catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

historical musings – early 20th century edition

with 55 comments

Met up with jason in the otherworld (iatum est, not the interweb) and we started to discuss early 20th century history mainly in europe.

I initially suggested that trading Fascism in a large part of Europe for Stalinism in a large part of Europe at a cost of some 20 million lives wasn’t that great a deal. (For the record i’m no Nazi sympathiser, but I’m not going to close my eyes to Stalin’s atrocities either, simply because he was a one time ally to defeat the Germans) Jason countered that the problem with this result is that we’d still have the Nazis running most of Western Europe – which is fair enough. Because although communism won in the short term, its pitiful economics doomed it to failure in the long run.

We came to the conclusion that Britain should have broken the triple entente in the first world war, and aligned with the germans and austro-hungarian empire against the slavs and russians. This most likely would have been enough to persuade the russians from interfering in central europe, and probably resulted in a stalemate cold war arrangement in the east. (OK the french would have had kannipchens, but the british secretly hate them far more than they hate the germans, and who cares about the french really as far as modern european politics goes – although i love them bless their nuclear toting hearts) This would mean no western front, easily one of the worst places to be in all of warfare, avoided all the nonsense of the interwar period, and no versailles treaty, no holocaust and no second world war (including the other nasty place to find oneself, the eastern front)

Of course, everyone was worried about a German hegemon in central/western Europe, and is why in the end the british decided to come down on side of the french and russians, but a german hegemon was far preferable than the actual occuring alternative. Just like a US hegemon now is preferable to international war, anarchy or even cold war and nuclear brinkmanship, reasonably liberal western hegemons are far preferable to power vacuums. The further benefit is without the british (and colonials like us) fighting the turks in the middle east, we probably would have avoided the conflict there that characterised the second half of the 20th century. Jews, arabs and turks would still be co-existing under the ottoman empire, and with no holocaust, european jews would still be a prospering diaspora in Europe. (albeit with the undercurrent of anti-semitism that europe had and to some extent still has)

It may seem that this stability stuff is Kissingeresque but it is quite the opposite. You don’t get peace through detente and balanced power, but through going all or nothing backing some-one that is going to be able resolve the conflict in the long term. Iraq is an extension of this policy…you don’t just let these things fester with sanctions for ever, you get rid of the sanctions, or if thats too risky you go to war.

I would like this to be a double post a la becker posner blog, so i hope jason adds his thoughts to the topic.

Written by Admin

October 24, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

55 Responses

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  1. the social democrats would have consolidate power in Germany,
    International trade would have continued to grow,
    No Lloyd George as PM
    No Armenian or Nazi holocaust,
    No ridiculous Versailles treaty,
    possibly no great depression

    What if hey

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 24, 2006 at 2:41 pm

  2. Why no great depression Homer?


    October 24, 2006 at 3:17 pm

  3. C8to
    I am no communist sypmathizer but Stalin had nothing on Htiler. If you played the game, pretended you loved the party and you didn’t say something silly in front of fhe kids you had a chance of grubby survival in the Sov U.

    If your name was Rosenberg and went to temple on fridays you were dead meat…. 6 million of them and counting. Let’s keep Hitler and the Nazis in their special box in hell. Stalin can take the first seat in the theatre.

    There’s lot’s of what ifs. If the holy roman empire survived we could have reached the industrial revl 500 years before.

    If the brits had given representation and been more accommadating towards the colonies we could be still be part of the British Empire and had the closet thing to a empirial government with our own representatives in the British Parliament. There would not have been any world wars.


    October 24, 2006 at 3:34 pm

  4. No Versailles treaty:
    No protectionism,
    No excess in the 20’s because of a bloody world war
    amongst other reasons

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 24, 2006 at 4:02 pm

  5. Homer

    the treaty didn’t cause protectionsim in the united states, neither did WWI have any bearing. I would leave the depression out of it Homer and start again.

    The treaty was about 1 1/2 % of GDP. Even Heyak says this was not a very big economic burden.


    October 24, 2006 at 4:08 pm

  6. You didn’t have that choice.

    You were living one day at a time and without a crystal ball.

    Its utopian eschatology that kills.

    How would these choices have destroyed this?

    Changing sides in a war so that one side wins easily presupposes that you can reconcile with the other belligerent party.

    If that was possible you could have stopped fighting anyhow.


    October 24, 2006 at 7:16 pm

  7. “No excess in the 20’s because of a bloody world war”

    No excess WHAT???????


    October 24, 2006 at 7:18 pm

  8. Birdy it was called the roaring twenties.
    Take a read of something to find about about it.
    People lived for the moment because of WW1.
    You are too young to have talked to any people who lived then

    Try reading economic consequences of the war sometime.

    Hayek is as good as Marx at forecasting world trends JC

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 24, 2006 at 7:42 pm

  9. No no. Stop being an idiot and tell us your laughable economic theory.

    You are saying that the war led to excess (this sounds like really stupid shit from the getgo.)



    October 24, 2006 at 7:46 pm


    1. The war (WWI) led to EXCESS.

    Thats the opposite of the truth for starters. The War led to deprivation.

    2. The EXCESS led to the Great Depression.


    Spit it out EP.


