December 7th, 2012

We have never recovered from World War I

And I fear we never shall.

When I was in school, World War I was hardly touched on in my history classes, so eager were the teachers to get to World War II before the year was over. It was only though reading a review of the Paul Fussell book The Great War and Modern Memory when it first came out in 1975, and then being intrigued enough to read the book, that I first learned what a cataclysmic event the First World War was, both in terms of death rates and in its psychological and even spiritual, as well as cultural, effects.

The first hint was this quote by Henry James, from a letter he wrote to a friend the day after Britain entered the war:

The plunge of civilization into this abyss of blood and darkness… is a thing that so gives away the whole long age during which we have supposed the world to be, with whatever abatement, gradually bettering, that to have to take it all now for what the treacherous years were all the while really making for and meaning is too tragic for any words.

If you hack through James’ typically convoluted syntax, you’ll see a perfect encapsulation of the effect of the war: blood and darkness, giving the lie to what people of that age thought “civilization” had meant. The war caused people to look back at all the years of seeming progress and regard them as a cruel, tantalizing, misleading illusion, a sort of trick played on naive people who now looked back at the history they themselves had lived through, tearing off their previous rose-colored glasses and now seeing a stark and terrible vision.

We have been stuck with that vision ever since. Whether people are aware of the details of the events of WWI or not, they are part of a culture of profound cynicism that took hold of the Western world afterward and has been part of the reason for its decline. Simply put, the West lost a great deal of its boundless confidence in itself.

This article that appeared in American Heritage goes over much the same territory:

This almost unimaginable destruction of human life, to no purpose whatsoever, struck at the very vitals of Western society. For this reason alone, among the casualties of the First World War were not only the millions of soldiers who had died for nothing, most of the royalty of Europe, and treasure beyond reckoning but nearly all the fundamental philosophical and cultural assumptions of the civilization that had suffered this self-induced catastrophe.

For there was one thing that was immediately clear to all about the Great War—as the generation who fought it called it—and that was that this awful tragedy was a human and wholly local phenomenon. There was no volcano, no wrathful God, no horde of barbarians out of the East. Western culture had done this to itself. Because of the war, it seemed to many a matter of inescapable logic that Western culture must be deeply, inherently flawed.

The pre-WWI ethos was quite different. The American Heritage article uses author Edith Wharton’s world as an example, but Henry James would have done just as nicely:

Because of this fantastic record of progress, the people of Edith Wharton’s world believed in the inevitability of further progress and the certainty that science would triumph. They believed in the ever-widening spread of democracy and the rule of law. They believed in the adequacy of the present and the bright promise of the future. To be sure, they fought ferociously over the details of how to proceed, but they had no doubt whatever that the basic principles that guided their society were correct.

Then, all at once, the shots rang out in Sarajevo, the politicians bungled, the armies marched, the poppies began to blow between the crosses row on row. The faith of the Western world in the soundness of its civilization died in the trenches of the western front.

Seventy-five years later, richer, more powerful, more learned than ever, the West still struggles to pick up the psychological pieces, to regain its poise, to find again the self-confidence that in the nineteenth century it took entirely for granted.

Subsequent events played a part, as well. World War II was a very different war fought for very different reasons; unlike its predecessor, the lines of good vs. evil were crystal clear. But that didn’t make the carnage and the profoundly wearying nature of the war any less disillusioning, it’s just that it was disillusioning in a different way, this time about the human race’s propensity for cruelty and hatred and violence. And of course there’s been the long Gramsician march of the left through the West’s basic institutions such as the church, education, and the media, working constantly to undermine the West from the inside. What we see now are the results of all of this. It’s a miracle there’s any vigor left at all.

128 Responses to “We have never recovered from World War I”

  1. Former Marine's Mom Says:

    People always forget the generations of women who were left without mates after the two world wars.

  2. lee Says:

    I have always maintained that:

    The Black Death was what changed man’s view of the world and God, and he saw that God was perhaps not omnipotent as they thought and that man had more power than they originally beleived. Man repalced God as the cynosure. And because of this, the advances we saw with the Rennaissance were possible. Sure, there was a degree of Rennaissance starting to happen before the Black Death wiped out almost half of Europe. But afterwards, the flood gates opened. And then came WWI…

    Which showed man that Man was weak. What the the Black Death did to God, WWI (and II) did to Man. The thing is, no one knows what/who to turn to. There is no longer any cynosure. We are left directionless. So what we have is moral relativism, post-modernism, and a whole array of nonsense leading us along.

  3. rafinlay Says:

    The line between good and evil in WW2 could have been clear, but that conflicts with the narrative of the times. Communist totalitarianism was “good” while National Socialism / Fascism was “evil.” Military empires (Japan) were “evil,” of course, but then … “Atom Bomb!” It seems it was necessary to pursue a goal of moral equivalency, even then.

  4. physicsguy Says:

    This is an example of why I come to this blog; I continually learn. Most of you are MUCH more knowledgable on history, politics, etc. than I am. Further, your insights are so much deeper. So, I get an opportunity to understand in a new light.

    Thanks, Neo… I never would have thought of WWI in this way, and now it makes sense. It has that “ring of truth” about it. And, lee’s second paragraph is wonderful!

  5. hohum Says:

    Well, besides the great and tragic damages of the intervening years since “The Great War”, there is a minor and comic damage as well: you actually think H. James’ prose to have “convoluted syntax”.

  6. Matthew M Says:

    Most people say “Oh, no!” to the horror, but there are plenty who say or think “Oh, yes!” The Twas ever thus post goes a long way to explaining who is who.

    The power lusters have always hated capitalism because its prosperity and justice enable a middle class that prevents them from being rulers over a horde of serfs. The left in their ivory tower, government bureaucracy or NGO sinecures fancy themselves the aristocracy. Sadly, a lot of people make good serfs because they take comfort in putting faith in the supposedly wise rulers and abdicate their own minds to the charlatans who know how to cash in on fear and stupidity.

  7. Mr. Frank Says:

    You could make a good argument that the U.S. has yet to recover from Viet Nam and the Sixties. The inmates are in charge of the asylum.

  8. rickl Says:

    Mr. Frank:
    I was also thinking along those lines. The 50s and early 60s were a period of optimism in America, before Vietnam and the counterculture.

  9. roc scssrs Says:

    Prescient fellow’s famous quote:

    “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” (Sir Edward Grey, looking out over the lights of London from the windows of the Foreign Office, on August 3, 1914).

  10. Shouting Thomas Says:

    Human history is cyclical, not linear, as it appears to us in the moment.

  11. Tim Says:

    Interesting post, though as one who did my MA and PhD work on WWI, a number of problems relating to interpretation of the war and its significance lie at the feet of 1960s-70s academia. What I call the “mud, blood and poetry” school has skewed our understanding of WWI and created a false image of a war that, while it was the most destructive in a century of relative peace in Europe, was not seen as pointless or meaningless by the participants.

    Veterans and other contemporary observers considered the defeat of German militarism a positive, necessary thing (even if the peace was bungled through, IMO, an incoherent combination of harshness and negligence. For every Wilfred Owen or Sigfried Sassoon, there were thousands of others who felt it was a fight worth winning.

    Some of the more recent scholarship, such as Peter Hart’s work on aviation and the British aspects of the war, Prior and Wilson’s work on the Somme and Ypres–all have gone a long way to correcting the distorted view that has come down to us through the filter of the 60s/70s mindset.

    The 1990s documentary Jay Winter oversaw was a classic example of emotional and shallow analysis of a complex war–the more recent (2005) First World War series (done by Channel 4 in the UK) was much better and more analytical.

    Recent works on German atrocities in Belgium also clearly show that the sides were very different–it was not just allied propaganda. There was truth to it, just as there is much to learn about how the Austrians treated the Serbs and other minorities in the east during the war.

    World War 1 was very much the prequel to World War II, with many of the same players and Germany attempting to achieve what it had failed to achieve in WWI, only with an ideological component more toxic that the hyper-nationalism of 1914 added on.

  12. vanderleun Says:

    Pound had it early on in Homage:

    There died a myriad,
    And of the best, among them,
    For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
    For a botched civilization,

    Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
    Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,

    For two gross of broken statues,
    For a few thousand battered books.

  13. vanderleun Says:

    And I must admit that these days, as I look upon what the electorate of imbeciles hath wrought from sea to shining sea I often think…

    “an old bitch gone in the teeth,… a botched civilization,”

  14. Sam L. Says:

    And WWI’s end was preceded by, the Spanish Influenza, which killed many more than the war.

  15. sergey Says:

    Lisbon earthquake was a terrible blow to social optimism and religious faith on par with Great War, and subsequent materialism and atheism of 18 century can be traced to this event. French revolution and all its consequences are steps in Western decline precipitated by it.

  16. sergey Says:

    No, Spanish Influenza stroke after Armistice, as result of demobilization. People were infected most in evacuation camps on their way home. But it did kill around 50 mln.

  17. Richard Aubrey Says:

    John Keegan wrote, in his history of WW I, that the French built resorts for those so hideously mutilated that they wouldn’t come out in public.
    WW I was the first war in which more guys died of combat than of disease.
    That meant the survivors who lost friends probably had more of them shot to death in front of them than taken to the rear, not to be heard from later on. That makes, imo, a difference.
    However, the medical guys had gotten a handle on sepsis. Death from infection after wounding was far less common. More guys survived wounds than previously. Previously, they’d have been names on the war memorials. But, due to improvements in antisepsis, they were alive. Just. There was little or no corrective surgery.
    So these guys who would have been dead in earlier wars were your uncle in the upstairs bedroom unable to manage his own hygiene. The guy who walked with the ruined side of his face to the walls on the High Street. The guy who took so achingly long to get on and off the bus.
    IMO, this is one of the reasons the Allies were not going to let’em up easy the second time around. Everybody knew, the first time, it would never have happened if the Germans had stayed home. And twenty years later, the bastards did it again.

  18. DJMoore Says:

    I am not historian enough to support this wild speculation, but this, I think, is the engine of WW I:

    …Among the casualties of the First World War were not only the millions of soldiers who had died for nothing, most of the royalty of Europe….

    “Most of the royalty of Europe.”

    Possibly the entire 20th century was all about the death of European ideas of royalty. There were two contenders to replace the nobility: European socialism, which is faith in another kind of government; and American constitutional republicanism, which is faith in the commons, the individual.

