In Flanders Fields

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Some time ago I was talking to older son about some of my regrets.  As regrets go, mine aren’t massive.  I’m still married to the love of my life, I have two wonderful sons.

Are there things I could have done differently?  Many.  Some of them, of course, would require prescience, some only that we overcome the goofy fears of youth and take the plunge, such as moving to Colorado six or seven years earlier.  My heart told me that’s where we should be, but–  how were we to know?  Dan had never been here, I’d never been here and we knew no one here.  There was nothing but the yearnings of a little 8 year old in Portugal who was so ill informed she thought Denver was by the sea, but who wanted to move to Denver and be a writer, both unlikely experiences. It’s a miracle I took the plunge at all, and that Dan indulged me, let alone that we didn’t do it earlier.

In this case, I was telling older son about the bath we took on our starter home in Charlotte, NC, and how we should instead have bought the house we really wanted, which we decided was too expensive per square foot (but which was in a neighborhood that was gentrifying and going up like a rocket, so we’d have doubled our purchase price in the five years we owned that first house.  Besides its being the house we really wanted.)

And older son, who sometimes is wise beyond his years said, “Yeah, but you do what you can with what you know at the time.  You can’t make yourself know more, and you can’t be mad at yourself for what you didn’t know then.”

Which brings us to Memorial Day and Flanders fields.

I’ve come to have a strong desire to visit the battle fields of World War I.  Someday it will happen, if I live long enough.  Mostly because I’m conflicted about World War I.  Was it needed?  Was it the best we could have done?  Was it useful?

If Europe was going to end up united under a German aegis, couldn’t we have done it without killing the best of the youth of Europe?

WWI was the last of the good ol’ European wars where, periodically, for no reason at all, a country would go on a rampage.

And was what we lost in WWI so bad?  Compared, say to the Napoleonic wars?

Was the reason that WWI hit so hard the fact that it was a war you could take the train to, and one that the press made a spectacle of?

Or was it because it wasn’t — the Keiser not withstanding — a war not for king and country, but for country and state.  The first “industrial” state war, the foretelling of what was to come in the 20th century.

Would, had WWI not happened, Russian (to quote the prophecies of Fatima) “been allowed to spread its errors throughout the world.”

Would nothing like WWII have happened, or would it have happened harder, faster, from a great height?  Would the crazy ideas of racial supremacy and — ick — “genetic hygiene” quote even by the decent people of the early twentieth century have lead to something far more horrific than WWII, something backed by a united Europe that hadn’t lost its self-righteousness?

No one knows.

Were the stories of German soldiers committing atrocities throughout Belgium a fabrication of the press to bolster nations into war?

No one knows.

There is no “control world” against which we can test the decisions that were less than wonderful in results int his world.

They did what they could with what they knew at the time.  And millions of young men — somewhere between 9 and 11 million — marched away to defend their country, according to the best understanding of the world at the time, and their best understanding of what would keep their family alive and safe.

And they died.  They died horribly.  So many of them that those fields still give up human bodies.

And the innocence of Europe died with them, ushering in an era of mass murder by state apparatus.

Did their sacrifice help or hinder what was to come?  No one knows.

We know they fought and died for country, for home, for their culture, for decency and civilization.

In Flanders fields they sleep beneath the poppy fields, the best and brightest of their generation, waiting the final reveille and the final understanding, when they’ll know perhaps that their sacrifice was not in vain after all.

They did the best they could with what could be known at the time.

No one can do more.  May we, should it be required of us, have the courage to do as well.

159 responses to “In Flanders Fields

  1. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We SHALL remember them.

  2. Given how Russia and Germany and Austria were poking at each other, I suspect that something would have happened at some point. Perhaps the Third Balkan War would have come in 1916 instead of 1992. Perhaps Russia would have kicked it off directly instead of via Serbia. It wasn’t inevitable – nothing is – but my sense is that tensions had ratcheted up too high for the fault-line not to slip at least a little. *shrug* That’s just looking at the Eastern Front and the mess in the Balkans in the 1910s. There’s a lot I don’t know about Europe and Britain in the 1910s, too.

    • Everything I’ve seen said it was pretty inevitable, too. I just don’t think it was a war that this country should have gotten into, based on what I got in my college history class.

    • I think it was inevitable that Germany, France, and Russia were going to get into something.

      Once that happened, it was probably inevitable that Britain would have ended up involved too, although I don’t know that it was inevitable that it would have ended up on the French-Russian side. Someone would probably have pissed them off enough that they’d have come in, but a lot of the late Victorians were in favor of a strong relationship with Germany, and there had been some serious diplomatic tension between Russia and England not very long before.

      Would Austria necessarily get involved? I think they’d try hard to stay out of it if it was Germany’s conflict rather than their own, but given the problems between Austria and Russia with the South Slavs, someone would use the larger European conflict as an excuse to start hashing things out.

      Most of the other European countries such as Italy and Romania strike me as largely wild cards. They could join either side or sit things out entirely depending on how things progressed.

      And that’s not even getting into the Ottomans or the Americans…

      • Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor when he did because his father, Frederick, died of throat cancer after only 100 days on the throne. Bother Frederick and his wife Vicky (daughter of queen Victoria) were much more liberal (in the old sense of the term) than was their son…especially Vicky, whose influence on Frederick was considerable.

        Per your point about inevitability, if Frederick had remained as emperor there would likely have been some kind of conflict, with France in particular, but I think it likely would have been much more limited.

        Frederick and Vicky were both admirable people in many ways, but they failed at what in retrospect was their most important job: the raising of their son.

        • Winston Churchill said that Wilhelm II’s over-reaction to everything was not surprising, given his being born to be the ultimate war leader, the All-Highest (to use the Prussian title), and physically unable to fight. His deformity was hard to work around in a culture that emphasized being a Manly Man and warlord.

          (Depending which medical historian you read, either he had a uterine stroke before birth, the doctors mis-handled a breech birth, or he was mal-positioned in the womb and it retarded development of his left arm. Either way the limb was not truly functional.)

          • It’s interesting to speculate on how he might have developed with two good arms.

        • I think the Russia one was probably inevitable too, even with Frederick. Bismark had set up a complicated system of alliances that was more or less guaranteed to fall apart the second he wasn’t in charge of maintaining it.

    • Just my opinion, but aside from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, I think the other big issues of the day were the Anglo-German naval race, and French Revanchism. Yes there were other issues, but without those other two big issues added in, the complete cluster that came about seems unlikely.

    • I think it would have come, drawn by any number of provocations. I did a an essay — maybe a book review a while ago — saying that in the twenty or thirty years before the war the Great Powers suffered from constant outbreaks, like a poisonous rash, all covered up by the soothing calamine lotion of diplomacy … until the next time.