    October 24, 2006 at 7:48 pm

  11. Homer

    What was so wrong with Lloyd George, that you single him out? Anyway, as number 2 in the Liberal Party he probably would have been PM after Squiffy had cocked everything up, as such a monumentally overrated PM was bound to do.

    I suppose you could argue that the Tories would probably have won the next election. In that case Lloyd George would have taken over from Asquith and Labour would have died on the vine. Now that would have been a blessing.

    If the UK had not entered the Great War, the US would today still be a second rate power and Britain still top dog, as long as the French could have held out long enough to impoverish the Germans. The UK could then, like the US have come in later and cleaned up.

    Rococo Liberal

    October 24, 2006 at 9:06 pm

  12. Alternative history ‘what ifs’ are fun (I’ve read a lot in my time), but I don’t know that they’re much more than that.

    Apropos JC’s comment, I think Hitler and Stalin deserve double billing in the resident evil show, although for sheer horror both are surpassed by the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

    Hitler and Stalin went about their genocides very differently, however, and that is relevant. Stalin relied on the Fourth Horseman. Hitler figured he could do better because he had better scientists.

    I do know that genocide – when first discovered – is a particularly terrifying thing. Due to an accident of background and residence, I learnt about the Holodomor (the Ukrainian famine) before the Holocaust. I suspect this affected my perception of the Holocaust, in that when it first surfaced at school (I was about 11), I remember thinking ‘here we go again’, and was not surprised. Murderous prejudice (anti-semitism is only one variety) is relatively common. And I still think we need to spend more time focussing on the economics of genocide, rather than its psychology. That, however, is a subject for a separate blogpost.


    October 24, 2006 at 9:30 pm

  13. birdy the excess was the roaring twenties as a great philosopher once said duh.

    RL, I am a great fan of LG however without ther war there would have been little reason to move Asquith

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 24, 2006 at 10:02 pm

  14. the french should have broken their alliance with russia and not declared war on germany…then germany wouldn’t have invaded belgium and britain wouldn’t have had to defend belgium.

    of course there’s hindsight, but the point is not that we can now say with hindsight, but is there a general principle to be learned and i think there is.

    instead of honoring treaties, each party should consider the power structure after, and furthermore i’m suggesting that hegemons are preferable to power balances (which are inherently unstable)

    massive assymetries of power creates alliances, bargaining and small wars. massive powers of roughly equal has created war or brinkmanship peace.

    political science should emphasize the science part a lot more, that is add more history and see what actually happened. when i studied pol sci at uni it was almost entirely bullshit theory – one theory arguing against another…history departments should take it over, and make it a special branch of history.

    its the same with sanctions…it sounds good in theory but we should look at the record and see what its achieved.


    October 25, 2006 at 7:15 am

  15. Britain could never have tolerated Germany as a continental hegemon and they did what they had to do to stop that happening. The British had to get involved in WWI. They had to fight on the western front. They had to stop Germany.

    C8to, France didn’t declare war on Germany – Germany declared war on France on 3 August 1914. Germany was always going to invade Belgium and they were always going to declare war on France. Britain couldn’t have stopped that happening. (Perhaps, if they had made it crystal clear before August that they would go to war to defend France/Belgium, the Germans would have stopped their war plans. But that is a very big if. Britain certainly couldn’t have stopped the war by abstaining from the conflict.)

    So at what stage are you proposing that Britain abandon Russia in favour of Germany? During the crisis of August 1914? That option just wasn’t on the cards. Britain couldn’t have abandoned Russia at that stage because the Germans believed (rightly or wrongly) that the key to dominating Europe was defeating France. The German eastern campaign in WWI was always secondary to the western campaign and the Schlieffen plan. So to suggest that the Brits could have convinced the Germans not to attack France but instead to make like Napoleon and head for Moscow is just wrong.

    Britain could have abandoned France, but that would likely have led – as the Germans desired – to Germany controlling continental Europe and Britain being relegated to a maritime power, with nothing to stop the Germans from challenging British naval supremacy within a few years. Germany came very close to winning WWI very quickly and no one in 1914 expected the war to last 4 years. Would the miracle on the Marne have occurred without the British presence in the fight? Maybe, but probably not.

    In any event, Lloyd George himself abandoned his pacifism in the face of the German threat in the lead up to 1914, so to suggest that British public opinion could have tolerated rolling over, abandoning France and handing Europe to the Kaiser denies reality.

    Perhaps you disagree, but I think the British were quite right to view Germany as an existential threat. If Germany was able to take France by force, do you really think they would have stopped there? At the very least, Britain would have been economically crippled by an accelerated naval arms race with Germany, and would have probably eventually lost its colonies and control of the sea. The British fleet underwrote world trade and prosperity. I don’t think you could say that an expansionsist hegemonic Germany would have been interested in ensuring that Australia, the USA, India, Britain etc would be able to trade freely. (And the US for one thing would have quite happily retreated into isolation.)

    (Maybe EP is right that German hegemony would have led to consolidation in power of the German social democrats – but I would suggest that social democracy (at least of the German variety) is perfectly compatible with aggressive, expansionary militarism. Bismarck was quite content to see workers’ rights recognised, so long as he got to build his army. Same goes for the Kaiser. And Gregor Strasser, as but one notable example, was a socialist.)

