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Was Ww1 Inevitable?


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Was the conflict preordained or was there a chance of the Assassination of ArchDuke Ferdinand did not kick off the conflict. I just wonder if it hadn't happened what Europe would have looked like. All the Waste of human potential in the meat grinder of the trenches. What might have been.

 

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Somehow I look at the great war as one of the last border pushers of Europe that means that the region is pretty stable at the moment. I think there might have been more unrest if it hadn't happened. IIRC the second world war didn't move the borders around that much, without the great war I think there would have been more skirmishes in the past century.

 

(Edit, with the exception of the Balkans...)

/R

Edited by Rickard N
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What little I have read (I forgot the author and the book is in storage) indicated that the Germans believed 1) that the other European powers had been conspiring to inhibit the establishment of German colonies in other parts of the world; and 2) they were caught precariously between two great enemies, France and Russia. Accordingly, German military planning included automatic triggers, one of which was Russian mobilization, which occurred following Austro-Hungarian threats against the Serbs. The Germans believed that it was imperative to first knock out France, as Russian mobilization was expected to take longer. Hence the initially rapid German advance through Belgium and into France, which was eventually halted short of Paris.

 

Popular German opinion allegedly was they had been forced into a postion where they had no other choice but to strike first. Given all of this, it seems likely that even if the Archduke had not been assasinated, some other event could have eventually triggered a German attack.

 

I welcome any corrections by those more well-read than I. :)

Edited by beans4
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There are several schools of thought, none of which regard the onset of WWI as 'inevitable.' The pressures of economic nationalism and national imperialism contributed much less to a European war than did the incipient militarism of the day, which infected governments, not populations nor business. Suffice to say that all countries failed to properly subordinate the military to civilian leadership. The armies all thought in terms of speed in mobilization, deployment and attack. Only the offensive would lead to victory and timing remained critical: which rail networks, how long to mobilize, how long a war and so forth. Quite to the contrary were thoughts of civilian intellectuals such as Ivan Bloch and critics of the Prussian system such as Hans Delbrueck. Bloch's The Future of War in Its Technical, Economic, and Political Relations (1898) so shocked the Tsar that he called the Hague I conference to forgo expensive rearmament.

 

As much as we highlight the events of 1900-14 in most of our courses, this was no road to ruin. The real mood in Europe was optimistic, anticipating an even more progressive century than the preceding one, viz. automobile, airplane, wireless, Planck and Einstein & quantum theory. However as dynamic sci/techn progress was, they also posed a set of internal and external challenges to the great and small powers of the 20th C.

 

Russia and land reform and the 1905 Revolution, The wane of liberalism and rise of Labour and socialism, Home Rule for Ireland was a hurricane since Gladstone, and so forth.

 

That the assassination of the very unpopular [in court] Franz Ferdinand could lead to a global conflict would have made a very poor novel at the time, but for the general mediocrity and insufficiency for crisis of the leading men of the great powers. The events of the Austrian Council, Russian intervention, general failure of diplomacy and the British crisis were all avoidable in the main.

 

"The great illusion was that humanitarian belief that a general European War among Europeans was unthinkable," were the words of Oren J. Hale (1971), and they ring true to this day. Fateful human decisions by 2d rate political leaders fueled by jump-for-glory militarists and navalists could have been avoided had the men been endowed with foresight and prudence.

Edited by Ken Estes
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Somehow I look at the great war as one of the last border pushers of Europe that means that the region is pretty stable at the moment. I think there might have been more unrest if it hadn't happened. IIRC the second world war didn't move the borders around that much, without the great war I think there would have been more skirmishes in the past century.

 

(Edit, with the exception of the Balkans...)

/R

 

Unfortunately, it is never so simple. Borders and people were uplifted in 1945 in a manner that the Paris peacemakers of 1919 would have never considered.

 

The unique ending of WWII influenced greatly its aftermath, as well as our remembrance of many related factors. With the collapse of the USSR, the division of Europe between east and west on ideological, economic and military lines now has to be seen as a temporary condition in the ongoing postwar history … which now has to be rethought. This also means that the recovery of memory had no restraint. Already under way in the 1960s, the younger generations asked not only about the war but also what happened after the war?

 

What was the holocaust about, what was collaboration, who participated; the same for the resistance? What did it mean to resist and what credence can we give the often self serving heroic tales? Then there is the question of justice, and how it has operated since liberation and wars’ end.

 

These and more debates began in earnest in post-1989 Europe. ‘Who did what to whom, and with whose help’ – served as a valid question not only for the war, but also its aftermath, extending well into the 1950s. We now must consider matters of political justice, collective memory, the gray zone between resistance and collaboration, long-term social and political consequences of the war.

