100 Years Ago Today: A Chronological Catalogue of the Tragedy of the First World War

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Dhamptastic, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. XzerothreeX

    XzerothreeX Famous

    Don't tell me it's research. You'll ruin the illusion. I prefer to believe this is all from memory, the pictures from a private album. Dhamptastic is an ancient vampire. One day he may even outline for the first organized warfare to take place on this planet. In the age of humans, anyways.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
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  2. Virgel

    Virgel Here To Help

    I think the legend of @Dhamptastic as an ancient vampire is now among my favourite head canon for this forum. XD
     
  3. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    Uncle Sam Joins Up.

    GJ Meyer, a journalist with a passion for writing excessively long syntheses of historical events, argues in a recent book that Woodrow Wilson aimed to bring the US into WWI from the very outset. This is a fairly controversial opinion, one which, on the surface, appears to goe against the grain of the popular interpretation of events. But it's more complicated than that. And it's in the complication that it makes sense.

    The idea centers around two points. The first is the particular personality of Woodrow Wilson, the American President.

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    Meyer argues that Wilson lived in his own world, separated from reality. This world was one of self-deception. He could deceive himself about his own motives and beliefs. Now, this sounds like psychohistoric nonsense...and you're probably right. All of this has to be divined from sources either carefully pruned by Wilson's estate or carefully written by others. We can't actually psychoanalyze Woody any more than we can any other dead person. And everyone personally connected to Wilson is also dead. There are only a small number of people alive today who were born before Wilson's death 93 years ago.

    But, consider the idea most notably attached to Wilson's name: Wilsonian Idealism.

    Whenever you name something "Idealism", you know it's only tenuously attached to reality. Major tenets of the foreign policy argument include that Western democracy is the best government for everyone, that Western capitalism is the best economic system for everyone, and that both should be aggressively pursued overseas. It has two modern children in the world of international relations which are nearly identical: Liberal Interventionism and Neoconservatism. Iraq was brought to you by Neoconservatism, and subsequently destroying the power structure of half of the Muslim world was brought to you by Liberal Interventionism. (I'm a Realist, BTW, Korea was a good idea...but not very much after that.) These positions ignore that people are a product of their history, and Western models are not necessarily the best for everyone. Democracy and capitalism take a hell of a lot of forms, and don't conform well to ideological purity tests. Sometimes, they don't even fit a people. It is self-deception to conclude that Western models should be universal, so perhaps it works.

    I'm open to being wrong.

    The second point is "Colonel" Edward House.

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    Edward House was not a Colonel. But he was a power broker, so you called him Colonel. A first generation American, his father was a Anglo-Confederate (fanatic, perhaps) who financed blockade runners to keep the South going. Edward was sent to boarding schools in England, prep schools in Virginia and Connecticut, and quit college (at Cornell) when his father died. Between leaving school and meeting Wilson, he became one of the wealthiest men in the US. His experience in the East decided his worldview.

    This worldview was expressed in a book anonymously published by House in 1912. A western democrat leads a civil war against the oligarchic east. Interestingly, he discarded his father's north/south view: Virginia was no different than Connecticut or New York to Edward House. The successful warlord installs himself as a technocratic dictator, imposes the Bull Moose platform, and then disappears.

    Bizarreness aside, House was the Kingmaker of Texas. No one could ignore him and prosper, Wilson did not ignore him and did indeed prosper. House delivered Texas, and in response Wilson offered him any cabinet post except SecState. House smiled and said he merely wanted to be of service: Wilson was to be the technocrat of his novel, and House would do his civic duty quietly.

    When war began, House put his efforts into pulling the US into the war on Britain's side. He, and a British foreign service officer named Sir William Tyrrell, then began manipulating Wilson's perceptions. Tyrrell was personal secretary to Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister, and was on a long-term mission to feel out American intentions versus Mexico.

    The British and French unintentionally accelerated their work with propaganda. The Rape of Belgium and the atrocity of German submarine warfare became not only the newspaper account, but it was all Wilson was allowed to receive. Deprived of objective reports, Wilson quickly accepted House's reality as his own.

    Wilson began edging toward war.

    And so the ever-changing nature of "neutrality" makes more sense.

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    Briefly (I'm ready for bed, so I'll make this quick)...