  19. chuck Says:

    At Samizdata the question was raised, “Was Britain right to fight the First World War?” I think the comments are worth reading.

  20. Donald Sensing Says:

    Lee, see Norman Cantor’s book, In the Wake of the Plague – The Black Death and the World It Made.

    The above commenter is right – the generation that fought the war (at least the allied side) did not see the war as futile or meaningless. That was left to their grandchildren in the aftermath of WW2.

    The two wars together spiritually gutted Europe, both victors and vanquished. Mainland Europeans came to see war as purposeless and pointless, for even mainland nations on the winning side were physically shattered.

    We still have not got over WW 1, but had it not been for WW 2, we would have.

  21. Ann Says:

    Interesting to compare the effects of WWI with those of the U.S. Civil War, which saw what was at that time an unprecedented level of killing and suffering. The demoralizing effect of all that, though, was mitigated by the fact that slavery had been demolished, a wonderful thing.

    WWI, on the other hand, left everyone wondering, what the hell did we fight for? Empires crumbled, new entities arose that led to yet more struggles, Russia was overtaken by Communists, economies were ruined, etc.

  22. chuck Says:

    That was left to their grandchildren in the aftermath of WW2.

    I don’t agree. In “Testament of Youth” Vera Brittain comments of her time back in university of the very different attitudes of the younger students who had just missed participation in the war due to age, and those like herself who had been involved. The leaders of the peace movement in the 30’s were many of them, also veterans of the war. And that is not to mention the impetus the war gave to communism and normalizing of violence and killing on a grand scale. Those things were almost immediate consequences.

  23. Sharon W Says:

    The bible states in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has been will be again,what has been done will be done again;there is nothing new under the sun.” Some time ago I was at Mass and I thought of the 50 million plus legal abortions performed in this country since 1973. If people want to argue about “when life begins”, they are free to do so, but no one can deny that of 50 million, many, many, many resulted in the death of a fully formed innocent life–a heart stopped beating and it was an act of violence against a vulnerable baby. I thought about what that looks like to God. The womb should be the safest, most inviolable place on earth for any human being. It was then that I stopped thinking of our western society as “advanced” in ethics compared to the ancient societies.

  24. Paul in Boston Says:

    A very different take on war,

  25. Paul in Boston Says:

    Sorry, the YouTube link didn’t work. Here’s the quote from “The Third Man”, one of Orson Welles best.

    Holly, I’d like to cut you in, old man. There’s nobody left in Vienna I can really trust, and we’ve always done everything together. When you make up your mind, send me a message – I’ll meet you any place, any time, and when we do meet old man, it’s you I want to see, not the police. Remember that, won’t ya? Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.

  26. Teri Pittman Says:

    Any of the Lyn MacDonald’s books will give you a good idea of what this war was like. It truly was hellish, a real modern war. There was no clear cut right side on this war, unlike WWII. You had appalling loss of life for no gain at all. Trench life was terrible. Vera Brittain’s journals are interesting in showing how the population can swing from being opposed to war to supporting it.

    It is a shame that history is taught so poorly in schools. I’ve talked to kids that had no idea which countries even fought in WWI. (I blame myself for not becoming a history teacher, like I’d originally wanted to do.) You can’t understand WWII without trying to understand WWI.

  27. Bernard Says:

    I have over 400 letters exchanged between my wife’s grandfather and his wife of just 3 months when he was drafted into WWI (he was just 21 years old). They wrote each other at least every day and sometimes as many as three times a day.
    Their letters are very endearing and they expressed their undying love in this incomprehensible situation: “I love you more than all the world Sweetheart girl. I love you with all my heart and soul, and am just yours Stella Darling. Good-bye for a short time. I love you Dear.” His 330th Field Artillery Company arrived in France at the end of the war and did not see action, to their dismay. His description of Paris on Armistice Day is a remarkable 24-page account of the jubilation at the end of the war. They were fortunate to survive the war and had eight children and myriad grandchildren and grandchildren (my wife included).

  28. Soviet of Washington Says:

    The translated memoirs of Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador to Russia for the period immediately preceding the war (and yes, a decedent of the family of Byzantine Emperors prior to the Ottoman takeover) are available online and make interesting reading of the thinking of the time.

  29. davisbr Says:

    @Ann at 3:27 pm “Interesting to compare the effects of WWI with those of the U.S. Civil War, which saw what was at that time an unprecedented level of killing and suffering. The demoralizing effect of all that, though, was mitigated by the fact that slavery had been demolished, a wonderful thing.

    Ah. But did it? End slavery, I mean? Or even …end? (Which is not to deny that the tactical situation did – and radically – change lol.)

    Don’t misunderstand: I’m not arguing that the institution of slavery wasn’t ended, which was a wonderful thing.

    But there are institutions that live in the land of the Law, and ones that live in the land of the Mind.

    I would argue that the Emancipation was mitigated by the facts on the ground of the aftermath period.

    …and a long period it was.

    Reconstruction was an unmitigated disaster: the rise of the KKK, the rise of apartheid (separate-but-equal), the civil rights fiasco, and the rise of the Great Society (which devastated the structural economics of black families which had been rising to the middle class).

    The rise of culturally activist courts, which emasculated the Constitution, and the federal foundations of the Republic. And segmented America (and de facto created legal policies racist by their very nature against whites), nurturing a “new racism”, while prolonging the old.

    Indeed. I would argue that the Civil War …and slavery in a very real sense – the slavery in men’s minds – didn’t really end until the very day that Barak Obama was inaugerated as president.

    Even if we – I! – didn’t vote for ‘im, we can all be proud as a nation that he was elected, and the Civil War finally came to an end. I was, that day.

    …it’s just too bad that so many don’t recognize that yet. I wonder if the president does.

    So I dunno if that comparison holds at all.

  30. Soviet of Washington Says:

    Also worth reading is Takuan Seiyo’s essay The Last Samurai and Europe’s First Suicide. The key military leaders of both sides had seen the outcome of trench warfare in the age of modern weapons in 1904/5.

  31. artfldgr Says:

    Edith Wharton was one of those femnist women that didnt exist… like most of the others… they all went to school, they all were connected to wealth, and they all claimed women were not allowed to do a lot of the things that if you look, they were allowed to do, and did do… from fighting in war, to tons of stuff.

    for instance. if it was a mans world, and women were not respected… then how could Edith Wharton be what she was, and why do we even know about her?

    The saying “Keeping up with the Joneses” is said to refer to her father’s family

    She was also related to the Rensselaer family, the most prestigious of the old patroon families.

    and the books..

    Viewing the Custom of Her Country: Edith Wharton’s Feminism

    The Name of the Lily: Edith Wharton’s Feminism(s)

    Feminists and Edith Wharton
    which was a feminist response to
    The Feminist Takeover of Edith Wharton

    Silencing Women in Edith Wharton’s The Age of
    Innocence Clare Virginia Eby

    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton:
    From Silence to Speech

    Feminism in Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

    Feminist activists don’t fight fair. They are not interested in intellectual speculations or in
    acquiring new knowledge, for the feminist perspective has already answered all their questions. Legitimate discussion of gender issues can only take place between members of the in-group, who share a common belief structure. This eliminates most women from the discussion: non-feminist women are seen either as potential adherents to be manipulated into a
    correct understanding or as enemies to be outmaneuvered.

    It also excludes all men.
    [edited for length by n-n]

  32. artfldgr Says:

    The Tactic of Outrage

    Holier-than-thou approaches have been the daily currency of believing feminists. One
    should of course refuse to conduct arguments in such debased coin whenever possible.
    But if it is necessary to do so, take the high ground. The most common such feminist
    approach is the tactic of outrage, used with regard to day care, pornography, etc., etc.
    You’ve got to have your facts straight and be quick on your feet to c~½aañ\fhe two-tiered
    assault inherent in thk• technique, which seeks first, to overcome facts with emotion,
    and second, to discredit the non-feminist individual attacked by making him appear to
    lack moral compassion, thoughtfulness, and so on. Ideally, the assault actually
    discredits him in his own eyes so that, confused and stuttering, he is reduced to the
    apologetic vulnerability
    required in the New Male. I say “him” advisedly in this discussion: the tactic of
    outrage works poorly against women because as Carol Gilligan explains, they tend to
    be “morally pragmatic” in the first place. Men’s tendency to abstraction and
    generalization makes them vulnerable to this technique, which turns that tendency
    against them by making it seem pompous and “insensitive.” A good antidote is
    therefore to claim compassion yourself (because it is too complicated to explain the
    virtues of abstract reasoning in the context of a heated argument over, say, federally
    funded day care centers): the anti-feminist position is the really compassionate one — to
    say nothing of being the fair one, the just one, the practical one, the cost-efficient one, and
    so forth. The fact that all these things probably really are true of the anti-feminist position
    won’t hurt your case at all.
    Another way to combat the tactic of outrage is to undercut it by refusing to speak to the
    arguments presented (which are just a smoke-screen anyway for forcing us all to accept
    a neutered society). For men, this requires that they discard out-of-place chivalry which
    inhibits them from using their full aggressiveness and intelligence against feminists. (It
    may help to think of oneself as a defender of the majority of women.) For instance, an
    acquaintance of mine was recently attacked in a public gathering for referring to
    prepubescent females as “girls.” Since they can be beaten and raped, he was informed,
    all females are “women.” Unfazed, he shot back “Do you spell that with an `e’ or an `i’?”
    (Some radical feminists spell “women” as “wimmin,” to avoid the hated syllable “men.”)

    and here explains the metrosexual game!!!!

    There is a set of expressions which feminist use to encourage men to conform to their
    notions of nonsexist conduct. These should be avoided and resisted just like the
    pejoratives. The pejoratives are the stick, the compliments the carrot. Both represent
    attempts to divorce you from your authentic perceptions
    by people who don’t know any better. Words like “sensitive,” “caring,” “warm,”
    and “related” all represent perfectly valid qualities for a man to possess, but in the
    feminist lexicon they have acquired
    special meanings.

    From girlhood on, many women periodically wish human males were more of these things. Here’s the rub: the feminist usage blends this ubiquitous and ungratifiable female wish with the implication that the recipient of these seeming compliments either lacks or doesn’t care for the reverse virtues of toughness, independence, and so forth, and consequently is less able to stand up for himself than he should be.
    [edited for length n-n]

  33. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I recently read are article on this very subject that came to the same conclusions.