 

Our very chronology may be suspect. The problems of Yugoslavia in the 1990s suggest that pre-WWII business remained to be finished; and where else might that be so: Spain? Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic states, to begin with. Perhaps the postwar ‘recovery’ of Europe must be viewed as much more fragile than the prosperity and economic unity themes have suggested. One of the most evident discoveries of the last two decades has been the continuation of the 19th century devolution of great states into smaller ones. Not only Yugoslavia and Czecho -Slovakia imploded, but also to some extent Belgium, Spain, Italy and the UK have seen sectional strife.

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Not trying to derail the thread but, Ken, on a related note, support for devolution in Catalonia have waned noticeably after the fracas of that referendum past November. Only 30% showed up to vote.

 

There are also the judicial problems of the historical political leader of Catalan Separatism.

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There are several schools of thought, none of which regard the onset of WWI as 'inevitable.' The pressures of economic nationalism and national imperialism contributed much less to a European war than did the incipient militarism of the day, which infected governments, not populations nor business. Suffice to say that all countries failed to properly subordinate the military to civilian leadership. The armies all thought in terms of speed in mobilization, deployment and attack. Only the offensive would lead to victory and timing remained critical: which rail networks, how long to mobilize, how long a war and so forth. Quite to the contrary were thoughts of civilian intellectuals such as Ivan Bloch and critics of the Prussian system such as Hans Delbrueck. Bloch's The Future of War in Its Technical, Economic, and Political Relations (1898) so shocked the Tsar that he called the Hague I conference to forgo expensive rearmament.

 

As much as we highlight the events of 1900-14 in most of our courses, this was no road to ruin. The real mood in Europe was optimistic, anticipating an even more progressive century than the preceding one, viz. automobile, airplane, wireless, Planck and Einstein & quantum theory. However as dynamic sci/techn progress was, they also posed a set of internal and external challenges to the great and small powers of the 20th C.

 

Russia and serfdom and the 1905 Revolution, The wane of liberalism and rise of Labour and socialism, Home Rule for Ireland was a hurricane since Gladstone, and so forth.

 

That the assassination of the very unpopular [in court] Franz Ferdinand could lead to a global conflict would have made a very poor novel at the time, but for the general mediocrity and insufficiency for crisis of the leading men of the great powers. The events of the Austrian Council, Russian intervention, general failure of diplomacy and the British crisis were all avoidable in the main.

 

"The great illusion was that humanitarian belief that a general European War among Europeans was unthinkable," were the words of Oren J. Hale (1971), and they ring true to this day. Fateful human decisions by 2d rate political leaders fueled by jump-for-glory militarists and navalists could have been avoided had the men been endowed with foresight and prudence.

 

The bold part reminded me of Imperial Japan during the late 1920s and onwards.

 

 

Not trying to derail the thread but, Ken, on a related note, support for devolution in Catalonia have waned noticeably after the fracas of that referendum past November. Only 30% showed up to vote.

 

There are also the judicial problems of the historical political leader of Catalan Separatism.

 

I want to say that is good news. Of course if people want to separate by peaceful means like with voting and such, than that is appropriate. But more break ups into more tiny states makes the place weaker and less capable. So like Spain here, I had similar feelings when Scotland was at its decision point.

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Querido José, barely 30% voted in the last US national elections for Congress. The strength of the Spanish autonomies would scarcely be recognized in Franco Spain, a mere 40 years ago.

 

Essentially, democratic secession movements will run afoul of what killed the Quebequois movement, when Canada totaled their 25% national debt share that they would take into their desired 'independence.' Ditto for Scotland and Catalunia where exile from the UE would have added to the hurt.

Edited by Ken Estes
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I think Ken's first post in the thread encapsulates very well two facts: a) the fact that the conflcit in the precise from it took (rather than a series of enar mises a la cold war) was not inevitable and that B) the shocking (in retrospect) divorce between civilian and military udnertanding of the process and outcome was a key component.

 

I am old enough to have known well people who came close to or fought in WW1 and, while they all decried the cost, I was always struck by the unquestioning, for lack of a better word, nationalism in which they grew up. I never met an italian of that generation, for instance, who didn't think the very sad loss of 350-500K men (Italian front alone) was a "waste". To many of our generation, it seems an insane price (this was a country of roughly 35 mn, at that point, so we are talkign about a high percentage of "young" men. You visit hamlets of a couple dozen houses where the war monument lists a dozen 1915-18 fallen. Unthinkable now.

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I think Ken's first post in the thread encapsulates very well two facts: a) the fact that the conflcit in the precise from it took (rather than a series of enar mises a la cold war) was not inevitable and that B) the shocking (in retrospect) divorce between civilian and military udnertanding of the process and outcome was a key component.

