Protestant.

What you're saying was true of Bismarck and his kleindeutsch policy, but things had changed by 1914. No more Bismarck, for a start.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:51 AM
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Bismark is my favorite name for a jelly-filled doughnut, but nobody here uses the term.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:55 AM
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Well, we have Bourbon biscuits and Garibaldi biscuits, but that's as far as we go in terms of 19th century national leaders who are also items of confectionery.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:57 AM
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This CA native always thinks of Garibaldi as the state fish.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:00 AM
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You're with the police, so you'd know. Do they use "Bismark" for a pastry there?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:07 AM
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Ha, I've never heard that term in CA or UT. Maybe it's just a German midwest/plains state thing?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:10 AM
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Well, we have Bourbon biscuits and Garibaldi biscuits, but that's as far as we go in terms of 19th century national leaders who are also items of confectionery.

What, they don't sell the Stambolov Oatcakes where you live?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:11 AM
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Unfortunately not. Nor the Jefferson Davis Crackers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:12 AM
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357: Probably. Wikipedia says Canada also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:13 AM
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I am intrigued by the proposed parallel between Bulgaria:Ottoman Empire and CSA:USA.

Also, I can't believe you've never had a piece of King Otto's Super Syrupy Wittelsbachlava.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 6:21 AM
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346, 348: but Walt, your argument applies with equal force to all normative arguments about the past. Any judgement of history involves a counterfactual. Certainly what I'm saying makes at as much (non)sense as saying that WWI was unavoidable because otherwise Germany would have taken over the Europe and the Kaiser would have been really mean.

347: who ever fights an aggressive war? It's always defense against those horrible enemies scheming against you. Getting down to specifics, if Britain and France had let Austria take Serbia in 1914, or even stood aside if Germany helped Austria defeat Russia to do it, how bad could that have possibly been? It's Serbia we're talking about.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:08 AM
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who ever fights an aggressive war? It's always defense against those horrible enemies scheming against you.

But it's not, actually, difficult for third parties to tell under most circumstances. Nothing's perfect, but checking whose territory the war is being fought on, and what language most of the dead civilians speak, is going to give you a pretty good rule of thumb answer.

The fact that governments lie about aggressive wars doesn't make it impossible to identify them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:19 AM
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362: Now you're assuming that people in 1914 should have known the history of the entire 20th century and a bit of the 21st. Also, France would have had a great deal of trouble standing aside after Russia got involved. The German plan was to attack France first regardless and they mobilized while France specifically pulled back its troops for the border to avoid a potential incident. France couldn't have stood aside in any practical sense.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:31 AM
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And it was extremely clear that Austria's declaration of war on Serbia was aggressive, since Princip and his cronies were not agents of the Serbian government. In which case, if you want to argue that it was reasonable for Germany to honour its treaty obligations to Austria because Russia had honoured hers to Serbia, you must surely concede that it was reasonable for France and Britain to honour their treaty obligations to Belgium. Belgium, after all, was the only one of the original belligerents which had no dog in the political fight whatsoever.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:34 AM
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Not at all. Normative arguments should be about right and wrong, not cost-benefit analyses based on ex recto counterfactuals. Tallyrand's "It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake" is not the only moral calculus on offer.

Anyway, your whole argument relies on your inability to imagine worse outcomes than what actually happened. Maybe a war between Germany and a French-Russian alliance was inevitable (it would certainly fit the historical pattern for European wars). Maybe a war fought later would have killed even more people. Maybe the Germans (who absent anti-Semitism would have developed nuclear weapons first) would have been uninhibited in the use of nuclear weapons in a way the US and the Soviets never were. Counterfactual analysis is defensible over a short-enough horizon, but there's no way a PGD in 1914 could have imagined what actually would happen in 1939.

Your counterfactual analysis is also completely asymmetric. Why not argue that Austria should have appeased Russia? That Germany should have appeased Britain and France?

Also, WW2 was not inevitable from the point of view of 1919. The most important direct cause of WW2 was not WW1, it was the Great Depression, which was a completely avoidable event. It was Western appeasement of the gold standard that made the Nazis inevitable, not a failure of Western appeasement of the Second Reich.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:34 AM
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you must surely concede that it was reasonable for France and Britain to honour their treaty obligations to Belgium.

