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I hate it when the PC crowd is right...

One of the mantras of the PC crowd is to repeatedly blame all the world's problems on "dead white European males." As a white male of European ancestry, I've often been irritated by this attitude. But after hearing a few things and doing some serious research, I think they just might be on to something.

I've taken a slightly-more-than-quick survey of the major problems, wars, conflicts, and other issues of the last 80 or so years, and I think I've managed to tie every single one of them to World War I. Which means that the "dead white European males" who were responsible for that fiasco managed to screw up the rest of the century, and we're STILL dealing with the consequences of their bad decisions.

Obviously, the first bad consequence of World War I was World War II. The punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles destroyed Germany's economy, setting the stage for Hitler's rise to power and fueling the thirst for revenge among the German people. That's pretty much a given.

But the other half of World War II was, in part, also triggered by World War I. Japan emerged as a world power, and was looking to get in on the imperialism game just as it was winding down. That, along with their own need for greater natural resources, led to their invasion of China and expansionist policies that came to a peak with their attack on the US at Pearl Harbor.

Russia was a fading empire when World War I came about. The Czar dove right in, and the resulting weaknesses and chaos helped fuel the revolution that eventually succumbed to the Communists, setting the stage for the Cold War.

Japan's invasion of China in the 30's led to two rival groups of Chinese fighting back, the Nationalists and the Communists. After the war, the Communists prevailed, while the Nationalists were forced to retreat to Taiwan.

China and Russia's Communist ambitions led them to encourage similar revolutions around the world. Two such cases where they came into conflict with the US were in Korea and Viet Nam.

All that is pretty much common knowledge, but what really got me thinking was a talk show host saying that the war on terrorism was also a byblow of World War I. He didn't elaborate, but it got me thinking -- and that's when I figured I'd tap the Wizbang readers for help.

Several of the books you folks recommended were quite helpful, but jd watson gave me precisely the book I need -- "The Guns Of August." It outlined just how and why Turkey got into the war, and that was exactly what I was looking for.

By the early decades of the 20th Century, the ancient Caliphate (The Islamic state) was dying. It was losing bits and pieces of itself, and it was called "the sick old man of Europe." All the European powers were well aware that the complete collapse of the Ottomans was inevitable, and eagerly worked on dividing up its few remaining possessions.

Then World War I came. The Ottomans were not at all interested in getting involved -- on the Allied side, Russia had a long history of hostility and England was treating them with the sheerest contempt. On the other side, though, Germany was playing nice, offering them support and the promise of a share of the spoils of war. That wasn't enough, though, so Germany then engineered an attack on Russia by a nominally Turkish warship, and that was that -- they were in.

(Brief background: Turkey had paid England to build two battleships for them. When the war broke out, England simply kept the ships, and Turkey's money, with only the briefest of apologies. When a couple of German ships got trapped in the Mediterranean by Allied forces, Germany and Turkey arranged for Turkey to "buy" them from the Germans, and announce that had been the plan all along. Then, while they still had German crews, Germany ordered the Turkish-flagged ships to attack a Russian port. Russia, in return, declared war on Turkey, and that was that.)

After Germany surrendered the war, the Ottoman Empire was officially dismantled, and the Allies carved it up. The last remnants of the great Islamic Empire were scattered to the four winds.

The current borders of the Middle East were drawn up by the Allies, most notably England, and among those English was Winston Churchill. The history of most modern Middle East countries can be directly tied to the British Mandate from the League Of Nations after World War I -- including the notion of establishing a Jewish state in their ancient homeland.

And it is this that Bin Laden and most of the Islamic extremists wish to undo. They want to dissolve the modern day borders of the Middle East and restore an Islamic nation-state.

The irony is that their brand of belief is pretty much in line with that the Ottomans fought so hard against. They were Muslim, but not militant. They were rather tolerant of Christians and Jews, and in fact they were a refuge during some of the worst persecutions of the Jews in Europe.

So, in essence, what they want to "restore" is something that never truly was. But I don't recall reality ever being much of a problem for extremists.

A book I once read referred to World War I as "Big Mistake #1," but it wasn't until I really started digging into it that I saw just how accurate that term was. It was caused by an amazing series of mistakes, errors, misjudgments, and gross incompetence. LIkewise, it was fought in a similar and sloppy fashion, with millions of young men dying for no real reason. Finally, it was settled so ineptly, so short-sightedly, that it set the stage for nearly a century of further conflicts -- and counting.