 

I am old enough to have known well people who came close to or fought in WW1 and, while they all decried the cost, I was always struck by the unquestioning, for lack of a better word, nationalism in which they grew up. I never met an italian of that generation, for instance, who didn't think the very sad loss of 350-500K men (Italian front alone) was a "waste". To many of our generation, it seems an insane price (this was a country of roughly 35 mn, at that point, so we are talkign about a high percentage of "young" men. You visit hamlets of a couple dozen houses where the war monument lists a dozen 1915-18 fallen. Unthinkable now.

 

 

That's one thing that has always touched me of my many travels through the French Basque areas. The tiniest village lost in the Pyrenees, a few houses scattered around a little church, would have a Great War monument with half a dozen names. It is hard to imagine how devastating that war must have been and it makes the whole "surrender monkey" thing even more infuriating.

 

 

 

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One of the interesting things about WW1 is that it happened in a relatively narrow window that made the slaughter far worse than it otherwise could have been.

 

Even a year earlier, pre Haber process, and the central powers surrender after 6-12 months when they run out of nitrate to make explosives.

 

Maybe 10-20 years later and you get things like portable battlefield radios, the possibility of better tanks, maybe better aircraft and who knows what else that would have been useful in breaking the stalemate on the Western front.

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Maybe 10-20 years later and you get things like portable battlefield radios, the possibility of better tanks, maybe better aircraft and who knows what else that would have been useful in breaking the stalemate on the Western front.

 

Yes, but who knows how far those technologies would have evolved in those 10-20 years had the war not occurred.

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Maybe 10-20 years later and you get things like portable battlefield radios, the possibility of better tanks, maybe better aircraft and who knows what else that would have been useful in breaking the stalemate on the Western front.

 

Yes, but who knows how far those technologies would have evolved in those 10-20 years had the war not occurred.

 

 

Well radio had a hell of a lot of non-military applications so I reckon that's coming anyway.

 

Aircraft and tanks, fair enough, but the crucial thing in a way was engine development and that was going to happen with or without WW1.

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Without WWI there would probably be not tanks, but large fleets of armored cars, possibly with earlier accent on all-terrain drive (so might bring halftracks and light tanks anyway) - for colonial wars etc., off-road capability would come in handy for sure.

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Without WWI there would probably be not tanks, but large fleets of armored cars, possibly with earlier accent on all-terrain drive (so might bring halftracks and light tanks anyway) - for colonial wars etc., off-road capability would come in handy for sure.

 

I am not sure about that. Tanks were developed to break the stalemate of trench warfare in Atlantic, wet, Europe. So the need of be able to deal with extreme amounts of mud.

 

See also the effectiveness of armored cars in the North Africa campaign.

 

However, the use of tracks, with a relative low pressure upon ground, allowed to increase the mass of the vehicles, putting more armor, bigger guns, bigger engines, etc.

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Sooner or later, in the colonies where mud would be a problem (or underdeveloped roads), someone would try to put armored car on tracks or halftracks to get at all those pesky rebels.

 

Had WWI not started in 1914, you can also expect a lot of inertia and money continuing to be spent in the technologies they always thought to be war-winning. Why would they change?

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Armoured cars already existed. Tracked vehicles had already been invented, & putting guns (even in turrets) & armour on them to make tanks had been proposed before the war. It was their time: the war gave a boost, but tanks would have happened soon anyway.

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Some of the nations involved were likely going to inevitably go to war, but idiotic diplomacy that caused a massive continent scale conflict could have been avoided.

 

France, Russia and the U.K. all had motivations to fight a war with Germany, but it was Willy's massive fuck ups that lead to fighting them all simultaneously. The Ottomans and Austrians were headed for collapse, but they could have dissolved in a more minor conflict. The U.S. wouldn't have intervened in most other political circumstances.

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The immediate problem was the blank check given by William II to the Austrians, trumping the Russian backing of Serbia. At hat point, the A-H needed to back down, but they were in panic mode vs Serbia. The Tsar's order for full mobilization was the second irrevocable error, but even then it was not too late.

 

The irony was that nobody really needed to acquire more land.

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I would wager that land acquisition was a secondary consideration for all but Italy, whose aims grew to the point where they were bound to be frustrated. The AH empire was crumbling, and like the Argentnians un 82, they looked for an external enemy. The Germans were worried that Russia was becoming too powerful, which it was, and the British were having their primacy questioned from the US and Germany, so their alliance with France was natural.

 

Regarding the tank, moee tanks would have saved lives, just like the airplanes. No need for them was identified in 1914 because trench warfare so far had been mostly sieges or short lived.

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