      I’ve thought about — and readers have urged me to carry up the experiences of the Texas-Germans that I have written about into WWI. I can’t, just yet. There was so much lost; optimism, faith, hope in progress …
      I have visited a WWI battlefield, actually – Verdun. It’s a somber, haunted place. One of the very best books about visiting the Western Front battlefields is by Gene Smith, who visited fifty years later. The book was excerpted in American Heritage, and I read it as a teenager. The book is still available: https://www.amazon.com/Still-quiet-Western-Front-fifty/dp/B0007DZTPQ

      • I suspect you’re right, collapse of the Great Powers was inevitable. The Hapsburg and Ottoman empires were tottering and their collapse merely a matter of time. Power vacuums were forming tumors and metastasizing rapidly.

        • *Wags paw* Eh, the Habsburgs were not quite so tottering as they seem in retrospect. There’s been a fairly good chunk of recent research that suggests that there was a lot of support for the Habsburgs within the Empire – but not from the people who were doing the writing and later wrote the histories. Judson’s _The Habsburg Empire_ goes into detail about it, among others. If the Western powers hadn’t been so set on revenge, a Habsburg Commonwealth might well have developed.

          • The fact that some of the nations formed from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire were founded by nationalists who’d fought on the Allied side, or politicians affiliated with said nationalists, might have colored things, as well. The Czech and Slovak Legion wasn’t exactly filled with devoted admirers of the Habsburgs, for example.

            • the chief source of Allied spies in the US during the war was a Czeckloslovkian nationalist organization (because they were chiefly interested in the embassies of the enemies, and the organization had a lot of members who could be hired for speaking the language.)

    • Maybe we would’ve gone straight into a “scientific” war like WWII without so many of the European countries being weaker?

      Not like the appeal of the half-truths would’ve been any LESS.

  3. We are a warlike species. Difficult to keep us from it for long. For every better alternate world there’s a much worse one. It is what it is. All you can do is the best you can in the moment with what you have to hand. What gets to me is the fate of the captive nations after WWII.

  4. A recent book (Forgotten Victory, Gary Sheffield) makes the contrarian argument that the War was indeed necessary (from Britain’s standpoint) and that the Allied military leadership (particularly British) was not as incompetent as generally portrayed, and did exhibit the ability to learn from experience and to innovate.

    I’ve read the book, but not totally convinced either way.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      From what I’ve heard the “incompetence” of the Allied Military Leadership was more the differences in the type of warfare and the lack of means to keep High Command aware of what was happening on the front lines.

      The range of the new artillery meant that the High Command had to be placed very far from the front lines and it took hours for the High Command to learn “what was happening on the front live” & hours for new orders to “reach the front lines”.

      While radio existed, portable radios (to be used on the front lines) didn’t exist. So people on the front lines couldn’t quickly inform High Command what was happening. In addition, with actions happening on the front line miles apart, a leader in one area of the front lines couldn’t know what was happening elsewhere on the front lines.

      As for the necessity of WW1 (for the British or anybody), from my readings I think that matters in Europe made the war unstoppable. IE If it didn’t happen when it did, it may have happened later anyway.

      Mind you, I think a case can be made for the stupidity of leaders on both sides being a “cause” for the war.

      • Battlefield radio, not so much. Marine radio, definitely yes. And in the 90% of the war iceberg – the civilian infrastructure – there was radio, telegraphy, and even telephony, making the supply chain *much* more responsive to military needs than before.

        Also remember that France wasn’t just leaning on the British Commonwealth and the USA; they had all of French Africa and French Indochina propping up their war effort. The Germans were dug in like a tick in a belly button, but they were facing something on the order of 80% of the industrial capacity of the whole world.

        Then, with the end in sight, we had one of those historical WTFs where an armistice was snatched from the jaws of absolute victory, and Wilson somehow dictating borderline insane terms to all of Europe. By 1939 I bet most of Europe regretted not telling Wilson to fribble off.

        • The thing about the November 1918 armistice was that the only person willing to continue the war was Pershing. Everyone else was, to put it mildly, sick and tired of the thing, and so the moment the Germans said “We surrender,” the Allies jumped on it.
          I find it difficult to blame them, but what happened next was their fault.
          As to Wilson’s peace terms, worth noting is that the key factor for all of the decision-making at Versailles was that everyone had paid a massive price for the war, and all of the political leaders thought they had to present their electorates with concrete gains. The only real exception to this was…Wilson.

      • Stupidity of SOMEBODY’S leaders is usually the cause of war. Often all sides, sometimes only one or two of more.

        • I have never found a better explanation of why wars start than David Drake’s: “Wars result when one side either misjudges its chances or wishes to commit suicide; and not even Masada began as a suicide attempt. In general, both warring parties expect to win. In the event, they are wrong more than half the time.”

          There’s also G’Kar’s great insight: “We all do what we do for the same reason: it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

      • Dan Hamilton

        The over the top to attack the enemies trenches, was without a doubt the stupidest tactic ever devised. Any and ALL generals that ordered those should have been shot as soon as they gave the orders. Shot by ANY officer that heard them because of shear stupidity. Especially after they were carried out once or twice. ANY Officer worth anything should have done it even at the cost of his life. Millions of lives would have been saved.
        Just sit tight and let the enemy destroy themselves attacking YOUR Trenches.
        On most attacks there was NO POSSIBILITY of accomplishing anything. There were multiple trench lines and even if you took the first one, you had to get a completely new force to try and take the next while getting supplies to the first force which was just about impossible. The enemy from the other trenches just took them back from the warn out, ill supplied, troops that had taken them.
        I hope that I would have had the guts to shoot those stupid (*&^%%#@#$&*^(*^*%^$#^ generals as they deserved.

    • From Britain’s standpoint, I understand that their long-standing interests in the continental balance of power and naval superiority were threatened by a strengthening Germany. Naval superiority was considered critical to protecting the lines of supply to a nation that had too many people for its own resources. The threat to Britain of one nation becoming dominant in continental Europe was largely a matter of being concerned with that one nation both being able to control British access to continental resources, and that one nation having the werewithal to build a stronger navy than Britain’s.

  5. “And older son, who sometimes is wise beyond his years said, “Yeah, but you do what you can with what you know at the time. You can’t make yourself know more, and you can’t be mad at yourself for what you didn’t know then.””

    This is an really important insight, and one that historians, and commenters on history, would do well to seriously consider.

    In my post on Dresden (the bombing, and the German movie that was made about it), I wrote:

    “Some reviewers (of the film) were also highly critical of the fact that the attack took place so late in the war–one referred to “the decision to bomb a great, cultured city when Germany was already on its knees.”