    What in fact happened in August 1914 is Britain followed the policy that made it great: it acted as an offshore balancer, supporting the second most powerful state (France) against the most powerful state (Germany). To have supported Germany in 1914 would have been suicidal. Germany had the biggest population, the biggest and best army and the fastest growing navy and the desire, intention and capability to be first a continental and then a global hegemon.

    C8to, maybe you mean Britain should have turned against France sometime after August 1914? Well not only would that have taken “perfidious Albion” to an entirely new level, but it would also have led to (i) Germany being the continental hegemon (as per above) and (ii) the collapse of the Tsarist regime, and the likely rise of Bolshevism/Leninism – and I thought preventing Leninism was the stated aim of your historical premise.

    France was not going to stop fighting after Germany marched to the outskirts of Paris in August 1914. There is no deal that Britain could have struck that would have seen Germany voluntarily withdraw from France, or France voluntarily accepting the continued presence of German troops on French soil. There was no way for Britain to avoid the western front short of accepting Germany as a continental hegemon, and that they were (very wisely) not willing to do.

    And, as you may recall, the Germans had a vested interest in seeing turmoil and revolution in Russia – the Germans were responsible for Lenin arriving in time for the November 1917 coup d’etat. (“shipping him like a virus in a sealed railroad carriage”, as Churchil put it.) Any suggestion that it was somehow possible for the Germans, Brits or anyone else in 1914-1918 to foresee that Soviet Communism would cause backward, economically and militarily insignificant Russia to become a global superpower is the product of pure hindsight.

    The real tragedy – the place where opportunities were really lost – was at Versailles in 1919. (And also, as you hint, in the arbitrary division of the former Ottoman Empire possessions into artificial nation states.) No one in Britain in 1914 thought peace with a German hegemon was a realistic option, but plenty of observers in 1919-20 thought that reparations and war guilt would lead to more war with Germany. As Marshall Foch said in 1919, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.” He was correct to the month.

    Finally c8to I think you are just wrong in saying that power balances are inherently unstable. The fifty year period in which there was a balance of power between the USSR and the USA, underwritten by MAD, was a golden age of peace, prosperity and growth for humanity. Sure, it sucked to live in the USSR, but it wasn’t as bad as living in Nazi Germany or pre WWII USSR. And it was a great time to live in the west. The Cold War (aka the Long Peace) was the longest sustained period of global peace in human history. In the multipower period of 1900-1945 there were – how many? – one hundred million killed in wars? In the bipolar period of 1945 – 1990 there were maybe half a million killed in major power conflicts.

    As for empirically based polisci, you could start with John Mearsheimer’s “Why we will soon miss the Cold War” from the Atlantic Monthly in about 1991/2 or his “Tragedy of Great Power Politics”, then get stuck into some E.H. Carr, Kenneth Waltz (Man, the State and War) and Stephen Walt. And of course there’s Thucydides. They are all rigorous empirical political SCIENTISTS, none of that pomo crap.



    October 25, 2006 at 11:35 am

  16. We came to the conclusion that Britain should have broken the triple entente in the first world war, and aligned with the germans and austro-hungarian empire against the slavs and russians. This most likely would have been enough to persuade the russians from interfering in central europe, and probably resulted in a stalemate cold war arrangement in the east.

    The “sick men of Europe”, the Russian, Austrian and Ottoman empires, would have broken under this strain (assuming that the allies did not do anything so Hitler-dumb as to leave the military objective unfulfilled before winter), so much for any “cold war arrangement”. Even A-H wouldn’t have held together in victory. The whole of eastern Europe, the Middle East and central Asia would have fragmented into little fiefdoms; the only unifying force in that region would have been Islam.

    What of France? Its delusions of competence had to be addressed at some point. Two catastrophic global wars and they were still lording it around Vietnam and Algeria fifty years later than they should have. It would have had to be sorted out sooner or later, it wouldn’t have submitted to Anglo-German hegemmony in Europe. Read Ian Ousby’s Verdun – he attributes the Western Front to the dissolution of Lotharingia.

    the social democrats would have consolidate power in Germany … No Lloyd George as PM

    Neither of the above.

    The Prussian military state had to be broken before the social democrats could take power – otherwise they’d have suffered the same fate as happened to the German Communists [hack, spit], where leaders like Liebknecht were put to prison/death leaving behind toerags like Thaelmann. Disagree PP – a deutschmark given to some single mother is a deutschmark denied a war widow, spending on butter is spending denied to guns. Bismarck was not ‘happy’, he was playing a double game.

    Lloyd George was an Unstoppable Force. His policies may have been different but he’d still have made it. Rococo Liberal is spot on.

    Alternative history ‘what ifs’ are fun (I’ve read a lot in my time), but I don’t know that they’re much more than that.

    They show you what remains once you remove The Great Man or The Lucky Event. If John F Kennedy had returned from Dallas with a pulse, would the Vietnam war have gone as it did? Look at the background and conclude that he’d have done nothing different. You can see the mountains more clearly if you can pretend the golden statue isn’t there.

    Andrew Elder

    October 25, 2006 at 1:51 pm

  17. Prussian war machine?
    The poms were spending more on the military than the Krauts.
    That war machine had dreadful trouble getting their military budgets passed in Parliament.
    The Poms even got into a dreadful spit with the Yanks about their naval building.

    all academic though but we probably would have seen an ALP Government for many years!!!