    My particular point vis-a-vis WWI is that whatever its psychological effects might have been, it also virtually wiped out the bulk of the English aristocracy/ruling class who were in their prime*—what Gramsci called a society’s ruling “Hegemony”—whose members served as models of behavior, set the values and tone for, and had the leading role in the progress and running of the British Empire.

    Then, a generation later, WWII wiped out many of their remaining male descendants.

    This, along with other economic and political trends essentially destroyed that aristocracy, that ruling Hegemony, its economic foundations, its way of life, and ethos, with the practical effect that the UK today is being run by the “leftovers,” the third string team or worse, with the deplorable results that we can all see.

    As for the main point of your thread, the people of the pre-WWI period had fooled themselves about human nature, believing that it could be changed and had changed for the good and that, thanks to science and “progress,” it was moving in the direction of increasing perfection.

    In fact, all of our arguments today are, at their root and at their most basic level, about two fundamentally different views of human nature.

    A conservative view says that human nature is essentially fixed and unchangeable in any major way, and that man is a flawed creature, with a propensity for evil.

    A liberal view says that human nature is mutable and, therefore, “perfectible,” and assumes that human beings are basically good.

    If human nature is basically immutable, and based on 8,000 years or so of recorded history and example,some people are, left to their own devices, and given the deeply imbedded imperatives for sex, money, and power, always tempted to get into trouble, then, realistic public policy should be aimed at arranging a society with very clear boundaries as to conduct, with clear, swift and inevitable penalties for transgressions; rules and institutions all aimed at protecting society and the mass of sheep from the inevitable few wolves.

    If man is basically good and human nature mutable, and perfectible, then-as Marx taught–society could and must be “transformed,” to channel and increase that drive toward perfection, and any good man’s momentary inability to move in the direction of that perfection must be due to circumstances beyond his control—to prejudice, inequality, poverty and ignorance; eliminate these impediments and then people can move forward toward that attainable perfection.

    * For example, in just the first day of the Battle of the Somme, which lasted from July 1 through 18 November 1916, the British suffered something in the neighborhood of 60,000 wounded, close to 20,000 of them killed, and some 450,000 casualties during the course of the entire battle.

  34. davisbr Says:

    @Wolla Dalbo : In fact, all of our arguments today are, at their root and at their most basic level, about two fundamentally different views of human nature.

    A conservative view says that human nature is essentially fixed and unchangeable in any major way, and that man is a flawed creature, with a propensity for evil.

    A liberal view says that human nature is mutable and, therefore, “perfectible,” and assumes that human beings are basically good.


    Brilliantly put.


  35. Occam's Beard Says:

    assumes that human beings are basically good

    Yes, a belief held most fervently by those who live in gated communities.

  36. Indigo Red Says:

    Being Eurocentric in our understanding and knowledge of history, we’re often ignorant of the part the Ottoman Empire played.

    The Turkish Ottoman Empire had lost much territory to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the First Balkin War in 1912 which included the city of Sarajevo where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by the Black Hand member, Gavrilo Princip. Black Hand was a nationalist movement favoring a Bosnia-Herzegovina/Serbia union (remember those names from the Clinton years?).

    A short time after the start of the Great War, Sheikh-ul-Islam, the religious leader of the Ottoman Empire declared a holy war in Constantinople on Nov 14, 1914. His fatwa urged Muslims all over the world to take up arms against the West, especially Great Britain, France, Russia, Serbia, and Montenegro. America was added to the jihad list when we declared war against the Axis in 1917. Germany, The Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Turkey aligned as the Axis Powers. The remnant of the once great Ottoman Empire wanted its caliphate back and hoped to get it in negotiations with the winning Axis powers. In 1917, America declared war against the Axis starting our history as the Great Satan. America’s entry into the war put a quick end to everyone’s pre-war plans, except those of the ummah, the world wide Muslim community which still wants its empire back.

    Sheikh-ul-Islam’s declaration of a holy war, urged the ummah to defend the Ottoman Empire, as protector of Islam, against its enemies. “Of those who go to the Jihad for the sake of happiness and salvation of the believers in God’s victory the lot of those who remain alive is felicity, while the rank of those who depart to the next world is martyrdom. In accordance with God’s beautiful promise, those who sacrifice their lives to give life to the truth will have honor in this world, and their latter end is paradise.”

    The jihad we experience today is a direct result and continuation of WWI, The Great War, that brought upon Islam defeat and great shame. Osama bin Laden referred to the fall of the Ottoman Empire as one of the major reasons for his declaration of war against the West with the restoration of the Ottoman Empire Caliphate being the desired result.

  37. blert Says:


    You’re ENTIRELY wrong.

    It got its name, Spanish flu, because — even as it raged — none of the active combatants would permit it to pass their censors.

    In a weird fluke of fate, my Granduncle was one of the two survivors of the original outbreak, in Kansas, circa March, 1918, which went pandemic within months.

    Its body count exceeds that of the military campaigns of WWI.

    It’s the reason the Russian Revolution was so bloody. They were mostly dying of this plague.

    ALL of the histories are warped because it was a censored bloodletting.

    The Black Day of the German Army, August 8, 1918 turned entirely upon Spanish flu fatalities within front-line German units. The disease could knock down a soldier from healthy to dead in under twelve-hours.

    My Granduncle buried, personally, half of his barracks. His co-survivor buried the other half.

    They survived on rations thrown over the wire — into the camp — at the point of quarantining troops — with bayonets affixed!

    It was the Spanish flu that triggered the Kreigsmarine’s mutiny.

    Beyond that, it was the flu that wiped out food production — pretty much across Europe. Those lacking access to American food imports were devastated.

    It’s impossible to read any of the histories right until the flu is acknowledged.

  38. rickl Says:

    Wolla Dalbo:
    Off topic, but funnily enough, I referenced the Battle of the Somme just the other day, in an entirely different context (gun control):

    On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916, the British Army suffered almost 20,000 soldiers killed in action. The Germans used rifles, machine guns, and artillery.

    In the Battle of Cannae, August 2, 216 BC, the Roman Army was defeated by the Carthaginians. Various sources estimate the Roman dead from a low of 10,000 to a high of 50,000. The Carthaginians used swords and spears.

    Now, obviously, Cannae was only a one-day affair, but it had a powerful effect on Rome. It remains one of the worst military disasters in recorded history. It left the Romans hell-bent on revenge, which they eventually got.

  39. Occam's Beard Says:

    Blert, interesting and important point.

    My father was born at what I believe was the height of the Spanish flu in America (Oct. 1918). On going through his things after his death a few years ago. I reflected on how many times he’d successfully cheated death, having survived the Spanish flu and 27 years later, Iwo Jima.

  40. n.n Says:

    Shouting Thomas:

    It certainly is. We can’t seem to escape the cycle of ambiguous progress.

  41. blert Says:


    It was in non-combatant Spain that officialdom, somewhere, was willing to admit that a new, shocking epidemic was erupting.

    Hence, its name became Spanish flu.

    It had already gone pandemic elsewhere — yet the military censors had so repressed the story that Spanish authorities actually thought that it had originated there.

    It originated in the US Army barracks in Kansas. Then it went everywhere.

    It dictated the tempo of American reinforcements to Europe.

    My Grandfather’s division was held up in New Jersey for months on end because of it. He was at sea when the Germans signed the armistice.

    He later quipped: “They quit because [he] was coming.”

  42. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sometimes it feels as though we (mankind in general, and Americans in particular) received a respite from our fate, and that respite is ending now. Sort of a “coffee break’s over, back on your heads” moment, as in the old joke.

  43. Steve D Says:

    ‘The war caused people to look back at all the years of seeming progress and regard them as a cruel, tantalizing, misleading illusion…’

    As they will World War III, I’m sure.

  44. Steve D Says:

    Ayn Rand once said that people born afterwards, who had no memory of what the world was like before WWI could not even begin to imagine the tremendous good will between people which was a staple of that age. It was truly a turning point for the world and not for the better. It may be a thousand years before the world will ever see that again.
    And all we are taught about is of robber barons.

  45. Steve D Says:

    ‘The 50s and early 60s were a period of optimism in America, before Vietnam and the counterculture.’
    The good will and optimism before WWI made what we had in the fifties seem like bitter nastiness by comparison. You don’t understand, none of us alive today can but true ‘peace on earth, good will toward man’ is possible. It happened.

  46. Steve D Says:

    It’s a miracle there’s any vigor left at all.
    Look at how long it took the Romans to lose it. When you start with something so great, it takes an awful long time to lose it because the advantage good has over evil is inestimable. When we finally fall, when evil finally succeeds it will only make our shame and humiliation all that greater.

  47. Indigo Red Says:

    My Grandfather’s first wife and twin sons, the family that kept him out of the 1917 war draft enacted in May, were killed by the Spanish Flu in autumn of 1917. Grandad was drafted the following spring 1918 and his regiment was packing for the trenches when the war ended in Nov 1918. He was mustered out soon after that. He had been born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and would have been fighting against his own family members.

  48. Otiose Says:

    I hope fervently that WWI and all its violence is some curse unique to Western culture. What disturbs me about WWI and its sequel is that these eruptions of violence were not unique to Western culture at all, but a phase, common to all of our species, we all pass through and a function of some threshold of wealth accumulation and “sophistication” that a number of our juniors are now approaching – Turkey, India, and China (biggest and most dangerous) come to mind.

    Developments in economics interplay with war eruptions as we saw in the events leading up to both WWI and WWII.

    Today’s central banks are losing the pretense of control as they desperately attempt to halt the adjustments (downward) in the high standard of living pumped up by debt expansion in the developed countries while several major up and coming emerging countries whose recent growth has been very dependent on the developed world’s credit expansion are getting jerked off their upward growth trajectories. Once the aggressive monetization finally breaks into inflation it will bring about interesting history in the full meaning of the old Chinese curse.

  49. rickl Says:

    I’m certainly by no means an expert, but I’ve been interested in World War I for a long time.

    I read Eddie Rickenbacker’s autobiography when I was a kid. He was America’s top air ace and was pretty famous back then (when I was growing up), but he has almost been forgotten now. I hardly ever see any references to him today.

    World War I played an enormous role in the development of aviation. At the start of the war airplanes were small, and few and far between. They had only been in existence for a decade. They were initially employed as scouts observing troop movements, and spotters for artillery. The Wright Brothers themselves foresaw those uses for airplanes.