    It was indeed pretty clear in February 1945 that Germany was facing defeat, and a traditional national leader–a Bismarck, or even a Kaiser Wilhelm–would almost certainly have elected to surrender. But Germany was not being run by a normal leader. The Nazis clearly intended to fight to the end, and they had convinced a substantial portion of the population that defeat would mean personal disaster for all Germans. (This was amplified by the fact that–although most Germans did not know the details of the Holocaust–they did know that horrible things had been done in their names, and many suspected that retribution was likely.)

    While the war continued, thousands of people were being killed every day. No one knew what additional tricks the Nazi leadership had up their sleeve–another secret weapon? Another massive ground attack along the lines of the one that brought on the Battle of the Bulge? ***No one knew, in February 1945, what the date of V-E day would be***.

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/47554.html

    • Some reviewers (of the film) were also highly critical of the fact that the attack took place so late in the war–one referred to “the decision to bomb a great, cultured city when Germany was already on its knees.

      On its knees but not yet fallen. How can they be so sure the Reich wouldn’t develop nor deploy weapons of mass destruction? Hindsight is a luxury afforded only the victors.

      • My point exactly.

      • One of my father’s favorite books about WWII (during which he served in Oak Ridge TN) was the memoir of a man whose task was to follow upon intelligence about German technological developments. According to my father’s recounting of the book, there was an anxious period when the allies were getting lots of indications that the Germans were making quantities of heavy water. It turned out that a good deal of it was being used by one of Hitler’s quack doctors to make (aming other things) toothpaste.

      • Mike Houst

        Rules of War
        Rule Number 1: Know your end goal.
        Rule Number 2: Fight to win.
        Rule Number 3: Stop the other guy, and if you can, don’t get killed doing it. (Yes, it’s usually guys, and sometimes the only way for your side to win is to get yourself killed doing it.)
        Rule Number 4: Don’t waste your people for nothing.

    • It meant personal disaster for far more Germans than we in the West generally recognize. The Poles were not gracious “victors”… Likewise, there were very good reasons in the last week of the war that the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe barely resisted the American advance, while fighting desperately to slow down the Soviets.

      Give the fleeing civilians as much time as possible to get beyond the clutches of the Red Army.

      https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP7.ADDENDA.HTM#S4

      • Not that it excuses it, but the Poles had a lot to be pissed about, including the losing the eastern quarter of their nation to the Ukraine and Belorussia by Soviet fiat, after years of nasty Nazi and Soviet occupation.

  6. A book a picked up years ago (still have to finish actually) discusses the causes and reasons for the first world war (actually several wars). Donald Kagan “On the Origins of War” looks at causes before the first bullet is fired in anger. WWI was complex in it’s cause and he went into great detail about the years that lead to the entire conflict. When I find it after I move I may pick it up again and try to finish it.

    https://www.amazon.ca/Origins-War-Preservation-Peace/dp/0385423756/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1527535483&sr=1-5&keywords=kagan

  7. Ken Mitchell

    A Song for Memorial Day

  8. My mother made much of the point that every innovation and horror of WWI was prefigurd by the American Civil War….which the European militaries had largely ignored.

    How accurate is that? I’m not in a position to say. It’s an interesting angle, though.

    • Gatling gun was first introduced in civil war, and then machine gun in world war one, which were entirely different from any weapon previously invented.

      • Americans moved artillary around a good deal, the effects of which were ignored. Trench wrarfare was,prefigured by the Vicksberg campaign. Much larger numbers of men survived being mutilated on the battlefield, causing logistics nightmares. Use of trains. All kinds of things.

        • Also – aerial reconnaissance.

          • Aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting by tethered balloons is the source of the expression “the balloon goes up.” It could be quite effective.
            Other means aerial reconnaissance was sometimes effective, but without radio, effective air-ground communications were very poor. The intelligence they gathered could be of vital importance, but only on lucky days were recon flights that it able to get it to people who needed it in time for it to be of use, not even taking into account anti-aircraft fire, engine problems, or enemy fighters.

            • As an old Boy Scout, I can tell you that semaphore or Morse code by lights actually provide good air to ground communications. Problem is the message speed is usually much slower than radio, is subject to interception by the enemy (unless coded), requires line-of-sight, and can be interrupted by smoke and weather conditions.

              • The poor state of air-ground communications in WWI were as much a problem of training and practice as of technology, particularly on the ground side. The means to communicate from ground to air were often destroyed, misplaced, or otherwise lost during advances, even when they have potentially been employed in the chaotic mess. The people trained to read messages from planes were often in the wrong place, dead, or too busy trying to deal with not getting killed to bother watching for and relating the messages being sent from the air. There were some successes, but they never fully worked out the kinks before the war ended. The tethered balloons and dirigibles had a major advantage there, with field telephone and radio, respectively.

    • Not just the ACW, but also an Ottoman vs. Russia vs. Bulgaria spat (complicated). The Ottomans had machine guns in trenched positions up-slope of the attackers, with predictable results. But that’s not how wars were really fought. Likewise what the observers and Brits saw in the Boer War, but again, that wasn’t a traditional, “real war.” So some of the pieces were there, but not in the right places.

    • The ACW was a period of great development of military arms, as is true in most wars. Use of the Minie ball followed by cartridge breechloaders and repeating arms escalated battlefield rate of fire by an order of magnitude. Then there was exploding artillery shells and cased shot both of which proved devastating. And as mentioned late entry of the Gatling, the precursor to automatic machine guns. The introduction of observation balloons turned battlefields three dimensional. The ACW also saw advances in the medical treatment of battlefield trauma.
      And fifty years later by 1915 we saw machine guns, tanks, aircraft, and artillery capable of reaching tens of miles away.

      • snelson134

        And let’s not forget the logistics; the ACW was what showed the capabilities of railroads to keep armies supplied with those more material-intensive weapons.

    • Less than is popularly thought. The Franco-Prussian war was more influential.

      The really big headache in the First World War was the mobility dissonance. Troops could be moved quickly by rail from one part of the front to another, but once they got off the trains, they were on foot. Meaning it wasn’t possible to effect a breach in the lines. Worse, there were enough troops to enable strong lines anchored on the Channel at one end, the Alps on the other. Attacking that kind of position demands a very thorough interdiction of the area to be attacked, then a frontal assault…painful, but feasible. Think World War II in the Pacific.

      • That, and the fact that the Germans made highly effective use of motorized troops, including motorcycles for short range reconaissance. Foch and the Allied command knew all about rivers, canals, and rail, but they had a hard time adjusting to the idea of how fast small units could move over the roads. They had trouble seeing threats smaller than a division and failed to protect a number of important resources from German hit-and-run attacks.

    • I have been under the impression that the European militaries had ample people observing the War of Southern Secession.

      Certainly the Prussians deployed lessons learned about the use of rail for moving men & materiel in their war on France in the decade following.

