Differing Perspectives

I have been taking a course in World War I, something I know little about relative to the rest of the 20th century.

We often think of WWI as a horrible, wasteful, pointless war that solved nothing and WWII as an expensive yet "good" war that achieved positive aims.  But as we approach the 75th anniversary of the Munich conference, it is interesting to note that if you ask someone in Eastern Europe, you are likely to get the opposite answer.  Most Eastern European countries can date their modern statehood from the end of WWI, while WWII led to 50+ years of Soviet subjugation.  WWI was their good war.


  1. KipEsquire:

    Kaiser Wilhlem II was the nephew of King Edward VII, the nephew of King George I of Greece, the grandson of Queen Victoria and the first cousin of both Czar Nicholas II and King George V.

    So much for the idea of marrying and merging your way into peace.

  2. Da:

    I am with those who think of World War I and World War II as just one war (with a 25 years ceasefire) - one big European civil war, where an capitalist-etatist-socialist (i.e. progressive) side fought a traditional-christian-anarchic side.

    That war was the end of the 150 year struggle between Rousseau and the French Revolution and the one side and 1500 of European history on the other.

    The background of this struggle is painted with industrialization and colonization.

    I am with you: WW I is the key conflict to understand the 20th century. WWII was just the epilogue.

    Looking at what the so called western world has become I am not sure anymore the right side won.

  3. ColoComment:

    You may get to this in your course, but if not, read "Paris 1919" by Margaret MacMillan. It's an absolutely fascinating account of the peace conference that closed WWI, but that set the table for many if not all of the international tensions that we are presently experiencing. This is where the arbitrary border lines of the Middle Eastern countries were drawn, without regard for ethnicities and historic tribal or religious enmities.

    The horsetrading that the author describes in detail destroys whatever belief you might have had in the integrity of the participants (although inasmuch as they were politicians, I suppose that looking to them for integrity is like looking into a bottomless black pool).

    Five stars.


  4. Anonymous Mike:

    Barbara Tuchman's Prod Tower makes a pretty good case that while we tend to look at pre- World War I as some sort of lost golden age, lost across the great chasm of the Great War, that in fact that world was already dying and on the verge of tearing its self apart before the events of August 1914.

    I think there is really alot that remains to be written about WW I, especially its effect on the American domestic situation. So much bad juju was released by that conflict and we never have really cleaned those toxins out yet

  5. MingoV:

    Comments from Eastern Europeans three generations after WWI do not convince me of the war's value. All wars have winners and losers; but happy winners don't correlate with a good war. If everybody was better off, I'd agree that a war was good, but such a war has never happened. (I do not count as wars events such as Rome removing, with almost no fighting, some village despot in what is now Albania. Those types of actions were win-win for the people.)

  6. mesaeconoguy:

    Technologically speaking, WWI was the advent of modern warfare, specifically the Maxim machine gun.

    That single innovation caused WWI to devolve into trench warfare, and changed armed combat forever.

  7. obloodyhell:

    WAR, HUH!! (Good GOD y'all!) What is it good for? Absolutely NOTHIN'!!!!

  8. obloodyhell:

    Sorry, couldn't resist. :-D

  9. obloodyhell:

    There are those who argue for the US Civil War as the advent of modern warfare, but WWI was the first place where ALL of it got put to the test at the same time and same place, "in quantity"...

  10. obloodyhell:

    WWI created PostModern Liberals, as arrogant, oh-so-self-assured, "we're better than those savages" Classical Liberals looked at what modern society had done with all the marvels they had created, and turned on Western Civilization with the vengeance of a neglected wife spurned by her lover. The resulting cancerous meme of PostModernism is well along the way towards destroying Western society.

    So, no, while there was "some good" that came out of WWI, in terms of destroying the last vestiges of most of the empire building of the 1800s (Britain's being the only one to really survive, and even that only in a reduced, decaying form), it was, still, the worst war of all. We're still dealing with its consequences, 100 years later. Future historians will almost certainly look back at 1914 and say, "This is where Western society began to fall apart. This was its Rubicon".

    What We Lost In The Great War
    This piece is just as valid now as it was when written 20 years ago.

  11. obloodyhell:

    "G. J. Meyer is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow with an M.A. in English literature from the University of Minnesota, a onetime journalist, and holder of Harvard University's Neiman Fellowship in Journalism."

    This is not a pedigree I associate with good, reliable thesis creation. I haven't read it beyond the blurb, but it makes me suspicious that the result is a very leftist viewpoint of events.

  12. Gil:

    Perhaps, yes, Yanks don't really end up much of a resonance on WW1 and WW2 since it went from 1917 to 1918 and 1941 to 1945 respectively for them.

  13. irandom419:

    Yet, they call WWII the Great Patriotic War if memory serves. In general it seems to take 2 interventions before a region stabalizes.

  14. mesaeconoguy:


    While the Maxim gun was first deployed in Africa in the 1890s, and semi-modern cartridge weapons were used in the Civil War, WWI threw them all together on the battlefield en masse, resulting an a terrible stalemate, and escalation of heavy weaponry like tanks (later used to fuller effect in WWII).