I really should visit more often Iain's blog not because he gave me a generous plug of my blog (I was totally surprised. Thanks again Iain!) but because there's always some fascinating debate going on. Case in point, is the one about American intervention in the First World war.
That's fascinating because by chance I too discussed WW I, the origins more precisely when I read Eve Tushnet's visit to the Imperial war Museum in London (I want to visit the museum if only to research its archives about some subject matter that interests me) as well as why Munich mattered
In any case, When I visited Iain's blog, I also read Chad Dimpler's response defending American intervention, I knew that I had to contribute my analsyis to the debate.
That America stayed neutral during the first half of the First World war was a perfectly legitimate and rational decision of its best interest. Nevertheless, it's one thing to remain neutral, it's quite another to remain ignorant. I'm constantly astonished at how Wilson's administration showed scant interest in learning about the conduct of the war first hand. As a neutral country, Wilson could've order his military attachés in various countries to observe the war and report back. It's vitally important for a country to inform itself of a major conflict, especially if that country insists that the belligrents to respect its flag and the integrity for neutrals to traverse freely across sea especially in war zones.
Wilson and his gneral staff should've foreseen that, demanding that international law towards neutral shipping be upheld, they should've planned how America would respond to the belligrents' equally legitimate war policy of denying the enemy vital supplies. Further, Wilson never seemed to bother with collecting political intelligence: who the major personalities were, the war aims of each belligrent, their strategic aims; what America's policy should be towards the belligerents and their war aims. What was in America's best interest. Indeed, by remaining both neutral and ingnorant, Wilson was placing America in a dangerous situation.
One of the consequences of the American administration's failure to plan adequately was Wilson's inconsistency in applying evenhandedly the principals of neutral shipping. The American govrnment quite rightly protested Germany's sinking of America shipping headed towards France and Britian. Nevertheless, in the histories of World War I I've read, I've never come across vigourous American protests against the British blockade of the North Sea. Consequently, the German were justified in regarding the Americans as 'objective ally' of its enemies.
Case in point: the Luistana was transporting weapons and other war matériel.Whether the Americans were wilfully blind or the British tricked the former by taking civilian passangers is unimportant; what is, is that it was a legitimate target of war . The Germans also deserve blame, they should've been much more forthright with the Americans, that if they supplied the Allies with war matérial of any kind but not to Germany as well, American ships would be treated as legitmate war targets. Wilson would've fulminated with sanctominous hypocracy about the sanctity of neutrality but the Congress might've pressured Wilson to be more evenhanded and do something about the British blockade. The Germans could live with neutrals profitting from both sides of the war. That what neutrals do and there was no point protesting. Nonetehless, it's one thing to sell to both sides; it's quite another when a neutral sells to just one side.
Keegan states categorically that the American intervention in 1917, transformed the startegic balance permenantly and decisively in the Allies' favour. I argue that without American intervention, the belligerents would've exhausted themselves and negotiated a peace treaty that reflected the reality of the situation than Versailles. Let's not delude ourselves, the BEF, and to a lesser extent the French, high command did everything in its power to lose the war. The Germans outfought, outhought and showed greater willingness to innovate than the French or British (though I opine that the presence of the 'colonial' armies of Canada, Austrialia/New Zealand and India with their spirit of innovation saved the BEF from total annihiliation- the Somme rests my case as that battle demonstrates just how criminally uninnovative the BEF high command was) The Saint Michel offensive lauched by the Germans would've sufficed to convince the Allied political leadership that enough was enough and that the time to negoitate an honourable settlement was propititous The fact that the offensive petered out wouldn't have mattered because it would've achieved its strategic objective of forcing the Allies to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, the American factor had a distorting effect.
Indeed, the presence of fresh American troops signified that the Allies could artifically sustain the Saint Michael offensive and then go on the offensive. Unfortunately, the Allies won a tactical victory- they survived the offensive- but lost the strategic victory- the German army wasn't defeated, it muntined because it's fighting spirit had broken first. German soldiers concluded on the futility to continue the war when the Americans could send millions of fresh soldiers to the battlefield. American internevtion imbued the Allies with a false sense of victory which led to a bad peace and the Second World war.
The Allies strutted around as if they had won a stunningly unequivocal victory over Germany and could impose a harsh peace in consequence. The Allies won no such victory; hence their harsh peace was unjustified.
Wilson aggravated unjustified peace terms. He was an anti-imperialist who wanted the Central European states to adopt democracy and become independent without bothering to propose an alternative institution framework. The result was an unstable Central Europe with states too small, unprepared with democracy, inadequate markets, not enough industralization with minorities who detested one another. However flawed the Austro-Hungarian empire was, it did at least provide both a sense of stabilty and a large market for the small imperial members. So I have no sympathy for Chad's defense that Wilson was outmanuevered and fooled. Wilson frittered 3 years to make policies in America's interest, envision how to implement his policies and defend them at the negotiation table in opposition to the other state's national interests.
