World War One Chap 1

When one writes essays on a site, one tends to repeat oneself a lot. So I am going to change strategy a bit, and write books on my pet subjects (I will just create specific sites for each subject). The essay below ought to be a version of chapter one of:


World War One (WWI) is still with us. Not just by dismantling some old powers, and creating new ones, from pigmies to superpowers. WWI also created new systems of ideas, new moods, new politics, new philosophies. In particular, new versions of history, some of them carefully missing the main points and imagining others.

The typical history of World War One pulls the conflict like a rabbit out of a hat at a show for little children. Here is a typical description:

A hundred years ago, in the Balkan city of Sarajevo, Serbian nationalists murdered the dour, pacifist heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and his beloved wife.

Populations, throughout the world, were shocked but not worried. Why should they be? Under the influence of a powerful anarchist philosophy, there had been many political assassinations in previous years—the king of Italy, two Spanish prime ministers, the Russian czar, the President of the USA William McKinley. None of these leaders’ demise had led to a major crisis. Yet just as a snowball can start an avalanche, this assassination set off a series of events that, in five weeks, led Europe into a general war.

Really? A snowball? That butterfly flapped its wings, and about 3% of the planet died? Yes, 3%, more than 50 million dead, once one has incorporated the so called “Spanish Flu”, which was tied to military deployments, just as the “plague” that had decimated Athens under Pericles, and the Black Plague of 1948, tied in to the “100 year war”, and total war in Eastern Europe  (where the Black Plague was used as a weapon, by catapulting infected corpses over the walls).

So why was there a major crisis in 1914?

Because some bad actors were laying in an ambush they had set.

And by this I do not mean the Black Hand of Serbia, a secret terrorist organization tied in to the secret services of Serbia, both of them hell bent to recover Bosnia-Hercegovina, a state Austro-Hungary had just annexed. The Serbs had come out of wars that had allowed them to recover some of their national territory. That territory had been constitutionally granted to them by the Roman emperor Heraclius in the Seventh Century.

The Black Hand had at least partly organized the assassination in Sarajevo. Thus the request of the Austro-Hungarian government to make a thorough enquiry was certainly justified.  However, many in Austro-Hungary hated Serbia. Paradoxically, the assassinated heir had been a strong pacifying influence (and he was best friend with the conflicted Kaiser, who was, no doubt, sincerely aggrieved). So Austro-Hungary uttered an outrageous ultimatum to Serbia (perhaps some thought Serbia was exhausted from the war just concluded, and thus an easy prey).

Serbian ferocity was the consequences of centuries of horrors at the hands of the invading Turks, and the evil necessities such a thorough war of liberation leads to (yes, Russia suffers from the same syndrome, after centuries of Mongol horrendous exploitation).

Nevertheless, Serbia was a tiny country. It was not a major actor. The major actor in Europe was “Germany”. Historians will little feeling for philosophy always called that country “Germany”.

No doubt the habit came from the Romans, or, more exactly, Caesar. Caesar raided Germania twice, and was launching an incredibly bold  the plan to conquer the whole of Germania… from behind. Instead, it was left to his grand-nephew  Augustus, to try a hare brained frontal assault, followed by an ignominious retreat that left him half mad (Augustus used to call through the night in the corridors of his palace for the general who had led, and died with his annihilated legions).

But “Germany” did not really exist. Over a period of three centuries (500 CE-800 CE), the Franks, who were themselves Romanized Celto-Germans, had conquered Germania, establishing the gigantic Western European empire Caesar dreamed of.

The Franks’ craving for empire was less important to them than equal inheritance, an important anti-plutocratic character in a society with a high birth rate. Thus the “Renovated Roman Empire” they set-up officially in 800 CE, was soon a complicated patchwork of states in theory all vassals to the King of Francia (“emperor in his own kingdom”), and the emperor of the rest. Both were, theoretically, elected.

The patchwork of states soon enjoyed wars as states came and went. States come and go through wars (transfers through inheritance or calm annexations are rare). In a millennium, Western Europe would know more than 50 major wars. (This little detail is was that the Europhobes are not aware of, in their stupidity.)