I know I'm succumbing to the pitfalls of hindsight here, looking backwards and second-guessing decisions made in the heat of the moment. But these dead white European males were supposed to be the best their era had to offer, and so many of them simply couldn't look beyond their short-term goals or anticipate that things might not go quite as they planned -- and we're still paying the butcher's bill on their mistakes.


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Comments (38)

A big WWI buff here as well... (Below threshold)

A big WWI buff here as well--though primarily on the aircraft side of things (being a pilot and all). Can't help on the geo-political aspects of the war but if you need info on the development and use of air power in WWI just speak up...

If you want to read another... (Below threshold)

If you want to read another good book on the subject, I'd recommend "A peace to End All Peace." I forget the author's name, but it discusses the political machinations and the creation of the modern middle east. It's a tough read, but worth it.

May I recommend 'America's ... (Below threshold)

May I recommend 'America's Secret War' by George Friedman (the founder of Stratfor) which covers the background in the Middle East and Afganistan and Tajikistan and the rest of the 'Stans and traces things back to the Caliphate. He calls the present conflict the Fourth Global War (WWI, WWII, and the Cold War being the first three). I think the last part of the book gets a bit sketchy as he gets into 2003 and 2004 (too much "current events" detail and not enough deep analysis) but the first ninety percent of the book is excellent.

When you own everything, ru... (Below threshold)

When you own everything, rule everything, conquer everything, invent everything, manufacture everything, and think of everything, then yeah... obviously you're also going to start all the wars and cause all the trouble too. All honey is made by bees. All floods are caused by water.

I agree with BodaciousCowbo... (Below threshold)

I agree with BodaciousCowboy. If you're the only one doing most of the work, then you're the one who's gonna make the most mistakes. I'm not sure how we can give the PC crowd any credit for insight on this particular matter.

This sort of analysis makes... (Below threshold)

This sort of analysis makes me think that those that hold an "antiwar" stance have a point. I'm not talking about those leftwing whackos who currently scream and yell that George Bush is Hitler. These people say nothing when a Democratic President uses military force. I am speaking of those relatively few folks that hold that all war is bad and regardless of the political party in the Whitehouse. I generally thought of these peacenik types as a bit off kilter and maybe they are, but avoiding war as a philosophy may prove to avoid setting off the type of domino effect that you've described. The law of unintended consequences is always there to wreak havoc.

Also, it seems that we humans seem to keep using the same tool, War, to "fix" the problems created by war. Who will break this destructive repeating cycle?

An interesting point is tha... (Below threshold)
Sabba Hillel:

An interesting point is that World War I started on the Jewish date, 9 Av, which is the day that the worst things have happened to the Jewish people. Among the occurences on that date were the destruction of both temples (and the country of Israel), the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and, as I said above, World War I. It is considered the most tragic and saddest day in the Jewish calendar.

You're not giving Mao or Mo... (Below threshold)

You're not giving Mao or Mohammed their due.

While bin Laden and his ilk... (Below threshold)

While bin Laden and his ilk point to recent history, they (or at least he) also cite the Crusades (admittedly undertaken by dead, white Europeans). The point being that their claims are made based on a philosophy that does not square with our own Western outlook.

I like your point about wanting to "restore" something that never existed. Just goes to show you, maybe we really are right and they really are wrong.

Cool topic. And as for the... (Below threshold)

Cool topic. And as for the Ottoman Turks, an interesting history. For anyone looking for a great quick read on how both World Wars lead to the current situation in Iraq, I recommend "The Iraq War", by John Keegan. Fascinating description of the disarray of the Arab nations, the reason the Ottoman Turks came to power in the first place, the British Mandate, the way Saddam came to power, etc.

Oh, and anyone wanting to know exactly what happened during WWI and WWII, and I mean literally a day by day narration of the political and military happenings, I recommend The First World War and The Second World War, by Martin Gilbert.

Yes, I also enjoyed all the... (Below threshold)

Yes, I also enjoyed all the commenters' recommendations of books in your previous, linked thread. Very interesting summation, JayTea.

I just have a question about this:
"...the Ottomans fought so hard against. They were Muslim, but not militant. They were rather tolerant of Christians and Jews..."

If they were not militant, then how did they achieve their Ottoman Empire? Weren't the perched villages of southern France built on mountaintops as defense against the invading Saracens? And that other extreme example used to scare them away: roads lined with heads on pikes in Transylvania. And the heroic last stand made by the Serbians against Moslem expansion into Europe centuries ago.

