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Monday, 16 July 2012


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That was literally one erection joke per sentence for the entire post.

Something of an erecord.


Oi, Duffers, this might interest you. (Without googling, why not try to guess who said it, of whom.)

The president was not a hero or a prophet; he was not even a philosopher; but a generously intentioned man, with many of the weaknesses of other human beings, and lacking that dominating intellectual equipment which would have been necessary to cope with the subtle and dangerous spellbinders whom a tremendous clash of forces and personalities had brought to the top as triumphant masters in the swift game of give and take, face to face in council – a game of which he had no experience at all … It was commonly believed at the commencement of [the negotiations] that the president had thought out, with the aid of a large body of advisers, a comprehensive scheme … But in fact the president had thought out nothing; when it came to practice his ideas were nebulous and incomplete. He had no plan, no scheme, no constructive ideas whatever for clothing with the flesh of life the commandments which he had thundered from the White House

It keeps me hard at work, SoD!

DM, it sounds like the beginning of truly bloody hatchet job, whoever wrote it. It could fit a dozen occupants of the WH including the present one but, for an absolutely wild guess, I would say Woodrow Wilson.

Full marks for the subject. The writer was Keynes.

Wilson trying to cope with Lloyd George and Clemenceau was a hell of a mismatch. The Aussie and South African chaps, Billy Hughes and Jan Smuts, were heavyweights compared to him too.

Of all US presidents, did Wilson exhibit the biggest mismatch between relevant abilities and the demands of the time? (I'm assuming that it's too soon to run O and W in this contest.)

By jove, top of DM's class! He'll make me a prefect next.

Actually, DM, to be fair, I wouldn't want to take on L-G and 'Clem' singly, let alone as a pair. Even so, Wilson was pretty hopeless. I can probably find it but what is the title of Keynes's book?

David Lloyd George the Prime Minister claimed that he did "not do badly" at the peace conference, "considering I was seated between Jesus Christ and Napoleon."

Herewith the book

Highlights include:

"The first glance at the President suggested not only that, whatever else he might be, his temperament was not primarily that of the student or the scholar, but that he had not much even of that culture of the world which marks M. Clemenceau and Mr. Balfour as exquisitely cultivated gentlemen of their class and generation. But more serious than this, he was not only insensitive to his surroundings in the external sense, he was not sensitive to his environment at all. "

"... he was in many respects ... ill-informed as to European conditions. And not only was he ill-informed ... but his mind was slow and unadaptable. The President's slowness amongst the Europeans was noteworthy. He could not, all in a minute, take in what the rest were saying, size up the situation with a glance, frame a reply, and meet the case by a slight change of ground; and he was liable, therefore, to defeat by the mere swiftness, apprehension, and agility of a Lloyd George. There can seldom have been a statesman of the first rank more incompetent than the President in the agilities of the council chamber. ... His mind was too slow and unresourceful to be ready with any alternatives. ... the President was far too slow-minded and bewildered."

Here's a funny thing. The army that won the Great War in the autumn of 1918 happened not to be the French, still less the American. It was the British - the only time, as someone has remarked, that the British army has decisively beaten the facing army of a major European power on its own, in a campaign that was not a sideshow. Unlike the Peninsular campaign, this was no sideshow, nor did we have Portugese or Spanish troops with us; unlike Waterloo no Brunswickers or Dutchmen, nor Blucher coming up in support.

And yet Keynes writes:
"In November, 1918, the armies of Foch and the words of Wilson had brought us sudden escape from what was swallowing up all we cared for."

Very odd. I suppose he's trying to persuade American and Frenchmen to pay heed to his words, and accordingly gilding the lily. It's a ham-handed attempt, I'd say.

Thanks for the book link, DM, that is now saved for later reading.

You have mentioned before your belief that the British army won WWI unaided in 1918. To be honest, I simply do not know enough about the land warfare that took place after September 1914 because in my view it was a terminally (literally for zillions) tedious 'slugfest'. I have on my shelf a very old paper-back copy of Barrie Pitt's book "1918: The Last Act" which I have never got around to reading partly because the font size is miniscule. In any event, you have piqued my curiosity and I shall try and investigate and in due course write a post.

Not "unaided" - obviously the French, with American support, held their end of the line. But the British end of the line was where the movement was. First the Germans drove the British out of their trenches and back into open country. Then after a well managed retreat - a very difficult art, I understand - the British stopped them, pushed them back, further every day, until the Germans started surrendering in droves. It became a drive forward of the sort they'd hoped to achieve for four years, and their hard-earned mastery of combined ops (aerial reconnaissance, infantry , artillery and tanks) did the trick. It wasn't so much that they killed lots of Germans, but that they captured lots as the Boche gave up.

My source is (I think - my memory isn't top notch) Niall Ferguson.

Certainly I came across this account only in the last few years - up till then I knew little about the First War beyond the popular prejudices.

In case it's not obvious, "the British" was the whole Imperial shebang - including Canadians, Anzacs, Indians and so forth.

Ah, memory, DM, I wonder where the hell I put mine!

Probably not Niall Ferguson(*) although he has an excellent analysis of the factors at work between Aug and Nov 1918 and sums it up, thus:

If November 1918 had witnessed a true allied victory, British, French and American soldiers would have marched in triumph down Unter den Linden. That, after all, was what Pershing, Poincare and many others wanted to see. The main reason it did not happen was that Haig, Foch and Petain doubted their armies had the strength to do it. The allies had beaten the Bulgarians, the Austro-Hungarians and the Turks, no doubt; but they had not completely defeated the Germans. Instead it was the German troops who marched to Berlin, in good if sombre order.

(*)'The Pity of War' by Niall Fergusson for a very fine forensic and highly original analysis of WWI by a leading economist and historian.

Ferguson's chapter on this complex subject is very good. The fact that though the British were pushed back in early '18 but did not break was a crucial factor not so much amongst the ordinary German soldiery but amongst the High Command, particularly Ludendorff whose morale was shattered. There-after the German surrender rate went up but their killing rate remained devastating against the cautious British army despite their very much increased fighting efficiency as they learned, after God knows how much useless slaughter, how to fight a 20th century war.

It's a fascinating topic and I will return to it later - when I finished sorting out the idiocies of Pearl Harbour and Midway - my current pre-occupation.

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