Published on 21 Mar 2017
Without trains, the modern armies of World War 1 were not able to move their troops en masse. Without trains, the soldiers at the front didn’t have food or ammunition and without trains, the soldiers wouldn’t make it to the nearest hospital. Trains were the backbone of the new, industrialised war of the 20th century.
March 22, 2017
March 14, 2017
I’m sure there are good men in Saudi Arabia who find it abhorrent and painful that women can’t drive, for instance. I’m also sure they enforce that rule on their women because they don’t want them fined or imprisoned or worse. They can’t DO anything. Not as individuals. And they’re too busy feeding their families to organize and run campaigns [to] free women. Also, there have been some men who have organized and tried to make a difference, but there weren’t enough of them. That “grain of sand” stuff only works dramatically in movies. In real life, it’s more one generation raising the other; one friend talking to the other – until the balance TIPS.
And once it does making them feel guilty would be a counterproductive. Sorry for breaking Godwin’s law, but did we persecute ALL of the German people for Hitler’s crimes? No. Could any of them have spoken up? Many did. But most people who were alive at that time were good people caught in a social mechanic they couldn’t break out of – not individually. And they weren’t connected enough to form cohesive groups.
While we’re speaking of Germany, look at collective guilt and collective punishment for “crimes” that people supposedly committed which no individual could have stopped. If you’ve studied the mechanics of the avalanche leading to WWI (I have. There’s a novel about the Red Baron and time traveling started, and it will eventually get done) there was a certain unstoppable force to it. It was going to start sometime. Someone was going to fire the first shot.
It was Germany. They invaded other countries. The “Hun” entered European mythology of the early twentieth for reasons both good and bad. (Google WWI Belgian Nuns, for instance. Much of it was propaganda, but a lot of it, doubtless, happened.)
When they lost the war, they were treated as if they and they alone and they collectively were guilty. The penalty levied was so high they could not and would not pay and that it was crushing the man in the street.
There were other reasons leading to the rise of Hitler. However, THAT punishment facilitated it. It might not have happened without it. The “in for a lamb, in for a sheep” is a normal human reaction. If you’re held constantly guilty of things you did NOT do and could not have changed, you’re going to DO something anyway. I mean, how can it get worse?
To a certain type of woman – or man, though we’re only giving some tenured college professor males that kind of power – it is sweet to be able to play the victim ad nauseam. Particularly when you’ve never actually been victimized. And it is great to be able to make men squirm with stories of past injustice and feel guilty for things they are either way too young to have done (anyone born after the fifties, pretty much) or could not have changed if they tried, but which many of them mitigated in small ways.
And to a certain type of man – or woman, but in this case it doesn’t apply – it’s a great feeling to go around apologizing for the crimes of your ancestors. If you feel your accomplishments are diminished by theirs, apologizing gives a quick leveling. You recognize they did wrong, therefore you must be better than them. It’s a stupid feeling that ignores that you’re probably also doing things that your descendants will apologize for, but hey, it’s much better than actually trying to achieve something. Less work. Instant boost.
This dynamic gives power to passive-aggressives and bullies, the exact type of person you don’t want to have any power. And it makes good people feel like they’re bad and if they’re bad they might as well act it. It can, for instance, make young men very attracted to religions that DO oppress women (and no, sorry, that’s not most main line Christian religions, where you can leave if you want to.) Frankly, I think it’s a miracle more of my son’s generation hasn’t converted to one of those. I think it’s a witness to their essential decency, given the books, the movies and everything else designed to make them feel guilty for crimes they never committed.
Sarah Hoyt, “The Sharp Edge of Guilt, a blast from the past March 2010”, According to Hoyt, 2015-06-05.
March 3, 2017
Published on 2 Mar 2017
The new Austro-Hungarian Kaiser is not happy about his Empire’s dependence on the German ally. And he is also not happy about their own military decisions and over the winter has worked to replace key positions with his own men. The last step in that process is convincing Conrad von Hötzendorf to take a position on the Italian Front. At the same time, French Commander Robert Nivelle is trying to get control over the British Armies on the Western Front and the Zimmermann Telegram is released to the press.
March 2, 2017
Published on 4 Feb 2017
Sophia’s excitement to meet her future husband deflated when she realized Peter III was a boor who cared nothing about Russia. By contrast, she threw herself into learning the culture with such vigor that she earned the love of the people. She was rechristened Catherine and married Peter… but when he became emperor, his mistakes and her popularity began to add up to a crisis situation.