In the Eighteenth Century, Prussia, heir to the very ferocious military  tradition of the Teutonic Knights (who had been annihilated by a coalition of Poland and Lithuania, but not their spirit!), under the leadership of the homosexual Frederic The Great (paradoxically Hitler’s hero), with considerable help from conniving Britain, and the stupid Madame de Pompadour (Louis XV’s de facto PM), became a military super power. Of the racist, anti-Judaic type. After Napoleon ‘s defeat, in 1815 CE, the dictatorial, anti-Judaic (thus racist), anti-Polish (thus anti-“Slavs”) ways of Prussia got spread about all of Germany.

Don’t ask how Nazism appeared. Ask how it could not have blossomed.

In any case, after defeating France in 1871 CE, Prussia proclaimed the “Kaiserreich”. Calling it “Germany”, is an abuse of language. The Kaiserreich was neither a republic, like France, or a democracy, like France or England. Even Russia aspired to become a constitutional monarchy, and grow its democracy (helped by French and British investments). Not so for the Kaiserreich.

Instead, the men leading that outgrowth of the Prussian State, decided to gamble all in one world war, believing they could defeat France before Russia, and certainly Britain, could muster enough force to become threats.

They gambled, and they failed.

Patrice Aymé


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18 Responses to “World War One Chap 1”

  1. Ian Miller Says:

    Not too sure I agree with the assessment of Augustus and the German campaign. The fact was Varus lost his legions through the most incomprehensible piece of stupidity imaginable – he marched his legions through the forest on tracks that virtually required nothing more than double file, and their weapons were in carts rather than being carried. On top of that, there was a total lack of the use of his exploratores. I am sure Augustus did not expect that stupidity.

    As for WW I, I am afraid there was plenty of pig-headed stupidity there too. There is a fairly strong belief (true or not I don’t know) that the various participants suffered from the Rumsfeld problem: they had spent all this money building all these toys, so they had to use them. They all thought this war would be easy. They all got it wrong. Then, on top of that they managed levels of stupidity that is somewhat incomprehensible, with the poor soldiers paying the price.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      That Augustus named Varus the commanding general makes him bear part of the responsibility. Varus, indeed, expected absolutely no ambush of any kind, whatsoever. Don’t forget there was high ground on the left, and a super giant swamp land extending 50 miles to the sea on the right, with a narrow path in between. The Germans had the time to build a hidden wall behind which they fought, early on.

      But that was not Augustus’ main mistake. The worst one was the recommendation he made in his testament that Rome never try again to conquer Germany again. That was deeply stupid, as it left a famous indefensible gap, an extension of the Fulda gap. And, besides, Rome had two provinces called Germania Inferior and Superior.

      The Franks knew better, and did not stop conquering Germany. The mistake those did was to relinquish it in the Tenth Century. And this is what the EU is correcting.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      WWI was conspiracy with two layers of complexity. This is the main thing I will try to explain. One of these conspiracies is now established (German historians were the first to demonstrate it). The other conspiracy, by the USA, has been overlooked.

  2. Chris Says:

    How is it possible to jump from 800 CE to 18xx CE to try to explain WW I ?
    Not speaking about the big inventions on German soil which still shape our world & conflicts up to today, i.e. founding of the first ‘nations’ – westfälischer Frieden; not talking of Free Trade and marktes – Hanse; not talking about the freedom of the people instand of following orders by god – Protestantismus; not Talking about Elections of the Kaiser by the priests; not Talking about what ‘germanic’ really means and how the major tribes (Franks & Saxons) and their different view on how government & People Should be organized
    …. Sorry ….but your assay is to much looked at from a frankish/romanic perspective to really help to understand WW I. It is still (untilgbar today) not only about plutocracy – but also about personal freedom…

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Chris, and welcome. This is just supposed to be a proposed partial draft of a first chapter of a BOOK. The idea of a book is that not everything is in the first chapter.