    Early in the war, some of the scout plane pilots began employing pistols and rifles against opposing scouts. There were attempts to attach machine guns to the top wing of biplanes, which met with mixed success.

    In 1915 Anthony Fokker developed a geared interrupter mechanism that enabled a machine gun to be mounted facing forward firing through the propeller blades without shooting off the propeller. Thus the “fighter plane” was born. By the end of the war large multi-engined bombers were developed as well.

    In 1919, the first transatlantic flights were made, using a British Vickers Vimy twin-engined bomber and an American Curtiss NC-4 four-engined flying boat. These planes were much larger, more powerful, and more reliable than anything that existed in 1914.

  50. Occam's Beard Says:

    I hope fervently that WWI and all its violence is some curse unique to Western culture.

    Nope. Google the “Taiping Rebellion.” Pretty impressive carnage for 19th century weaponry.

  51. blert Says:

    The all time record for shear bloodiness has to be the muslim conquest of India…

    Hence, terms like Hindu Kush.

    Contemporary accounts write of so many fatalities that the mind recoils.

    And without a white-man present; pre-gunpowder ‘combat’ to the end. ( It was too expensive to use on civilians. )

  52. Christian Says:

    This bit I wrote on WW1 and art may suit you:

  53. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Too many comments to read, so hopefully I’m not repeating someones’ prior comment.

    My history teachers skipped over WWI also and for the same reasons.

    It was not until I watched Ken Burn’s PBS special, “The Great War” that I learned of the historical impact and importance of WWI.

    However, I contend that it’s somewhat true that, “the people of Edith Wharton’s world believed in the inevitability of further progress and the certainty that science would triumph. They believed in the ever-widening spread of democracy and the rule of law. They believed in the adequacy of the present and the bright promise of the future.”

    I say somewhat because that was the mainstream view of the culture of that time but not, the intelligentsia’s view. They had been seduced by the nihilism of Nietzsche and the post modernist movement, which asserts that there is no objective truth. Only subjective interpretation and personal opinion.

    When the horror of WWI was done, the casualties of the First World War; “the millions of soldiers who had died for nothing with most of the royalty of Europe’s heirs, and treasure beyond reckoning” seemed to confirm what the ‘intelligentsia’ had been preaching and, the contention that it was “a matter of inescapable logic that Western culture must be deeply, inherently flawed” appeared irrefutable and that, is what led to the collapse of “nearly all the fundamental philosophical and cultural assumptions of the civilization that had suffered this self-induced catastrophe”.

    Europe lost its entire philosophical heritage; Greek reason and logic, Rome’s rule of law and the enlightenment because the nihilism of Nietzsche and the post modernist movement had already rejected Europe’s intellectual heritage. Europe became a ship lost at sea, rudderless and prey to the vicissitude of the wind.

    Europe’s “self-induced catastrophe” and the seeming confirmation of Nietzsche’s nihilism is what led to the majority of Europeans concluding it to be “a matter of inescapable logic that Western culture must be deeply, inherently flawed”.

    In time, it gave rise to transnationalism, our current U.N. and Barrack Obama’s desire to fundamentally transform America into just one among many nations, no more and even less special than any other. (for Obama, its not enough that America should lose, it must suffer… his racial hate demands it)

  54. Oldflyer Says:

    Wolla Dalbo, nice try. You put a philosophical twist to Conservatism and Liberalism (the modern form at any rate) that is exactly 180 degrees out of phase.

    It is the Liberal, and let us use the word Statist, because that is where their motivations tend, that tells us that the individual is incapable of independent functioning, and must have direction and control from Superior beings; i.e. government. Does that sound like what you cynically tried to sell?

    Conservatives on the other hand try to limit governmental interference in the belief that the individual has the moral compass and the good sense to function independently. That is what you desperately try to deny.

    World War I is a fascinating subject. I entered the American educational system as World War II was starting; and that war dominated our thought. With good reason, as we saw fathers, older brothers and cousins go forth, many never to return. It was only later in life that I became engrossed with the First. As has been acknowledged, The Great War was pure tragedy for European Civilization, and its aftermath led directly to the further tragedy of WW2. In its antecedents and in its conduct, it is a story of terrible miscalculation and blunder at the highest levels. On the other hand, at the level of the trenches there is a remarkable story of Nobless Oblige, courage, and grace under the most appalling conditions.

  55. Oldflyer Says:

    Neo, Once again your site has struck a chord that obviously resonates with many. You have a wonderful faculty for just that.

  56. John Nesbitt Says:

    Great post and great comments. The comment from Indigo Red particularly hits home. To think that the fall of the Ottoman empire had so many ramifications to this day… It’s very disheartening.

  57. rickl Says:

    The latter stages of the American Civil War presaged the trench warfare of World War I. During the Battle of Cold Harbor in Virginia in 1864, Union forces flung themselves against fortified Confederate positions, suffering 7000 casualties in 20 minutes.

  58. OlderandWheezier Says:

    I think Wolla gets it mostly right, especially from a theological standpoint. If one compares fundamentalist evangelical churches in this country with those that tend more towards a “social gospel,” there is a pretty clear contrast. The former, which tend to be peopled by those who are more politically conservative, are also more prone to believe that man is by nature depraved, and unable to rescue himself from what ails him.

    I also appreciate oldflyer’s input, but I’m not so sure I agree with his comment regarding the reason that conservatives limit governmental interference. I don’t think it stems so much from a belief in a moral compass or good sense, so much as it does from the conviction that freedom as sought for and enacted by our forefathers is a far greater good than whatever evil acts may occur because of those who misuse it.

  59. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    To neo, and all commenters, thanks. Many good points about WWI, WWII and the lingering psychological damage. I learn so much here.

    All wars leave psychological damage, but I agree that two major wars within 32 years capped with the first and last, thus far, use of atomic weapons has had a lingering influence on our will and confidence. The guilt complex, which has been magnified by the blame America first crowd, has sapped our will to defend ourselves. With detractors constantly yapping at our heels in the UN, mosques, and even in the Congress; we are told we have little or no right to defend ourselves from repeated attacks by a foe that constantly calls for our destruction.

    How do we regain our confidence that we are not in the wrong and have the right to a vigorous self defense? The answers aren’t easy, but I suspect they lie in a better understanding of history. And a willingness to recognize that we have been, for the most part, a force for good in the world. We saved the world from the tyranny of Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and Communist USSR/China. We have lifted more people to higher standards of living than any country in the world. Are those reasons to feel guilt? Not in my considered opinion. We have to remember our successes and learn from our mistakes. Try to live up to this standard: No better friend, no worse enemy.

  60. Eric Says:

    WWI crippled European civilization, but it was in effect a hand-off to American civilization. Our spirit wasn’t broken in WW1.

    The Vietnam War was our WW1. Before Vietnam, America had the self-confidence and vigor to pivot rapidly from WW2 to near singlehandledly stand up the ‘Free World’ against international Communism.

    Iraq was our golden opportunity to cue our Vietnam syndrome and reestablish our world-changing vigor and self-confidence. And we had it in hand. But too many Americans prefer the traumatized state of the Vietnam syndrome and fought to impose the Vietnam syndrome onto Iraq. And now the chance is gone. Where will we find our vigor and self-confidence now?

  61. Eric Says:

    Fix ‘cue our Vietnam syndrome’ -> CURE our Vietnam syndrome

  62. Occam's Beard Says:

    The answers aren’t easy, but I suspect they lie in a better understanding of history. And a willingness to recognize that we have been, for the most part, a force for good in the world.

    That, and to recognize the forces of evil at work today within our country, working tirelessly to undermine our way of life, and to extirpate them.

  63. beverly Says:

    I think we have to give mad props to Great Britain for getting the spine to fight one more time.

    Now they’re spent, however. And this pair of Wars accounts for most of the anomie in the EU, in my opinion. They have a dramatically different view of war: and if you think about it, they could make a pretty good case for avoiding it almost no matter what.

    All this has me thinking of Original Sin, a concept I rebelled against when I was a teenager. But the Judeo-Christian concept of Man as Fallen from Grace encompasses the evils we see about us, and those of history as well, which really have been diabolical. Believe in Satan, anyone?

    The “Battling Bastards of Bataan” (now there’s a name of legend) have posted this account of the Other Side of WWII: the Japanese atrocities in the Sack of Manila:

    I warn you, the account is horrific. The usual tactics of the Imperial Japanese Army: mass rapes, locking civilians into buildings to burn them alive en masse, shooting thousands in the streets, and bayonetting men, women, children, babies.

    All this when they knew the war was LOST: the savagery was a colossal act of vicious, satanic spite. Or is there another word for it? there are No Words.

    Then there’s the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo: after that, there were about 70 American flyers who had to ditch in mainland China. The Chinese helped all but a handful escape from the Japs. What did the Japs do in retaliation?

    They rounded up and slaughtered a quarter million Chinese civilians.

    This was Standard Operating Procedure with the IJA (ask the Koreans, the Manchurians, the Chinese, the Filipinos, and our men they starved and tortured to death). Read, if you can stomach it, about their concentration camps: the barbarous medical “experiments”; like shoving a garden hose up the victims’ rectum until they vomited their own feces, etc.

    But the Smithsonian Institute wanted to showcase the atom bombs that finally put a stop to this insanity as the Real crime. They tried it a bit too soon: there were still some American veterans alive and angry enough to raise Cain about it. But don’t worry: the termites will be at it again soon enough, probably in the next five years or so.

  64. beverly Says:

    As far as reasons to fight on are concerned, this old-fashioned Anglican would say, “It’s the battle between Good and Evil. From now until the End.”

  65. davisbr Says:

    @beverly : 1:40 am All this has me thinking of Original Sin, a concept I rebelled against when I was a teenager. But the Judeo-Christian concept of Man as Fallen from Grace encompasses the evils we see about us, and those of history as well, which really have been diabolical. Believe in Satan, anyone?

    You know Bev’, there was a long period where I didn’t believe in G-d. Long. Period. Long.

    …but I never stopped believing that there was a Lucifer. Couldn’t.

    Does certain sure knowledge really fall under the rubric of “belief” though.

  66. blert Says:

    I now read that the Spanish flu has been genetically mapped and that it has been determined to be a sub-set of the avian flu, H1N1.

    Its toll on humanity, due to 20th Century populations, set an all time record, 20-50,00,000 souls killed, many times that number infected.

    Weirdly, now that it has been absolutely replicated in the lab, no combatant power wants it in their bio-warfare program.

