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Better late than never

The Times 26 November 1917

Reminder: The US declared war on 6 April 1917.

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44 comments to Better late than never

  • CaptDMO

    Lest we forget….
    The first (*ahem*)”American” shot was fired in the 1700s, just outside of Boston.
    Nothin’ personal.

  • Entropyjacks

    “Better late than never”?!
    Better we never entered that war at all!

  • Paul Marks

    Yes, it was astonishing it took so long.

    T. Roosevelt had repeatedly said (although I do not know whether he actually meant it – he had a violent way of speaking, and people had learned not to take him entirely literally) that various forms of physical violence should be visited upon President Woodrow Wilson for refusing to agree to war. Large numbers of Americans had been killed in German attacks on civilian ships on the high seas, but it was not “just” this, there had been the anthrax plot (the German plan to spread anthrax in the United States), there had also been German bombings in New York (the biggest terrorist attack before 9/11) and in Washington D.C. itself (indeed a bomb was exploded in an entrance to the Capitol building), and the Germans had also promised various Mexican groups about a third of the United States (essentially reversing the wars of 1848 and 1836 – it should be remembered that these areas were very thinly populated in the early 19th century and that the Mexican government was just as expansionist as the American government with the Military Dictator of Mexico planning a Continent sized Empire at the expense of the United States), with Mexican raids taking place on American towns (General Pershing failed to hunt down those responsible – but a young officer by the name of Patton, did go off on his own and bring back the corpses of some of those who had attacked the United States). The Mexican situation was complicated (since the Mexican Revolution of 1910) with some Mexican groups being pro German and some not being so – and some saying one thing one day and something else the next day. Or even saying different things on the same day – depending on who the Mexican groups were talking to.

    However, Germany had no real intention of keeping its promises to Mexico or anyone else – the moral relativism and historicism taught by the universities meant that the sworn word meant little to some influential Germans, although it did mean a lot to other Germans – see my post on the divide in the military and political elite in Germany in these years, not all, far-from-all, of the elite blindly followed the evil taught in the universities. The dominant view in German “GeoPolitics” (world politics – world power) even before the First World War was that Germany was to dominate Latin America – displacing the informal British and American influence of the time, with German control.

    It is even possible that President Wilson would never have asked the Congress to declare war – had the Germans not returned to unrestricted submarine warfare, that he would have let the various terrorist attacks in the United States and stirring up of the Mexicans and others go unpunished (hence the fits of rage, and wild talk, of T. Roosevelt and others against President Wilson), but the Germans just kept on killing Americans, on, and on, and on….. till even Professor (sorry President) Wilson had to wake up from his dreams of peace.

    Of course there is the alternative view. The Rothbardian view.

    The Rothbardian view holds, following such historians as Harry Elmer Barnes, that President Woodrow Wilson was (whether he knew it or not) a puppet of Anglo American bankers such as the Rothschilds (boo-hiss Jews – Murray Rothbard tended to overlook his own family background when writing about Israel or the Rothschilds) and the American Morgan family (who, in real life, as Rothbard knew perfectly well, were Republicans and not on very good terms with the Democrat Woodrow Wilson).

    An early holder of this view, that the United States was dragged into war by a conspiracy of bankers and Jews, was Henry Ford – who claimed that some Jews had explained their evil plot to him whilst they all happened to be on the same ocean liner. WHY they had explained their evil plot to him Mr Ford never explained – I suppose one can not really enjoy a clever and evil plot unless one boasts about it.

    How did the Morgan family (not known for loving Jews) get involved in the evil plot? Simple – they had lent lots of money to the British so wanted a greedy capitalist return on their investment, which would be lost if Britain lost the war. As that charming person Karl Marx, also somewhat overlooking his own family background, said a businessman is an “inwardly circumcised Jew” – so the Morgans count as sort of “honorary greedy Jews” for the purposes of this theory. As Paul Johnson pointed out in his “A History of the Jews” pages of Karl Marx’s ranting against capitalists are taken, almost word-for-word, from pages of Martin Luther’s ranting against the Jews centuries before – I suppose in writing “nothing is new under the sun”.

    In real life the Morgan family were indeed pro British and supportive of the Allied cause (for which Mr Morgan almost paid with his life – when an assassin was sent to kill him in New York) – but not for the reasons of “capitalist greed” that the theory would suggest. And Woodrow Wilson was certainly NOT the puppet of the Morgans (or the Rothschilds) anyway.

    Let us leave aside what John Buchan was, in the 1930s, to call “these silly lies, that mostly come from Germany – but are repeated by so many others”.

    In reality the United States went to war with Germany in 1917 because Germany kept killing Americans, and encouraging other people to kill Americans, and would not stop – in spite of being politely asked to stop. But the truth is BORING – so historians make up complex stories.

    By the way….