February 23, 2017
Published on Jan 28, 2017
Before she became Catherine the Great, legendary empress of Russia, she was a smart but lonely girl named Sophia. Her mother ignored her until family connections proposed a marriage between Sophia and the presumptive heir to the Russian throne – and suddenly she was thrown from her quiet life in a backwoods mansion to the center of a cutthroat political world.
February 17, 2017
David Warren remembers when the government tampered with the free market to “save an industry” in Kingston:
Once upon a time, many years ago, I scrapped into one of these “no-brainer” political deals. The remains of the locomotive manufacturing business in Kingston, Ontario — whose century-old products I had glimpsed, still on the rails in India — were now on the block. A monster German corporation was offering to buy them, for the very purpose of competing, in Canada, with a (hugely subsidized, monopolist) Canadian corporation. The government stepped in, to “save” a Canadian industry, retroactively change the ground rules, and kick in more subsidies so that the Canadian monopolists, based in Montreal, could take over instead. This was accompanied by nationalist rhetoric, and Kingston was thrilled. Critics like me were unofficially deflected with bigoted anti-German blather held over from the last World War.
But I knew exactly what was going to happen. The local works, which would have been expanded by the foreign owner, were soon closed by the new Canadian owner, after studies had been commissioned to “prove” it was uneconomic. The latter’s last possible domestic competitor was thus snuffed out. The locals, whose lives had been for generations part of a proud Kingston enterprise, had been suckered. The politicians had told them it was little Canada versus big Germany. In reality, it was pretty little Kingston versus big ugly Montreal.
That is how the world works, with politics, so that whenever I hear of a big new national no-brainer scheme, my first thought is, which innocents are getting mooshed today?
Published on 16 Feb 2017
After breaking off diplomatic relations, the tensions between the US and Germany are still strong. This week the so called Yarrowdale prisoners become pawns in the power play between the great powers. At the same time, the Russian air force is bombing targets all over the north Eastern Front and little skirmishes happen on the overall quiet Western Front.
Published on 9 Feb 2015
In the run up to the 100 yr anniversary of the end of the First World War Michael Portillo travels across France and Belgium to find out the history of raiways of the past and present….
February 14, 2017
Colby Cosh points out that the historical Christian equivalents to modern day ISIS fanatics are not the Puritans, but the so-weird-it-must-be-fiction Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster in 1534-5:
One thing about this sculpture group [the International Monument to the Reformation] is: the foursome is terrifying. The depiction would not be so accurate and meaningful if it weren’t. Knox, in particular, has the face of a killer. The four men wear clerical robes and have long beards. They wield holy books as if they were weapons, which, in their hands, they were. The Reformed Protestant faith is a faith of the book; it sought to displace traditions, hierarchies, customs, culture, and authorities, and to replace them with the Word of God.
In its extreme manifestations, the Protestant Reformation was an annihilating tidal force of literal iconoclasm—the destruction of religious images and relics. There is still a visible scar across the face of northern Europe resulting from the preaching of Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox: in a belt from Scotland to Switzerland, you can find damaged antiquities, desecrated church reliefs, physically insulted Madonnas.
The attacks on religious art are easy to date: they spread outward from Zurich in much the same manner as the epidemic European political revolutions of 1848. Holland is where the iconoclastic rioting was most intense, and it arguably still influences the Dutch aesthetic character. They have a taste for minimalism and abstraction you can detect in Mondrian or M.C. Escher or the mathematician-artist Piet Hein. (Kenneth Clark made this connection in passing in his television series Civilisation, linking Mondrian to Pieter Saenredam’s 17th-century paintings of spare, whitewashed Calvinist church interiors.)
The Protestant Reformation had many personalities. One of them, ejected from the mainstream of European history in Darwinian fashion, was “crazy as all hell.” (Read about the Kingdom of Münster and tell me that, even correcting the record implicitly for propaganda and prejudice, this wasn’t just 16th-century ISIL.) When commentators talk of an “Islamic Reformation” they are looking back at reformers of tolerant, generous spirit, scholars like Erasmus and Melanchthon who infused the word “humanist” with the positive connotations it still has.
The Kingdom of Münster was founded by fanatic Anabaptists after throwing out the existing Lutheran local council and driving away the Bishop and his troops in 1534:
So in 1534, with most non-Anabaptist men leaving and large number of Anabaptists immigrating into the city to be part of the upcoming “big show”, the city council (to this point solidly Lutheran) was taken over legally by the Anabaptists, and the ruling Bishop of the city was driven out of the town. But the Bishop and his soldiers (they had such things then) did not go far. Unhappy with the treatment they received, they laid siege to the city and blocked any supplies from entering and leaving the city.