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 25, 2006 at 2:02 pm

  18. The poms were spending more on the military than the Krauts.

    Because they had more to spend, and a far-flung empire to support. In comparison to the proportion of the workforce, economic output and the budget: yes, the Prussian war machine. It can be compared with the national-security apparatus of Mugabe today, which again would be dwarfed by that of Britain.
    That war machine had dreadful trouble getting their military budgets passed in Parliament
    … because they didn’t think Parliament was that important. They disdained parliament because they could and did get support elsewhere.

    The World Wars enabled the US to overtake Britain without animosity between them.

    Andrew Elder

    October 25, 2006 at 2:11 pm

  19. Andrew I was talking about % of GDP.
    Those useless battleships cost far too much money.

    Remember at the time it was thought LG would take on Churchill over this.

    The literature at the time in UK was very anti-kraut asserting falsely that the Germans were overtaking the UK and wanted war.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 25, 2006 at 2:22 pm

  20. Useless battleships? WTF? they were only useless cos the Germans never had enough of them to fight the Royal Navy. If Germany knocked out France and had a secure western border plus massively increased domestic revenues (i.e. reparations from France) then it would have been able to boost its naval munitions spending even further and eventually overtake the Royal Navy.

    Before too long, the German battleships would definitely have been used, and I can’t see how that wouldn’t have led to dire consequences for the entire English speaking world.

    And EP, don’t you think that those who asserted Germany wanted war were in some way vindicated when Germany invaded Belgium and France?


    October 25, 2006 at 2:32 pm

  21. PP,what happened in the Mediterrean to those large useless battleships? mines and submarines took them out very easily.

    No PP the Literature wasn’t about Europe it was about England

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 25, 2006 at 2:51 pm

  22. It wasn’t just the battleships, BBEP. Think about the enormous military investment in India, which paid crucial dividends in WW1 and which arguably made the crucial difference.

    I’d argue that Prussia had an integrated military-industrial complex unknown since Punic-era Rome and that contemporary and later powers would dream of as vast, as innovative and productive a MIC as Imperial Germany had. The ‘literature’ you refer to is probably countermanded by the closeness of the English and German elites.

    Andrew Elder

    October 25, 2006 at 3:03 pm

  23. EP, are you saying that mines and submarines made naval power irrelevant by the time of the first world war? that the RN and then later the USN weren’t essential to maintenance of free trade as well as the freedom of the English speaking world?

    didn’t convoys defeat subs and mines in WWI and WWII? weren’t surface ships still fighting major engagements through WWII? isn’t the US force projection capability still heavily dependent on the US Navy?

    You really are in historical fantasy land if you don’t think naval power translates to strategic power. air power has changed things, but at the time of WWI British power depended on the Royal Navy. Germany was seeking to challenge the RN’s supremacy, and if they knocked out France they would have been able to do so. If they beat the RN, they beat England. As simple as that. Until the advent of air power, the entire British empire depended on the RN being able to control the English Channel.

    And EP I don’t think that you can make a meaningful distinction between German power vis a vis Europe and German power vis a vis England. The British correctly recognised that their strategic power depended on there never being a continental hegemon, cos a continental hegemon would inevitably (see e.g. Napoleon) seek to challenge British maritime dominance and thus the security of England itself.

    And mines and subs notwithstanding, prosperity and safety of the Anglophone world depended on British maritime dominance.


    October 25, 2006 at 3:08 pm

  24. “birdy the excess was the roaring twenties as a great philosopher once said duh.”


    You have a theory. That the war led to EXCESS (EXCESS WHAT???) and that the EXCESS (EXCESS WHAT??? led to the Great Depression.

    Spit it out!

    1. Excess money supply production.

    2. Excess Charleston dancing? Is this the DANCING theory of depression? Too much dancing brought on the depression?

    3. Was it EXCESS prohibited booze? Wherein legal alchohol will not bring on depressions. Nor illegal alchohol as such… But EXCESS illegal alchohol will bring on the depression.

    4. Excess production of goods and services? So that by becoming wealthier you spark off a depression.

    5. Was it excess HAPPINESS.

    6. Too much singing?

    EXCESS what?

    Admit you don’t know what you are talking about or spit it out.

    What, in its excess, produces DEPRESSIONS in your make-believe-leftist world?


    October 25, 2006 at 3:20 pm

  25. birdy, it was a case of living for today and letting tomorrow look after itself. An attitude when not unexpectedly led to excess speculation.

    Battleships were a waste of money after the Italian one was shown to be quite vulnerable in the Mediterranean. Although no country realised this at the time.

    I think too much can be made of the ‘military’ build up on each side.
    Globalization was at its peak just before WW1.

    I suspect there were too many bureaucrats on each side who were suspicious of each other which made Germany and England natural enemies.

    WW1 happened!

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 25, 2006 at 3:57 pm

  26. Excess speculation led to the Great Depression. Bravo, Homer. Of all the silly theories Ive heard in my day …

    Jason Soon

    October 25, 2006 at 3:59 pm

  27. From memory BBEP, the Italian Med fleet was a generation or two behind the German/British in terms of armour, speed, fire control systems etc.

    Besides, what holds for the confines of the Med doesn’t hold for the Channel, the Pacific, the North Atlantic etc.

