Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Myths of World War I Debunked and the BBC's Debunking List Debunked in Turn

The BBC presents an opinion piece called 10 big myths about World War One debunked, but a couple of Instapundit readers do a good job of debunking the Dan Snow article in turn, mainly JMH:
The BBC "Myth" article is mostly a crock. Good God, have they forgotten so much over there? The "myths" that they are correct about are mostly ones I've never heard anyone mention.

1. Bloodiest war in history to that point: They're right about this.
2. Most soldiers died - never heard anyone make this claim. BBC made it up so they could debunk it.
3. Men lived in trenches for years on end - No, but they didn't spend three days there either. Men lived in detestable conditions for weeks on end.
4. The Upper Class Got off Lightly: Never, ever, heard anyone make this claim either. Anyone with any knowledge of WWI knows this isn't true. Again, they made it up so they would have something to debunk.
5. Lions led by Donkeys: The source of the quote is in dispute, but the truth of the claim is not. The British had terrible generals throughout the war, especially at the top. Donkeys doesn't mean they were cowards (they weren't), it means they were stupid and stubborn (they were).
6. Gallipoli - yes, there were British soldiers in the general area, but the ANZACs were the ones landed on the wrong beaches and stuck in an untenable position.
7. Tactics remained unchanged - yes, yes they did. This is not a myth, it's truth, at least as far as the British were concerned. The Germans did learn new tactics. The French didn't necessarily change tactics, but they changed strategies. The British donkeys stubbornly stuck to the same failed tactics year after year.
8. No one won - Of the six Great Powers (Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France. UK, Ottomans) that started the war, two (Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire) no longer existed at the end, two more (Germany, Russia) saw their governments ended and replaced by new forms, and the final two (France and the UK) lost so many men, they were no longer World Powers at the end of the war. So, yes, it's true that no one won.
9. Versailles - Was it harsh, or was it just stupid and misguided? At the time it was called the Peace to end all Peace.
10. Everyone hated it - oh, so somebody who got a cush, rear-echelon job where he could make time with the lonely ladies didn't mind it, eh? Idiots.
Related: also check out Debunking Three Big Myths of World War I

While discussing who bears the responsibility for starting the conflict, JMH goes on to add that
Germany started it if you blame the Schlieffen plan for leaving Germany no other option for responding to Russian mobilization but invading France.

Russia started it if you blame them for mobilizing against Austria despite clear warnings from Germany that would mean war with Germany.

France started it if you blame them for egging the Russians on against Austria because their government wanted a war with Germany before Germany got any stronger and while Russia was their ally.

Austria started it if you blame them for using the death of a noble they didn't even like as a pretext for subjugating Serbia.

Germany started it if you blame them for supporting Austria's strong-arming of Serbia out of fear that they couldn't lose Austria as an ally because everyone else was allied against Germany.

Serbia started it if you blame them for shooting the Austrian Crown Prince as an act of pointless, idiotic terror.

Britain started it if you blame them for not just effing declaring a side before Germany gave Austria the green light. If they'd said they would be on Frances side, Germany would have restrained Austria. If they'd said they were going to sit it out, France would have refused to support Russia. Instead they dithered, and let everyone believe what they wanted.

Or, you can blame the Ottomans for the centuries of mis-rule that created the ethnic and religious powderkeg in the Balkans and the final decades of collapse that set everyone else scrambling for the pickings.

Or, finally, I supposed if you are Barack Obama, you can blame George W. Bush. Or maybe a hard drive crash.