    The theory that Woodrow Wilson was a puppet of the capitalists extends, in the hands of such historians as the late Gabriel Kolko – another socialist favourite of the late Murray Rothbard, to holding that Theodore Roosevelt was also a puppet of the capitalists, indeed that entire Progressive movement of Professor Richard Ely (a mentor to both Woodrow Wilson and T. Roosevelt) and others, was really the “Triumph of Conservatism”. In short if government does not engage in “Anti Trust” (“competition policy”) and wild spending and taxing it is the “puppet of the capitalists” and if government DOES engage in “Anti Trust” and wild spending and taxing it is ALSO the “puppet of the capitalists”. Thus this Marxism (for that is what it really is – Rothbardians please note) is a perfect theory, that can take X and the EXACT OPPOSITE of X for “proof” of its truth – Karl Popper has words about theories of this sort.

    It is a pity these historians did not get around to writing about naval history – for then it would be explained to us how Nelson never went to sea.

    Sadly historians of this type (i.e, the “serious” or “distinguished” sort for whom the TRUTH is much too crude a thing to write about – and so pretend that Haig was a good general and so on) do tend to write about army history – and against them the late Colonel Barker and (I hope) still alive Brigadier Mallinson, amongst others, have had to struggle to defend the unfortunate truth about the history of army operations in the First World War.

    One would have thought that someone who got more than 20 thousand men killed and 30 thousand wounded in-one-day and who sent home, in disgrace, officers (including the commander officer) of the 46th, North Midland, Division for (on that day) the terrible crime of NOT getting all their men killed, was beyond the defence of even academics (those children of the Prince of the “Noble Lie” Plato), but sadly many academics have no moral limit at all.

    As a villain in an Ayn Rand novel might put it – any ordinary person can tell the truth (for example that GERMANY, by its repeated killing of Americans and its refusal to stop killing Americans, was responsible for getting the United States into World War One), there is nothing special in that, but to present a LIE as-the-truth makes one a serious and distinguished “intellectual”, worthy of being an academic.

  • Alsadius

    Paul: The New York bombing you speak of was not a German WW1 attack, because it happened in 1920. Nobody knows who did it, but the belief at the time was anarchists. And it’s weird that you mention the Capitol bombing, and the role of the Morgans in the lead-up to the war, but didn’t mention that a German agent shot JP Morgan’s son in 1915. Seems like that might be relevant.

  • Umbriel

    @Alsadius —

    I assumed Paul was referring to the Black Tom explosion in 1916, rather than the Wall Street bombing in 1920. While Black Tom technically occurred in New Jersey, it shattered many windows in Manhattan and damaged the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island usually being considered part of New York, though disputed between it and New Jersey).

    I think it’s disputable whether Black Tom qualifies as a “terrorist” act, given that its objective was primarily to destroy munitions intended for Russia, and interfere with future shipments, rather than to terrorize the population. Nevertheless it was a fairly spectacular attack on US soil.

  • Rodney

    The first American Shot of the Great War was near the island of Guam when authorities seized a German Ship hours after the declaration of War.

  • John K

    Paul:

    I thank you for pointing out how demented Wilhelmine Germany really was.

    Pre 1914 Germany was sitting pretty as the strongest power on Continental Europe. They had no need to precipitate a war, and yet that is exactly what they did. Likewise, there was no real need for them to provoke the USA into declaring war on them, but they did it anyway.

    Obviously, the Third Reich was far worse than the Second, but equally you have to say that Hitler and National Socialism did not appear from nowhere. The fact that Ludendorff was an early adopter of Nazism certainly points to a continuum of insanity between the Germanies of 1914 and 1939.

    As to Frau Merkel, well, history will be the judge. I think she may well have sealed Germany’s fate in a third great act of madness.

  • It is even possible that President Wilson would never have asked the Congress to declare war – had the Germans not returned to unrestricted submarine warfare, (Paul Marks, November 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm)

    If they had not, it is pretty well certain that he would not have done so when he did, or soon thereafter. Churchill speculates on what might have happened if the German decision to declare unrestricted submarine warfare at the start of 1917 had been delayed a mere month or so later, or the Russian revolution had started a mere month or so earlier – just long enough for the Germans to realise that it could open up an alternative path to victory. At the start of 1917 they had no inkling this would happen – Russia had performed strongly in 1916 – and so they played the submarine-warfare card in the belief that their slow but inevitable defeat was certain unless they could introduce this new feature of the war.

    Paul is right that what Orwell called ‘Elders of Vickers’ theories were popular with western progressives in the years after the war and had tons of overlap with ‘Elders of Zion’ theories, much as left-wing and islamic ‘reasonings’ overlap today. One of the worst absurdities of modern teaching of ‘pre-WWII history’ in UK schools is frequent ruthless ignoring of how central “they caused the war” claims were to the whole phenomenon.