    I am far from convinced that battleships/naval power was proven to be useless in WWI.

    And to say that too much can be made of the military build up seems like a strange assertion when you are taking about a war… especially in a multipolar environment as you had in Europe c. 1914, in which perceptions of relative power controlled strategic planning.


    October 25, 2006 at 4:05 pm

  28. It had lead almost to every depression Jason.
    perhaps you should re-read Kindleberger

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 25, 2006 at 4:08 pm

  29. “the french should have broken their alliance with russia and not declared war on germany…then germany wouldn’t have invaded belgium and britain wouldn’t have had to defend belgium.”

    PP is right c8to.

    But hang about a bit.

    You have to stipulate a start date here.

    You have policy. And you say we should have had a different policy at the top. What we can talk about is….. we should have changed policy at this or that date….

    But you need a start time.
    If its 1909 you might do one thing that would be too late by 1914.

    See this here country Australia.

    Its an alliance of sorts. Its like Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide Brisbane and Perth agreeing to stick together since any one of us could easily be subject to predation if we split up.

    While countries may to some degree be held together by the threat of force they are also held together by other things. And so the various parties, factions, regions and people can be said to be part of a sort of phantom alliance…………. TO A DEGREE.

    Now in formal alliances, and in fact in phantom alliances there is a certain currency.

    There are many things that hold these alliances together IF THEY INDEED HOLD TOGETHER. But insofar as POLICY is concerned the only way to hold an alliance together is to act with honour.

    Honour is the currency of alliances.

    There was no way Britain could suddenly have changed sides and started murdering her former allies.

    This would be straight murder. Not war but just murder.

    Its important to specify a date for the policy change since otherwise the subject is totally abstract.

    The soldiers for starters would have rebelled and the rest of the English-Speaking world would likely have pulled out.

    If the differences between Germany and England were easily reconcilable then the war might quite likely not have dragged on so long.

    For them to suddenly become ALLIES and the Brits bury everything they know about being human and start murdering guys they were fighting next to in the trenches……….

    Couldn’t happen and would be a bad thing if it did.
    We cannot predict the future in its specifics. In terms of policy all we can really talk about is that sticking with certain courses of behaviour….. or rather conducting policy in accordance with certain PRINCIPLES will avoid the production of much BAD KARMA.

    One of these policies is to sign a peace treaty, the clauses of which, will eliminate the threat from the defeated belligerents and then to allocate MASSIVE RESOURCES TO MAKE SURE NO-ONE SO MUCH AS DAYDREAMS ABOUT VIOLATING THE PEACE.

    Its the DREAM of violating the treaty that keeps people in a state of perpetual poopy-pants whining and anger.

    If the treaty needs modifying, due to some sort of original lack of justice to it, then when you update it you would have to make sure:

    1. The former victor isn’t wimping out. He must set aside the resources for a total lock-down on the defeated country. Then he must force the country into compliance with the original treaty. THEN the treaty can be updated… But it still has to make it impossible for the defeated party to cause trouble.

    2. Its clear now that World War 1 & 2 are really the same war. But it didn’t need to be if the resources were assembled to put the violation of the treaty totally beyond the daydreams of anyone.

    3. The reperations weren’t that bad. But you have to handle both sides of the balance sheet. If we are imposing these reperations how can we then turn around and block German goods? The British should have used their diplomatic powers to open up German exports all over the world.

    4. Lloyd George started introducing the welfare state into Britain after WWI

    This was no bargain. And it meant they short-changed the resources they needed to solidify the victory so that the war did not resume.

    A lot of the horror of the rest of the twentieth century and our pretty woeful conduct in war (in terms of the allies not winning wars quickly) can be laid in the hands of this creeping Fabianism.

    Since wars that get steady and slowly rising budget allocations to them don’t get won. You’ve got to be able to set your enemy up and then knock him out in final killer punch. And thats not something that can be done with steady-state defense spending.

    Has anyone played Squash?

    The idea there is to take control of the “T”

    But when we are talking global war our idea as well is to take control of the T.

    And that is we want to be able to manouvre ourselves into the position where we seldom if ever have any third party waging PROXY WAR against our soldiers.

    Now it takes a lot of resources and negotiations to always be taking control of the proxy war T.

    And if you haven’t got the resources you ought to just withdraw from the place…. pretend you haven’t heard the threats from the stronger party, cut all non-defense spending and build massively until the belligerent atmosphere dies down.

    You want to concentrate on being unassialable on your own turf and wait for a chance for your tormenter to get himself bogged down in a rumble…. then you may be in a position to help his enemies.

    But if you have the resources and you want to win the war you want to max out on those policies that don’t involve burying your own guys in the field… particularly in the highest-risk kill-zones.

    So its paradoxical. In that you are training your guys dissproportionately for the sharp end of the killing machine. Yet in practice you try and manouevre the situation so they are usually playing mid-field and ready to scramble to project power.

    A countries negotiating power is a function of ….

    1. The skill of its negotiators and leadership FORCE OF WILL and.

    2. The international understanding of that countries degree of resilience and honour and.

    2. The amount of unsunk surplus power.

    Surplus power is the guys and materiel you don’t need around to defend your own borders multiplied by unspent (by government) side of your GDP.