    It was species specific, though. Only human beings suffered from it, outside the laboratory.

    My Granduncle was transformed into a human test object in 1918. After having performed every known test — they invented new ones. Eventually, his veins ‘gave out.’ Drawing blood became impossible for the number of tracks on ALL his extremities. (!)

    Not surprisingly, he was bed ridden as a consequence.

    He and his buddy went almost insane with boredom – -being under a severe quarantine.

    The experts were absolutely baffled as to why they’d survived.

  67. Armchair pessimist Says:

    Another baleful inheritance: for a whole generation who went into the oppising armies, the State became the Provider. Food, shelter (of sorts!), guaranteed employment, for life in too many cases. This was applied Socialism, a connection which, says Hayek, was made loud and clear in Germany at the time.

    Looking at it this way, our turn came in WW2, which, right on the heels of the dislocations of the Depression, gave Americans a strong liking for big-state solutions.

    An evil century, the 20th. This one will be worse.

  68. sergey Says:

    I have in my family archive letters and articles by my grand-grandfather written in period 1914-1917. They document a tsunami of moral degradation which began 2 months since the beginning of the war. He supervised hospitals and all medical services in the Army, including reception of incoming echelons of wounded from the front line. These wounded people were morally wreaked and degraded. Their vile attitude, foul language, antisemitism and nihilism was spreading like epidemic across Russia with every incoming echelon from the front. Here was the root of national catastrophe of Russian revolution.

  69. sergey Says:

    blert: Thanks for clarification about origins of the flu. I never heard about this Kansas outbreak. But I know for sure that in Russia the epidemic began after demobilization, in October 1918.

  70. david foster Says:

    One of the hardest-hitting portrayals of WWI’s impact on Western civilization can be found in Erich Maria Remarque’s novel THE ROAD BACK, which follows a group of German soldiers after they return home. It makes a good companion piece to the Fussell book, and is very well-written. Highly recommended–I reviewed it here:


  71. njartist49 Says:

    Then we have this speech. This is the first time I heard that in 1916 Germany had basically won the war and had offered Britain a status quo ante peace: but, as Benjamin Freedman declared, the Zionists offered U.S. participation in exchange fro the Balfor Agreement.
    Very interesting.

  72. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Indigo Red—Islam’s Jihad against all unbelievers—Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Baha’is, Animists, Pagans, and anyone else who isn’t a Muslim (and sometimes other Muslims, as well, who aren’t viewed as sufficiently militant, or who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and are regrettable but inevitable collateral damage) started even before Muhammad’s death in 632 A.D.

    The United States first came under attack from that Jihad in the form of the North Africa-based Muslim, “Barbary Pirates,” who threatened to cut off our newly formed United States absolutely vital sea trade—capturing or destroying our ships, stealing their cargoes, and selling both passengers and crews into slavery– unless we paid them the protection money i.e. Jizya that Islam says all unbelievers must pay to their Muslim overlords. And they clearly saw their attacks as Jihad.

    Back then in 1785, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to try to stop these attacks and were told by the Pirate’s representative, Abd Al-Rahman, the Ambassador of Tripoli, that the reason the United States—which had not harmed the Pirates in any way—was being attacked was because:

    “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their [Islam’s] authority were sinners, that it was their [Muslim’s] right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (

    Thus, from 1785 through 1805 the U.S. Congress appropriated annual Jizya payments of gold coins that totaled somewhere between 10% to a high of 20% of our entire annual federal budget to be paid to these pirates.

    These payments stopped only when the newly formed U.S. Navy and Marine corps, largely created by Jefferson through 20 years of hard work, sailed to Tripoli in 1805 and, in a ten year campaign, killed the pirates, sunk their ships, and destroyed their land bases.

    Today’s Muslim Somali pirates offer exactly the same Jihadist justification for their current day piracy.

  73. ErisGuy Says:

    I wonder why the sunny optimism existed prior to WW1, and if it isn’t nostalgia created by the war . Fussell writes it was fading prior to the war. (I don’t have my copy of GWiMM handy, but I believe he cites Hardy’s poetry as an example.) And he notes that everyday brutality was the lot of most of the poor, working men.

    In 1914, only a century had passed since the brutal Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (Waterloo was in 1815) that laid waste to much of Europe.

    The real expansion in health, wealth, and happiness occurred after WW2. That sunny time is now.

  74. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Oldflyer—You mistake me.

    As I see it, those on the Left talk-in whatever disguise or formula–of reaching out for Utopia, but those ideologues who propose such programs want, in return, the power to arrange society and everyone’s lives so as to achieve that lofty goal. The Gramscian softening up program attempts to destroy current traditional morality and promises anything goes. But, at the same time, those on the Left propose ever more laws and regulations to eliminate all that they identify as barriers to the creation of, and to shape the “new man.”

    A cynic would say that they do not really believe in the perfectibility of the human being, the new man, or the attainability of Utopia, but only use their professed ideology and lofty goals as a means of gaining dictatorial power and that, in any case, the leaders and their nomenklatura are never bound by the rules they impose on the “masses.”

    Whereas, as i see it, those on the Right, once sufficient laws and structures are in place to assure a minimal amount of order and security in society, are all about the maximal amount of freedom for the individual—they are not striving for some form of unattainable Utopia, nor want all the laws the Left wants to “shape” a new man.

    The Founders saw the citizenry of their time, steeped in Judeo-Christian values and worship, as virtuous, and believed that our Republic could only function and survive so long as we were a virtuous people. Thus, the Gramscian attack against all forms of such virtue, and its teaching, which has, unfortunately, been extremely successful.

  75. OldTexan Says:

    Unintended consequences, the intentions on both sides were to fight a quick, six week war to settle up a few issue dating back a little over 40 years and the winner was supposed to be the strongest and fastest. Then it bogged down when modern weapons met skin and bones.

    I walked the trenches in Eastern France in the 60’s when you could see the depressions in the ground and the tops of trees were still mangled. A war was started agreements were honored and a bunch of royal cousins started using their armies to destroy each other and of course the best and brightest leaders from every country lead the way and died most efficiently.

    The result of unintended consequences paved the way for the future as it always does. Big what ifs
    in history, what if Lincoln or Kennedy had not been killed and on and on with consequences that seem to turn history along a different path.

  76. ErisGuy Says:

    I don’t understand how the governance of royalty could be undermined by WW1 and the governance of socialism not undermined by the Ceausescu, Stalin, et. al. When will the despair of the West, supposedly causing its suicide, afflict socialism?

  77. ErisGuy Says:

    I hope fervently that WWI and all its violence is some curse unique to Western culture.

    [Gales of riotous laughter, and sardonic as well]


    The deadliest war in modern African history, it has directly involved eight African nations, as well as about 25 armed groups. By 2008, the war and its aftermath had killed 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation,[7] making the Second Congo War the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II.

    That’s the Second Congo War, which began a year after the First ended. Seems like an arbitrary division to me.

    I hope that the 200+ million lives lost in the 20th century to governments warring on their own people (that is, Socialism) and warring on other people (war) is what it takes to make people love peace, law, and freedom. Amen.

    In New Zealand I saw an old Maori give a well-rehearsed speech in which he described a tribal conflict. It ended: “In the old days, we would have fought with weapons; now we use lawyers!”

  78. Artfldgr Says:

    I would worry about WWIV
    (WWIII was the cold war)

    Russia Arms Syria With Powerful Ballistic Missiles

    Hours after NATO agreed on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey because of the crisis in Syria, Russia delivered its first shipment of Iskander missiles to Syria. The superior Iskander can travel at hypersonic speed of over 1.3 miles per second (Mach 6-7) and has a range of over 280 miles with pinpoint accuracy of destroying targets with its 1,500-pound warhead, a nightmare for any missile defense system.

  79. rickl Says:

    I remember listening to a local talk radio show in late 1999 where they were inviting callers to suggest candidates for the Most Important Person of the 20th Century. There was lively discussion about all sorts of people, including Einstein, FDR, Hitler, Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and so forth.

    Towards the end of the show, one caller suggested Gavrilo Princip. I sat bolt upright and said, “Of course! That’s it!”

    That pathetic little turd–that nobody–that loser–set in motion a chain of events that led to World War I, the Weimar hyperinflation, the Great Depression, World War II, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Cold War, the space race, and the moon landing. Not bad.

  80. rickl Says:

    Oops, I left out the Russian Revolution and the worldwide spread of Communism in my list at 9:50.

  81. NeoConScum Says:

    Great Post, Landlord!!

    In addition to Fussell’s great ‘meditation’ on the Great War, I highly recommend Lyn MacDonald’s incredible oral histories: “They Called it Passchendaele”, “1915:The End of Innocence” and “Somme”. And, the breathtaking History-oral history by Martin Middlebrook:”The First Day on The Somme”.

    July 1, 1916, that first day on the Somme, saw 60+thousand British casualties, 20K were killed or died of wounds…The FIRST Day!! The horror dragged on through November. It just leaves one breathless.

  82. Eric Says:

    IIRC, the battle of the Somme also swallowed up the British Expeditionary Force, man-for-man arguably the best professional colonial military force in the world.

  83. Armchair pessimist Says:

    rickl: the little turd didn’t even get hanged for it. Austria-Hungary didn’t execute minors, which he was at the time. Sheesh!

  84. Eric Says:

    sergey: “Here was the root of national catastrophe of Russian revolution.”

    Interesting. I have a similar theory that the seeds of the Vietnam War protests were planted by the great cost of the Korean War coupled with the widely held perception – especially among war veterans – that the Korean War was a waste. The historical image of the Korean War has since been rehabilitated by the success story of South Korea and the degradation of north Korea, but that reform only happened decades later, after the Vietnam War protest upheavals had become entrenched.

    War is as destructive for the dead and wounded of the victors as those of the defeated. I believe, however, that losing a war or a stalemate (as in Korea) has far worse long-term psychological consequences on both the individual and the society than a victory. Once war is triggered and the cost goes up, it’s very important to come away from the war with discernable tangible gains to justify the cost of war among the people. We had those all-important gains in Iraq, but Obama devalued them and threw them away.

  85. Armchair pessimist Says:

    There’s the home front, which is to be kept at boiling point against the enemy:

    Case in point, this from the author of the Wizard of Oz, which celebrated using children to spy on neighbors, making denunciations and other obnoxious traits of the totalitarian states that emerged after the war.