  • Andrew Dannatt

    I suspect that Mr Crozier has intended to stir the sentiments of the very learned Americans who inhabit this site.
    As an Englishman and therefore a “Brit” (God, how I hate that term), I would suggest they do not rise to the bait, or if they do, keep in mind that his intention is to gently wind you up.
    My understanding of things is as follows, though it is open to correction. The American army was not large at the declaration of war with Germany. The construction of a major force took time and involved conscription.
    When the American forces arrived in Europe, the idiot Haig wanted them to be split up and to fill the gaps in the Allied line, not be a separate fighting force. Pershing rightly refused to do this, and for the training of his troops, turned to the French, not the British. This also took time.
    The American Marines defeated the Germans at Belleau Wood in June 1918, suffering heavy casualties, (though not that heavy by the scale of battles that had gone before on the Western Front). This was the turning point in the war and subsequent Allied advances were really a case of the British and French hanging on to the skirt tails of the Americans. Didn’t the Americans lose more men on the Western Front in the First War than in Europe in the Second?
    Better late than never? Why should a country, whose population largely consisted of people who had left the mother country for reasons of poverty, persecution and lack of opportunity, hastily flock to fight for it? Circumstances dictated it in the end, but it shouldn’t be seen as given.
    It seems that the longer I live, the more relevance the First World War has in how things are now. If it could have been avoided, then maybe we’d have missed the evils of socialism, possibly even the current poverty in Africa (had Germany and Britain carved up the continent between them and ruled it for a hundred years). And, the Western World wouldn’t have lost the belief in itself which is manifesting itself in so many ways now.

  • CharlieL

    Of course, we could have just turned our raw, untrained troops over to Haig and Foch as soon as they arrived in France. And what a wonderful thing that would have been.
    There were still people around who remembered and some of whom had served in our own private bloodbath war between the states. I suspect Mr. Wilson, who I otherwise have zero respect for, took that into account when making his decision to not engage, then to engage.

  • Eric

    Bah. We waited years for you to get the job done. William the Conqueror would have burst in his grave. Again.

  • Chip

    “Why should a country, whose population largely consisted of people who had left the mother country for reasons of poverty, persecution and lack of opportunity, hastily flock to fight for it? ”

    Indeed. America has repeatedly gone into the breach for other countries, and still today bears much of the burden in keeping totalitarian actors at bay.

    It’s reward? Mostly widespread contempt and scorn from the people who receive its protection.

    According to this poll, anti-Americanism in Germany and Spain is the same as in Tunisia and Lebanon.
    http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/06/26/tarnished-american-brand/

    Laughably, 2/3 of Mexicans dislike America as well. People are not rational.

  • David

    Pershing rightly refused to do this, and for the training of his troops, turned to the French, not the British.

    Andrew the Americans first saw action at Hamel attached to Australian Battalions and were under the command of General [later Sir] John Monash. Pershing withdrew most of the Americans originally assigned for the battle but four companies remained with the Australians.

  • Laird

    There was no sentiment in the US to involve ourselves in Europe’s war. “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier” was a very popular song in 1914-17 (I own a copy of the 78). Wilson himself ran and won re-election on the platform of “He kept us out of war.” Yet within months of his re-election we were at war anyway, and there had been no precipitating event which caused it. (Unrestricted submarine warfare was an annoyance but was no different in early in 1917 than it had been the year before.) Wilson was no pacifist; he was a despicable person, an inveterate liar, and desperate to get us into the war but realized that it would have been political suicide to do so. We should never have involved ourselves in that conflict.

    Germany had no desire to draw the US into the war; they knew it would have spelled their defeat. A maintenance of the 1914-1916 status quo would have ultimately lead to an exhausted stalemate, which in retrospect probably would have been the best possible result: there would have been no oppressive Treaty of Versailles and probably no Nazi Party. And the ill effects on the US itself reverberate to this day: it was the start of a large, intrusive federal government and the cause of the income tax we have today. Much of what is bad in this country is the direct result of Wilson’s perfidy. In my opinion he was the worst US president of the 20th century (you have to go to the 21st century and Obama to find worse).

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Of course there is the alternative view. The Rothbardian view.

    Yep that’s it – there’s Paul Marks’ sensible, rational perspective and then there’s the misguided Rothbardian view. Nothing else. Move along now.

    In reality the United States went to war with Germany in 1917 because Germany kept killing Americans, and encouraging other people to kill Americans, and would not stop – in spite of being politely asked to stop.In reality the United States went to war with Germany in 1917 because Germany kept killing Americans, and encouraging other people to kill Americans, and would not stop – in spite of being politely asked to stop.

    Um no. Germany didn’t want the US to enter WWI because Germany knew that if the US entered WWI then Germany would almost certainly eventually lose the war. It’s really convenient to ascribe evil motive to those who lost the war but when that motive is irrational and against the country’s self interest, we know its going too far.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    There was no sentiment in the US to involve ourselves in Europe’s war. “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier” was a very popular song in 1914-17 (I own a copy of the 78). Wilson himself ran and won re-election on the platform of “He kept us out of war.” Yet within months of his re-election we were at war anyway, and there had been no precipitating event which caused it. (Unrestricted submarine warfare was an annoyance but was no different in early in 1917 than it had been the year before.) Wilson was no pacifist; he was a despicable person, an inveterate liar, and desperate to get us into the war but realized that it would have been political suicide to do so. We should never have involved ourselves in that conflict.