    Only the excess above that really counts when it comes to negotiating power. For example Israel has a great deal of military power. But it really needs that muscle around and so cannot expect to have strong negotiating power on the other side of the world. They have a history of rampant socialism and are always in debt.

    But America now has a great deal of its surplus power sunk in the field.

    Militarily its not really TOO overstretched. But the guys are used up in the field. With rotation and holidays and retraining and stuff they are pretty much used up to the hilt.

    And America is financially overstretched.

    So the jihadist countries, China and Russia (not to mention France) are going to be pretty hard to reach or reason with when people sit down to talk in these meetings.
    The ideal war policy is then to max out on proxy war and keep building up the surplus kickass power.

    Thats means cutting non-defense spending as much as it means increasing defense spending.


    October 25, 2006 at 4:59 pm

  30. “birdy, it was a case of living for today and letting tomorrow look after itself.”

    Thats not an EXCESS.

    Thats insufficient SAVINGS. This is what you are describing.

    Do you mean the Depression came about through NOT ENOUGH SAVINGS.

    Or did it come about through TOO MUCH BORROWING TO SPECULATE ON THE MARKET?

    Lets get it down exactly what this theory is of yours.

    Not enough saving?

    Too much borrowing?

    Too much of something else?


    October 25, 2006 at 5:04 pm

  31. “I think too much can be made of the ‘military’ build up on each side.
    Globalization was at its peak just before WW1.”

    Too much?

    Or not enough?

    One doesn’t want to be the loser in a war. So what is your counsel here EP?

    Are you saying the BRITISH were spending too much on weapons?

    And your solution would be for them to spend less no doubt?

    And how would that have helped matters?


    October 25, 2006 at 5:07 pm

  32. you’re right PP france didn’t declare war first, germany did (presumably because of their russian treaty) who knows how germany would have reacted if france declared neutrality.

    i think a german hegemon would have been preferable than the alternative, but this is with the benefit of hindsight.

    i agree with you about britains thinking – it is exactly the same as playing risk with three people. the two lesser powers team up against the strongest (britain and france vs germany) and depose the leader – but the result is the same as in the real world – perpetual war.

    not that the british would ever have done so, but they would have been better off as a friendly underling to a german empire than what ended up happening. the royal family was german anyway, and staying neutral or helping out in some small way would have won favour with bismarck et al…

    theres the balance theory and theres the align with strong theory…look how its going for those states that oppose the US, and how its going for those that say, oh well cant beat them join them.

    britain should have jumped on the hegemon bandwagon…its not like germany would have got rid of britains entire population, theyre a germanic influenced people anyway…

    so it wouldn’t have been suicidal in any complete sense…


    October 25, 2006 at 8:35 pm

  33. Britain was still the stronger power.

    Not as a ground fighting force.

    But strip the others away and the British Empire had more resources to take down Germany on its own.

    You have to give us your start date to the policy change.


    October 25, 2006 at 8:41 pm

  34. i think a german hegemon would have been preferable than the alternative, but this is with the benefit of hindsight … not that the british would ever have done so, but they would have been better off as a friendly underling to a german empire than what ended up happening. the royal family was german anyway, and staying neutral or helping out in some small way would have won favour with bismarck et al…

    It’s times like these I’m tempted to slip my self-imposed no-snark policy.

    The British Empire did not have to submit to Germany as Germany was the inferior power. Don’t underestimate the British economy in that century between Waterloo and WW1. They were equal in land warfare but the Brits were ahead in every other respect. This expression “friendly underling status” has no meaning for any of the players at that time. It is purely wishful thinking.

    There was a lot of interaction between the English and German elites. British officers taken prisoner found themselves interrogated by classmates from Harrow and Oxford. This is not to say that the English royal family were “German”.

    Nobody has addressed France as a serious power I see.

    Bismarck was dumped from office in 1890 and died in 1898.

    Andrew Elder

    October 26, 2006 at 8:36 am

  35. GMB,

    Tell me have you studied the booms in Australia before the depressions of the 1890s or the 1930s.

    what were the general population doing in the boom times or the governments for that matter?

    The UK, Germany and the rest would have been much better off spending more on butter.
    I was applauding the globalisation Birdie not criticising it!!!

    According to performance of UK in Boer war and the Krauts in war against France you are wrong yet again Birdie!

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 26, 2006 at 9:55 am

  36. Andrew,

    First I dispute your notion that Britain and Germany had parity in ground forces. I think the German army was superior to the British in both quality and quantity. I don’t have stats to hand but I can dig some up later if you want to contest this point.

    Second Germany was the inferior power only so long as it (together with France) was one of two major powers in Europe. But if Germany had been able to knock out France – and they came really, really close in August 1914 – then it would have been a continental hegemon and able to challenge Britain globally.

    Germany defeating France would have meant that it would have had a bigger population and vastly greater economic resources than Britain, as well as a secure western border. Thus it could shift resources away from ground forces to naval forces, and thus eventually challenge British naval supremacy.

    And the Brits concluded – very wisely – that they could not allow this to happen.

    And I say thank God they got this right. They had to fight Germany in 1914 and had to keep fighting until Germany was defeated. They screwed up the peace, but that’s another story.