I also recall the "Old Man of the Mountain" who started the Moslem assassin cult (gave young men hashashin, put them in lovely virgin-clad gardens, then sent them out to assassinate world leaders and promised they'd be back with the virgins when they died for Allah). Thereafter, the terror-extortion element in a mere threatening letter from the "Old Man" was enough for a potentate to gladly give up his treasury.

Re: " not militant. They w... (Below threshold)

Re: " not militant. They were rather tolerant of Christians and Jews..."

Here's a snippet about their treatment of Jews and Christians, under the section "The Islamic Conquest and Islamization":
"Serbia including Kosovo was conquered by the Islamic Ottoman Turks in 1459, Bosnia and Herzegovina fell in 1465 and 1483 repectively. During this time Serbian Christians and Jews, as "people of the book", became dhimmis subject to the dhimma or protection offered to Christian and Jews in newly Islamized lands in exchange for their lives. Dhimmi status goes back to the 7th century when the Jews at the oasis of Khaybar in Arabia accepted the treaty offered to them by Muhammed. In exchange for their lives the Jews forfeited ownership of their lands were forced to defer to Muslims on the street, in business dealings and under the Shari'a law, and were forced to by heavy taxes to their Muslim conquerers. This treaty of Khaybar became the model by which all Christian and Jews in newly conquered lands became subject to a condition referred to by the scholar Bat Ye'or as dhimmitude..."

"Christians and Jews in lands under Islamic rule remained in the status of dhimmitude until the emancipation ordered by the Ottoman Sultan in the middle of the 19th century, under pressure from the European powers. In reality the oppression of the Christians and the Jews in the Balkans didn't end until Serbia achieved independence in 1912 as a result of the first Balkan war."


Overall, I agree with Scotty, above. War is psychotic. On the other hand, in a psychotic world, you have to defend yourself. And attack is the best defense... But let's hope for an empire of wisdom in the future.

My historical references to the Ottoman Empire and Moslem treatment of Christians and Jews, above, is just to show that Moslem empires were not a peaceloving, tolerant bunch then or now.

Don't forget the Muslim Bro... (Below threshold)
Ron Wright:

Don't forget the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt that spawned OBL's No 2 man. There are ties with the Germans in both wars. And of course the Wahhabis could be argued to be modern day descendants of The Brotherhood.

One book I'd recommend for ... (Below threshold)

One book I'd recommend for light into one corner of the puzzle is "The Economic Consequences of the Peace" by John Maynard Keynes.

While most of it is number-crunching detail about how Germany would never be able to afford reparations post-WWI, the description of the principal negotiators is priceless. He's particularly cutting about Wilson.

Sitting in on the treaty ta... (Below threshold)

Sitting in on the treaty talks was one Ho Chi Minh. He was waiting for the end of colonialism and the French leaving Vietnam -but they did not and the rest, as they say, is history. He might have turned to communism anyway, as he was an admireer of Lenin, but the French remaining in Vietnam definitely pushed him into the communist sphere. The Treaty of Versailles did more harm than good in the long run.

This sort of analysis ma... (Below threshold)

This sort of analysis makes me think that those that hold an "antiwar" stance have a point.

They do sort of have a point, but there is a limit. The problem after WWI, was that all the honest nations disarmed. When Hitler was building his forces, there were people in England who wanted to build their forces too. Those people were labeled as warmongerers, and as a result, England was not strong enough to deter Germany.

A good quote is "History has shown us that wars start when governments believe the cost of aggression is low." What you need are countries that show a willingness to fight, but not an eagerness to. But if they're tested, and they back down, then other governments know they can walk all over them.

If a government acts swiftly and aggressively when it is threatened, it will prevent many future conflicts. If it is slow and passive, other governments grow bolder.

Also, if you refuse to fight, then you get taken over more easily different ways. Iran was basically conquered by the Mullahs without anyone firing a shot. That's the consequence of being a passive, gun-free nation.

I think it is also importan... (Below threshold)

I think it is also important to realize that there had always been powerful forces at work in the world prior to WWI and that it is possible that they all happened at the same time because an event as significant as the war had "unlocked" them all. Clearly they may not have played out the same, but there is no way to really know that.

The Ottoman Empire was the Sick Man of Europe, and was dying, and its pieces would have been somehow carved up anyway.

Russia had already experienced rebellions before the war and unrest was not exactly dying down. Would they have become communist? I don't know.

Japan is a case where what happened was very likely regardless of the events of WWI. It was a growing power that needed raw materials and was bumping up against the interests of the US in the Pacific. It was normal for them to look to China and Mongolia as a resource. That is also why their empirical interests manifest themselves so early before WWII in the 1930's.