    Germany had no desire to draw the US into the war; they knew it would have spelled their defeat. A maintenance of the 1914-1916 status quo would have ultimately lead to an exhausted stalemate, which in retrospect probably would have been the best possible result: there would have been no oppressive Treaty of Versailles and probably no Nazi Party. And the ill effects on the US itself reverberate to this day: it was the start of a large, intrusive federal government and the cause of the income tax we have today. Much of what is bad in this country is the direct result of Wilson’s perfidy. In my opinion he was the worst US president of the 20th century (you have to go to the 21st century and Obama to find worse).

    Thread winner.

    “It’s really convenient to ascribe evil motive to those who lost the war but when that motive is irrational and against the country’s self interest, we know its going too far.”

    Should say:

    It’s really convenient to ascribe evil motive to those who lost the war but when that motive is irrational and against the country’s basic self interest, we should recognize that what we wish to believe is probably very different than reality.

    It’s irrational to believe that the German leadership was so incredibly evil that they acted against their personal self-interest and against the interest of their nation and family, just to kill Americans. It’s silly

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    And if America had stayed out of the war, would Germany have been able to win? Wilson, after all, wanted a League of Nations, to end all wars. A victorious Germany wouldn’t have wanted that! Early on, the Germans almost reached Paris!

  • Vinegar Joe

    The US would have entered the war considerably earlier had it not been for the Baralong Incident.

    http://historicalrfa.org/archived-stories2/1280-the-baralong-affair-17
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baralong_incidents

  • And if America had stayed out of the war, would Germany have been able to win?

    No, it was already losing. The Great War would have most likely ended late 1919 without the USA entering, as German economy was collapsing.

  • Mr Ed

    Um no. Germany didn’t want the US to enter WWI because Germany knew that if the US entered WWI then Germany would almost certainly eventually lose the war.

    If Germany didn’t want the USA to enter the war, why did they promise Mexico spoils of war (Zimmerman Telegram)? What they wanted, in their deluded minds, was for the US to be a victim of the war, hence the Black Tom explosion and the other plans, and yet for it not to retaliate. The Black Tom explosion was in itself sufficient as a casus belli for the United States.

    It’s irrational to believe that the German leadership was so incredibly evil that they acted against their personal self-interest and against the interest of their nation and family, just to kill Americans. It’s silly

    We know that the German leadership acted against the interest of their nation as they started the war. They didn’t want to simply kill Americans, they wanted to dismantle the United States and to dominate the World. It wasn’t quite as mad as Paraguay’s War of the Triple Alliance, but it was pretty much in the same ballpark.

  • Jacob

    “It’s irrational to believe that the German leadership was so incredibly evil that they acted against their personal self-interest and against the interest of their nation and family, just to kill Americans.”

    Yes. Germany’s leadership was not only “incredibly evil” and “incredibly idiots”, they were also stark mad, in WW1 as well. (No one disputes the utterly mad nature of Hitler’s regime in WW2).
    And also – barbarians.

  • Laird (and Shlomo), the decision to (re)launch unrestricted submarine warfare at the start of 1917 was bitterly debated within the German military and civil high command. Resignation and threats of resignation at the highest level, predictions that apocalyptic consequences for Germany would flow from either decision – all these are matters of historical record. The Germans had withdrawn from the tactic in the past because of threats that it would prompt US involvement (realising they needed to accumulate more submarines also played a role). If Wilson failed to foresee that after his re-election they would be readier to risk calling his bluff, the more fool Wilson. And if those who voted for him failed to foresee it, ditto them.

    I am well aware that Wilson used the war as an excuse to advance his progressive agenda, exploiting war fever to evade constitutional and political constraints. That ‘side-effect’ was always his main interest in the war. The only reason I doubt it was already his real motive and intent even back during his re-election campaign is that I don’t think he was remotely far-sighted enough to see how likely the German action was, yet needed it as justification when he reversed himself. My take (just FWIW) is that when the new situation created more political pressure to join the war than it was convenient to fight, Wilson revised his overt policy and devised how to implement his real policy in the new circumstances. The latter response may well have come first once the Germans acted, and helped him change his mind on the former, but I do not see Wilson as a far-sighted man who planned it from the first.

    Wilson’s self-interested motives and idiocies don’t alter the situation in which the US was placed. The government tells the Germans not to do something and they stop doing it. After the election, they resume on a much larger scale. What does the US government do?

  • terence patrick hewett

    We of the 4 nations are now engaged in a civil war and I doubt that it will end in anything than a bloody extension of our age old bar-fight: but I rather think that that the EU will find that it is not good policy to interfere. But only after they have a bloody nose and a punch in the guts will leave them vomiting.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Oh for Henry Fielding:

    “Lards! Lards! that pack of Hanoverian rats.”

    When did we become such supine wimps?

    And I am a Catholic Monarchist.

  • RRS

    In reading all the above, one is reminded of an analogy to Robert Nozick’s identification of normative sociology.

    “It greatly fascinates all of us to study what the causes of the U.S. entry into WW I ought to be.”

    Perhaps Laird, touching upon the attenuated results, opens a better way to examine “causes.” This may be seen as the “consequentialists” approach to understanding.

  • terence patrick hewett

    @RRS

    Perhaps you should look earlier to UK 1688 and US 1775/76?