      Which is not to say the Europeans learned anything important about industrial war. The capacity of men to preserve ignorance is apparently unlimited.

      • Great Britain, for instance, took only long enough to get official reports of the Monitor before it canceled all existing contracts to build ships, scrapped those being built,and ordered ship designers to create a new design. Because the great lesson was
        1. iron-clads were the future
        2. They would need BIG GUNS to deal with the other ships’ being iron-clad.

      • And the allies figured out that a locomotive on rails was quite vulnerable to P-47s. In a war of logistics, you don’t always need the best tank or battleship. OTOH, a few thousand Liberty ships and suitable numbers of trucks probably (certainly?) made the difference.

        • Which is what my late maternal grandfather did in WWII: he was sent from AR to Mobile AL, because he was an expert welder and pipefitter. It’s also what contributed to his death, because the asbestos fireproofing would be applied without many precautions.

    • snelson134

      To some extent, that’s true…. with one possible exception, the machine gun.

  9. Some of those atrocities, Sarah, clearly were _not_ fabrications.

    • Some. Not all. And the British hands were by no means clean. The declaration of food as contraband of war was without precedent. And the Q-ships took legally marginal deception to an extreme.

      • There’s an interesting memoir by Captain Georg von Trapp…yes, the Captain in ‘The Sound of Music’. He commanded an Austrian submarine in the Great War. He started out with a professional attitude, feeling no anger toward the enemy but, on the contrary, sympathy for those it was his duty to kill. This changed as he saw the effects on civilians of the Allied blockade:

        “It is exactly one year since I sank the Leon Gambetta; I can well remember how I had felt then. But…during this past year much has changed. I have been home on leave. There I watched my children eat beetroot; meat, vegetables, butter, and eggs are not even talked about anymore. I heard that gypsum was mixed into the flour for bread and that supposedly coffee was made of roasted May beetles.. When you had to eat the stuff, you could almost believe it. I have seen women who couldn’t nurse their own children because they themselves had nothing more to eat, and children, even very small ones, who had to be fed with a substitute tea…Today I would not have any scruples about sinking my first cruiser. Since my leave I understood what the enemy means by “war”—annihilation. And the whole future generation would be annihilated with it.”

        He also didn’t see much fairness in the American attitude, when we were still officially neutral:

        “resident Wilson has openly joined England’s side. He wants to eliminate the Central Powers’ most dangerous weapon, the U-boats, and with the cheap slogan: “upholding the most sacred of human rights” he pushes for the safe passage of passenger steamers. A free American citizen must be able to move about wherever he wants to, and on every steamer–even English ones–he must be certain of his life.

        At the same time, these transports filled with munitions and troops are dispatched to England and are armed. So woe if a Yankee war supplier gets a scratch when he happens to go to England to conclude his business! It is only luck that they have no business transactions in enemy trenches; if they had, they might also have to be under protection there.”

        I reviewed the book here:

        https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/43171.html

        • Another heartbreaking and fictional read – the various Otto Prohaska novels. https://www.amazon.com/Otto-Prohaska-Novels-Book/dp/B01ABSM0R6
          Basically, our hero is a sailor and captain of an Austrian WWI U-boat in the Adriatic. He survives to a very great age, and tells the story (in parts) to the handyman at the old-age home he lives in at the end of his life – the very last survivor and relic of an empire long gone, which disintegrated under his feet at the end of the First War. (He seems to have gone on to serving in the Polish Navy, later on.) An excellent book – someone on the Ace of Spades Sunday morning book thread recommended it, and I wound up getting them all.

        • Georg von Trapp was a steely-eyed submariner. Top Austro-Hungarian U-Boat ace, IIRC.

        • The Von Trapp book is available from Amazon. Title: To The Last Salute.

        • The Nazis were utterly certain that this suffering caused the “stab in the back.”

          Hence the appalling suffering they inflicted on occupied territories to keep the war suffering as far from Germany as they could. Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State by Götz Aly is good on the topic. Of course, that led to a can of worms of its own.

      • Andrew Cowling

        Mike M. said: “the declaration of food as contraband of war was without precedent.”

        That is false. To cite an example that was in living memory for those involved in the Great War, there was the Pacific Blockade of Siam by the French in the late 19th Century, where Siamese rice exports were considered Contraband of War… (I’m fairly sure that naval operations in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars also considered food to be Contraband of War, and the principle can be seen in earlier conflicts.)

      • Re Food as contraband.

        Isn’t this an extension of siege warfare?

        • Yep.

          • It sounds like the original thinking for strategic bombing: go after the noncombatants in the hope that they’ll persuade/pressure/revolt the powers that be into submission. Didn’t work for strategic bombing in WW II, either. (At least until August, 1945, and that wasn’t so much the people, but competing factions in the Japanese government.)

            • Up until fairly recently, historically speaking, there were no such thing as “noncombatants” except for practical purposes.
              It’s a conceit* of modern Western Enlightenment thinking.

              (* Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely something that other cultures don’t really have the luxury of.)

              • Industrial warfare dictate destruction of the enemy’s industrial capacity for war. All industry is thus a legitimate target.

              • The actual document for “the Church banned crossbows” (it’s complicated) was more like a “try to stop really bad war crimes”– it also said you couldn’t shoot farmers, or merchants, or priests who happened to be in the area not doing anything. Believe it’s the one where they said if you were killed jousting you weren’t allowed a Church burial, either, because it was so stupid that it was kinda like suicide…..now I need to go find it.

              • Here we go!

                https://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/LATERAN2.HTM

                11. We also prescribe that priests, clerics, monks, pilgrims, merchants and peasants, in their coming and going and their work on the land, and the animals with which they plough and carry seeds to the fields, and their sheep {10}, be left in peace at all times.

                Keeping in mind that they wouldn’t have to tell folks “stop that” if they weren’t already doing it, and that the Church only had authority over Catholics…it didn’t stop.

                Oh, and the whole “they banned crossbows because it was hard on knights” thing?
                here’s the quote:
                29. We prohibit under anathema that murderous art of crossbowmen and archers, which is hateful to God, to be employed against Christians and Catholics from now on.

                The actual issue was that the tactic involved trying to carpet the area with arrows– and wounding was actually better than a clean kill, since you only had to bury the dead, but the wounded and maimed were a constant drag that would last even after battle had ended.

                • Thanks. Bookmarked for later reading for flavour stuff.

                  • Much luck to you! It’s a bit of a pet peeve, because “everybody knows” that the “only” banned the crossbow because lords were getting killed…. /argh

                • since you only had to bury the dead, but the wounded and maimed were a constant drag that would last even after battle had ended
                  Which is still a consideration today in terms of strategy.
                  AND……
                  A primary consideration in writing the Geneva Conventions! It’s why frangible bullets and non-metallic ones were banned, along with flechettes.