      An old joke is that the French (= Franks) are Germans, the Germans are Slavs, and, I could add, the Russians Swedes (that’s what “Russ” means).

      A relationship between 800CE and the 1800s exists. This actually gives me an idea about my Chap.2.

      Some object that one can explain what happened in the 1800s, with what happened in 800 CE. However history has a clear record, dating more than 2,000 years of the history of conflicting systems of thought which, to this day, are still engaged in heavy combat.

      Archeological studies, and what I would call deep history, are pushing that conflict of ideas even further back. Celto-Germans and Greco-Romans interacted in such a deep way, for 3,000 years. The Celts, masters of metallurgy, made weapons for… the Roman army. Reciprocally, the Celts adopted many traits of the Greeks (who were implanted along the Mediterranean in present day France, and traded beyond the Columns Of Heracles). Meanwhile, German farmers were getting increasingly militarized (in part from Roman influence). At this point, the notion of “king” was abhorrent to the Germans. While the Gallic nations themselves experimented with a full panoply of political regimes, including Senatorial ones.

      A millennium later, psychologies came to a head. Clovis, elected king of the Franks, but also Roman general, in the famous “Vase de Soissons” declarations, made no mystery that, from now on, the army of the Franks would operate along strict Roman army lines: as Roman imperator, Clovis had the right to decide, not only who got what, but even, who got death.

      That adoption of the fascist model in matters military, gave the Franks an edge over the other Germans.

      But the Franks did not just adopt fascism where it fit. Uniquely among Germans, they adopted the deepest Greek principles of tolerance for various religions and origins (which Athens itself had violated in the time of the disastrous Peloponnesian war, and its aftermath).

      OK. And so on… Coming soon on this site…
      So thanks for the feedback, Chris, it shows I have to explain more, and fast, and deep…

      • Chris Says:

        Tanks for your reply to my collection of rather random thoughts, Patrice.
        Yes, not everything in one chapter and the task/energy-needed to write such a book is huge.
        I completely agree with all your points in your answer, and appreciate very much that you took the time to show your deep understanding of these conflicting ideas and the effect on history.
        I wish you all success to get it in a book and I am looking forward reading it when finished. Thanks!

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Thanks for your feedback, Chris. As I said, I will put the book out by installments. You helped for Chap2. My Chap 1 led to questions I did not think of.

    • EugenR Says:

      The he word IF conects directly the two events, separated 2000 years. If Augustus’s stupid general Varus would not lose the legions, German nation would not exist. (“When das wort when nicht wer, jeden armen wer milioner.”)

      The same what happened to the Gualians in France, to Ethruscs in Italy, to Galics in Britain, to Egiptians in Egypt would happen to Germany. Only the Greeks, the Perthians and the Jews had enough cultural identity to oppose the Roman-Greek cultural imperialism. The same is now with the American cultural imperialism. Only the religious Muslims, Jews, and maybe some Buddhists have enough cultural immunity to oppose McDonald’s, Picahot, Coca Cola and Hollywood.

      • EugenR Says:

        Sorry some smartphone mistypings.
        The he word IF connects directly the two events, separated 2000 years. If Augustus’s stupid general Varus would not lose the legions, German nation would not exist. (“When das wort wenn nicht wer, jeden armen wer milioner.”)

        The same what happened to the Gaul in France, to Etruscan in Italy, to Gallic in Britain, to Egyptians in Egypt would happen to Germany. Only the Greeks, the Persians and the Jews had enough cultural identity to oppose the Roman-Greek cultural imperialism. The same is now with the American cultural imperialism. Only the religious Muslims, Jews, and maybe some Buddhists have enough cultural immunity to oppose McDonald’s, Pica-hot, Coca Cola and Hollywood.

        • Chris Says:

          I do not think McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Hollywood is really American culture. These are more examples of market economics and propaganda; and much older concepts/ideas then USA and Germany (or any other ‘Nation’).
          In my opinion, it would be interesting to ask, if the real American culture has been lost in the moment the US decided to take part in WW I ;)… That might be an own chapter in the book, Patrice?