  • Paul Marks

    Alsadius – there were several terrorist attacks in New York City by German agents during the First World War. And I apologise for not mentioning the shooting of Mr Morgan junior.

    S.M. – I gave an account of the Rothbardian view, you might want to present an account of your own if you think my account was unfair. I did NOT claim to be presenting an even handed account – I regard the Rothbardian account as straight from Harry Elmer Barnes (see Rothbard’s crawling obituary for Barnes back in the 1960s) and I regard Harry Elmer Barnes as, to use technical and scientific language, an utter pig (or utter swine – if you prefer the German word). People who cite, with approval, swine such as Harry Elmer Barnes, do not deserve respect – and I am not going to give it to them. What I will give them is contempt – which is what they deserve.

    The facts are – that the Germans kept killing Americans and kept encouraging other people to kill Americans and would not stop (in spite of being asked to stop). And that the German academic-political elite (or rather the dominant faction – I have to be careful not to imply that all Germans thought like this) made it clear even before the First World War that they wished to take-over-the-world (the United States is on the planet Earth – so take over the world is something that applies to the United States). To be fair to the German academic elite their theory was that all powers must either dominate or be dominated – once they had rejected a MORAL idea of conduct, they were forced back into a Thomas Hobbes style position with international relations as a form of all-against-all till one power could impose order on everyone else. So “why not Germany?” was their natural response – especially as they regarded German CULTURE as superior to other cultures, and had strong arguments and evidence to support their belief.

    People who claim that the United States could have stayed out of the First World War (if it had not been for a vile conspiracy of greedy Jews and honorary greedy Jews – such as the Morgans who were not Jewish) are on something of a sticky wicket.

    And it is NOT just a matter of being wrong headed militarily – like people (such as Patrick) who claim that Constantinople could not have been taken in 1915 (oh yes it could) or that taking it would have made no major difference to the war (oh yes it would). It is much more than a dispute about military matters, at work amongst people who try and pretend the First World War and the American entry into it was not the fault of the GERMAN government. This (trying to pretend that GERMANY was not at fault) is really a MORAL dispute – as I will explain.

    There is an agenda at work – at it is much more than an agenda about 1914 or 1917.

    The people, at least the LEADING LIGHTS of this movement, who are out to validate the German position in 1914 or 1917 are really out to validate the German position in 1939.

    They do not believe that the “greedy Jews who were behind the war” (and honorary greedy Jews – when it is pointed out to them that some of their targets, such as the Morgan family, were NOT Jewish at all) suddenly became less greedy in 1918.

    The real objective of the “Alt Right” (and its effort to take over the libertarian movement with its “Revisionist History” and so on) is to validate the National Socialist German Workers Party position in relation to the SECOND World War. The drivel they put out about the First World War is really just a matter of “laying the foundations” as it were.

    Nor does it stop here – as one can tell from the approach to the Cold War and the present situation (today – right now). And it does goes to current affairs – for example the Ron Paul Institute (Rothbardians) would have us believe that such things as the Iranian hostage crises of 1979 was the fault of the United States, and that 9/11 2001 was also the fault of the United States. Whether these people call themselves Nazis, Communists or libertarians does not really matter – what matters is their pathological hatred of the United States, which is so extreme that they will side with just about ANYONE against the United States, AND against the West generally.

    The position of these people might justly be described by the words “my country is always WRONG” – as Tim Star pointed out, the late Murray Newton Rothbard even defended the Soviet invasion of Finland, do we really have to sit down and prove that the late Murray Newton Rothbard was mistaken about that? And even if we did prove this (100 times) would such a refutation make any difference to a Rothbardian? After all one is dealing with a Cult – and Cult members do not tend to respond favourably to refutations of the doctrines of the Cult.

    This sort of person is guided by the principle that “whoever Uncle Sam is opposed to MUST BE RIGHT”. They are not actually interested in the possibility that Uncle Sam might NOT be the bad guy.

    One last irony – the leading “libertarian” supporter of such views in the United Kingdom (churning out pro German and pro Soviet propaganda – in relation to both World Wars and the Cold War, and YES moving on to support the Islamist view against “Western Intervention” as well) was not a libertarian at all – not even in the philosophical sense. He was actually a determinist – a supporter of the philosophical position of Martin Luther (“The Bondage of the Will”) and Thomas Hobbes.

    And anyone who comes out with the line “Thomas Hobbes was not a determinist he was a compatiblist”, has simply proved that a “compatiblist” is a determinist – because there was no man clearer in holding that humans are just flesh robots (not human BEINGS at all) than the late Thomas Hobbes.

    An honourable man opposes the attack of evil against the innocent, even at the cost of their own life (when they could walk away and be unharmed) – in defending the innocent from attack one counts the enemy on the edge of one’s sword and carries on fighting till one can not fight any more. Because one is dead.

    We do not all live to such a high standard – but we can at least give due honour to those who choose to do so. They are what we should be.

  • RRS

    We do not all live to such a high standard – but we can at least give due honour to those who choose to do so. They are what we should be.