                  (And, yes, the “killing lords” thing was a consideration. The Roman church, was, after all, enmeshed in politics at the time. But it certainly wasn’t how they justified it – to themselves or to anyone else – they had other very good reasons.)

                  • And, yes, the “killing lords” thing was a consideration. The Roman church, was, after all, enmeshed in politics at the time

                    Source?

                    Folks keep telling me this, but the claims always dead-end.

                    Seeing as I’ve got a rather large collection of evidence on these ‘everybody knows’ things, I wanna add to it. 🙂

                    • Fox, they were enmeshed in the politics of the time partly by acting like the UN and recognizing countries, etc.
                      Also most powerful clergymen were the children of noble houses (NOT ALL, not even close, but most certainly.)
                      Sources: all the histories of Europe since ever.

                    • True, but that isn’t the issue with the claim of “evil nasty Authority tried to ban crossbows because it let peasants kill the expensive knights.” And not just because the ban was on archers, too!

                      They could’ve very easily put in something about only knights battling knights or lords, for example– but didn’t.

                    • depends. Did they ban them only in war, or when lying in ambush on the roadside? Because if the second, I see the resemblance with our gun grabbers.

                    • The entire comment was this:
                      29. We prohibit under anathema that murderous art of crossbowmen and archers, which is hateful to God, to be employed against Christians and Catholics from now on.

                      And the supporting documentation was on the technique of carpeting an area with lots of random arrows, where the whole point was that you wouldn’t be killing, you’d be maiming.

                      I’m looking for if there’s any documentation on if it could get through knight-type armor, since most of the mentions I’ve seen were that it drove the development of issuing armor for even your fodder….. could still hurt the horse, of course, but if they’re far enough off for your arrows to not be a major risk for your own guys, that doesn’t do much.

                    • Seems to be strictly a matter of warfare, and the tactic of “mass arrow fire” was specifically to counter horses and unarmored men– so everybody but the knights, who were then surrounded, stripped and ransomed/sold.

                      A few mentions of guys getting REALLY bad luck and taking an arrow to the throat or similar.

                    • I used to be a writer, and then I took an arrow to the knee.

                    • “but if they’re far enough off for your arrows to not be a major risk for your own guys, that doesn’t do much. ”

                      Foxfier, the technical term for a knight off his horse in a melee was “dead”. Especially as the armor got thicker and heavier to try and keep the arrows out. And of course even a Clydesdale couldn’t carry complete protection for himself AND his rider. Not to mention that war-trained (or even steady on the battlefield, never mind trained to attack) were one expensive proposition and hard to come by.

                      So they aimed at the biggest target.

                    • Foxfier, the technical term for a knight off his horse in a melee was “dead”.

                      Not until quite a bit later, when you had enough money to have knights that weren’t nobles– and if you double check the development of armor, the lobster look was well in the future. They were still in the chain mail and helmets as the norm look.

                      And it’s getting well away from the point….

                  • … the “killing lords” thing was a consideration.

                    For one (very important) thing, ransoms paid for dead lords tended to be markedly smaller. Ransoms paid for ordinary soldiers tended not to distinguish between living and dead.

                    • For one (very important) thing, ransoms paid for dead lords tended to be markedly smaller.

                      ^^^^
                      There’s evidence of that being a consideration, IIRC.

                      Needless to say, for the guys who’d be ordering arrow storms, not the bishops making the council!

                    • Sure. But those might be their older/younger brothers.

                    • The Church, as shepherd of the flock, certainly desired its congregants become wealthy by refraining from mortal sin of murder (especially of geese capable of laying golden eggs which might be, in turn, donated to Mother Church for the benefit of all.)

                    • Who’d be very likely to be bearing the cost of the unarmored guys maimed by an arrow storm– combined with the ban on killing the peasants farmers and merchants, a very good argument that they didn’t want to see their families destroyed financially is well supported.

                      Especially since their moms, if still alive, would be among the starving.

    • The Guns of August has an entire chapter on them using only neutral or German sources.

    • Obviously some wouldn’t be. But when I went chasing down the WWI rabbit hole — a depressing one — some years ago, a lot of them seemed to have been/

  10. I live in same city, Guelph, where author of In Flanders Fields was born. John McCrae’s childhood home turned into museum now and I go there every Remembrance Day and think about my great grandfather who was killed in world war one a month before my grandmother was born.

  11. It need not have been.
    The American Civil war, with its mass conscription, breech-loading cartridges, high explosive artillery, railroads, telegraphs, and balloons was a foretaste.
    Britain and Russia were still playing the Great Game in Asia and poking at each other and at the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman empire hadn’t quit fighting Austria over the Balkans. Austria and Germany were poking at each other. Germany was a latecomer to colonialism and was pushing for its proper share of the world. France and Germany were also poking at each other and had been for most of a thousand years. It seems that everyone who was anyone in Europe was spoiling for a fight of some kind.
    Those who fought were betrayed by their own leaders, who promised peace, prosperity, and civilization…through means of mass destruction. Decency and humanity met machine guns, artillery, gas, and dysentery in and between the trenches, and came out wounded and disfigured. The Second World War was in many respects a continuation of the First.
    I, too, mourn the loss of the brilliant and the brave, the careless waste of tens of thousands for blind, stupid pride and a few square miles of territory. There is nothing I can do for them but remember, and beware those who would buy a little pride, a little gold, and a little security, with other men’s blood.
    Should I be called on to give this last sacrifice (which thankfully does not seem likely) may I have better cause and achieve more.

    • Britain and Russia were … poking at each other and at the Ottoman Empire. … Austria and Germany were poking at each other. … France and Germany were also poking at each other
      IOW, the Cold War, at least from a certain angle (all the proxy wars). Interesting.
      Which makes Reagan even more important, I think.

  12. Hindsight is ALWAYS 20-20, foresight seldom is. We weren’t there, Nor do we actually ‘know’ what was in the minds of the leaders at the time. As others have said, they did what they thought was right at that time and place, with what they knew and expected AT THAT TIME. Whether or not it should have happened is moot. It happened, and wiped out most of a generation of males from Britain, France, and Germany. The US stayed out of the war for 3 years, until the Germans restarted unrestricted submarine ops in war-zone waters. February 3, 1917, the American cargo ship, Housatonic, was torpedoed by German submarines. That was the key point, along with the Zimmerman telegram that brought the US into the war, to protect American sailor’s lives, and to protect the southern border. Again, what they knew at the time… RIght or wrong.

