The July 1914 Crisis that ignited World War I.
It seems in July 1914 Europe experienced a complete political meltdown, a trillion times worse than the 'absolute chaos'in the control room during the severe 5-day atomic Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident at Three Mile Island in March 1979.(1)
Nobody died at TMI, but July 1914, the single most destructive political crisis ever seen, settled right down to business, using Maxim machine-guns and industrial-scale heavy artillery to slaughter almost 9 million soldiers in siege warfare and 6 million civilians.(2) WWI destroyed the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German and Ottoman Empires, which laid the groundwork for the rise of Communism, Hitler, Fascism, Stalin, World War II, the Cold War, and now the Thermonuclear/Ballistic-Missile Age, which exposes the human race to general annihilation.
___________________________________________________________________________________________"I also want to highlight that in Austria-Hungary, there is [starting June 28, 1914] very much a sense of genuine popular outrage. Although Franz Ferdinand was not a beloved figure with most of the population, his death, and particularily the murder of his wife, was a sincere outrage."
"It was very much like the climate after 9/11 in the United States. It was an act of terror, which the Austrians knew the Serbian government was behind."[italics added](3)
John Schindler [Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College, formerly NSA]
"The only difference between a problem and
a solution is that people understand the solution."
CF Kettering, DuPont, General Motors
- Introduction:World War I was called the Great War by those brave souls not at the Front. Many WWI books/articles/speeches/websites (as did the Versailles Treaty Convention) focus on who or what caused WWI.
This website focuses more on how it could have been stopped. The query addressed here is who, from June 28th through July 1914, may have been best positioned to freeze in its tracks an intense local political crisis threatening to expand into a Category-5 hurricane-scale military conflict that drags all the Great Powers into World War?
Moreover, regardless of who or what started it, one could argue that even today the fire of WWI is still burning quite out of control. Part of July1914's immense political tension that booted up WWI continued on to morph into the Russian Revolution, the Treaty of Versailles, then WWII, Communism, then the Cold War, the Atomic Age, etc. This website suggests that part of July 1914's immense political tension continues to flow unabated into the background of the world, and has never been settled to this day.
As far as how WWI could have been stopped, some historians offer persuasive arguments that the British Empire was - by far - the most stable civil parlimentary government. No other gov't had a Common Law based on a 1215AD Magna Carta. Even as far back as the late 1700's the American Founding Fathers, who fought and won the American Revolutionary War against Britain, still praised the stability of the British civil gov't as indisputably #1, unmatched anywhere else on Earth.
If the assessment is correct, trying to find out if, or how the British Empire could have stopped July 1914's grotesque political meltdown should be taken as much as an acknowledgement and a tribute to its monarchical parlimentary government's unmatched nearly 1,000-year-long civil history as any necessarily cold, clinical - surgical - exhumation of its exact actions or inactions from June 28th through July 31, 1914.
Whatever else can be said about the British Maritime Empire's flaws, and indeed much could be said, no one can deny that in the life of all 1,000-year-old successful empires (#1) there will be some very big mistakes made, and (#2) a month is the blink of an eye.
Anyone who objects to this approach is welcome to offer full details on how Poincare's France, or Kaiser Wilhelm II's German Empire, or Tsar Nicholas II's Russian Empire, or Franz-Joseph's Austria-Hungarian Empire, or the Ottoman Empire, or the Italian gov't was more stable and therefore better positioned to stop July 1914's total political meltdown.
- July 1914: the most catastrophic political month in recorded human history:
VV Putin's nuclear, ballistic-missile-armed Russia did not just pop into existance out of nowhere: it derived from the Cold War. Ditto Communist China, North Korea, NATO and the EU. The Cold War came directly from WWII. WWII derived straight from the hasty Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles and a colossal political vacuum in Europe in the aftermath of WWI:
"This war [World War II] would never have come unless, under American and modernizing pressure, we had driven the Habsburgs out of Austria and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany. By making these vacuums we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer on to the vacant thrones. No doubt these views are very unfashionable...." (4)
Winston Churchill, 8th April 1945 "If the Allies at the peace table at Versailles had allowed a Hohenzollern, a Wittelsbach and a Habsburg to return to their thrones, there would have been no Hitler. A democratic basis of society might have been preserved by a crowned Weimar in contact with the victorious Allies."(5)
Winston Churchill, 26th April 1946
And WWI sprang out of a fierce political meltdown in July 1914, the singular point at which Western Civilization went completely off the rails.