    They are gone; as we of the subsequent part of that war soon will be; taking with us our inherited ills and bequeathing others for those who follow.

  • The real objective of the “Alt Right”…

    There are so many strains of the so called Alt-Right, I think you need to hyphenate even further to say what the “real objective” is.

  • Mr Ed

    The ‘Alt Right’ is whoever the Left say it is, and then they bait and switch.

  • Eric

    If Germany didn’t want the USA to enter the war, why did they promise Mexico spoils of war (Zimmerman Telegram)?

    The telegram in question begins thusly: “We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance…”

    It was part of what prompted the US to enter the war, sure, but only because it was intercepted.

  • Laird

    Paul, I am not a Rothbardian; in fact, I have little use for the man. (His economics is OK; his politics is not.) But whatever the justifications he might have proffered, his conclusion was right: the US should have stayed out of that war. Wilson was desperate to get us into it as quickly as possible after the election because he knew that it was already winding down and he didn’t want to miss out on it. He wanted to be a “war president” because they get all the glory in the history books, and because he wanted to meddle in the peace negotiations. But his 14 Points (which included the ludicrous League of Nations) was naive to the point of risibility.

    I understand that the Zimmermann telegram riled up American sentiment, but it was a feeble effort which was going nowhere; we would have calmed down quickly enough had Wilson not seized upon it to inflame passions. And as far as the submarine warfare goes, we were a noncombatant overtly supplying their enemy; what else was Germany supposed to do, turn the other cheek? We could have put a stop to it by being more circumspect in our supplying England. And even if we didn’t want to do that, we could (should) have accepted Germany’s response for what it was: a lawful action under the laws of war. From Germany’s perspective we were the aggressor, which was not an irrational position to take.

  • fcal

    Laird, indeed Rothbard’s economic theories are sensible, his political opinions not so much. Paul Marks suffers a similar affliction, his economic thinking is all-right, his geo-political approach is too one-sided.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Mr. Ed continues to claim that Germany started WWI and that the Germans did so because they had nefarious plans to dominate the world. I’m afraid it’s a bit more complex than that. Unfortunately, reality is hardly ever as trite as a Star Wars plot line. Attributing WWI to nefarious German plans for world domination indicates not just a lack of facts but a lack of understanding of how international relations works.

    When I last explained my perspective on the causes of WWI to Mr Ed I offered two reading recommendations to help. It’s clear from his comment in this thread that he still has not read them, but I hope he will.

    Man, the State, and War by Waltz
    The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations by Carr

    As far as the main topic at hand, Laird made all the salient points in his Nov 27 10:41 pm comment – and he phrased them perfectly as usual.

  • Mr Ed

    Shlomo,

    I would defer to your greater knowledge if I thought that you were there.

  • The last Toryboy

    Well, they really did act against their own interest in the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. They greedily demanded such a huge swathe of Russian territory that it required a huge number of German soldiers to garrison, right at the critical moment in 1918.

  • Paul Marks

    Like a good pussy cat I have checked the dates – and there were indeed (as I said) German attacks inside the United States long before the American Declaration of War. Indeed, for example, the reason that visitors could no longer go into the torch of the Statute of Liberty is damage from one such attack (June 1916)- although German intelligence may well have had help from non Germans.

    Nor was it the Weimar Republic (vile though it was) that urged Mexican groups to attack the United States – again it was Imperial Germany, and this went back to plans long before even 1914 (let alone 1917) sorry S.M but many of the German academic and political elite DID want to dominate the world. The policy of sinking civilian American ships (unrestricted submarine warfare – the Americans drowning) was also firmly in place BEFORE the American Declaration of War.

    I am well aware that not all Germans were united in the rejection of basic moral principles or in a desire for conquest and domination on a world scale – indeed I have written a post on this very site that showed that even the German elite was NOT united on these matters. That some did NOT reject the idea of objective and universal moral principles and the idea that humans can choose to do what is morally right (objectively morally right) against our desire to do what is morally wrong. An obvious example of such a German would be Kaiser Frederick – who tragically died (of cancer) in 1888. Even Kaiser Wilhelm II was a very TORN man – torn between the doctrines (moral relativism, historicism and so on) that were fashionable, and his “gut” doubts about such doctrines. So such things as the anthrax plot (the plot to spread anthrax in the United States – at a time when the United States and Germany were NOT at war) could NOT really be discussed with Kaiser Wilhelm II – because he might not have approved of them.

    Famously the German elite (including General Lundendorff – a classic moral relativist and historicist) even kept the plot to put “Lenin” into Russia (a nation with which Germany was at war) away from Kaiser Wilhelm for fear he would guess the intent of such a plot (to plunge Russia into the horror of Marxist Revolution in which millions of civilians would die – in order to knock Russia out of the war) and not approve it. “What the Emperor does not know about – he can not forbid” seems to have been the principle at work.

    But be-that-as-it-may the facts concerning the American Declaration of War upon Germany in 1917 are as I have stated them.

    Germany kept killing American civilians, on the high seas and inside the United States, and kept encouraging others to kill Americans. And the Germans refused to stop doing this.