    • I’ve read that one of several factors in Mexico turning down the Zimmerman offer was that the generals and other staff officers studying the issue for President Carranza thought that trying to subdue millions of well-armed American civilians would be a nightmare, even if they defeated the US forces then in northern Mexico and arrayed along the border. (IIRC, over 15K from the regular Army in Mexico plus over 100K from the National Guard on the border.)

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        IIRC Mexico at that time had plenty of internal problems and wasn’t in any position to fight anybody (let alone the US).

        Of course, the US knew the Mexican situation and for all our annoyance concerning Germany’s message to Mexico knew that Mexico couldn’t do anything.

        On the gripping hand, German couldn’t really do anything to help Mexico.

        • But the situation gave Woodrow Wilson (damn his eyes!) another excuse for involving us in a war for the benefit of his beloved British.

          Now, I like the British too. But the war was only tangentally any of our goddamned business, the European powers would make goddamned sure we,recieved no benefit from it, and the elites of France and Britain wer so determned to scapegoat Germany for EVERYTHING that was horrible that they forced a ’peace’ treaty that ensured another war in short order, and built a sense of persecution among the Germans that greatly helped a vermin like Hitler to rise to power.

          The only good thing Schicklgruber did was put the stink on Eugenics, hitherto a popular idea among Progressives like Wilson.

          • I like the British too

            Indeed! A world in which we depend upon the Germans for sit-coms, costume dramas and police procedurals is too terrible to contemplate.

            Although a German Dr. Who is a fascinating proposition … I guess it depends upon whether he would be Prussian or Bavarian …

          • (Waggles hand) We fought World War I for the same reasons we fought WWII and the Cold War–we could not let a single power develop dominance over Europe, or, worse, Eurasia.
            In a world where we don’t join in on World War I, I suspect we would have had, at the least, a Transatlantic Cold War between us and the Second Reich.

        • By the time the Zimmerman Telegram had been sent, the worst of the Mexican Revolution was wrapping up – their new constitution would be completed early the next month, and the Villistas had largely been shattered by engagements with the Carrancistas and with the Punitive Expedition. The US Army had fought some minor skirmishes against the Carrancistas, the forces of the new government, as well. The Punitive Expedition was in the process of making a slow, organized withdrawal out of Chihuahua and back into New Mexico – in fact, General Pershing received orders to start the withdrawal a mere day before the Zimmerman Telegram was sent.

          It may have been risky for Carranza to send so many troops on an attack against the US, but it might also have helped cement internal support for the new regime if they’d been successful. “What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution” was not an idea unique to the Russian leadership, after all. OTOH, Mexican leaders knew America wasn’t going to take a full military assault lying down, and also knew that Germany’s promises of support were, if not questionable in their sincerity, at least questionable in their likelihood of coming to pass.

        • Mexico? internal problems? nevar!

      • Well, the simple factor was that Germany could not send weapons through the British blockade, and any money would be useless because the one country with a sizable armaments industry was the US.

        Belgium got bit by that: its orders for artillery were “delayed.”

  13. “And older son, who sometimes is wise beyond his years said, “Yeah, but you do what you can with what you know at the time. You can’t make yourself know more, and you can’t be mad at yourself for what you didn’t know then.””
    Very true, but to take a riff off comedian Ron White, ignorance can be corrected, but there ain’t no cure for stupid.
    I’ve run into far too many folks who seem to be ignorant and proud of that fact. There is such a thing as due diligence, and doing your homework, yet a whole bunch of people seem to want to reject that and make critical life decisions on the “feelz.” Quite common in liberal progressives and a lot of millenials from my observation.
    Always puzzles me how some would choose to play the game of life with ear plugs, an eye patch, and one hand tied behind their back, when a bit of research would make things ever so much easier on them.

  14. My Naval War College Strategy & Policy course went into the origins of the First World War. Which are complex. Everybody had a reason to fight…valid for about six months of warfare. The Austrians wanted revenge on Serbia for killing the heir to the throne, the Russians wanted to fight the Austrians to expand Russian power in the Balkans, the Germans were standing up for their Austrian allies (which they had left in the lurch a few years earlier) – but only had one war plan which called for dealing with France first, the French wanted revenge for the Franco-Prussian war, and the British wanted to whittle the High Seas Fleet down to size. And suffusing everything was a belief that a war would be quick, clean, and glorious.

    Needless to say, it didn’t work out. And there was a factor NOT covered in that class. The Allied powers were politically unstable. Russia was on the verge of a revolution, Britain had undergone a soft revolution a few years earlier (which took out the House of Lords as a counterbalance to the House of Commons), and France’s Third Republic held on mostly because they could not figure out what to replace it with. They could not make peace…because a peace would lead to political catastrophe.

    • And Austria-Hungary had a zillion nationalist groups who believed that their people should be their own independent nation, not part of the empire.

    • Rich Rostrom

      Austria didn’t really give a damn about Franz Ferdinand. The Emperor disliked his heir, and FF’s state funeral was almost perfunctory. Austria did want to destroy Serbia for inciting unrest among ethnic Serbians inside Austria-Hungary. Russia objected to Austria destroying a sovereign state (of Slavs) on a dubious excuse. Germany wanted to crush France, and incited Austria to force war on Serbia (the “blank check”) so that Russia would be drawn in and give Germany an excuse to attack Russia’s ally France.

  15. For a fictional treatment, Anne Perry has a 5-book World War I series which I would rate highly.

  16. Without those Flanders Fields Tolkein likely does not write the LOTR, and perhaps Lewis doesn’t accept Christianity and write his apologetics, nor Narnia nor the Perelandra trilogy. Many useless twits rise to the peerage and to governance, and likely the Progressives claim Divine Approval for their will.

    We never can know where goes the road not taken; we barely know the road we took.

    • Manchester viewed WWI and WII as the same conflict, with a pause for breath in between. You could justifiably include the Cold War as well.

      And in that time we saw the end of the Age of Empires, the rise of the Age of Ideologies, redrawing the maps of most of the polities of the world, and technological development jammed into Fast Forward. The V2 was the door to the Space Age; from satellites to Voyager. The bombes became general purpose computers, the US Air Force’s missile guidance program gave us the integrated circuit, the US Army’s logistics program spawned the Internet, the NSA actually ran the Internet backbone for years… Part of the electricity running my air conditioner comes from a nuclear powerplant 90 miles away; itself a descendant of technology from Los Alamos. The engines in the airliners that fly over my house are descendants of ones developed for the RAF, and so were the radar guiding them. The GPS system was developed by the US Air Force. The CIA paid for the first production SQL database. Almost everything that makes our world notably different from 1918 is, in the end, a spinoff of technology originally developed for or by some military unit.

      Was it worth it? Who knows. That’s the hand we were dealt. It could have come out a lot worse.

      • Manchester viewed WWI and WII as the same conflict, with a pause for breath in between.