"I came to see World War I...as the great seminal catastrophe of this century--the event which...lay at the heart of the failure and decline of this Western civilization."(6)
George F. Kennan [architect of U.S. Cold War Policy of Containment]
"First, how did a Continental war break out...? I think, whether you agree with what I am going to say or not, I think you would agree it is an important question because many believe that the outbreak of the War is the most important event of the twentieth century."
Perhaps you would not have had Hitler or a Second World War, and some might argue the Second World War was, in a way, a consequence of the First." [italics added](7)
"The Last Days of Mankind: 28 June-4 August 1914. It [WWI] was nothing less that the greatest error of modern history."[italics in original](8)
Niall Ferguson: The Pity of War
"The war of 1914 had such profound, and predominantly negative, consequences -- four years of industrial-scale slaughter all but destroying western faith in human progress, the violent break-up of empires which had endured for centuries, the bloodletting begat by the Russian Revolution and Civil War, the rise of fascism, Nazism, and all the rest..." [italics added](9)
Sean McMeekin: July 1914: Countdown to War
“...the first calamity of the 20th century, the calamity from which all other calamities sprang.” [italics added]](10)
Fritz Stern, German-American historian
"But...World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit." [italics added]
Alan Greenspan [former US FED Chief]: The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World.
"In the case of the Great War [1914-1918] this is, for once, true. The war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before."[italics added]
G. J. Meyer: A World Undone
- The 1914 Revolution in European Warfare: The Maxim Machine Gun
Since WWI was such an unexpected catastrophe, the principals blamed each other. Semi-hidden agendas were ascribed to several of the countries involved: Germany was plotting to go to war while they were still strong enough, France was plotting to take back Alsace-Lorraine, Britain was plotting to encircle Germany (the iron ring) to maintain its maritime supremacy, Russia was plotting to move against Austria-Hungary to regain its lost prestige in the Balkans, secure the Ottoman Straits etc.
Suppose all of them to be true. Did any single country's alleged secret war plans take into account the shattering military revolution that changed the face of European warfare forever? In World War I, the Maxim machine-gun burst onto the scene, operationally deployed as a lawnmower:
"World War 1 was the proving ground for many-a-new war implement and the Maxim 08 was no exception...the machine gun was utilized to create maximum amounts of carnage and at the same time could deliver such a psychological effect on enemy troops that its appearance in the conflict could never be understated." [italics added](11)
"We were very surprised to see them walking. We had never seen that before. The officers went in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. You didn't have to aim. We just fired into them."
German soldier in his diary, after the Battle of Loos, September 1915.
To pick a single day: July 1, 1916, the first day of the Somme Offensive, was the single worst day in British military history, over 55,000 advancing British casualties, 40% from German machine guns such as the Maschinengewehr 08.
And that's just one day. By the Somme's end 4 months later the Allied line had advanced an average of just 5 miles. Cost: 400,000 British casualties, combined British, French and German losses exceed 1,000,000 casualties - 1 battle.
1,000,000 casualties to advance 5 miles? It's obvious who was in charge of that battle. (At that hefty attrition rate, to advance the 510 miles from the Somme battlefield to Berlin would approach 100,000,000 casualties, of that ± 40,000,000 losses from the Maxim machine gun).
Or Verdun: A 10-straight-month battle on less than 10 square kilometers, some 700,000 French and German casualties - 1 battle.
Which country's secret warplans also took into account the possibility of 4 long years of trench warfare, 15,000,000 dead, some 9,000,000 injured and the total demolition of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German and Ottoman Empires and the Russian Revolution/the rise of Communist Russia?
"I think,actually, on the Austria-Hungarian side, the only what if that really matters, is the one where had any one other than Franz Ferdinand been assassinated, you would have had a radically different outcome.
"Franz Ferdinand was assassinated partly because Serbian military police believed he was the head of the 'war party' in Vienna, egging Austria-Hungary to war against Serbia.