With everything falling into place, the people of the city began to refer to themselves as “Israelites” and the city as “New Jerusalem”. Jan Matthys now introduced the idea of a community of goods and all property of all citizens who left (sorry ladies, there’s a new sheriff in town) was confiscated and all food was made public. People could keep what they had, but they were required to leave their houses unlocked at all times. The use of money was eliminated, and all resourced were now pooled for the common good. No longer was there any idea of private property, everything was owned by the public.
One day, convinced and prophesying that God would protect him, Matthys rode out to meet some of the Bishops troops who were laying siege to the city. Charging right into a group of opposing soldiers, Jan Matthys proved a poor prophet and was made quick work of by the soldiers. The soldiers placed his head on a pole for the entire town to see, and did other really, really bad things to his body.
And the story may have ended there (sound familiar), but on of the people Matthys had baptized earlier was a charismatic young man named Jan van Leyden. The story goes that after Matthys’ death, van Leyden is said to have run through the streets naked, foaming at the mouth, and speaking incoherently before collapsing and remaining unresponsive for 3 days. Van Leyden claimed that God revealed many things to him during these three days, and things in Strasberg were going to change. Oh were they ever.
After a few victories over the bishop’s armies, van Leyden had himself anointed “King of Righteousness” and the “King of Zion” – the absolute prophet and ruler of the city whose word was equivalent to God’s. Any resistance to his rule was ruthlessly suppressed.
Van Leyden then instituted polygamy in the city. He used the Old Testament to justify it (like all great nut jobs), but it was well known that van Leyden had a desire for Matthys’ young widow. But aside from lust (van Leyden had 16 wives!!!), polygamy did serve a practical purpose in the city. It helped deal with a ratio of women to men in the city being about 3 to 1, and also was seen as a way to increase the population of the city to 144,000 (required for the beginning of the end).
At this point, a few people became a little unhappy with the “direction” the city is moving. Van Leyden, a master of persuasion, had all resisters are executed (men) or imprisoned (women). One of these “unhappy” people was one of van Leyden’s 16 wives. In a “women belong it the kitchen” moment, van Leyden publicly beheaded her himself and trampled on her body.
February 11, 2017
… most nations of Central and Eastern Europe were occupied by or allied with Germany during this period. The Nazis made it clear that deporting their Jews to the concentration camps in Nazi territory was a condition for continued good relations; a serious threat, when bad relations could turn a protectorate-type situation into an outright invasion and occupation.
Pride of place goes to Denmark and Bulgaria, both of which resisted all Nazi demands despite the Germans having almost complete power over them. Most people have heard the legend of how, when the Germans ordered that all Jews must wear gold stars, the King of Denmark said he would wear one too. These kinds of actions weren’t just symbolic; without cooperation from the Gentile population and common knowledge of who was or wasn’t Jewish, the Nazis had no good way to round people up for concentration camps. Nothing happened until 1943, when Himmler became so annoyed that he sent his personal agent Rolf Gunther to clean things up. Gunther tried hard but found the going impossible. Danish police refused to go door-to-door rounding up Jews, and when Gunther imported police from Germany, the Danes told them that they couldn’t break into apartments or else they would arrest them for breaking and entering. Then the Danish police tipped off Danish Jews not to open their doors to knocks since those might be German police. When it became clear that the Nazis weren’t going to accept any more delays, Danish fishermen offered to ferry Jews to neutral Sweden for free. In the end the Nazis only got a few hundred Danish Jews, and the Danish government made such a “fuss” (Arendt’s word) about them that the Nazis agreed to send them all to Theresienstadt, their less-murderous-than-usual camp, and let Red Cross observers in to make sure they were treated well. In the end, only 48 Danish Jews died in the entire Holocaust.
Bulgaria’s resistance was less immediately heroic, and looked less like the king proudly proclaiming his identity with oppressed people everywhere than with the whole government just dragging their feet so long that nothing got done. Eichmann sent an agent named Theodor Dannecker to get them moving, but as per Arendt:
not until about six months later did they take the first step in the direction of “radical” measures – the introduction of the Jewish badge. For the Nazis, even this turned out to be a great disappointment. In the first place, as they dutifully reported, the badge was only a “very little star”; second, most Jews simply did not wear it; and, third, those who did wear it received “so many manifestations of sympathy from the misled population that they actually are proud of their sign” – as Walter Schellenberg, Chief of Counterintelligence in the R.S.H.A., wrote in an S.D. report transmitted to the Foreign Office in November, 1942. Whereupon the Bulgarian government revoked the decree. Under great German pressure, the Bulgarian government finally decided to expel all Jews from Sofia to rural areas, but this measure was definitely not what the Germans demanded, since it dispersed the Jews instead of concentrating them.