        Most people did. There’s a collection of Chesterton’s works about the outbreak of WWII, called The End of the Armistice, even though he died in 1936. He was far from the only one to point out it was called the Armistice, not the Peace, even after years.

      • “Manchester viewed WWI and WII as the same conflict, with a pause for breath in between. You could justifiably include the Cold War as well.”
        I think of the 20th century as the time of the second hundred-years war since there’s so much connection between the 2 world wars and the cold war.

        • WWI was the collapse of the old order, WWII, the Cold War and now the current wars* are the battles for which culture will ascend. It’s all King f the Hill, with the prior king fallen and new challengers needing to test their strength.

          *Islam, China, Putin — the challengers are many and committed. Whether the USA’s approach will keep us paramount will hold depends on our willingness to defend the Free Market system, something Obama and his acolytes disdained, opting instead for a very European strategy of intellectual arrogance.

    • Since the Progressives claim Divine Approval for their will anyway, that’s a safe bet.

      Oh, you mean Christian Divine Approval.

      They’re working on it.

      *spit*

  17. Just in case the current topic is not dreariness sufficient unto the day:

    Separate and Unequal: Harvard Hosts Graduation for Black Students Only
    By Sarah Hoyt
    Harvard has hosted its first ever graduation for black students only. One can’t help but wonder about the confusion surrounding the shade of Martin Luther King Jr. after the long fight, the attempt to abolish the system of separation of the races, his dream that one day his children would live in a country that would judge them by the content of the character and not the color of their skin.

    One also feels that they owe the upholders of South African apartheid an apology.

    But Sarah, you say, this is different, this is not because blacks are inferior, but because blacks are equal. It is their own choice to hold their own graduation ceremony for only people of their race so they can feel comfortable and empowered.

    Is it different now?

    Why?

    Why do black people in America, where they are absolutely equal under the law, graduating from one of the most prestigious universities in the country—one that almost guarantees a golden future to those in possession of a diploma—not want to graduate with the rest of their citizens, those in the same privileged position to grasp the golden ring of success, on the basis of their Ivy League education?

    [END EXCERPT]

    • they’re nuts!

    • Some graduates are more equal than others. Or so they would like to think, it seems.

    • Why? Because the (mostly) White intellectual parasites who depend on a black underclass for power and prestige are desperately afraid that some of their carefully cultivated Black Quislings will come into comtact with unfltered ideas and realize that they are being used.

  18. This time it’s the blacks who are for Segregation Now (and Forever)..or so it seems.

  19. Christopher M. Chupik

    We Canadians do this in November, so I always feel a little awkward at Memorial Day. But I suppose its a good sentiment, and bears repeating and remembering more than once a year.

    • Don’t worry about it. Memorial Day was originally about the fallen from our Civil War…which cost more U.S. lives than all other conflicts combined. Canadian losses in the Great War were as high as their performance…and Canada hit well above its weight in both World Wars.

      • My wife’s late father joined the RCN when WW II broke out, and spent the war on convoy duty. As $SPOUSE told me, he was the only one on the corvette who didn’t get seasick. Kept the engines working. Never met him, but he sounded like a righteous man.

  20. Albertasaurus

    Should you ever do a WW1 battlefield tour do visit the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. The 74 acre site preserves trench lines that elsewhere have been obliterated by time and the efforts of French farmers and commemorates the Newfoundland Regiment, which, in the space of 30 minutes, on the first day of the Somme, was annihilated (of 780 men who went over the top, 68 answered rollcall the next morning). And if it is April when you visit, after you have walked the grounds and read all the plaques and imagined what it was like that bright July 1st morning in 1916, and you return to your vehicle in the parking lot you may find that the field beside the parking lot has been freshly plowed. And if you walk into the field and pick up a handful of soil, as sons of farmers are wont to do, you will see that the soil is full of little white pieces of bone, and as you drop the soil back to the ground you realize that for as as you can see, in every direction, every handful of soil you could possibly pick up would be full of little white pieces of bone. Bones of Men and horses all blown to hell.

  21. It seems,we both had poppies on the mind today. Mrs. Hoyt wrote, and I drew.

  22. “Dreamer” is not the precise term I would apply to you, John.

    Something to Live and Die For
    By Sarah Hoyt
    I was born in the sixties, which means when I was grown up enough to be aware of philosophy and war and the big stuff of that kind, the world was full of very bad ideas.

    Admittedly the world is always full of very bad ideas, but it is not every era that produces the magnificently boneheaded masterpiece of “Imagine,” a small part of whose undying wisdom is this:

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion, too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace… You…
    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    There is more stupidity contained in those two stanzas that in any decent universe it would form a black hole of stupidity and start sucking the brains of everyone around. …

    • I would argue that it HAS sucked the brains of an alarming number of people…except that the majority were boneheaded before the damned thing became popular.

    • There’s an awesome comment on there which just might save that dang song; just sing it as “Imagine Armageddon”!

  23. scott2harrison

    I talked to a Methodist pastor today about the ceremony she had her family (yes she) had for Memorial Day. They remembered everyone who they knew that died in the last year. NOT ONE was a soldier. I came closer than I like to spitting in her face.
    It is fine that she did not know any soldiers who died. It is NOT fine that she took a holiday that commemorates soldiers that paid the ultimate price for our freedom and ignored the soldiers while celebrating everyone other than soldiers.

    • And she would doubtless be absolutely shocked that her ‘nice’ memorial could be interpreted that way.

      My Father’s Father, who was a Methodist minister, could probably be hooked up to a turbine and generate many kilowatts of electricity over that one.

      *spit*

  24. If you really want to learn about WW 1, visit the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. BTW Sarah, they have two sten guns on display. You enter the Museum on a bridge over a field of poppies.

  25. Rich Rostrom

    If Europe was going to end up united under a German aegis, couldn’t we have done it without killing the best of the youth of Europe?

    The EU is very far from a German hegemony over Europe, and what the German Empire of 1914 would have done if not opposed was something entirely different. Racialism and militarism were already deeply engrained in its culture. Look at the intentional genocide of the Herero in South-West Africa.

    Were the stories of German soldiers committing atrocities throughout Belgium a fabrication of the press to bolster nations into war?

    No one knows.

    Only those who refuse to look don’t know. In dozens of villages and towns along the German line of march, the cemetery has a section with several dozen to several hundred identical grave markers, all bearing the same date (some time in August 1914) and the inscription “Fusillé par les allemands”. There were neutral observers in Belgium then, including American diplomats and travelers; they saw and reported. Yes, there were exaggerations and fabrications issued later, but the truth is damning enough.

