Ordinary World: Observance


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    100 years on and WWI is still powerful in ways older wars were not because, I think, of the presence of photos and movies from the time that showed the horror of it all.Report

    • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      And the books and poetry of the ‘Lost Generation’. It was our first war that had so many surviving veterans speaking of the horror and waste of it, and in ways that hit home even with generations far removed from them. My daughter read “All Quiet on the Western Front” in English last year, and when we talked about it, I remember having all the same feelings and impressions when I read the same book in high school. That was striking since I had a more direct sense of how it affected people at the time because I had been raised by a grandmother who lived through it. I never knew my grandfather on that side, but I knew he just missed the war, having enlisted at 18 just days before it ended.

      (wanted to embed Dropkick Murphys Green Fields of France, but can’t get it to work)Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Also, the numbering.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    100 years ago plus some months, Eugene Victor Debs gave one of the most powerful speeches in American history. He gave his speech at Canton, Ohio:


  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Ob4: Its very interesting to look at the differences between the end of WWI and WWII. WWII’s end was treated as a celebration by the Allied Powers. Everybody was happy because it was the closest you could get to a battle between good and evil in real life. This is even though Wilhelmine Germany contained the origins of the Nazi thought. Most serious historians recognize that rightist intellectuals in the Kaisereich were laying the ground work for Nazism in the 1890s.

    In contrast, nearly everybody was exhausted at the end of World War I. The Central Powers were naturally bitter from defeat and loss of territory. The Allied powers drained and did not want to celebrate. Even the United States, who suffered much less than any other allied power, really didn’t think they had a victory. We just wanted to forget the Great War right away. Even to this day, it plays much less a role in American popular memory compared to the big four of the Revolution, Civil, WWII, and Vietnam despite
    being the war that made us a global superpower.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The main difference was that in WWI, Germany never surrendered. Also, the first Armistice was preceded by about a month of peace negotiations, and followed by a few more armistice agreements until a peace treaty. It was the negotiated peace that was going to determine how people (at least on the Western Front) were going to judge the war.

      I believe the French view generally is that Keynes’ best-selling book that discredited the peace was most responsible for encouraging a rise in Francophobia in Anglo-America and the inability to contain the renewal of German expansionism.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to PD Shaw says:

        What was the right position for Anglo-America to take post WWI? How could those actors have quelled German aspirations for conquest?Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Stillwater says:

          I don’t know that one can quell aspirations; I think one can resolve the conflict by limiting the capacity for conquest, with things like reductions in armaments, reparations, loss of strategic territory, inspection regimes. I’m not really sure what the administrative capacity for all of this would be in its most optimal form. The main issue is that British opinion decided that the treaty was punitive and assumed that treating Germany as a normal country would be the best path to peace. A ‘trust but verify’ approach would work, but only if it was not just the French holding the line.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

          Stillwater: What was the right position for Anglo-America to take post WWI? How could those actors have quelled German aspirations for conquest?

          with perfect hindsight, and ironically enough, bring Germany into the liberal democratic fold as a united front against the spread of Bolshevism in the east.

          But the thing is, that was pretty much impossible insofar as the British and French were completely unwilling at that point in history to give up their imperial model of international affairs. It required the second war to permanently alter the balance of power, and even then, they were not willing to let it go without a fight.

          So barring the impossible, the best possible case was probably a more conciliatory and equal peace treaty and especially a minimization of reparations.

          But too many people still had a mercantile view of economics to possibly make any durable peace in 1918.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to PD Shaw says:

        “never surrendered”. They were just defeated in the field, had their navy scuttle itself in Scapa Flow, the Kaiser abdicated to live in Holland, revolution broke out and all their allies soundly defeated. They went hat in hand to the armistice because they were crushed.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

          But not in spirit!Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to greginak says:

          There were no Allied troops on German land, and German troops were spread from France to the Caucuses. The oddity that Germans would be negotiating as other than the more successful military power is what fueled the popular perception in Germany that someone had stabbed Germany in the back.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to PD Shaw says:

            There were no troops in Germany because they had the good sense to give in before being occupied. However the biggest reason they weren’t invaded is because neither side could advance or retreat very fast at that time. Their great spring offensive had fizzled and then pushed back. They were completely defeated in France and couldn’t run away fast enough to regroup. They were surrendering in droves on the front and mutinying in the ports. The people and troops weren’t revolting because they felt great. And we were pouring in new troops.

            Sure they came up with the stab in the back stuff to explain away their loss is separate thing. That doesn’t mean they hadn’t lost. Plenty of German’s knew they had been defeated, they were there at the time.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

      ‘winning the peace’ in the post-WW2 years was a closer run thing than I think most people consider. It paradoxically helped that while many were similarly ‘exhausted’ by 1945 as they were by 1918, Germany and Japan were obliterated – at least as a political entity.

      The Cold War kicked off pretty much immediately; reform was able to take root in West Germany and Japan, the way it didn’t for the Wiemar Republic, not only due to the Marshall Plan, but also fear of the Soviets.

      The US did substantially disarm post WW2, with a faction briefly in charge believing that the US nuclear monopoly was the only weapons – and military force – the US needed. It was only after senior military leadership and allies in Congress made a stink that conventional forces began to be built up to their baseline Cold War levels – and then the Korean War with its initial fiascos with completely unready forces solidified that baseline.

      The Cold War never turned hot – that is, white hot, head to head. (There were of course Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc). That was courtesy of an American nation that was indeed exhausted from war when it had a nuclear monopoly, and then a result of everyone fearful (rightly so) of nuke weapons when that monopoly was broken. As it is, the Western Allies nearly lost the peace with an own goal of not being willing to pro-actively decolonize post WW2.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Thanks to a pointer from Mike Drew, I recently finished the Dan Carlin Hardcore history podcast where he covers World War 1, titled Blueprint for Armageddon.

    People talk enough about the economic parallels between the late gilded age and the current era, and how the war started the process where it all came crashing down. But I feel what’s less talked about, and potentially a more scary parallel, is that the era before World War 1 was a comparatively long period of time where the great powers did not fight head to head – and thus the onset of the war was a meat grinder because no one realized what the then modern tools of war could do.

    I worry that we’ve been in a similarly extended period where the premier militaries of the world haven’t been set against each other, and nobody really knows what everyone is capable of and what consequences of direct conflict may be – potentially more horrific than anyone could imagine.

    There’s of course evidence that nuclear deterrence works, but also of course, it hasn’t been conclusively proven.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

      I worry that we’ve been in a similarly extended period where the premier militaries of the world haven’t been set against each other, and nobody really knows what everyone is capable of and what consequences of direct conflict may be – potentially more horrific than anyone could imagine.

      The solution, obviously, is for the great powers to engage in wars at regular intervals so everyone knows each other’s capabilities. 🙂Report