    We already discussed events through the Dumba affair. As events moved on, the US (not just Wilson, but as a whole) began to tolerate more brutality from Britain (see: blockade) and less from Germany.

    But even more was tolerated or not tolerated at home.

    Toleration... consider the Plattsburg Movement.

    The Preparedness Movement was gaining strength by 1915, mostly by the public support of men like Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood. They believed that the military was not prepared for war (they were correct in so far as European war was concerned), and this had to be remedied by the citizenry.

    In 1915 and 1916, wealthy citizens gathered in Plattsburg and other places to receive basic military training with the intention of providing the government with a levee of trained junior officers for a new army.

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    This sort of thing was actually illegal. Serving US Army officers and soldiers took leave to train civilians, using government property, without permission.

    But it was tolerated. Those who could stop it (read: Wilson) turned a blind eye.

    Intolerance...

    This was Robert Prager.

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    Born in Dresden, on immigrating to the US he became excessively patriotic. When war was declared, he was living in St Louis: he took out citizenship papers and tried to join the Navy. He had a fallow banker arrested for objecting to Prager displaying an American flag.

    He moved to Maryville, Illinois and tried his hand at mining.

    Because he was born in Germany, he was denied union membership. He was threatened and taken into police custody for his own protection.

    A drunken mod decided he was a spy, broke into the jail he was being held in and lynched him. All involved were acquitted by a jury.

    The Washington Post wrote: "In spite of excesses such as lynching, it is a healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior of the country"

    Yeah.

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    So the march to war was slow until 1917.

    It was decided that Germany would resume Unconditional Submarine Warfare on the 1st of February. It had been suspended in September 1915 after the sinking of the Lusitania and other high-profile ships. But naval reverses forced it to come back.

    In 1916, the German High Seas Fleet sought to break the British blockade on Germany by staging a raid into the North Sea to catch the British fleets in smaller groups, and destroying them in detail. This ultimately failed with the Battle of Jutland, which was tactically inconclusive but strategically meant the end of German ambitions to open the blockade.

    With Germany having a ticking clock on how long they could last, unconditional submarine warfare was needed to make Britain run out of resources first.

    But, this would almost certainly bring the US into the war.

    So at the end of January, the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmerman, who I think we've seen before, sent a message.

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    Intended for the German ambassador to the US, to be forwarded to Mexico, it offered the Mexican government significant concessions if they joined the war on Germany's side.

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    Now, this was a pipe dream. In no version of reality could Mexico stand against the US. And even if it could, it would never be able to hold it's acquisitions against an armed English-speaking populace (see: Texas independence).

    And being unrealistic did matter to the public.

    When it was released to the press on 28 February, it was not initially believed because it was so removed from reality that it couldn't be real. The government reported it had been stolen from German agents--to protect British codebreaking--but eventually Zimmerman told the media and the German government that it was real.

    While Wilson could fool himself, Zimmerman was just desperate.

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    In March, five American merchant ships were sunk by the Germans.

    On 2 April, Wilson addressed Congress.

    "It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other."

    After deliberation, a declaration of war was forthcoming on 6 April 1917.

    "WHEREAS, The Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the people of the United States of America; therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government, which has thus been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States"

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    On 7 April, George M Cohen wrote one of his most famous songs.



    Sorry for being a little disjointed. Lots of stuff I wanted to talk about.
     
  4. Dantron

    Dantron Here To Help

    Dantron notes that the Canadian Prime Minister, the President of France, and the three senior princes from the House of Windsor are currently in northern France commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
     
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  5. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    That's this weekend's topic. It'll be here sometime today, tomorrow at the latest.
     
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  6. Doomen Gloom

    Doomen Gloom Famous

    Allan Fredrick Quenell proud Canadian, My grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge this day 100 years ago, He was 20 and he made it home, there is not a day that goes by I do not think of him. I asked him several times what the war was like. He never did talk about it to any of us even my mom. Pierre Berton did interview him for his book Vimy, There is a signed copy to my grandpa somewhere.
     
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  7. Dantron

    Dantron Here To Help

  8. Dunadain

    Dunadain Famous

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  9. XzerothreeX

    XzerothreeX Famous

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  10. FTcivic

    FTcivic Here To Help

    My goodness, 2,000 people dead, and a further 9,000 injured? Goodness.
     
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