    • First — IT’s not a German hegemony? Slap me red and call me Sally. I’ve seen what Germany and its bureaucrats has done to the land of my birth, so you can take that opinion and fold it all in corners and send it over to Slice.
      As for the other you know damn well I have not visited the sites — i.e. would like to sometime.
      As for refusing to look: I’m the first one to say I’ve only read every book published by historians about it and that NONE OF THEM KNEW about the stuff used to drive the nations of Europe to war.
      I didn’t say there were no atrocities.
      Atrocities in a war? In Europe? You must be joking! OF course there were atrocities. And on both sides I’d wager, just like when the English came to save Portugal from the French they committed exactly the same acts as the French.
      What I mean, dear bonehead (Have to be to take that tone to me) is that we don’t know if there were entire convents of raped nuns and the other purple prose used to incite ALL OF EUROPE against the Germans, and incidentally to guarantee terms of armstice that would in the end cause another war.

      • Grrrr. There’s a book I read in grad school by a woman who argued that the German response to “French terror attackers” in Belgium was in part because of their experience in what is now Namibia, combined with Reservists who panicked at rumors and badly overreacted. My search-fu is lousy today and I can’t quickly find it. The lady also wrote one on international law that developed out of WWI.

        • I know a guy who was writing a WWI historical, and he had lots of good sources on atrocities in Belgium.

          The thing that weirds me out is that the Germans confiscated, disassembled, and shipped whole Belgian factories back to Germany. And they never gave them back.I

          I mean, taking over a factory makes sense. But if you have conquered a country, why not leave it there? Why ship back such awkward spoils?

          • But if you have conquered a country, why not leave it there?
            Because the Germans are were practical if nothing else. And that means eventually you may have to leave, and those people will get their factory back. If you move the factory to your place, then you don’t have to worry about that. It also removes it from the reach of resistance groups.

            (Practical =/= cost efficient necessarily.)

            • As I understand it, this is why the Cold War required we rehabilitate and rebuild the German economy: they had all the machine tools.

              • No, the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the German economy was in large part driven by two considerations. One, productive, prosperous, happy Germans a generation or two later were less likely to kick off another war than bitter Krauts. We learned a thing or two from the post-WW1 cluster. Second, the more Germans could afford to provide for their own defense against the Red Menace, the better, both from the perspective of our pocketbook (and potential casualty ledger) and from the perspective of European morale. Dependency is grating on the soul.

              • For the initial period after WWII the Allied powers had been pursuing a policy of dismantling German industrial plants and in some cases shipping it back to their own lands. The goal was to reduce German industrial potential enough that it would limit any potential military threat Germany could present. They were still in the process of doing so when the first real glimmerings of the Cold War hit in 1946. Suddenly the Western powers were rethinking the policy, and suspended most dismantling activity. Two years later the Marshall Plan was announced.

            • snelson134

              Besides, if you remove it from what’s obviously a good site, they’ll build another one there that you can come back for next time. Shear the sheep and they grow more wool.

      • Rich Rostrom

        Where is the headquarters of the German governor-general of Portugal? Where is the German control office in Oporto? (Where Portuguese civiliians must go for travel papers and ration books.)

        There is a vast difference between economic power and guns. Germany has power in the EU today precisely to the extent that they pay for it. Deadbeats like Greece don’t have to do anything Germany wants, but then they won’t get any German money.

        Also, I hold no brief for the EU bureaucracy (the biggest crowd of nosey parkers and petty tyrants outside the UN), but it’s not reasonable to say it is all Germans.

        As to the reports of German atrocities in Belgium: what did “No one knows?” mean? The mass murders by the German army in Belgium in 1914 are proven and documented. The lurid charges that came out later have been disproven. This was Belgium, not Central Asia or even the Balkans: a highly civilized country with thorough record keeping. What happened there (and what did not happen) is known.

        • Oh really? Then why does Angela Merkel throw a fit publicly any time anyone talks about leaving the EU?

  26. Were the stories of German soldiers committing atrocities throughout Belgium a fabrication of the press to bolster nations into war?

    I think there may be a bit of Sarah knowing too much, here…. “killing half a town” wasn’t the kind of thing that was considered an extremely violent and cruel act, anymore than Daesh doing it was. It wouldn’t whip up much of a reaction.

    Think more like raping nuns who did not even offer resistance to your arrival, offering a woman begging for the release of her captive son hospitality with a dish made of her son’s flesh, collecting the women and children into a barn and setting it on fire, lobbing a child into the air and trying to stab him to death before he hits the ground.

    All actual atrocities, from the last century or so even.

    I am a little familiar with them, because my parents made sure that I understood that people are sometimes EVIL.

    • Yes, those were the things used to whip people into war, and frankly a lot of those are doubtful at that time, and in that place.
      Killing half the city was just… war.

    • Rich Rostrom

      “killing half a town” wasn’t the kind of thing that was considered an extremely violent and cruel act, anymore than Daesh doing it was…

      Say what???? This was early 1900s western Europe – not the Balkans or the Middle East or Central Africa. Germany was supposed to be a civilized nation, not barbarians. Killing dozens or hundreds of civilians in cold blood, as a policy, was indeed considered “extremely violent and cruel”.

      The policy was the German doctrine of schrecklichkeit (“frightfulness”), The idea was that such actions would terrorize the conquered population into complete submission. It was justified on the grounds that it would immediately end all resistance and thus reduce bloodshed. Which is to say that the Germans themselves considered this policy “extremely violent and cruel”.

      • This was early 1900s western Europe – not the Balkans or the Middle East or Central Africa. Germany was supposed to be a civilized nation, not barbarians

        Does the phrase “firebombing” mean anything to you?

        They were “civilized.” That doesn’t mean “they think like me.”

        Seeing as you apparently think that the pretty basic psychology of responding with overwhelming force to prevent escalation is “not civilized,” then I’m not civilized to your mind, either. Although it does allow a window into why on earth people start talking about it not being “fair” to shoot the guy who breaks into your house with a knife….

  27. One of Sarah’s points that hasn’t been made much of is that WW II did retard the “progressive” movement that is currently again ascendant in genocide via abortion on demand (or decree in some cases–I’m looking at you China). The vile, racist nonsense that went on in the States in the 20’s (read Justice Holmes or the Congressional Record on immigration) that abused science via lobotomies, forced sterilizations, etc., and was thoroughly approved of by SFs own H. G. Wells and all other “right thinking people” paused for a little bit until the 60’s when those of us not experienced in war for our lives and our values started coming of age.

  28. “Were the stories of German soldiers committing atrocities throughout Belgium a fabrication of the press to bolster nations into war?”

    See “Headquarters Nights: A Record of Conversations and Experiences at the Headquarters of the German Army in France and Belgium” by Vernon Kellogg. He wrote that the German offices were imbued by theories of racial supremacism that justified, for instance, the conquest of neutral Belgium and virtual enslavement of its citizens in German factories.