    “We should have stayed out of the war” – it really is irritating that people keep writing as if the Germans were not attacking and the Americans just decided to go to war because they felt like it. Actually by 1917 there was no other option than war – not even for Professor Wilson.

    “Wilson was desperate to get us into the war” Actually (as I pointed out) Woodrow Wilson had been denounced for YEARS for “keeping the United States out of the war”, any normal President would have urged Congress to declare war long before Wilson.

    S.M. mentions “Star Wars” – the last “Star Wars” film I watched had a British actor (playing a “Jedi”) calling out IN OPPOSITION to the young “Darth Vader” that “there are no absolutes” “only the Sith think in terms of absolutes”.

    General Ludendorff would cheered these words – yes no objective good and evil, so I (General Ludendorff) can be as evil as I like and declare that it was just my alternative view of good. As “equally valid” as any other view.

    Sorry but it really was “simple” not “complicated” – actually things normally are. Moral good and moral evil are not particularly hard to discern, if one chooses to make the effort, but some people like to pretend that it is all very “complicated” to give then an excuse to save their own skin, by letting other people die whilst they do nothing.

    Finis.

  • Paul Marks

    I am reminded of a certain Man of Kent (although, alas, it is not Bluebell time in Kent presently).

    The gentleman was fond of declaring that the First World War for Britain in 1914 was a “Liberal war” opposed by Conservatives.

    In reality, as he knew perfectly well, in 1914 both Liberal Party Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Gray and Liberal Party Prime Minister Asquith were desperate to AVOID war – and were filled with utter despair when GERMANY forced war upon them. As for the Conservative Party – any examination of the Parliamentary record in the run up to war shows that most Conservatives were far MORE IN FAVOUR (not opposed – in favour) of war than their Liberal opponents.

    I am no fan of Asquith, David Lloyd-George, or of Woodrow Wilson in the United States – indeed I am very strongly opposed to their politics and would never have dreamed of voting for any of them. For example I regard the utter weakness of President Wilson in 1918-1919 (his refusal to break up Germany, that artificial state set up in 1871, – his desire for a “fair peace” without destroying-the-enemy) to be a primary reason for the 2nd World War.

    But I am certainly sick-and-tired “of these silly lies that mostly come out of Germany – but are repeated by so many others”. Warmongers these liberals were NOT.

    Of course there was one Liberal Party politician who did feel differently in 1914 – Winston Churchill (see his letter to his wife), but he was a very different sort of man to Asquith or Professor Wilson.

    Winston Churchill was a warrior – as long as he was sure the cause-was-just (something that someone like Ludendorff did not really care about), his instincts welcomed the fight. Winston had (I think) already fought in four wars (actually fought “up close and personal” – the sort of thing that, for example Haig, was not known for) in four wars before 1914. Always as a volunteer – he was attracted to violence as long as the cause-was-just.

    It was his tragedy that Winston Churchill (unlike his famous ancestor) was never in command of a large scale military operation. Perhaps he would have been NO GOOD – one can not tell. But as Colonel Barker and Brigadier Mallison (amongst many others – including so many soldiers I used to know, who are dead now) have pointed out – there is nothing wrong with the general ideas that Churchill presented in the First World War, the problem was that the ideas were handed over to officers who were UTTERLY INCOMPETENT.

    “But Paul – had Winston been personally been in command at, for example, Suvla Bay in 1915 – he might have proved as utterly useless as the Generals who were there”.

    True he MIGHT have – but that is a very low standard to beat.

    After all the commanding general at Suvla Bay refused to even go ashore (“my leg hurts”), another General (who had just come from a home for the mentally ill – NO I am not making that up) spent the vital 36 hours weeping and screaming in his tent, and another commander just kept going round saying “I am too senior to be here” and refusing to issue any orders other than an order to troops who had taken (without orders to do so) an important hill to PULL BACK. Meanwhile the Turks, under their German commanders, were rushing in reinforcements and building defences.

    It would have been hard for Winston to perform worse than this bunch of British Army generals. He should at least have the right to choose the naval and army commanders in charge – if the rule “a professional must be in charge” was to be maintained.

    The “rap” against Winston Churchill was the private whisper that “he enjoys killing people” (a true Christian Knight should not enjoy fighting) – and his letters to his wife (“it is terrible to be made like this”) seem to confirm this – but there is an important proviso to be remembered, Winston Churchill would only kill when the-cause-was-just. There has always been the need for such warriors.

    Adrian Carton de Wiart (a long time friend and associate of Winston Churchill) was a similar type – and, unlike Winston, was public about it (which may have harmed his prospects – as one is not supposed to enjoy fighting).

    But it must remembered that an innocent person was totally safe with Adrian Carton de Wiart – even a guilty man was safe if they surrendered.

    It was only the guilty who refused surrender that Adrian Carton de Wiart would kill.

    Someone who can not see the differences between such men as “Mad Jack” Churchill (with his longbow and broadsword in World War II), and Adrian Carton de Wiart and (yes) Winston Churchill on one side – and people such as General Ludendorff on the other, is blind indeed.