You understate your case. Germany was obligated to protect Belgium by the very same treaty as France and Britain.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:38 AM
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True, but once Germany had torn up the scrap of paper, the obligations on the other signatories were more immediate. It's as if PGD doesn't understand that governments generally took treaties seriously a hundred years ago.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:41 AM
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I don't think you need to take in the whole history of the 20th Century to make the counterfactual work. If Grey had taken a clear position on behalf of Great Britain (such as, we don't care about the Balkans, but don't even think about going to war with France), the First World War could have been avoided. If France (or Russia) had stood down, the First World War could have been avoided. If Austria and Germany stood down, the First World War could have been avoided. If Paris had fallen quickly in 1914, the war (at least outside the Balkans) likely could have ended in reasonably short order. Avoiding or dramatically shortening the First World War would have been a good thing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:53 AM
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To 365 and 366.3, I don't think anyone can reasonably argue that the Germans and Austrians were blameless or not aggressive. The question is whether for the Western Allies (and Russia, too) the decision to get involved in the war was a strategic mistake (and, there's a subsequent question about when the mistake was made).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 11:56 AM
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And note when I say in 369 "the First World War could have been avoided" I mean that having it be a world war could have been avoided. Once Austria decided to be aggressive, there was pretty much no way out of a bloody balkan war, but there had been a few of those already.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:00 PM
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369: The British position on invading Belgium was about as clear as these things get and Germany still did it just to keep the front broad and moving.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:11 PM
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372 -- but that goes to the question of "when." It's certainly possible (or so argues Ferguson, but I think convincingly) that the Germans would have responded differently to the Balkan crisis with a different sense of the position of Great Britain from 1912 forward.

I also don't think, as an actual historical matter, that Britain went to war to save Belgium, particularly, though that was the excuse. It went to war because it was afraid of Germany, and if that fear hadn't been there Britain would have been happy to let Belgium burn. There's a legitimate question about the extent to which British fear of Germany was justified.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:16 PM
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it was the Great Depression, which was a completely avoidable event

Assuming simply rational or benevolent actors in IR or macroeconomics is exactly like assuming the can-opener on the desert island.

This is why I don't like these counterfactuals:"Well, assuming France and Britain didn't succumb to the momentary jingoistic madness they actually in fact did..."

Didn't we learn anything in 2002-2003?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:19 PM
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373: Of course the British didn't go to war to save Belgium. They protected Belgium neutrality because they concluded that if either France or Prussia/Germany took Belgium, they would be too great of a threat to Britain from that position. They couldn't have been more clear or consistent about it, having sent reminder threats every time France and Germany fought.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:29 PM
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Further to 373.2, the British plans for the war also called for blockading or, if necessary, invading Belgium (to keep it from being a supply resource for Germany) in the event of a continental war. So if the Germans hadn't invaded Belgian neutrality, Britain would have.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:30 PM
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The British must have had war plans for lots of contingencies the way the U.S. does. Showing such plans existed isn't even close to saying the British would have invaded first, especially given that they didn't send troops ahead of the Germans even after the German preparations were obvious.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:36 PM
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Britain absolutely was not consistent about was whether or not it would take sides, and how, in a continental war -- while all the while building up strategic partnerships with France and Russia and stoking anti-German feeling at home. So you had the worst of both worlds, a situation in which the message sent out by British foreign policy was simultaneously "we are a big threat to Germany and will surround you on all sides" and "it's unclear whether or not we'll get involved in a continental war." In that context, a German strategy of hoping to take out France quickly (to avoid total encirclement) while hoping to maintain British neutrality during the quick strike, wasn't crazy. Probably less overall expressed animosity for Germany would have been Britain's best move, but if it was going to go all-in on an anti-German policy it should have made that absolutely and explicitly clear.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:39 PM
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Some of the best books I have read on the pre-WWI put an emphasis on the stress modernities were putting on social roles, particularly male social roles, which anxieties found an release in war.

Britain had a treaty and a plan?

I don't even speak you people's language anymore.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:42 PM
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377 -- it was the same plan that sent the BEF to France, not some obscure contingency.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:44 PM
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There's a lot of English pop-culture from right before the war that assumes the war is (a) inevitably coming and (b) going to involve a German invasion of Britain. I can think of three books with that premise offhand: Wodehouse had a silly novel, Saki had one (also silly, but less intentionally so), and there's The Riddle of the Sands, the best sailing/spy novel ever.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:44 PM
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You're still ignoring Belgium. It was remarkably clear that Britain would get into a war over Belgium neutrality. I'm not saying the quick strike was crazy from a tactical point of view, but going for the quick, aggressive strike in the face of clear threats does make it hard to blame the other players for not being clear or whatever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:45 PM
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381: War of the Worlds was inspired by one of those, I remember(ed and then confirmed with wikipedia).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:51 PM
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382 to 378.