The Bulgarians continued their policy of vaguely agreeing in principle to Nazi demands and then doing nothing, all the way until the Russians invaded and the time of danger was over. The result was that not a single Bulgarian Jew died in the Holocaust.
Scott Alexander, “Book review: Eichmann in Jerusalem”, Slate Star Codex, 2017-01-30.
February 7, 2017
Published on 6 Feb 2017
1916, the Year of Battles, had strained Germany’s resources everywhere but especially on the Western Front they needed to defend their captured territory against an ever growing number of Entente Forces. Erich Ludendorff decided to shorten the front line where possible and built a new “Defence In Depth” line: The Siegfried Line. This defensive network was supposed to grind the Entente forces down while freeing up more German resources.
February 6, 2017
There were a lot of generals involved in the campaign in northern France and Flanders that began on June 14, 1815, and culminated in the memorable Battle of Waterloo on June 18th. Altogether there were 240 of them, to command nearly 360,000 troops. And since the troops came from a lot of different armies — British, French, Prussian, Netherlands, Hanover, Brunswick, and a few others, telling the generals apart can be a bit confusing.
Note that the rank structure is not really comparable to that prevailing today in the U.S. Army. The functional equivalent of a British major general or a French general de brigade or marechal de camp would actually be brigadier general based on their commands. The French rank system was actually much more complicated than may appear from the table. To begin with, the highest actual rank in the army was general de division. Marechal de l’Empire was technically a distinction, not a rank. Now it gets really complicated. A corps commander who was officially a general de division might by courtesy be designated a general de corps d’armee. However, a general de division might also sometimes be referred to as a lieutenant-general, particularly if he was functioning in a staff position. Meanwhile, the chief-of-staff of the army was designated major general. In addition, an officer commanding a brigade was more likely to be designated a marechal de camp (i.e., “field marshal”) rather than general de brigade, which was reserved for officers with special duties, such as the commanders of the regiments of the Garde Imperial. This complexity had developed as a result of the Revolution, which favored functional titles for military officers, chef de battailon for example, rather than major. Unfortunately, staff personnel often required rank, so the old Royal hierarchical titles of rank survived for a long time alongside the functional Revolutionary ones.
Further complicating matters was the fact that in all the armies an officer’s social rank was often used rather than his military rank. Thus, although Wellington was a Field Marshal he was usually referred to as “His Grace, the Duke” without his military rank. In Wellington’s case this could become quite complicated, as he was a duke thrice over, the Portuguese and Spanish having created him such even before the British, and he was also a Prince of the Netherlands. As each of these gave him a different title, references to him in Portuguese, Spanish, or Dutch works can easily become obscure. For example, to the Portuguese he was the Duque de Douro, and one Portuguese language history of the Peninsular War nowhere uses any other name for him. Then there is the problem of multiple ranks. Wellington, for example, was a field marshal in the British, Prussian, Netherlands, and Portuguese armies, as well as being a Capitan General in the Spanish Army. Although none of the other officers in the campaign had so many different ranks, several held more than one. For example, the Prince of Orange was a Dutch field marshal and a general in the British Army, while the Duke of Brunswick, who commanded his division in his capacity as duke, was also a lieutenant-general in the British Army.
Al Nofi, “Al Nofi’s CIC”, Strategy Page, 2000-02-01.
February 3, 2017
Published on 2 Feb 2017
This week 100 years ago, Germany goes all in and resumes unrestricted submarine warfare, their goal is to starve Britain out of the war before Germany cannot continue the war. All doubts are brushed aside and all shipping around the British Isles will be sunk without warning. At the same time, the economic situation in Russia gets worse and worse and winter prevents any major action.
January 27, 2017
Published on 26 Jan 2017
Germany is about to unleash unrestricted submarine warfare again which might draw the United States into the conflict – but the Germans are not worried. The German Kaiser is instigating with his sister in Greece and Nivelle has big plans for a decisive battle in spring.
January 22, 2017
Published on 20 Jan 2017
Indy sits in the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions about the First World War. This time we talk about the German Jäger Corps, the Pickelhaube and compare the Russian Army of WW1 to the Soviet Army of WW2.