          • Chris Says:

            Sorry, I have to correct myself; in the moment i pushend the ‘post comment’ button I realized that I actually believe propaganda and concept of nation might be connected: i.e. Battle of kadesh., where as far as I know we find one of the first example using propaganda. Anyay, this is still very much older then our modern nations.

          • EugenR Says:

            What I meant by Coca Cola etc. is the American instant consumerism that easily takes over the world culture and annihilates the local cultures. The food we eat, the movies we watch, the cloths we wear (jeans), etc. Of course American culture is much more than that. Yet the invention of culture as just an other product to be soled, with all the marketing inventions, pushed everything else to the margins. Is it right or wrong? I think everyone has to decide for himself. Sometime it is annoying to see some of the aggressive practices of these international brands, but who am i to judge other peoples cultural preferences.

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Excellent point, Chris. Absolutely excellent. That’s when real American culture gave way to a standard plutocratic drive.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Hmmm… The Celto-Roman interaction is more complicated than that. The winner clearly was not Rome, but a new civilization. Neither Greek, nor Roman, nor Gallic, nor German, but an advanced and advancing combination of all the preceding.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        I’m not sure the Jews and Muslims are resisting Coca-Cola (I sure do not). Modern Israel looks pretty Americanized at this point. Remove the USA, and it would deflate quick.

        • EugenR Says:

          You are very right about the main stream culture in Israel, they are just people anywhere else. But this is not truth about the orthodox religious people be it in the US, Israel, or anywhere else. Probably it is same with other religions. I don’t say it is wrong to prefer this or other kind of culture. I just wanted to point on the similarity between the cultural imperialism in these different epochs of human history. At the classical world, the Greek-Roman culture was probably very dominant and widely spread among the other nations. Truth is the classical Roman-Greek culture is well known for its tolerance to other cultures and if it was adopted by others, it was because of its attractiveness. But this soft cultural imperialism at the time, seemed probably to the other cultures even more dangerous than an aggressive approach. Isn’t it very similar to what is happening today with the fundamental Muslims? Probably as now also then the people indifferent to their cultural identity were the majority in the society, but the radical activism of the orthodox fanatics overruled them.

          The Jewish revolt against the Greeks and later against the Romans, that happened to become one of the main reasons to the rise of Christianity, was inflated as opposition to this cultural imperialism. Just try to understand what it meant to the Jews at the time to see Jewish youth participating in Greek sport events, where they competed completely naked. Even now after 2000 years, “Greek follower or Greeker” is an imprecation in the Hebrew language. By the way Epicurus means in Hebrew non believer. All this shows the tension that existed between these two contradictory cultures.

          Then the Jewish religious fanatics of the time tried to oppose the tendency of many of their countryman to adopt Greek way of life. And they were violent, just as today’s religious fanatics are violent towards their own countryman. For good or bad the Jewish-Christian orthodoxy won this battle against all the odds, and molested the European culture ever since, while the Greek-Roman concepts did not come back to the cultural stage until the late renaissance. And this happened, not because of superior values Judaism represented, as many Judo-Christians would claim but because of historical coincidences, like Constantin, etc. But this is for an other essay.

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Ok, before I answer you thoroughly, I’m going to write a little essay answering your first point above.

            Traditionally, there are those who are for empire, and those who are against it. Also there are those who distinguish good empire (the French “mission civilisatrice”) from the disgusting ones (say UK’s anti-Boer South Africa), to the very bad ones (plutocrat Leopold II’s hellish Congo), or the outright demonic ones (the Kaiser’s Namibia).

            However, I am going to suggest a completely different form of analysis. An empire has subjects, just as a predator has preys. And, just as there is a mathematical entanglement between predator and prey, there is a philosophical entanglement between empire and subjects.

            In other words, it’s not enough to say there are good empires, and bad ones. More generally, there are good empire-subject entanglements, and bad ones. It’s not all about the empire, it’s also about the subjects. Moreover those entanglements can be asymmetric.

            And so on… I’m going to try to write it within 20 hours. Short and to the point…

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