380: It must have had a lot of contingencies since they actually sent to troops to Belgium through France.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:54 PM
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It was remarkably clear that Britain would get into a war over Belgium neutrality

Was it? The evidence that I've seen suggests that the British were pretty unclear on this point, and that up until the moment of the decision to go to war the British used weasel words about Belgian neutrality in their correspondence with the Germans. And everyone understood that Britain would have thrown Belgium under the bus if it felt it were in its own strategic interest. The Germans certainly didn't think that the British were locks to go to war over Belgium -- the line "Britain will go to war over a mere scrap of paper?" was meant sincerely.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:58 PM
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My understanding of the period leading up to WWI was that all of the Great Powers (or at least their general staffs) did feel a war was inevitable, were making serious contingency plans, and were getting ready to throw down at any justifiably serious provocation. Equally, popular culture was exceedingly jingoistic, for the most part, especially in Britain, France and Germany. It just seems very unlikely that everyone would have looked at the Balkans, post-Franz Ferdinand, and said "Eh, well, no skin off our noses."

I wonder, too, with regard to Princip, just what the upper echelons believed about all that. Butterworth's The World That Never Was paints a pretty vivid picture of the lengths to which the cynical intelligence apparat of each of the countries involved went around manipulating radicals willy-nilly, with little thought to long-term consequences. And how they had every capability of forcing the deck such that some independent radical would commit propaganda by the deed against a head of state.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:58 PM
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381 -- yes. There's an argument that the British got caught up in a kind of fervor from that stuff.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 12:59 PM
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This guy knew what time it was


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:08 PM
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385: Given how they managed to swing U.S. public opinion into attacking them, I think it is pretty clear that German thinking about what other people were thinking was comically absurd during that period. I'm having trouble finding a good citation on the web, but there are many examples of the British explicitly warning other countries off Belgium.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:17 PM
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There were of course lots of people in Britain trying to find a way out of the war. But as far as what an elected government will do when push comes to shove, British policy was about as clear as it gets.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:20 PM
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German thinking about what other people were thinking was comically absurd during that period.

That's probably true. But seriously the Ferguson section on this has a long description of both internal British ambiguity about going to war for Belgium, and a lack of direct clarity with the Germans about it. For example, claims up until the war had almost broken out that the violation would have to be "significant", etc. But the more important question requires zooming out a bit: would more British clarity generally about what it would do in a continental war have helped things? I think the argument that the British would have been best served by being less anti-German (thus making a war less likely) or, failing that, being crystal clear about the circumstances in which they'd intervene, would have helped to keep the peace.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:26 PM
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The violation was significant by any standards. 750,000 troops.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:29 PM
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Even if you count just the first battle groups in, it was still 36,000.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:32 PM
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Well, right -- I'm not saying that the invasion itself didn't involve a lot of men. Just that Britain didn't do an amazingly good job of making clear that a violation of Belgian neutrality would bring it into the war ahead of time. In fact, IIRC, the wholesale violation of Belgian neutrality was something of a relief to members of the cabinet, who were inclined towards a war and were happy to get the justification.

But, more importantly, I don't think that reveals too much about the efficacy of ambiguous British diplomacy between 1907-1914. The Germans clearly thought (not insanely) that they had a good chance of keeping Britain neutral and good reason to be afraid that if they didn't win a war decisively Britain was a serious threat to them. That doesn't absolve the Germans from being stupid and aggressive but it doesn't make Britain look like masterful diplomats either.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:42 PM
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I mean, it is certainly possible that if Britain did things differently things might have happened better, but it is much easier to make the case for Germany. That is, Germany made bigger miscalculations and was driving events. You can see how smaller corrections, like not being complete assholes to everybody at once, would have made a difference. Why are people so attracted to arguments made by Pat Buchanan and the guy from Chumbawamba?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:44 PM
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Thinking about all this a bit more, in The Proud Tower when Tuchman is talking about the "dream team" that led the British Empire in the fin de siècle, she's at pains to talk about how totally sure of themselves they were. Absolutely 100% confident that they were the smartest guys in the room, as it were. I wonder how much of that attitude was at play in giving contradictory messages to zee Germans and stuff?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:48 PM
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But the issue isn't whether the Germans were super awesome nice guys or geniuses. It's whether not allowing them to "win" (in some sense) the First World War, or at least to not have opposed them too vigorously, would have made strategic sense.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:49 PM
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I'm having a hard time giving British ambiguity much weight at all as opposed to German aggression, as causative factors. Oh sure, the fantasy narrative -- (argued by precisely no one with any brains at all) that everything Anglo-Americans are doing, have done, or ever will do, is only and purely for the betterment of mankind -- is refuted. Beyond that, though, it just looks contrarian. It's not Britain fault that the German army swept through Belgium and into France. Even if they could, perhaps, in hindsight, have possibly talked them out of it.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:51 PM
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394: Your argument requires, but does not state, the British were somehow supposed to be able to clearly understand German thinking, which seems unreasonable, and that Britain was not under any real threat from Germany, which is wrong.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:53 PM
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Even if they could, perhaps, in hindsight, have possibly talked them out of it.