    October 26, 2006 at 10:04 am

  37. PP, all I know is that a) the two forces fought one another to a standstill across most of the Western Front for the better part of four years; b) the British could pull in 100,000 Sikhs here, 100,000 New Zealanders there, a depth of resources not available to the Germans; and c) whatever superiority the British had in numbers they frittered away with tactics like forcing men to march with rifles at the slope toward machine guns.

    I am not convinced that “knocking out” France was that simple. They might have come “really, really close” to capturing Paris in August 1914, but while capturing the king is the end of a chess match it is just the start of an occupation. No, I’m not attempting to draw parallels with Iraq here: De Gaulle said that France was an impossible country to govern at the best of times. Never mind the British, I just can’t be convinced that the French would have accepted a German takeover of France with the good grace necessary to support the conclusions of c8to and yourself. Even if Germany had been able to crank out battleships and, yes, fighter aircraft using fully integrated French resources by about 1924, this would have been an extraordinary capitulation on the part of a world power.

    Agree fully with your last two paragraphs.

    Andrew Elder

    October 26, 2006 at 1:34 pm

  38. can i still post? someone deleted my latest post from the bigpig thread and now the comment box has disappeared from that thread.

    have i been banned for questioning SL or has bigpig just been closed? or is my browser just playing funny buggers?


    October 26, 2006 at 2:34 pm

  39. PP
    It was sl’s decision to close the thread. she said it was potentially actionable and that’s her call as is the thread closing as it’s her post.

    Jason Soon

    October 26, 2006 at 2:36 pm

  40. hehehhehe whatever. what a joke.


    October 26, 2006 at 2:44 pm

  41. PP take your further comments on this to the open forum and address your comments to sl if you must. Each author has control over their own threads and this happens to be c8to’s and is nothing to do with his.

    Jason Soon

    October 26, 2006 at 2:48 pm

  42. you are bacon in your own stew.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 26, 2006 at 2:51 pm

  43. Homer, I’d prefer a continuation of your puns on the ashes thread. I’m enjoying it, while this is c8to’s thread and it’s unrelated.

    If you can manage to do the whole Indian team I figure I owe you one.


    October 26, 2006 at 2:57 pm

  44. “GMB,
    Tell me have you studied the booms in Australia before the depressions of the 1890s or the 1930s.
    what were the general population doing in the boom times or the governments for that matter?”

    Well you had the Melbourne boom. That was a real estate boom of magnificent proportions.

    No doubt fueled by fractional reserve + new gold discovery monetary expansion.

    I don’t have the figures on the Australian stuff. But we have pretty good records on some of the American booms and busts.
    So its excess fiduciary money creation that leads to malinvestment and speculation……..

    Which is followed by fiduciary money …… massive inflation in higher order capital goods markets….. So that projects begun suddenly cannot be completed…..

    Then we see the destruction of that fiduciary money that was created, a slowing down of the velocity of circulation, the prices on investment assets having to fall far further then on consumer goods…. And the level of economic output cannot resume as per normal until investments are liquidated and prices of everything have fallen a great deal.

    Meanwhile business investment is at a near total standstill until consumer prices and nominal wages have fallen right down.

    If this is what you had originally meant EP you would have said it.


    October 26, 2006 at 3:10 pm

  45. “First I dispute your notion that Britain and Germany had parity in ground forces. I think the German army was superior to the British in both quality and quantity.”

    I don’t think there is any doubt about that. But I think the British Empire had more resources in every other area.

    Actually it was a pretty sweet deal and you would think that it would have lasted.

    With Britain being so vastly superior at Sea and Germany being so much better at ground warfare there was the possibility of a very long peace.

    In my book Britain blew it.

    But one has to specify ones starting point as to when policy ought to have been different.

    As long as that Status quo held and the Germans didn’t build a big navy or take strategic ground that could be used to throttle the offshore islanders then you had stability.

    But I think the Germans began trying to put a big navy together…………Dreadnoughts and things.

    Its at this point that Britain had to act to prevent a war.

    Its very expensive to prevent wars but its cheaper then fighting them.

    So Britain ought to have put together the shock troops to be able to land on the Continent SO FAST to deter war.

    She had to set up pretty impregnable barriers on the Continent in co-operation with smaller countries.

    She had to try and reduce her committments to the Empire.
    The British could have spent there way out of trouble and made it obvious to the Germans that they better not try it on. But that means cutting back on all the non-defense stuff.

    But if the STARTING YEAR we are choosing means that it was too late for that………..

    ….. If the starting year of the change in policy meant that the British didn’t have the deterence in place, with a massive margin of overkill to back up their ultamatims… then the best strategy would have been a Reagan/Brits Against Napolean sort of deal.

    Where you max out on proxy war and keep building your own power. But you try to avoid putting your own guys on the front… Or sending them over into no mans land.

    Where you can get to a strategic point first with massive resources and consolidate you do that.

    But you are really trying to get behind and resource anybody whose willing to fight these guys.

    Because a government should be looking after its own people first.

    The most capitalist country has the advantage if it can wait it out and build its power.

    And sending your boys into no mans land is not looking after them.


    October 26, 2006 at 3:30 pm

  46. I don’t have the reference.

    But there is an anecdote about Bismark.

    Bismark united all these German territories through very decisive war-like moves.

    But despite being a warmonger in the first half of his career he wasn’t into crazed violence or to have Germany threatening other people for no good cause.

    He wanted these German peoples united and he wanted them safe (or so it seems) but once that was accomplished he had no call for further war.