"In fact, this was 180 degrees from the truth. Franz Ferdinand was, again, because he was a total reactionary....He would have been the one, had any one else been assassinated, he would have been the one saying, 'Oh, no. There will be no war, no major power war. No. We will work this out however we have to.'
And that's bitterly ironic."(11a)
John Schindler [Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College, formerly NSA]
At least one historian reports 25,000 books and articles printed on on WWI. Since World War I was a global catastrophe that nobody anticipated, so those at the helm in July 1914 had motive to flee the scene, and pleaded vehemently for minimizing their direct role in the catastrophe.
- Officials in the capitols of Europe/Britain during July 1914:
And when you read their accounts you notice many of the principals involved wrote as if the events of July 1914 were occurring in some very distant land - or on another planet. No matter who you read, almost all make an identical pleading: they weren't close enough to events to be able to affect them.
The impression is as if every single principal during July 1914 was staring through the equivalent of NASA's Hubble Telescope watching events at an ungodly distance away. Many predelegated staggering amounts of their own official responsibility to others.
Another highly popular alibi that apparently all of them plead is they were not informed of or were not aware of specific events until it was too late to intervene. It was as if the moment an official pre-delegated the gathering of vital information to somebody else, the official was thus relieved of his official responsibility to keep himself informed.
If we accept all these arguments, what we have is a group of principals who were never really in charge of keeping the peace, that is, preventing a general war in Europe/Britain. That is, if everytime something major goes wrong all the principals are allowed to flee the scene, in what sense can these people be said to be in charge?
And one answer is that they weren't, they were just standing at the helm, almost like dime-store mannequins, as if they were in charge. The moment anything goes seriously wrong, suddenly they are nowhere to be found.
Their writings create the impression that as long as everything is running fine, the wheelhouse of each of the capitols of Europe/Britain is busy with officials typically pushing to expand their influence. July 1914 appears like a Category 5 hurricane making landfall and each reverses course, striving to telescope, or collapse the significance of their office or post, preferably to the point where each has virtually no discernable responsibility or role whatsoever.(11)
After July 1914's total meltdown and the boot-up of World War I, each gov't official strove to appear to the outside world a definite high-toned, moral & compassionate but severely distracted bystander. Before July 1914 many officials strove to stand out and gain recognition. During and after July 1914's total political meltdown many officials reversed course 180 degrees, striving to fit in, or disappear completely from public scrutiny.
"...the July Crisis ensued; world war broke out in August, with all of the fearful and long-lasting consequences mentioned above. All of these world-shaking events were man-made. They are therefore quite properly subject to human judgement."[italics added]
Sean McMeekin: July 1914 Countdown to War (12)
"...the agency of those individuals, those statesmen who chose this war, because this war was not a natural event, it wasn't a volcanic eruption. It didn't have to happen. It was a war that was, like all wars, chosen by the individuals who made it." [italics added]
Christopher Clark: Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (13)
World War I could not have occurred without these officials on site during July 1914. The remedy was clear. Each pretended to be profoundly afflicted with a short or non-existant attention-span. Each official utilised the horror of WWI as a firewall to hide behind, as if to say to alarmed-but-sober queries, "How insentitive it is to ask me to revisit in my memory that disasterous month of July 1914 which led to the awful conflagration in which so many of our people perished."
This tactic was used to discourage a systematic, rigorous accounting of everybody's official duties and actions - and inactions - for each and every single day, starting on June 28th and running to the end of July 1914.
July 1914's "performance" was not leadership nor anything resembling sober responsibility and in fact was the diametrical opposite. This stunning political abdication of official responsibility is how Hitler eventually gained power in Europe. This is how Europe's WWII started. This is how Stalin came to power. This is how the thermonuclear/ballistic-missile balance-of-terror ("deterrence") spread across and now overshadows the entire Earth. Because this July 1914 idiocy was permitted to pass for responsible European/British statesmanship the wheels fell off Western Civilization, never to be put back to this day.
"To me, it is, if anything, more unsettling that a conflict of such world-shattering proportions could be conjured up by such a small handful of men."(14)
Instead of having full responsibility for preventing a World War, what if we let a small handful of men like these "cooperate" in regulating the operation of the New York Stock Exchange, or in determining control-room design layouts of upwards of one thousand switches, gauges, alarms etc. required for sudden emergencies in atomic reactor Loss-of Coolant-Accidents (LOCA's), or cooperate in formulating exact structural engineering design codes for high-altitude commercial jetliners, Golden Gate Bridge-sized suspension bridges or VLCC/ULCC's (global ocean-transport very large/ultra-large crude carriers)?