  86. rickl Says:

    Oh, yeah, AP, we haven’t even gotten into Woodrow Wilson’s proto-Fascism.

  87. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Eric said, “I believe, however, that losing a war or a stalemate (as in Korea) has far worse long-term psychological consequences on both the individual and the society than a victory. Once war is triggered and the cost goes up, it’s very important to come away from the war with discernable tangible gains to justify the cost of war among the people. We had those all-important gains in Iraq, but Obama devalued them and threw them away.”

    This insight really speaks to me. For all these long years I have carried a rage within that my friends and squadron mates died in Vietnam for nothing. All the dead and wounded, all the treasure, all the families crushed with grief, all the civil disruptions, and so much more – all for nothing. It seems certain that this anger and feeling of betrayal by the nomenklatura is not confined to just me. It is a psychic wound that is widespread.

    And you’re right about Korea. One of my close friends fought in Korea. He has been bitter and cynical about the experience, and, even though South Korea has become a success, his attitude that it was an exercise in futility has not changed.

    I have no doubt that there are many among the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are struggling with the same anger and feeling of being betrayed. Wondering why all the suffering was their lot when it accomplished so little. We cannot go on like this. War is too terrible to resort to unless you are committed to achieving unconditional victory.

    Our wars since WWI have never been for the purposes of colonizing new lands or subjugating other peoples. Our wars have been fought to defeat tyranny or as reactions to attacks on us. No nation in history has ever been as magnanimous in victory as the U.S. was after WWII. No nation has been so willing to help countries (like South Korea and South Vietnam) to avoid tyranny. No country who has such overwhelming miltary power has been so restrained in the use of that power. And yet we continue to let ourselves be demonized by the blame America first crowd as we stumble around like some blinded giant who cannot see the truth of his situation.

  88. waltj Says:

    David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace, published 20 or so years ago, remains the definitive work on WWI and its aftermath in the former Ottoman Empire territories. Yes, we’re still living with the fallout from that, from Britain talking out of both sides of its mouth (issuing the Balfour Declaration while stoking Arab nationalism), to France empowering the formerly-downtrodden Alawites in their Mandate-controlled Syria by using them in the security forces against the restive Sunni majority (turn on the TV tonight to see how that worked out), to Reza “Shah” claiming the Peacock Throne of Persia on flimsy grounds, but with British backing, which made all the difference. These are just three of many, many blunders, some of which were recognized as such at the time, others which took decades to manifest themselves. Unintended consequences? Ya think?

  89. rickl Says:

    While this is not exactly in the spirit of this topic, which discusses the cultural and psychological aftereffects of World War I, I’m particularly interested in the beginning phase of the war. All of the armies still employed the age-old triumvirate of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. There was plenty of maneuvering at first, and the situation was very fluid. All participants expected a short, sharp, decisive conflict.

    (Then again, I seem to recall that that was also the expectation before Bull Run in 1861.)

    I’m interested in the change from old-fashioned traditional warfare to the modern kind.

    When the initial German attack stalled, both sides began to dig in. Then each side tried to turn the other’s flank, leading to what became known as the “Race to the Sea” as the trenchlines were extended to the coast of the North Sea. That was reminiscent of Grant’s 1864 campaign, as he constantly kept moving left towards Richmond after each battle, forcing Lee to follow suit.

    By the end of 1914 there was a stalemate, which nobody expected or planned. Unlike the Confederates fifty years earlier, neither side was exhausted. Both sides spent the next four years devising ways to break the stalemate, which resulted in massive and unprecedented casualties. Generals still used massed infantry charges, which was what they knew from their study of historic battles. But thanks to fortified trenches and machine guns, the defense now held the upper hand.

    Beginning in 1915, efforts were made to utilize new technology to break the impasse. That led to the employment of submarines, poison gas, aerial bombardment, and tanks.

  90. Oldflyer Says:

    Wolla, I am having a hard time resolving your response to me with your first post. I do like the response a lot better. Thanks for the clarification.

    OlderandWheezier. I simply don’t follow. People who have falsely adopted the titles of Liberal, or Progressive, are not generally spiritual people. These are for the most part secular people, with a high level of Atheism thrown in. They put their faith in the State. That is why I prefer the term Statist over corrupting the out dated labels to describe them. The State, as we well know, has no soul. We were reminded by the recent Presidential campaign that in the Statist’s mind, group interests trump individual rights and freedom can be bartered for freebies.

    I know my reaction is off the topic, and argumentative, but I really think it important to preserve accurate definitions of terms and labels. I think Conservatives have been remiss in this regard.

  91. W Krebs Says:

    One additional book for those interested: The Myth of the Great War by John Mosier.

    The top-line summary is that for short-term strategic reasons the German army invented combined arms tactics and equipped itself to destroy border fortifications. This left it far better prepared to fight in the trenches than the Allied armies.

    The cornerstone of Allied strategy was that the Central Powers just didn’t have enough men to carry on the war. This ultimately proved to be true, but only after far more carnage than anybody thought was possible before the war.

    My thanks to Blert for the interesting observations about the impact of the Spanish Flu on the Germans at the crescendo in 1918.

  92. Ann Says:

    ErisGuy says…
    I wonder why the sunny optimism existed prior to WW1, and if it isn’t nostalgia created by the war.

    Well said. Just a couple of things that would seem to bear this out:

    –Kipling’s The Gods of the Copybook Headings, which although written in the aftermath of his son’s death in WWI, paints a not-at-all-rosy picture of life prior to the war.

    –Mark Twain’s designation of the 1880s and 90s as a Gilded Age. Wasn’t that because serious social problems were hidden by a layer of gold?

  93. davisbr Says:

    @ErisGuy : at 8:58 am I don’t understand how the governance of royalty could be undermined by WW1 and the governance of socialism not undermined by the [death of – ed.] Ceausescu, Stalin, et. al. When will the despair of the West, supposedly causing its suicide, afflict socialism

    It’s because the concept of aristocracy wasn’t really an “idea” like socialism so much as it was the people composing the aristocracy (the acknowledged bloodlines). So if you kill off the limited number of people composing the aristocracy (i.e., a particular direct bloodline) …well, there you go: no more aristocracy.

    Socialism is an “idea” though. Ideas are much harder to kill …oh, it can be done, and in several ways (ranging from the truly horrific of slaughter – and yes, in which sense it is deposed the exact way that killing off the aristocracy works – to the more mundane of proving the idea wrong in some fashion, or the cultural way of just ignoring it as unfashionable or “obsolete”), but killing off the leading proponents of an idea isn’t going to kill it.

    After all, Plato has been dead a long time, but his ideas suffuse the intellects of more people than even existed during his entire lifetime; he died, Platonism expanded.

    It’s an apples to oranges sort of thing. Just FYI.

  94. Ann Says:

    J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:
    I have no doubt that there are many among the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are struggling with the same anger and feeling of being betrayed. Wondering why all the suffering was their lot when it accomplished so little. We cannot go on like this. War is too terrible to resort to unless you are committed to achieving unconditional victory.

    Is this no longer part of the equation, though, because we now have an all-volunteer military who see fighting and attendant suffering as their job, freely chosen? Seems a very different mindset from that of draftees in previous wars.

  95. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    We are aggressive animals–self-aware animals–but aggressive animals nonetheless, and we cannot escape our heritage; the chimpanzees and the great apes, which amuse us in zoos, come from the same primate root stock and general environment of adaptation as we did. Our imperatives for sex, power, status, and money or its analogs (say, more food or better shelter) come from our hundreds of thousands or even millions of years in our “environment of adaptation,” and our social structures and behaviors grow out of the behaviors and structures of the primate (i.e. monkey, chimpanzee, gorilla) family, kinship group, and troop.

    To acknowledge and “own” our animal nature and its basic elements and imperatives, and to always be aware of them, is the first step in being able to have some control over them, to divert them towards more civilized and worthwhile goals, to minimize their most disruptive and harmful aspects, and that controlling is what the family, government, society, custom, religion, philosophy, and laws are for. Hence these moderating forces and institutions as the focus of Gramscian attack.

    However, refusing to acknowledge our animal origin and heritage and pretending that it doesn’t exist, leads only to trouble, and trying to transcend our fundamental nature is doomed to failure.

    We can, however imperfectly, manage our inheritance, but we cannot change it. We can have—most times, here and there–relatively orderly and peaceful societies, even dynamic ones with great forward momentum and progress on many fronts, but we cannot have violence-free, totally equal, and perfect societies, for the bell curve and inequality, violence and wars, armies, and the police, courts, and jails will always be with us.

    All those who wish to pass law after law (all for our own good, of course) to more and more tightly constrain and direct individuals in order to eliminate “violence” are doomed to failure and, in fact, if we were somehow able to eliminate violence from our species, we would thereby doom it to extinction in a natural world and universe built on violent conflict.

    It seems to me that those on the Right usually acknowledge and seek realistic ways to manage our animal tendencies and violence, and to keep the inevitable damage to reasonable, acceptable levels, while those on the Left, either refusing to acknowledge our animal heritage or, on the other extreme, exaggerating its baleful effects, hold out the hope of transcending it, and want to manipulate society (not coincidentally gaining virtual immunity from that society’s rules, personal power, and wealth in the process–members of the troop gaming the system) to such an extent that all society’s power would theoretically serve to direct us down a path that ultimately eliminates our animal heritage and, somehow, transforms us.

    I foresee that with our increasing technological sophistication we will shortly be witnessing the first attempts at the creation of a more “perfect”/powerful human via man-machine combinations i.e. cyborgs, and/or genetic manipulation, aimed at improving and “perfecting” us.

  96. rickl Says:

    J.J. and Ann:

    I can’t understand how they can expect to continue to get volunteers under these circumstances. Why would anybody sign up knowing that they’re not allowed to win and are expected to sacrifice life and limb in an open-ended conflict with no resolution other than a negotiated settlement? Which we all know is no resolution at all.

    As I’ve remarked before, I can’t help thinking that this is part of the plan. Drive the intelligent, educated, idealistic, patriotic Americans out of the military. Then reinstitute the draft, and repopulate the military with ignorant, sullen, angry, unemployed gangbangers who have no knowledge of or love for America as it was founded.

    That’s an army that can be turned loose on the segment of the American people who are holding out against the New Order.

  97. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    }}}} It seems it was necessary to pursue a goal of moral equivalency, even then.