WWI also created the environment in which colonialism would eventually end. Without it perhaps the Arabs would have lived under Ottoman inspired totalitarians instead of Socialist/nationalist inspired ones like the Baathists. A stronger Britain might not have ended its control of India until a few decades later, and without a Ghandi at that time, it might have been much bloodier. The Chinese have for millenia suffered from the ebbs and flows of control by various warlords and invasions. Was communism inevitable? Was a strong unification of the mainland inevitable.

Mankinds history always has change, and for many many reasons. That many of them happen as a result of major conflicts is maybe just a result of how war shakes things up a lot faster than the natural ebb and flow, but does not mean that the change would not have happened or would have had a lesser overall impact.

Here's a hilarious counter ... (Below threshold)

Here's a hilarious counter to JayTea's "dead white European males" being the root of all our troubles:

"White European heros of the struggle against Islam!".

The "white" and "non-white" references are a bit thick in that piece - who cares what color the chess pieces are, but anyway - those were the days when the French stood their ground :)

The Treaty of Versailles wa... (Below threshold)

The Treaty of Versailles was conceived by the French polutocrats, because they thought that by punishing Germany for starting WW1, the French would exact revernge for the Franco-Prussian War c 1870. There is only one problem with this line of thinking, Germany did not start the war. It was the Austro-Hungarians that wanted to punish the Serbs for the assassination the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand.

President Wilson did not really like the The Treaty of Versailles, but seeing that the French and British had the upper hand; he went along with them, so he could get the conference completed. The Amaerican people were tired of the Europeans and wanted nothing to them. That is the main reason that the Treaty of Versailles was not ratified by the US Senate

There's nothing wrong with ... (Below threshold)

There's nothing wrong with us chosen people. The problems come from the spics, kikes, fags and dykes, gooks, niggas and towel heads. Yeah, that's it.

Sorry, a brief bout of skin-headed Turet's.

Good argument. I'll buy in... (Below threshold)

Good argument. I'll buy into it since it makes sense to me. But, at the same time, it should be known that since World War I, it has been the Anglosphere (USA, Britain, Australia, etc.) hat has pretty well been there when the chips where down. World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, The First Gulf War, Iraq and the current war on terror, when the world needed to be saved, it was the english-speakers of the world that did the heavy lifting. As the French hate to have pointed out, if it wasn't for the anglophones of the world, they would still be speaking German.

Yes, Mark, that is exactly ... (Below threshold)

Yes, Mark, that is exactly what this thread is saying.

Oh wait, no it's not...

LeftThinksWhites...<p... (Below threshold)


Oops, do you think I missed something?

for anyone out there sugari... (Below threshold)

for anyone out there sugaring the ottomans - lets not forget that druing WWI the ottomans were finishing up the complete elimination of the christians within its borders (both armenian and as much as they could the greeks.)

with the help of the german... (Below threshold)

with the help of the germans and their trains.

It's pretty obvious that if... (Below threshold)

It's pretty obvious that if Europeans controlled the entire world anno 1900, all wars were at least with 1 European side.

Within 50 years, things may be different. Europe will have faded away, and the US, China, India and Russia will be rolling over the ground.

Reminds me of the game of f... (Below threshold)

Reminds me of the game of five degree of Kevin Bacon or whatever that game is. Just because there is a relation there doesn’t make it a cause and affect case. I have to agree with Avner post earlier. In addition all the so call major conflict you mention, they are from the Western perspective. There were conflicts in Asia, Africa, South America, and other places that don’t make it into our history books. Does that mean that there weren’t important? Only to those who think “if it doesn’t affect me then it doesn’t matter”.

And Hirohito too.... (Below threshold)

And Hirohito too.

There is a historical link ... (Below threshold)

There is a historical link between Europes expansionism and their long history of being the victim of other peoples aggression. The Crusades were a response to Muslim military expansionism. After the Muslims invaded Spain the Spaniards fought for 800 years to be free. Europe was taught over and over that to be weak was to be dead or enslaved. They were also taught repeatedly that you don't win by sitting on the defense. This doesn't absolve them of all blame, but it shows they are not the source of all evil.

I'm glad I could be of assi... (Below threshold)
jd watson:

I'm glad I could be of assistance.

I blame the first neanderth... (Below threshold)

I blame the first neanderthal that picked up a rock and bashed someone's brains in over a deer leg or a mammoth ball. He's the emm-effer that started the downward slide of mankind ...