    But it might be he had created a monster. Because apparently he was being badgered to go on conquering folks and gaining territory.

    The anecdote was that someone said…..

    ‘But what if British soldiers attack us here in Germany’ or something similiar to this.

    And Bismarks reply was….

    ” I’ll have them all arrested!”

    Like he’s telling this fellow don’t be an idiot. Things are cool. Be happy with what we’ve acheived.

    So he was a serious fellow.

    Now it might be an exaggeration what he was saying. But one with a great deal of truth.

    The British prided themselves on their freedom. And that freedom was maintained with this massive navy confidently sailing all over the world.

    The navy guys sail all over the world and keep us safe and free. While the rest of us (in our shame) get to stay home with the babes.

    Contrast this to the Continent. Where massive standing armies of gallants would get about in uniform rooting all their sheilas and intimidating all the blokes.

    The Brits ground forces were these Empire frontier light-infantry types.

    Intrepid people no doubt but not ready to be rightly thrown at the Prussian army.

    So yeah if Bismarks status quo could have held that would have been a very productive duopoly of kickass.

    But it was the German people that had fallen into a belligerent frame of mind.


    October 26, 2006 at 3:50 pm

  47. This is the silliest post I’ve seen on the site. Why would Britain “join forces” with Germany to fight Russia in 1917? Apart the fact that Britain had no reason to do so, Russia was beaten and out of the war by late 1917 anyway. It came back as a major central European power after the allies forced Germany to renounce the Treat of Brest-Litovsk.

    Sure mid-20th c. history might have been nicer if the Allies had refrained from pushing Germany’s face into the mud, but that’s just fantasy.

    Timothy Can

    October 27, 2006 at 10:21 am

  48. Birdy, money do matter a squirt if people aren’t in the party mood.

    Germany had more impressive generals and infantry than the UK.

    In a land war Germany would easily toss aside the British which is what happened.

    Actually thinking again Germany and England would have never been allies and let’s face it almost every Government was facing a fractious domestic populous.
    A war was inevitable

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 27, 2006 at 10:34 am

  49. i’m sure if you read some history timothy you will realise that england backing russia and france was basically a coin toss…

    the british royal family is german after all…


    October 27, 2006 at 2:14 pm

  50. fantasy? really…i thought we had a time machine and could go back and change the versailles treaty…

    we don’t? man that was the whole point of this post…


    October 27, 2006 at 2:15 pm

  51. “Birdy, money do matter a squirt if people aren’t in the party mood.”

    No you are wrong about that. Thats you being an idiot.Don’t pose as an economist when you haven’t a fucking clue what you are talking about.

    “Germany had more impressive generals and infantry than the UK”


    Or are you trying to score a lying point by pretending I said something different?

    “In a land war Germany would easily toss aside the British which is what happened.”

    That sentence ought to have started I AGREE WITH YOU THAT…..

    Or were you trying to lie to third parties that I said something different?

    I’ve got no sense of humour for this sort of lying since we get enough of it from Fyodor.

    “Actually thinking again Germany and England would have never been allies and let’s face it almost every Government was facing a fractious domestic populous.”

    I think thats right. Germany was a PROBLEM. Not a potential ally to be in cahoots with for the purpose of mindlessly murdering third parties.

    “A war was inevitable.”

    Can SOMEBODY specify a start date when they make these claims?

    No a war wasn’t fucking inevitable.

    Britain could and should have stopped the war from going ahead.

    But it comes to a time where you are too late and miss your chance.


    October 27, 2006 at 7:05 pm

  52. Birdy, trying being a human being.

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 27, 2006 at 7:34 pm

  53. What year?

    You made a claim.

    What year do you say the war was inevitable.

    War is never inevitable if you work hard enough to avoid it early on enough.

    We have to learn from these things.

    Thats what a decent human would do.

    He’d learn from these catastrophes and tell folks what he’d learnt.


    October 27, 2006 at 7:39 pm

  54. war is not inevitable.
    Tell me Birdy in which century did the world have no wars?

    Bring Back EP at LP

    October 27, 2006 at 7:48 pm

  55. Alright shit for brains.

    I see you have dropped the context of what we are talking about and invented a reading of my words that is the opposite of what I’m saying.


    As you well fucking know thats what I meant.

    And actually in the context of our discussion and this thread that was clear enough.

    Now fuckhead.

    You got anything useful to say that isn’t a distraction based on fucking distorting what the other guy means.

    Now since you were an idiot and evasive bastard and threw up this diversion I am just going to have to repeat myself.

    “What year?
    You made a claim.
    What year do you say the war was inevitable.
    War is never inevitable if you work hard enough to avoid it early on enough.
    We have to learn from these things.
    Thats what a decent human would do.
    He’d learn from these catastrophes and tell folks what he’d learnt.”

    Now this time back up what you are saying.

    Why was a war between Germany and Britain inevitable?

    What year are you making this claim for?

    Whats your starting point year?

    Its a very stupid thing to say.

    It was in Britains interest to deter a war.

    She had the resources to deter a war.

    She therefore ought to have deterred a war.

    And therefore war was not inevitable.

    Now without dancing around you say why it is you thing you are right.

    Always remember that leftists are idiots.


    October 27, 2006 at 8:05 pm

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