Right. They would have had to have found a middle ground where the threat was more explicit but not so explicit that it didn't provoke a further militaristic German response. Either that or a conciliatory policy that didn't encourage German aggression while making Britain an international pariah. That's a tall order either way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:58 PM
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Your argument requires, but does not state, the British were somehow supposed to be able to clearly understand German thinking

No it doesn't -- at all. All the British needed to do was to not get themselves locked into an alliance with France and Russia to go to war with Germany. Or, if they did (which they shouldn't have) it would have been better for them to be more precise and clear about what they would or wouldn't have done.

that Britain was not under any real threat from Germany, which is wrong

I don't think the British were under any real threat from Germany, actually. Britain had decisively won the naval race by 1914 and Germany was less of a threat to the empire than was Russia or France. A strengthened German empire on the continent wouldn't have posed a dramatic threat to Great Britain.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 1:59 PM
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didn't encourage German aggression while making Britain an international pariah

Huh? All Britain had to do was to keep up the same policy it had basically followed from 1871 until after 1907. Russia was more of an international pariah state than Germany.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:01 PM
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All the British needed to do was to not get themselves locked into an alliance with France and Russia to go to war with Germany.

Given that they did not do that, I find your argument less than compelling. The British agreements with France and Russia contained no such terms.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:07 PM
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I hope you guys nail this down so we can figure out who to hit with crippling repatriations.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:09 PM
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German aggression, as causative factors

I agree that Germany was aggressive in the immediate environment of 1914. But history isn't a morality play, and the question is whether the First World War was, from the point of the Western Allies, worth doing. If it wasn't (and in particular if it wasn't worth doing for Britain), then it was a mistake. To use the most offensive possible analogy, it's like saying "hey Sadaam had it coming he used chemical weapons on his own people and had kicked the inspectors out." Which is true, that was aggressive, stupid, and provocative. But still not a reason for getting the United States into a protracted war overseas.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:09 PM
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402: British foreign policy over that period included making efforts to secure Belgium neutrality. Any British acquiescence to an invasion of Belgium would have hurt its international standing with the smaller countries. "Pariah" is too strong of a word, but the loss of international status would have been significant.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:09 PM
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403 -- that was sloppily worded. But all they needed to do was to go back to their pre-1907 policy of no alliances of that kind, particularly with Russia.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:11 PM
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All they had with Russia was basically a peace treaty.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:13 PM
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Sort of. But in context it moved Britain to one side of a continental bloc (which is in fact what ended up happening).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:16 PM
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404: like, they'll have to repatriate one of their own legs, and thus be crippled?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:20 PM
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So, somehow that peace treaty is bringing a perfectly clear message, but 80 years of pestering people over Belgian neutrality is ambiguous.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:22 PM
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No, it's not bringing a perfectly clear message. Where did I say that? But in context it was an ambiguously threatening message -- as I said above, about the worst possible move for diplomacy. Being vaguely threatening and kind of sort of aligned against Germany but still being super cagey about actually taking action was not an awesome move.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:25 PM
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My point is that German perception of international events looks less like diplomatic confusion and more like seeing what you need to see to justify what you've already decided to do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:30 PM
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Ok, sure, once they saw the Germans rolling across Belgium the Brits had to decide whether to stay out or go in. And thus as to their involvement, yes, they are responsible. I don't think that makes them responsible for the death and destruction of France. Any more than Saddam's pre-war gamesmanship over WMD makes him responsible for the deaths of Shi'a civilians in the ethnic cleansing that followed the war.

