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Saturday, 14 July 2012


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One of the most worrying factors at work in the politics of the region is that the martyrdom - as you say, 'considered the highest of virtues' - would not necessarily be voluntary.

A good analogy might be to imagine a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of the leader of the Papal forces at Beziers in 1209, who, when asked how his attacking soldiers should distinguish between good Catholic townsfolk and their heretic Cathar 'enemies', allegedly said: "Kill them all; God will recognize his own."

In the good old days of the Soviet Union, nuclear warheads were held by a special directorate of the KGB. I would think that if the Iranians finally make a few bombs, they will be tightly controlled by the religious leadership. This is today's good news.

You will no doubt have noticed that there are no clerics amongst the numerous Islamofascist suicide bombers. There is not a single exploding Iman anywhere. This suggests to me that they don't actually believe what they tell the plunkers below them.

I have thoroughly trained my boys, now 18 and 16, to counter any trashing of the Germans with the observation that neither World War was the fault of the Germans.

Kaiser Bill was an unpleasant bloke but, after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, he was desperately trying to get the Austrians to accept the Serbians' grovelling apology. They had agreed to all but one of the conditions of the Austro-Hungarian goverment's ultimatum. Kaiser Bill sent a series of increasingly strident telegrams, saying that their resistance on this final condition was understandable and reasonable. If they did not accept this and insisted on a full 'surrender', the whole of Europe would be engulfed by war at the cost of millions of lives. They didn't, Kaiser Bill was right and the A-H Empire was dismembered.

As for WW2, Hitler was Austrian and not German!

Well, yes, you are entirely right, Macheath, mass martyrdom is usually the choice of a select few!

And you, too, Envelope, are right to point out that many apparently fanatical leaders tend to shout "Go on" rather than "Come on". Even so, Hitler died in his bunker having in effect pulled the roof in on himself and hs country.

Do you know, 'Webbers', I never thought of it in quite that light before. Yes, as my vicar might put it, 'in a very real sense' it was all Austria's fault!

Webwrights, that is not Prof Fischer's account. He decided that Germany had been seeking very hard for a way to launch a war with Russia that ensured Austrian support, and was unlikely to bring the British in when Germany attacked Russia and France. The assassination gave them their chance.

DM, I'm not sure if 'Webbers' isn't being ironic but you are quite right to draw attention to Fritz Fischer's forensic examination of Germany's imperatives before and during WWI. It is, I think, definitive. For anyone interested:

Germany's Aims in the First World War by Fritz Fischer

This is 'historians history' rather than narrative history for the amateur but it's still a fascinating read.

Just before Iraq invaded Kuwait, there was a meeting in Saudi Arabia between the Kuwaiti royal family and Iraqi envoys. There was no agreement and the Iraqis went home and told Saddam they had been treated like shit - as usual. So he pressed the button and away we all went.

What's this got to do with WW1? The Kaiser felt inferior to the British royals. They felt superior to him. He didn't like it - and away we went......

So, really, when you think about it, 'Envelope', it's really all a matter of bad manners which in turn stems from poor potty training. Well, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it. Time for the meds, nursie!

OK then; all we need is a policy to improve potty training. Or we could try MYOB. The trouble is, there are a lot of academics with books to sell.

And bloggers with blogs to fill - ooops!

The telegrams sent to and from the Kaiser's yacht, "Hohenzollern", on which he was cruising in the Baltic, are a matter of record. He was jealous of the British Empire's dominance and happy to goad the British government - but only so far. Yes, he had imperial ambitions for Germany, and these might well have resulted in eventual war, but he did not want war in 1914. I haven't read Fischer, but don't see why my view is incompatible with his.

Whatever he was, Wilhelm II was not stupid and he was desperate to restrain the Austrians. He predicted that the interlocking bilateral treaties, such as the Entente Cordiale, would ensure that Europe would polarise. Germany was bound by its treaty to the Austrians, just as Britain was to the French, and the inevitable result would be an unprecedentedly bloody war. Technology had advanced so much since the Crimean War, the olny big punch-up since 1815. He foresaw the carnage.

Robert K. Massie's excellent book, "Dreadnought", deals with the slow inevitability of the decline to war and quotes extensively from the exchange of increasingly desperate telegrams.

I think, 'Webbers', that it is true to say that the Kaiser lost his nerve almost at the 11th hour but faced with the implacable stance of his general staff and his governmental establishment his backbone was duly stiffened. (One might say, with accuracy, that nearly a quarter of a century later his Japanese equivalent suffered similar last-minute colly-wobbles!) It is difficult to point the finger at just one man and blame (or praise) him for everything. He was just a part of the machine, albeit, a hugely important part. However, Fischer's very scholarly book lays out a detailed proof of German grand strategic aims based on geo-political theories and military might which were laid down and then refined over the 20 years leading up to the war. The Kaiser encouraged this type of thinking. I will leave the last word to Ruth Henig whose pamphlet entitled "On the Origins of the First World War" was published in slim book form by Routledge in 1989. She sums it up, thus:

"There is general agreement [amongst historians] that German decision making was a crucial element in the tense situation after the June assassination. Without the assurance of German support, given so instantly and unequivalently to Austria on 5 July by the Kaiser and German Chancellor, Austria would not have embarked on her fateful confrontation with Serbia. It has been widely asserted that German policy held the key to the situation in the summer of 1914 and that it was the German desire to profit diplomatically and militarily from the crisis which widened the conflict from an eastern European one to a Continental and world war."

I might add that Fischer spells out in damning detail the extent of German ambitions in the Balkans, themselves, as an eventual gateway to Asia. These, had they been fully appreciated by the Austrians might have led to "tears before bedtime" between these two ostensible allies.

I'd be interested in seeing the powerpoint presentation. I can't seem to find it in your article. We are powerpoint designers and always enjoy seeing other peoples work. Let me know if you can send it over.

Alas, Jeff, I thought I was the Cecil B. de Mille of PowerPoint designers - but then I looked at your very professional site and I suspect I am really the apprentice's assistant!

Thanks David! I do appreciate the articles you publish and will be here more often.

Careful you purchase some spray-on keyboard sanitizer Jeff, if you're gonna be hangin' around much here.

Behave yourself, JK, and the only thing the regulars need around here is some air freshener if you spent the night at your local 'Arkie' still!

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