    I believe if you read the American Heritage article, you’ll find that it basically provides a clear backdrop for the shift from classical Liberalism to postmodern Liberalism.

    PML is a cancerous, suicidal meme, and in it lie the destruction of Western Civ. Hopefully, the Phoenix that rises from its ashes will be more rational. I’m not sure where that will be. Probably still the USA, but a subset of it, excluding California and New England.

    PML is anathema to Americanism. Not only is it the enemy of all of the ideals it has, based on Greek thought and Christianity, but it’s a cynical, soulless meme.

    Americanism, however, is almost the exact opposite of that:

    “Our Founding Fathers lacked the special literary skills with which modern writers on the subject of government are so richly endowed. When they wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, they found themselves more or less forced to come to the point. So clumsy of thought and pen were the Founders that even today, seven generations later, we can tell what they were talking about.
    They were talking about having a good time:
    —- We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are
    —- created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
    —- certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
    —- Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…
    ‘This is living!’ ‘I gotta be me!’ ‘Ain’t we got fun!’ It’s all there in the Declaration of Independence. We are the only nation in the world founded on happiness. Search as you will the sacred creeds of other nations and peoples, read the Magna Carta, the Communist Manifesto, the Ten Commandments, the Analects of Confucius, Plato’s Republic, the New Testament, or the UN Charter, and find me any happiness at all.”
    – P.J. O’Rourke, ‘Parliament of Whores’ –

    PML has much more in common with Islam/Sharia than most realize: Both hate the f*** out of America.

  98. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    Oop. It’s likely obvious, but that last line is me, not O’Rourke, despite the inadvertent italics.

  99. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Ann, said, “Is this no longer part of the equation, though, because we now have an all-volunteer military who see fighting and attendant suffering as their job, freely chosen? Seems a very different mindset from that of draftees in previous wars.”

    You may well have a point there. I wasn’t a draftee. My mindset for being in the military was, since I grew up during WWII and was in college during most of Korea, that able bodied men served. You might call it fatalistic patriotism. “It was not mine to reason why, only mine to do or die.”

    However, it was after we cut and run, leaving the South Vietnamese to be slaughtered and subjugated by the North, that I realized all the sacrifice had been in vain.

    Many of today’s vets may well have had patriotism as their chief motivator, but when we have cut and run (the blame America first crowd will call it strategic withdrawal) in Iraq and Afghanistan, I suspect that today’s vets may realize that their willing sacrifices were all for nought. Some may become cynical and depressed, some may become deeply angry, a few may just shrug and try to console themselves that they did their best. I believe none will be unaffected.

  100. JH Says:

    unlike its predecessor, the lines of good vs. evil were crystal clear.
    The WWI the Evil was there is who looks to grab land and occupied the wealth of other human that was the reasons of that war. Is any good for those human first subjected to the killing of obvious well-ordered and occupied military against unarmed and ill occupied human?

    The that war which resulting line on the sand create the havoc and ill countries and subsequently continuous of the creation of dictators and tyrant all along till today there unrest seeing it there on ground.

    As on WWII “unlike its predecessor, the lines of good vs. evil were crystal clear” the result is for the last 60 years there is war due to the creation of Jewish State in ME that what ended what you “the lines of good vs. evil were crystal clear”

  101. rickl Says:

    J.J. formerly Jimmy J.:

    See my 2:13 pm comment, if you haven’t already.

    Also, thank you for your service. It is utterly maddening to see a new generation go through what you and your generation endured.

  102. rickl Says:

    Is JH at 2:28 pm a bot?

    The individual words look like English, but they are strung together strangely. I also detect a strong whiff of anti-Israel sentiment.

  103. rickl Says:

    Here are some book recommendations about the early phases of the war. I’ve read three out of four of them:

    The Marne, 1914 by Holger H. Herwig
    This book draws on German archives that were unavailable in the West until the fall of the Soviet bloc.

    The Campaign of the Marne by Sewell Tyng
    I have not yet read this one, but it is heavily referenced in Herwig’s book. It was published in the 1930s and I gather that it is considered to be one of the definitive treatments of the campaign in English.

    Death of an Army by Anthony Farrar-Hockley
    This is about the British Expeditionary Force in the First Battle of Ypres in the fall of 1914. The prewar professional British Army was nearly wiped out in this battle, to be replaced by conscripts. I would say that it was decimated, but “decimation” was a form of punishment in the Roman Army where the soldiers of a unit were ordered to execute 1/10 of their number. What happened to the British Army at Ypres was far worse than decimation. According to a blurb on the back cover, “After the battle, only nine of Sir John French’s 84 infantry battalions mustered even half strength.”

    Last but certainly not least is Barbara Tuchman’s masterpiece The Guns of August. This is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read on any subject. It’s a serious, scholarly, historical work that reads like a thriller. What a page-turner!

    (The book links I posted above were from the Amazon link I keep in my “internet resources” folder. If you want to buy them, go to Neo’s Amazon link and search for them there.)

  104. neo-neocon Says:

    rickl: I’m not 100% certain, but I believe that if you click on the Amazon links you provided and then order the books, it will still be credited to me. The widget is just a convenience; I’ve been told that any Amazon link on the blog will do the same thing.

  105. rickl Says:

    That’s good to hear, neo.

    This has been a great thread, and I will definitely link it on the Ace of Spades Sunday morning book thread tomorrow.

  106. blert Says:

    If you’re still reading:

    The golden age — that generation immediately prior to WWI — was a sweet time — for European culture.

    1) GNPs were exploding — right along with nutrition and populations.

    2) World trade was ramping to the Moon. World trade didn’t recover its élan for three generations. ( A London centric trading scheme became a Washington centric new world order. )

    3) Infectious diseases were finally brought under control. Between 1850 and 1910 the water and sewer systems of Europe were entirely restructured. Rebuilt from the ground down. ( See “The Third Man” for a slice of Vienna and London. Most of the sewer footage is from London, BTW.)

    3) Electrification — lights and trams — utterly transformed capital city living. And it was from these conurbations that the temper of the times flowed. Paris and Vienna have scarcely changed in the last century — architecturally — in the center. These two cities were, and are, the focal points of European aristocratic norms and tastes.

    4) Fabrics and dyes finally became available to the common man. Until this era, the average guy could afford only two to three sets of clothes. These would be stitched and re-stitched until they fell off. Aniline dyes now made it possible for everyone to have color — from clothes to paints to wallpaper. The latter simply exploded out of no-where to be a must-have for the middle class.

    5) Railroads finally linked all and every European on an undreamt scale. The cost of goods delivery collapsed. The relative incomes on the farm simply exploded. Hence, farm populations went crazy. The cultural solution was to sail to America.

    6) Steamships finally made oceanic travel cheap, safer, and brought American foodstuffs ( and Australian, and New Zealand ) to Europe. European bodies started growing to become the tallest on the planet. ( ex-North Americans )

    7) The British centered bills market and their gold standard thwarted the growth of government. Under such a hard money trading system all governments have to tax straight up — monetary debasement/ stealth taxation of financial wealth was not an option. Every attempt blew-up the national accounts.


    The French tried a continental-centric (Paris) trading bloc to counter London. It blew up.

    It was with Paris in mind that the US Mint coined the stella.


    8) The Europeans were at the top of their colonial acquisition ‘game.’ So their terms of trade within their colonial trading blocs were wildly favorable. So much so, that they could, mostly, fund their military and central governments on the backs of the colonials.

    The most extreme case being Malaya. Her rubber exports — as late as 1940 — ginned up 40% of all the export income of Britain — as in the British Empire. This was achieved by a mere 5,000 talented British souls — and an army of locals.

    Such a dynamic was repeated for the Dutch in the spice trade.

    More than anyone now wants to discuss, the conflict turned on national jealousy. The Central European powers were on the outside of these sweet colonial schemes. Britain had gotten there first.

    This is where and when Adolf got the bug to have German colonies in Ukraine, etc. ( It was occupied by the Imperial German Army during the war, of course. Much wheat was ‘imported on the cheap’, as a consequence. )

    These, and many other favorable events made all of the Europeans feel like they were the kings of the world.

    This aura came to America during the 50s.

  107. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    rickl @ 2:38
    Thanks for the kind words. They were in very short supply until after 9/11 when there was a rebirth of appreciation for the military among those who cared. My stance prior to that was that I needed no thanks. I had the honor to serve with braver and better men than myself. Over the years that fact has been a source of inner sustenance.

    As to your idea that our measured military responses leading to inconclusive results is a feature not a bug for those who want to bring us low. It may be true. However, the core of our military, the Academy and ROTC graduates along with the long term enlisted were the source of renewal after our military spiraled down into a corrupt, demoralized shadow of itself after Vietnam. Can they can hold things together post Iraq and Afghanistan? The post-Vietnam revitalization came about during a period of relatively slow-paced operations. Can they maintain morale and a will to fight with continuing high tempo operations? The jury is out on that. We can only hope they can.

  108. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    blert @ 4:17
    IMO, an outstanding summary of economic cause and effect. You and I think a lot alike or at least see the world through similar lenses.

    I just returned from a trip that included many South Pacific Islands including Samoa, Tonga, New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand. It’s very instructive to examine island economies because they are much less complex and you can see quite easily where their wealtn (or lack thereof) comes from. In the case of Samoa and Tonga: Why are they struggling to maintain a much lower standard of living than New Caledonia, Australia, and New Zealand? It’s all about what produces real wealth (Agriculture and natural resources) – the seed corn that launches a society beyond mere survival to improving standards of living.

  109. OlderandWheezier Says:

    I did a poor job of explaining in my prior post, oldflyer. Not sure I can improve on it.

    You’re right, I think, that those who adhere to liberal/statist thought today tend to be less spiritual, at least in a more traditional sense. They’re more likely to lap up such platitudes as “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” I get the impression that they view the problem as one of “enlightenment” – if only we philistines were as enlightened and tolerant as they profess to be, we’d all be well on our way to curing all of society’s ills (in between verses of Kum Ba Yah).

    Therefore their desire is to enlighten or re-educate those poor souls who haven’t evolved as they have, and to marginalize those who won’t willingly comply.

    I think that those who believe we are inherently flawed, however, are also far less likely to place so much faith in leaders or over-regulation. Because those are also ultimately flawed and undependable.

  110. Ymarsakar Says:

    America came out of WWI stronger because Pershing refused to let the disillusioned EUropeans break up his dough boys and send them in for a slaughter, piece meal detachments given over to French and British regiments to be used as cannon fodder.