America's intervention was a mixture of ignorance and improvisation. None of the political or startegic aims from America's national interest were properly addressed during its period of neutrality, thus when the country intervened on the Allied side, distortions of the strategic correlations of forces took place. The most grave was the illusion that the Allied war machine was in sounder position that it was. The consequences was that it weathered an offensive that should've led the Allies to the negotiation table; consequently, the victors behaved as if they had won a convincing startegic victory and impose a harsh peace treaty as a consequence. A totally disproportate position to maintain because it was at variance as to the actual situation that led to the armistice. Finally, Wilson aggravated a bad peace by imposing his personal pro-democratic, anti-imperial convictions without troubling himself with an institutional alternate to the Austro-Hungarain empire.
OK the title is totally pretencious but not the argument that I'm about to advance. Azis has advocated that democracy be installed in the Mideast and does so from a neo-Wilsonian position I shudder at neo-Wilsonism because it needs to be tempered by Aritsotle.
As Aziz knows quite well, democracy is more than just a political regime, it's a culture of habit. Democracy requires certain habits such as the ruler being ruled in turn; permanent renegotiation of the political consensus, economic and political transparency, obidience to just laws and so on. Frankly I just don't see these habits in the Mideast. I don't deny that those habits exist but they're so latent that they're out of sight.
I want to see democracy installed throughout the Mideast as much as Aziz, I simply disagree that American policymakers should be inspiried by Wison's Fourteen Points. In fact, I hold Wilson partially responsible for World war II because his application of the Points to the Austro-Hungarian Empire ensured Central Europe's instability. He didn't provide an alternative institutional framework. Many of the ex-regions of the Empire were too small, semi-industralized and little domestic cultural references with which to inculcate democratic habits to their respective populations.
The question that I have is the American public willing to have an army of occupation in Iraq as it had in Japan and Germany at the end of the Second World War? Only an American armed presence will provide the necessary stability for democracy and its habits to take root in Iraq and then to radiate outward.
When I correspened with James Bennett about some additional information about the Anglosphere, he mentioned to me that he was influenced by the concept of the Francosphere. Surprised by its existence, I asked Bennett where I could find information about the Francosphere.He wrote back suggsting that I use Google as he didn't have the references on hand.
It was in the course of investigating the Francosphere that I came across an older article by Bennett on the French and the Anglopshere. As I read his article, he remided his readers that, contrary to the oft-ctided characterization of the French as cheese eatuing surrender monkeys, that they fought admirably during the First World war. I might add during the French IndoChina and Algerian wars, the French fought with great determination that belies that aforementioned characterization. It was the Second World war where French behaviour was less than exemplary.
The article triggered a memory of an in passim remark by Len Deighton in his book Blitzkrieg that the French Communist party played a role in sapping the army's morale. We must remember that the French were defeated in 1940 when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was still in effect. Hence the Western European Communist parties saw the Nazis as allies even as Wehrmacht invaded and occupied their countries. I contacted Bennett again and ask him for his views on this subject. He pointed out to me that he viewed the Nazi-Soviet pact as the great facilitator for WW II. That statement crystallized certain themes I'd been rumuniating about for some time about what Munich really signified.
Munich still matters. It's not just the epic symbol of major democracies scarificing a small sovereign country to appease a totalitarian regime, it's also about political alliances
Munich completely disrupted the strategic balance in favour of Germany and the Soviet Union; and ultimately to the latter. Hence I flatly disagree with one of Beevor's conclusion in his latest book on the Fall of Berlin 1945 whereby he asserts that the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union led to the establishment of Communists regimes throughout Central Europe when they had been successfully contained between 1919-21. It wasn't the invasion, it was in 1938.Like a magnet whose polarity has flipped sides from an electrical charge, Munich provoked alliances to shift as well as to undo.
The agreement to dismember Czechoslovakia forced the smaller central European countries like Hungary and Romania to cast their lot with Germany despite their leaders' pro Western sentiment. Indeed, one of the eyeopening discoveries for me was when I read Opsrey's The Romanian Army of WW 2 whereby Mark Axworthy assess Ion Antonescu's- Romania's dictator-political view:
...Anotonescu's pro-Western sentiments were dominated by his pragmatism.[p 3] The same could be said of Horthy.
The more fateful consequences of Munich was that the agreement convinced Stalin and Mussolini that Western democracis were weak, craven, and undependable. Hitler was the man and his regime would make for a more conistent ally. Indeed, if Chamberlin and Daladier had succeded in preventing Czechoslovakia's disappearance, history would've taken a far different path.