What if a July 1914-style mentality was given full responsibility for engineering the USA's stupendous task of putting a man on the Moon, or for engineering NASA's bohemoth Saturn-V space rocket? What if a July 1914-style mentality was given full responsibility for engineering the International Space Station?
How about allowing a July-1914-style crew to determine the required strength of steel and concrete in constructing 100-floor tall skyscrapers in New York, Chicago, Singapore, London, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai and Dubai? It'd be a hell of a spectacle, there'd be a catastrophic collapse of a 100-floor skyscraper in a major city of the world every other month.
This was the European/British political mentality at the helm in July 1914. Install this July 1914-style brain-trust in any other large-scale command-and-control engineering project across the civilized world and the result would be identical: brazen indifference, virtually instant fighting, disagreements, carelessness & pandemonium leading directly, sooner or later, to widespread mayhem and total catastrophic ruin.
How about a European/British July 1914-style brain-trust cooperating in the command and control of nuclear weapons? How well would they handle the very scary Soviet air-raid alerts(15) that occurred at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) over several years - not to mention the mega-scary 13-day-long atomic Cuban Missile Crisis?
The paramount point is that starting about 11:30am on Sunday, June 28, 1914, those squabbling officials in each of the capitols of Europe/Britain had four straight weeks to make certain - CERTAIN - the initially localized political effects of the regicide in Sarajevo did not expand into a global war (45,000,000 men mobilized) and it still wasn't enough time.
(Such argumentative and petty "officials" would likely be immediately escorted by US Air Force military police out of Cheyenne Mountain Aerospace Defense Command Complex for posing a manifold and present danger to the security of the United States Government and the entire country writ large, as well as to all US allies worldwide, and possibly to the entire human race).
- Europe/Britain's ultra-superstitious and warfighting background:
This was the problem in July 1914. All Europe/Britain was being led by gov't officials who, if their writings can be believed, seemed to have scant idea what their most important responsibility was. It's the same region of Earth that grew up having many thousands of knights in armor on horseback roaming the area looking for battle.
If European/British history books can be believed, people milled around for 20 centuries dead certain the Sun orbited the earth. Christopher Columbus was begged by highly sophisticated Europeans not to depart for fear his ships would fall off the "ends" of the Earth. Almost every major country was almost constantly either preparing for or prosecuting the most violent wars with every other one.
Then there's the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Bubonic Plague, dozens of overwrought Vatican popes across many centuries issuing cruel ex cathedra edicts, fierce religious battles between Protestants and Catholics, one war between the Dutch and the Spanish lasted 100 years. The famous European oil painters depicted the intense superstitution and rampant confusion of the era.
Scientists (astronomers) were burnt at the stake. Thousands of supernatural beliefs and truly idiotic fables sprang up out of nowhere and spread across the continent, inflaming the peasantry. Many thousands (the Flagellants) armed with torture devices would invade entire cities, literally whipping themselves with metal spikes in the belief that if they lost enough blood and suffered like Christ they would be spared the Black Death and later go to heaven.
Reportedly hundreds were burnt at the stake out of a great fear the flagellants would demoralize society. The Black Death wiped out 1/3 of the inhabitants because the Europeans and the British were too busy praying to try (surprise) sanitation. Its own writings are a treasure-trove for dystopian science fiction and leave the impression that life (although that may be too generous a term) in Europe/Britain must have been - at best - a part-time madhouse.
- A leisure-class attitude pervades the gov't houses of Europe/Britain:≈
The desire to escape centuries upon centuries of unspeakable experiences must have affected every strata of society. Acquiring the means to distract oneself without limit became practically the end-goal of European/British high society, and by 1900-1914 was full-tilt. In the capitols of Berlin, Paris, London, St. Petersburg and Vienna, high gov't oficials act as if a near-constant recreation, daffy behavior & a finely-tuned capacity for distraction were the new official imprimatur of high office competence:In a stunning reversal of the usual method of gaining high competence, which everybody knows is highly concentrated & assidious work for many years at the job or post, it was as if as if the more often each official was able to leave his post (to go off to do what he really wanted) the more acclaim and unquestioned authority he was accorded upon returning.