    They are NOT the same sort in different uniforms – one upholds the good-and-right the other attacks it. There will always be a need for the warriors – as-long-as they strive-endlessly to make sure that morality (the moral law) controls their personal violence.

    When things are getting dark, in the end they always do, and evil is at hand – then one needs such men.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    S.M. mentions “Star Wars” – the last “Star Wars” film I watched had a British actor (playing a “Jedi”) calling out IN OPPOSITION to the young “Darth Vader” that “there are no absolutes” “only the Sith think in terms of absolutes”.

    General Ludendorff would cheered these words – yes no objective good and evil, so I (General Ludendorff) can be as evil as I like and declare that it was just my alternative view of good. As “equally valid” as any other view.

    Sorry but it really was “simple” not “complicated” – actually things normally are. Moral good and moral evil are not particularly hard to discern, if one chooses to make the effort, but some people like to pretend that it is all very “complicated” to give then an excuse to save their own skin, by letting other people die whilst they do nothing.

    I’m not going to argue with Paul Marks because nobody was rationally persuaded out of an opinion that they weren’t rationally persuaded into.

    Paul Marks’ view that things normally are quite simple, that in any war there is usually a good side and a morally wrong side is shockingly widespread.

    What’s interesting is that while most of these people are easily able to name many wars throughout modern history in which the victor was the right, morally good side (American Civil War, US Civil War, English Civil War, WWI, WWII) and the loser was bad, morally wrong, they are rarely able to name nearly as many modern wars in which the victor was clearly morally evil and the vanquished were actually, ya know, good.

    Thank the Whig History Gods that the good guys tend to win wars. Could you imagine a world in which the evil people wrote the history books? What horror that would be!

    We should all consider ourselves very lucky to have been born into a world in which the good guys write the history books, since that’s how we know that we are thinking so clearly about history.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Should say: “American Revolution, US Civil War, English Civil War (round heads vs cavaliers), WW1, WW2” etc

  • Stephen Houghton

    Shlomo, if your position was as strong as you claim you would not have to descend to tactics like, “I’m not going to argue with Paul Marks because nobody was rationally persuaded out of an opinion that they weren’t rationally persuaded into.”

    To deal with your argument, such as it is, you claim that those who see moral clarity in most wars are either whig historians and or who subconsciously think that might makes right so think the winner was right.

    As a person who does see moral clarity in most wars, let me point to examples of wars that were won by the wrong side. Lets start with three in the last decade alone.

    The Russian invasion of the Ukraine is a good example. Russia was unambiguously wrong. The Soviet Government had set the boarders of Ukraine and upon its independence, Russia guarantied the territorial integrity of the Ukraine. It is note worthy that this was not a free guaranty, but one for which Russia received consideration. Putin’s Russia clearly violated the borders of Ukraine and its own pledged word. Lest anyone argue that Russia was guarding Ukraine’s political integrity because of the revolution, this is easily shown to be false. Russia does not claim the Crimea to be a liberated part of the Ukraine, but a part of Russia. This was a clear violation of moral right and international law. But Russia has won.

    To show that it is not only when my country’s enemies win that I can see unjust wars, let us now turn to the case Libya. I have nothing to say about the European’s decision to attack Libya, which they did for reasons that to them seemed good. The United States on the other hand had given its word to Gaddafi to leave him alone if he gave up his chemical weapons program. We broke our word and unfortunately for us we won.

    The Syrian civil war is a clear case where the second worst of the contestants won. Obviously defeating ISIS was important, but Assad and Russia are no prize either.

    Other examples of wars that were won by the wrong side include, off the top of my head: Vietnam, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and the Chinese Civil War.

    One can see clear moral differences without being a Pollyanna.

  • Zenit

    Shlomo Maistre

    November 29, 2017 at 12:34 am

    Should say: “American Revolution, US Civil War, English Civil War (round heads vs cavaliers), WW1, WW2” etc

    From your list, only WW2 and ACW are now seen as “good wars” where the right side won.
    According to modern progressive types, American revolution was just excuse of few rich slavemasters to dodge their taxes and WWI was capitalist war for profits, nothing to celebrate there. And English Civil War is as forgotten as is possible(outside of Northern Ireland).
    And if you ask the same “progressive types “, there was long list of wars in recent history where the bad side won (Spanish Civil War, Arab-Israeli wars etc…)

  • Laird

    I have deep respect for Paul Marks, who has forgotten more history than I’ll ever know, but there are certain areas in which we simply disagree. The US involvement in WW1 is one of them (another is certain aspects of the US Civil War). I’ve stated my position and will leave it at that.

  • Eric

    Famously the German elite (including General Lundendorff – a classic moral relativist and historicist) even kept the plot to put “Lenin” into Russia (a nation with which Germany was at war) away from Kaiser Wilhelm for fear he would guess the intent of such a plot (to plunge Russia into the horror of Marxist Revolution in which millions of civilians would die – in order to knock Russia out of the war) and not approve it. “What the Emperor does not know about – he can not forbid” seems to have been the principle at work.

    I’ve always found it amusing Ludendorff’s biggest contribution to the course of history had nothing to do with his generalship or even his own country.

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