    Europe had already sent and seen their bravest die, mostly cause they died first. All that was left at 1917 were the cynics, the cowards, the politicians spewing spitballs from the back of the line all the way opposite the front, and the political generals. It was no surprise the French surrendered to Germany and cooperated. It took a bunch of communists to aid the Allies’ covert ops agents.

    Socialism, the Nazis, Communism, at least they believed in what they killed and died for. Western capitalism and enlightenment philosophers, either all died or were replaced by cowards and parasites. Decline was inevitable.

    Then again, the same may be said for Obama intentionally sending out Americans to die whether on foreign soil or on the domestic front.

  111. Ymarsakar Says:

    “Therefore their desire is to enlighten or re-educate those poor souls who haven’t evolved as they have, and to marginalize those who won’t willingly comply.”

    It would be more accurate to see the Left as a dogmatic religious death cult rather than a political movement. Because, essentially, that is what their Utopian vision comes out as.

    Unlike the Puritans who believed in God’s predestined fate or the Amish keeping to themselves or the Jehovah’s Witnesses keeping true to their faith and not bending knee to either violence or political persecution, the Left believes they will bring about the paradise they seek. And it doesn’t particularly matter how many people they have to kill or destroy to get it.

  112. rickl Says:

    Great comments, Ymarsakar. Glad to see you back here.

  113. waltj Says:

    @W Krebs: Relevant to the discussion at hand was one particular line from Mosier’s book, which goes something like this: “The British and French monuments consist mostly of ossuaries. The American monuments are victory columns”. (In line with Mosier’s “myth” that American forces were almost an afterthought to the Allied war effort; he contends otherwise, that the AEF was vital to defeating the Germans in the West). The point for this thread is that while Pershing’s forces may have suffered casualties, his hard-headed insistence in not allowing the Allied high command to trickle his men piecemeal into the trenches as reinforcements for the Commonwealth and French cannon-fodder already there enabled the Americans to be employed as a powerful, unified offensive force that time and again overran the German trenches. Thus, extrapolating from this, the Americans as whole should have been less damaged psychologically by the effects of the war because our forces did not have to endure the debilitating conditions of trench warfare for an extended time, and when we fought, we won. I think there is a case to made here, and that while there was certainly a reaction after the war in the U.S. to foreign entanglements, we didn’t give up on Western culture per se. We just went back behind our ocean shields, as we always had before. Thoughts?

  114. blert Says:


    For some reason, few historians remark upon what the Germans thought of the Americans.

    The fact is that Ludendorff and Hindenburg considered the American tactical counter-offensives to be “the end.”

    The American victory at Belleau Woods ( USMC & USA ) culminated, eventually, in the Black Day of the German Army: August, 8, 1918.

    Both generals admitted in their written accounts that it was on that day that they both realized that the war was hopeless, lost.

    And they both blamed the circumstance upon the AEF, no-one else. They considered the BEF and French to be crippled. Post war analysis confirms their opinion. All of the European armies were spent.

    During the Belleau Woods fight, the IGA sent 2 class A divisions 1 class B division and 1 class C division to stop the AEF. Its single division destroyed the first two, and shattered the others down to remnants.

    [ AEF divisions were organized on ‘the square.’ Meaning that they had four regiments — each approximately of 8,500 men. Hence, a single AEF formation had four times the man-power of any European division.

    This explains the weird battle frontages assigned to the AEF. They’re three to four times that of the adjacent French formations.

    Unlike WWII, our WWI formations did not have lavish rear area support. ( All things being relative.) Hence, Pershing was planing on raising even 100 AEF divisions of this type. Or, in German terms, bringing 400 unblooded division sized formations to Europe as space became available.

    Ludendorff and Hindenburg knew this and — tossed the game table over.

    Rather than surrender, they bailed and let the civilians take the heat. This is where and when the ‘stab-in-the-back’ myth began. ]

  115. M of Hollywood Says:

    sheesh – and so much insight stacks up here. I chide myself for not reading more books these days, but it’s partly due to the richness of this blog. I saw this post and the 100+ comments, and I figured they’d be about what happened AFTER WWI and the dividing of shia-sunni territory into artificial “countries.” But that theme was hardly touched upon: there is so much more.

    Neo: could you have someone set up a button where we get to click “email me responses to this thread?” – that way, we could know when more brilliance piles up and manage it through our email. And, too, could there be at the BOTTOM of the comments a “go to the top” button. Our scrolling fingers get tired!

  116. Lee Merrick Says:

    Very interesting reading this weekend….I am a classical music lover since childhood and learn and listen to many composers, i.e., Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Stravinsky etc. But I have never been able to listen to most post WW 1 composers such as Berg, Bartok, Schoenberg, Lutoslawski and many others. Their music is cold, desolate, and full of despair and alienation. The idea that WW 1 had such a devastating effect on the psychological, cultural, and spiritual nature of western civilization and continues to do so makes sense when experiencing the art (music) of the era.

  117. Indigo Red Says:

    Wolla Dalbo : You are correct. I didn’t want to go so far back that I would be compelled to numerically relabel all previous wars as World Wars with each successive war being a result of the previous. I also didn’t want to forget the spark of our current war troubles by ignoring Islam’s roll in WWI.

    Many historians are willing now to say the French and Indian War was the real First World War as it was the American continent manifestation of the Seven Years War between France and England resulting in the American Revolution. With the English defeat of the French and America’s defeat of the British, the territorial disputes between England and Spain devolved upon America which finally came to blows in the Spanish-American War, leading to the Philippine Rebellion, WWI and WWII to Korea and Vietnam.

    In one way or another, each war is linked to previous conflicts. The world would be a much different place had it not been for Thermopylae.

  118. parker Says:

    I’ve been visiting kids and grandkids in the Rockies and missed reading this wonderful blog. My oh my, what a rich, thought provoking, enlightening post by neo and the comments have been just as interesting.

    A side note to rickl; if you enjoyed the Guns of August you need to read (if you have not done so yet) A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. It shines a light on the futility of the crusades, the bloody chaos that is the dark heart of tribal Europe, the devastations of plague, and the Western World struggling to emerge from the darkness like proverbial the blind men trying to decipher the elephant a tail or a trunk or a leg at a time. The struggle continues, it will never end.

  119. blert Says:


    World War Zero was the Mongol hyper-expansion.

    It almost swept the ‘world-island.’

    It’s expanse, to my mind, is unrivaled until WWII.

    It’s the reason the Magyars fled to Hungary and the Turks ended up in Anatolia.

    The Mongols established/ re-established the Silk Road — of which Marco Polo traveled.

    [ The Romans were trading silk with the Chinese centuries earlier. Each knew of each other. IIRC, their trade used the Silk Road, not the ocean. If anyone had realized just how much cheaper and safer it was to sail to and fro — history would’ve taken a different turn. ]

  120. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States Says:

    }}}} Here’s the quote from “The Third Man”, one of Orson Welles best.

    I concur. Welles is well-known for Citizen Kane but, if you ask anyone what else he did, birds chirping is the most common sound that follows. If anyone knows anything, it’s usually The Magnificent Ambersons, which… well, it’s best not mentioned.

    “The Third Man”, along with “Touch of Evil” are two of Welles’ movies that every film buff should see.

    One of the more interesting things notable about The Third Man is that it calls attention to something that most don’t realize, and that is that, for a long time, Austria was also partitioned by the Allies.

  121. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gravitationally Distortive Object Says:

    }}} And without a white-man present

    Liar. Racist.

    Only white men are that eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-vil.


  122. waltj Says:

    @blert: You make an interesting point. Now that I think of it, I don’t recall seeing any works that rely on German sources for their views on what happened during the endgame of WW1. Mosier used German statistics extensively in his book, and the opinions of Hindenburg/Ludendorff are well-documented, but we don’t seem to have readily-accessible works of lower-ranked officers–say, division or corps commanders–whose units would have borne the brunt of the fighting against the AEF. Maybe they’re out there, in German and never translated into English, but that’s a minor issue in scholarly circles, where fluency in German is common. Or maybe the whole experience of getting their supposedly battle hardened butts handed to them, again and again, by the “amateur” Americans so unnerved the German generals that they just didn’t want to talk about it after the war.

  123. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gravitationally Distortive Object Says:

    }}} in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.

    LOL, you can argue them as the makers of the modern age and the most influential people in history.

    Not only were they involved in the above, but the corruption in the Church led to the formation of the Protestant movement, the creation of the Church of England, and everything that followed from that in the UK rippling down through history.

  124. JH Says:

    Is JH at 2:28 pm a bot?

    rickl, Well siad for let all knew what sort of person you are…

    As of your Baird brain for ” detecting a strong whiff of anti-Israel sentiment. this well known behaviorist by Hasbara, isn’t?

  125. blert Says:

    waltj …

    You said a mouthful.

    The same dynamic exists WRT Luftwaffe fighter-defense pilots facing off against the USAAF.

    For starters, there were so few survivors.

    Next, after all their experiences — it was a stunner to see un-blooded pilots gunning German aces down all over the homeland.

    Their personal prestige plummeted, too.

  126. Indigo Red Says:

    blert, thanks. I’ve never known why my Magyar ancestors left Asia. I knew it had to more than ‘Go west, young man.’ I shall now read up on the Mongols. They’re not the guys on motorcycles, are they?

  127. gs Says:

    I had thought WW1 ended with the collapse of Soviet Communism, but you’re right. The spiritual damage has never been repaired, and may well be irreparable in the foreseeable future.

  128. Neil Jopson Says:

    Europe has still not recovered from the Great War, and maybe never will. The current crisis in the Eurozone is directly on the line of consequences from the war: a continent kills the finest of its young men, then twenty years later does it again. As a reaction people believe that the only way to solve the problem is to have integration, to make wars impossible. Of course this ignores national differences, and imposes a straight jacket on how cultures develop.

    Yet, the most important long term consequence of the Great War is not economic or political, but spiritual: literature and the arts began to change much more dramatically after 1918 than they had done before the war. Political ideologies such as Facism and Communism were given fertile breeding grounds. Speaking from an English perspective, the first generation of men who had a school education joined up in 1914, and they were massacred. Future leaders, artists, journalists, writers, politicians etc were simply wiped out. World War 1 changed not only the way Europe thought about itself, but its ability to even think coherently about itself.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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