Some thoughts from a friend... (Below threshold)
G Birrer:

Some thoughts from a friend who read your excellent post on WWI

And inside of all that, you could make the case that if one person was
swapped out, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the thing would not have gotten
started. Giving Austria Hungary the "blank check" to invade Serbia
was the match to the straw. The Kaiser was only too happy to get his
glorious war like his grandfather in 1870 and that was the excuse. But, if
it weren't that, it would have been something else.

If the internal combustion engine was developed faster for tanks, and
the 1914 spark took place in say 1922 or so and tanks were a force,
making war more mobile and quicker, then the stalemate wouldn't have
been so bad perhaps and the thing might have blown over much quicker
and not been the horrendous thing that it was. Technology. Just the
right moment to make it a terrible war of attrition. 1914-1918 was
the best time to play defense maybe ever, in modern warfare. It's a
fascinating bunch of what ifs that most know nothing about.

In terms of international p... (Below threshold)

In terms of international politics, yes, WWI was a turning point, and we are dealing with its effects today.

May I point out that Wilson was a Democrat?

That he ran on a platform of "He kept us out of war" and then promptly got us into one, immediately after his reelection?

That WWI, for the Americans, was an entirely voluntary war, not necessity? (Which party beats this drum lately?)

That Wilson was motivated by his animosity toward the ancien regime?

That our involvement in WWI would not have been possible if the Income Tax Amendment had not been passed only a few years earlier (at the beginning of Wilson's first term)?

I think it's safe to say that Wilson was the worst president in US history.

But there were quite a few white males who opposed him at the time.

Of course, most of those wh... (Below threshold)

Of course, most of those who were killed in WW1 were white European males, so the PC crowd ought to be happy. And then it spread to everyone else. (Isn't diversity wonderful!)

So I really can't see what they are complaining about.

dittybopper, it was the ame... (Below threshold)

dittybopper, it was the americans not helping ho that caused him to turn to the communists. Out of the big superpowers, the only non-communistic one turned them down.

Interesting point, although... (Below threshold)

Interesting point, although your reasoning is a little bit post hoc ergo propter hoc. More background reading would probably clear some of that up.

For example, trying to blame Japanese imperialism on WWI doesn't seem as plausible if you understand the principles underlying the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, the Meiji restoration, the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese war, and the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 (all happening well before and completely independently of WWI).

Similarly, the events in Europe that you are trying to blame on "white European males" are in fact primarily the result of external factors impinging on the system, rather than faults of the sytem itself. See: Congress of Europe, Crimean War, Russo-Turkish War, Treaty of San Stefano, Congress of Berlin, First and Second Balkan Wars, and the Balfour Declaration, for starters.

Penultimately, just as a thought exercise, I would note that those who would blame Germany or Austria-Hungary for the start of WWI are relying too much on precipitants and not looking at preconditions, which tend more to blame France and Russia for the conflagration.

My final, and perhaps most subversive thought, is that Wilhelmine Germany resembles nothing quite so much as it does current-day America. And I honestly don't mean that in a bad way. But the parallels are striking. Compare and contrast.

HT, very interesting. ... (Below threshold)

HT, very interesting.

Re yr last paragraph. I've noticed the similarities in the financial area... possible fiat money catastrophe looming, but would enjoy reading your thoughts. I know it's a touchy subject because it sounds anti-US, but the American people are not the cause, nor even Pres. Bush; it goes back to worldwide delinking of currencies from the gold standard with resultant unfettered currency paper printing. I believe it's better to be informed, so that one can be prepared, invest in gold, etc.

BR: I think that the parall... (Below threshold)

BR: I think that the parallels are more striking on the political side, and pre-war, than they are in the economically and in the aftermath. Wilhelmine Germany was, after all, still using the social safety net designed by Bismarck, and the burden of reparations probably placed strains on her monetary policy that we do not have to contend with.

But in 1914 Germany was economically powerful with a population growing much more rapidly than that of her neighbors, possessed a military that could be matched by no single state, and had accomplished most of her foreign policy objectives. Her interests were thus mostly defensive, as were those of her primary ally, Austria-Hungary. Frustration with the machinations of her opponents also led to a certain unilateralism. Finally, she had a leader that foreign governments liked to make fun of, although in the case of the Kaiser it was more justified than it is with you-know-who.

U.S. foreign policy, however, has been much more adept than that of pre-WWI Germany. We have acquired and dropped allies as required by the strategic situation, always staying one step ahead of our opponents, while Germany, with more immediate threats and fewer opportunities, basically found herself locked into a position from which there was no escape.






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