The subsequent analysis is counterfactual, speculative and, quite honestly beside the point; nevertheless, it's still legitimate to propose alternative histories from time to time. Even if Daldier and Chamberlin had prevailed in preventing Czechoslovakia's dismemberment, World War II would've still occurred but the strategic situation would've clearly favoured the European Allies.
If Hitler hadn't succeeded in obtaining the concessions he demanded, he would've lost a lot of prestige within Germnay and would've been put on notice that any subsequent failure would result in his removal from office. Consequently, Hitler would've provoked a war with Poland over the Danzig corridor if only to forestall his overthrow.
Mussolini would've thought twice about allying himself with Hitler. In fact, I suspect that he would've remained rigidly neutral in any future conflict and be content with consolidating the Abyssian (Ethopian) conquest. It would be reasonable to state that his regime would have paralleled the subsequent political evolution that Salzarian Portugal and Franconist Spain experienced.
the Soviet Union:
The strategic situation would've fogged up and led Stalin and Molotov to hedge their bets and also stay neutral in any future conflict. In fact, from their perspective the Soviet Union's strategic situation was fragile. The Soviets had managed to antagonize the Finns through the unprovoked Winter War, the Baltic states would still a potiential locus of rebellion. Poland was at their frontiers. The Army was still in absymal shape from the purges and no doubt nursed a serious animus against the NKVD and the party.
Central European states:
Hungary and Romania in particular would've resisted Nazi ouvertures to join the, More significantly for Romania, it wouldn't have lost territory to Hungary, Bulgaria and the Soviet union due to German coercion in 1940. Hungay, Romania Czechoslovakia and Poland would've put aside their serious differences and ally over the greater threat that Germany represented to them. Poland would've been the the unofficial leader of the regional alliance.
More importantly, Poland would've had more time to prepare and when the Germans did invade, the Poles would've traded space for time and would've found themsleves in a similar situation as the Soviets during the Winter War against the Finns.
In fact, Bennett told me that he holds the unorthodox view that had the Nazi Soviet pact not existed, Poland could've held out much longer and caused Hitler to be toppled. I don't think his view is all that unorthodox because Steven Zaloga has just published a book entitled Poland 1939 which would give credence to his viewpoint.
No doubt though that Polish resistence would've galavanized the French and British to supply the former with weapons and matériel. Czechoslovkia, Hungary and Romania would've sent troops, supplies or both to Poland's succour. I speculate that the Czechoslovaks would've even attacked in order to disrupt the German troop concentrations as well as revenging itself. The biggest loser would've been the Soviet Union. Containement would've occurred in the 40s by the Central European states and the Soviet Union would've collapsed by the 60s. A prosperous, relatively democratic Central Europe would have exposed early on the contradictions of the Soviet Union because some would ask the heretical question of how it was possible that small countries like Bulgaria, Ronaia and even Slovenia, with smaller population, less natural resources have been able to outpreform systematically the Soviet union which is bigger, with a larger population base and immense natural resources.
That's why Munich is still matters
1) Yup Islam has been around for 1400 years and has created a glorious civilization that was ahead of Europe in all measureable indices. Yet, the Arab/Moselm world fell behind and no one has been able to reform the civilization from its slide.
By contrast, the West didn't have have the Renaissance but several reforms:
a) The Ciscertian reforms
b) The Charlesmagne reforms
c) the Fransican reforms
d) the rediscovery of the Justian Code
e) the medieval industralization
g) the printing press
h) the Renaisance
i) the Reformation and Counter reformation
2) So the Qur'an praises Mary mother of Jesus 47 times in some of the most exquisite language (What? You presumed that we're all ignoramuses?)With all due respect that's beside the point. In fact, isn't it telling that Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Qur'an? By contrast, the Hebrew and Christian bibles have many women heroines- Sara, Ruth, Judith, Elizabet- mother of St John the Baptist; vilanesses- Jezebel, Salomé and saints (in the Christian tradition) Martha, Monica, Miram Madelena, Mary, mother of Jesus. So one could could argue that the Judeo-Christian tradition encourages women to take prominent public roles.
3)War is already occuring between the Christians, Jews and Moselms. There's Indonesia, Sudan Nigeria, Pakistan; as well as the bombings in Argentina and the ongoing conflict between the Palestinan and Israelis. As far as I can tell, the consequences have been highly unpleasant to read and look at
4)Yes the Moselm do view Jews and Christians as People of the book but there's that nasty problem of the dhimmitude. Bat Ye'or has investigated the consequences of the dhimmitude. So the Jewish and Christian population flourished as long as they paid tribute and accepted their downtrodden status. By the way let's not forget that Ferdinand and Isabella really didn't want to expel the Moselms but the pressure came from the population and the Church. Also there was the strategic situation in 1492. There was a sizable Moselm population in Spain. Their last stronghold was just conquered. Their correligionists are less than 90 km from the Spanish mainland; the Turks are still formidable enemy.