But you haven't -- and can't, really -- dealt with the real question the Brits were facing: what does Europe (and Africa) look like in the wake of a new and total German victory over France. What does Germany get in the settlement with France? I can see the Brits thinking that they'd much rather the devil they know (and are not afraid of) maintain the French colonies, navy, and all the rest.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:33 PM
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I don't think the British were particularly worried about the French losing their empire to the Germans, or that the Germans had plans to pick up substantial colonies from France. Nor do I think it's very plausible that the result of a quick 1914 victory would have been the transfer of all French overseas colonies to Germany. In any event, the main conflicts at that time that would have caused would have been in West Africa, which was relatively unimportant, since Egypt had already been settled decisively in Britain's favor. Certainly not enough to justify the war for that reason alone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:37 PM
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They don't have to lose it all to set up a renewed rivalry in Africa. And put Germany back in the game you count them out of in 401.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 2:52 PM
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(People should be watching the #dronewars hearing. http://www.senate.gov/isvp/?comm=judiciary&type=live&filename=judiciary042313p If they want to yell at their computers.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 3:08 PM
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(Or shake their fists impotently, if still at work.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 3:10 PM
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417-8: Are you kidding? That's the last thing I want. The best part about this thread is that I have literally nothing at stake on this question.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 3:33 PM
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I'm unconvinced that war could have been avoided by defter British diplomacy or anything else, really. Germany made a conscious decision to risk a continental war because (1) the General staff believed they could win; and (2) the general staff believed that the window of opportunity in which they could win a two-front war was closing, as the Russian army modernized and improved its rail infrastructure and logistical capacity. Basically, if the Schlieffen Plan was going to work, it had to be launched within a year or three of 2014. Also, the socialist threat at home was growing, and Bethmann-Hollweg saw an opportunity to divide and crush the opposition.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:48 PM
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365

And it was extremely clear that Austria's declaration of war on Serbia was aggressive, since Princip and his cronies were not agents of the Serbian government. ...

According to the Wikipedia article on the assassination this is wrong.

At the top of these Serbian military conspirators was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević, his righthand man Major Vojislav Tankosić, and Masterspy Rade Malobabić. Major Tankosić armed the assassins with bombs and pistols and trained them. The assassins were given access to the same clandestine tunnel of safe-houses and agents that Rade Malobabić used for the infiltration of weapons and operatives into Austria-Hungary.

and

The Narodna Odbrana agents reported their activities to the Narodna Odbrana President, Boža Janković, who in turn reported to the then Serbian Caretaker Prime Minister Nikola Pašić.[48] The report to Pašić added the name of a new military conspirator, Serbian Major Kosta Todorović, Boundary Commissioner and Director of Serbian Military Intelligence Services for the frontier line from Rada to Ljuboija. Pašić's handwritten notes from the briefing (estimated by Dedijer to have taken place on 5 June) included the nickname of one of the assassins ("Trifko" Grabež) and also the name of Major Tankosić.[49] The Austrians later captured the report, Pašić's handwritten notes, and additional corroborating documents.[50]


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:49 PM
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420: I think that's probably true by 1914. But not earlier, and war wasn't unavoidable even then. And, even more importantly, the scope of the war could have been quite different -- the primary German objective was defeating Russia before Russia regained full strength. Even by 1914, it's certainly possible to envision an austrian-russian-german war that didn't involve the Western powers.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:53 PM
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Obviously the only way to settle all these counter-factuals is multiple games of Diplomacy.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:56 PM
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423 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 4:58 PM
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Even by 1914, it's certainly possible to envision an austrian-russian-german war that didn't involve the Western powers.

That runs counter to the basic doctrine of the General staff at the time, which held that a knockout blow against France in the early days of the war was the only way to prevail in a war on two fronts. As the days clicked off the Russian mobilization calendar, the pressure to launch a pre-emptive strike against France grew.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 5:06 PM
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. But history isn't a morality play, and the question is whether the First World War was, from the point of the Western Allies, worth doing.

I think in fact from the point of view of establishing a international legal system based on not-invading-other-countries, you do kinda have to treat history as a morality play a little bit.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 04-23-13 7:31 PM
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423, 24: IME, the insight to be gained there is that, far from being the sick man of Europe, the Ottoman Empire was unstoppable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-24-13 4:45 AM
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420: Basically, if the Schlieffen Plan was going to work, it had to be launched within a year or three of 2014.

Not long to go then. Watch out France!

Even by 1914, it's certainly possible to envision an austrian-russian-german war that didn't involve the Western powers.

But, as noted above, step one of the German plan for war against Russia was "Invade and defeat France". The Kaiser (!) tried to stop this at the last minute in order to attack Russia alone but was told by the General Staff that it would be too complicated not to go to war with France as well. All the plans had already been drawn up.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-24-13 4:58 AM
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