I refer, of course, to Lord Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne whose great-great grandson, Mike Kelly, has a fascinating article in this week's 'Speccie'. The late Lord Lansdowne appears to have been one of the few original thinkers in the British government during WWI. He had served at various times as governor–general of Canada, viceroy of India, secretary of state for war, foreign secretary and Conservative leader of the House of Lords. A pillar of the establishment, you might say. And yet ... and yet ... in late 1917 he must have taken a long, cold, hard look at the state of the war raging in Europe because he came to the conclusion that a peace must be negotiated.
He wrote a letter to The Telegraph, in effect, saying that enough was enough and that pursuing a total victory was simply not worth the expense of blood and treasure.
During the summer , as the allies fought the Germans at Passchendaele and the politicians and generals fought among themselves, Lansdowne remained silent. But after Lenin and Trotsky seized power in Russia, the Italians suffered a major defeat at Caporetto and General Haig failed to maintain a stronghold at the Battle of Cambrai on 20 November, Lansdowne decided to act on his conviction in what became one of the most courageous moments of a long career built on independence and integrity in politics.
The result of that act of intellectual and moral courage, of course, was instant dismissal, not just from the government but from the entire establishment. This ex-Corporal is not qualified to say whether he was right or wrong but at least there was someone who did not keep repeating the old and deadly mantra, "Just crack on!"
Having read that, I turned to Mr. 'Mike Konrad' (no, me neither and it's a pen name!) who makes a passionate argument in The American Thinker to the effect that the American entry into WWI was an unmitigated folly into which they were duped by those crafty Brits! Again, I simply lack enough knowledge to come to a definite conclusion either way but the notion of us as clever, Machiavellian schemers and plotters leading the USA by its nose seems a bit exaggerated to me. Even so, it's a good article that is worth a read.