One last thing, life in medieval Spain is often portrayed as if were the U.S. of the Middle Ages. It wasn't and let's not forget that the Arabs were invaders. The Christian kingdoms wanted them out and acted accordingly.
5) Infidels. That's such an ambigious term and since there's no central magistrial authourity that defines unequivocally doctrine; anyone can- and has- interpreted it to mean whatever he wanted it to. Just look at the contradictory fatwas. Hence. it's rather hard to ignore and not take people at their word when they identify infidels with a particular religious, linguistic, ethnic, ideological tradition that's at variance with the community of believers.
6) Unfortuantely, Islamism is an ongoing threat to national and international peace. Its followers seek to impose their interpretation of Islam on the world and won't hesitate to kill everyone in the process. Leaving aside creationism which is a distraction from more substantaive issues, the vouchers to parochial schools isn't a really violation of the American constitution. The controversy is due to a forgotten period of American history. The Knownothings were deeply afraid of the Catholic immigration during 1840s. Senator Blaine of Maine proposed a federal law that would've prohibited the public funding of Catholic school. It was never adopted at the federal level but many state constutition did incorporate the Blaine Admentement or variants. Thus there's a reasonable argument that the Blaine admenment was an extraconstituional subterfuge that courts are now ruling as anticonstitutional.
7) Of course, Islamism didn't pose a threat to the West because it was very poor. It was only after WW I when the French and British betrayed the Arabs and developed the oil that the Islamists would benefit from the wealth. It wasn't the oil companies that spread Islamism but the '73 oil embargo which gave the Saudi regime sudden astronomical wealth to propogate its interpretation of Islam. As for the Hasemites, they, not the Sauds, were the custodians of Mecca and Medina and the former have always adhered to a moderate interpretation of Islam
Pleeze don't bring up the Unocal pipeline story; it's an urban legend.
8) No the Arabs have squandered any LEGITMATE reasons to oppose the U.S. policy the moment the Palestinans, with Arab endorsement, embarked on murdering civilians in their homes and on the streets. Until the Mideast stop cheering these depraved acts, there's no legitmacy to Palestinan or Arab issues.
9)Right Moselms don't hate the U.S. as an abstact concept but why do we read essays and other turgid views on precisely that viewpoint? That's nice that a poll shows that Moselms view America as the most admired. My question, admired for what? itS freedon or its economic, military and technological prowess
10) Yeah yeah it's the Zionist pigeaters fault as usual. Then care to explain why the Palestineans rejected the partition and the Arab armies invaded in 1948? About Jewish terrorism during the Mandate. The fledgling Israeli state and army reined them in. Members, like Begin stopped their terrorism once Israel's existence was assured and went on to become citizens who contributed to their society. The ex-terrorists didn't defy political authourity and massacre Arabs in other countries.
Finally: The Crusades. The poor little Arabs are still deeply traumitized by that period. Why it's worse than the Mongol sacking of Baghdad which extinguished an entire Caliphite and permanently damaged Islamic civilization.
Get your brown bags out! The Crusades was a legitmate, if belated (nearly 400 years later) act of self defense. North Africa in the 600s was Christian; the Islamic tidal wave destroyed that civilization. Further Jerusalem isn't Islam's holiest city, it's only the 3rd holiest city. Consequently he Christians had a legitimate causus belli to retake their holiest city from the invaders. Further the Moslems were making pilgrimages onerous and capricious. Another way to give the finger to the Christians. By the way, the Fourth crusade was a tragic events because the Crusaders got entangled in Byzantine politics and the Emperor thought he could use them. They turned on him and went on a rampage. The slaugther had nothing to do with frustration with the Crusades. The West still lives with the consequences because it makes reconcilation between Western and Eastern Christanity much harder. Eventually, they'll overcome the legacy of the 4th Crusade.
In any case, that the Crusaders were able to retake Jerusalem on the first try (aka the First Crusade)is a tribute to their fighting spirit. Think of it: a few thousands thugs took on and beat the world's most formidable army of the time (Yeah I can already hear the excuses that the Moslem armies and commanders weren't the best bla bla)
Not bad for a civilization that was supposedly at its nadir. Mot bad at all.
So as you're breathing from the oxygen tanks from reading the above and seeking additional psychatric help because I've said out loud the taboo word, just remember that Westerners know about the jihad. Hence your amazing dimwitted enthusiasm to overthrow the West as jihad produces immediate, widespread Western revulsion. It's intended to be offensive no doubt. Yet such offense in a world where Islamism produces deadly results from America to the Sudan; from Pakistan to Indonesia is lethal indeed.