"Viennese society was a whirl of balls and operas. Everybody, from the aged Emperor in his palace to the young ticket collector on the Mariahilfer Strasse tram, was addicted to music. A wrong note on the tuba at the Hofoper opera house was a citywide tragedy. Vienna had eight orchestras and 247 male choirs..."
"Vienna, ostrich-like, plunged its pretty head into art and music...""By 1913 the Austrian parliament in Vienna was a Punch & Judy show. Representatives spoke in 10 different languages but there were no translators. Proceedings were a Babel of insults..."(16)
By 1914 an intense leisure-class reaction to 15 centuries of awful European/British fighting, wars, supersititions and plagues had taken a firm grip on the capitols of Europe/Britain.
The President of France Raymond Poincare was at Longchamp Racetrack June 28, 1914, when he received word of the killing of the Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. President Poincare had an aide draft condolences for Austria-Hungary and then stayed on to enjoy the rest of the races.
Eighteen days later, as the regicide ramps the Austrian-Serbian Crisis into a Category 3 hurricane, Poincare takes a leisurely state visit on his yacht to Russia. The Germans block many telegrams from his ship. Poincare returns to Paris on the afternoon of July 29th, strolls into his office and is shocked to discover how close (measured in hours) France - the same country Poincare is presumably President of - is to war.
"Will you tell me how to prevent riches from becoming the effects of temperance and industry—Will you tell me how to prevent riches from producing luxury—Will you tell me how to prevent luxury from producing effeminacy intoxication extravagance Vice and folly..[?]" [italics added]
US Founding Father John Adams to US Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, December 21, 1819.
According to a telegram sent from Belgrade to British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, the Russian Minister to Serbia held a bridge party on the evening of the Archduke's murder. The Roumanian and Greek Ministers were invited.
(The telegram was sent July 13th, but Grey did not receive it until the 20th. Belgrade to London is about 1,700 kilometers. 7 days to deliver a message 1,700Km is something the Mongol Empire mail riders wrapped in mummy tape (for sleeping while riding overnight) could do in 1200AD. Yet those are the same telegraph wires a 1914AD British Foreign Secretary had apparently staked an entire 1,000-year-old Imperial Empire upon to resolve intense political crises threatening to drag all the Great Powers into a heavily-armed World War).
Poincare wasn't alone. It seems almost the entire French nation was consumed by the notorious Caillaux Trial sucking all the oxygen out of the Paris newspapers. French Prime Minister René Viviani, who had accompanied Poincare to Russia, reportedly avidly followed the Caillaux telegraph reports throughout the voyage. As for Lonchamp, the mega-popular luxury destination started in 1857 in the presence of Napoleon III:
"War games: Finishing touches for the first big fashion show were briefly interrupted by conflict. On 3rd August 1914 Germany declared war on France. Would the show be cancelled? Bien sûr que non! Races and Fashion are indelibly imprinted in Paris’ genes."It's obvious what had happened: the fierce desire to escape a thousand years of religious superstition, plagues, fighting and wars became overwhelming among the masses and upper classes, and by 1914 it had deeply infected and held even the highest officials firmly in its talons.
"The popularity of Longchamp attracted increasingly large crowds; all ranks and classes, le Tout-Paris attended the races. Quick to grasp an opportunity, Parisian couturiers sent models wearing their latest designs, off to mingle with society ladies and gentlemen. Longchamp became one large, bubbling catwalk." [italics added]
(Sidenote: Re European/British superstition: as late as 1917, during (surprise) World War I, an American astronomer on the Hale 60" reflecting telescope at Mt. Wilson made the jaw-dropping discovery that the Sun was NOT at the center of our galaxy.)
(This astronomical discovery, comparable to Copernicus discovering that the Earth orbits the Sun, compressed out of existance forever that strenuously-held but hideous European/British inversion of the Nature of Physical Reality, for thousands of years making up fake maps out of whole cloth allegedly proving they were at the veritable center of all creation itself. The Hale 60" pushed it straight off a cliff and pulled it apart like taffy - to the last atom).