"Europe was on the verge of suicide.
Humanity fell into a terrible hell."
French President Emmanuel Macron,
WWI Armistice Centenary, Paris, Nov. 11, 2018.
June 28-July 1914: The Strategy of Hope
Causes of World War I
Sir Edward Grey: Delayed Telegrams June-July 1914
British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey on the Causes of World War I
Winston Churchill on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
June 29th-July 1914, Wagons-Lits to the French Riviera
Post-June 28-July 1914/WWI:
July 16, 1945: Trinity
Effects of Atomic Detonations: Hiroshima, Nagasaki
Japan: Feasibility of Atomic Demonstration-Test in 1945
USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
May 29, 2019
- "Caught Looking": Physical Working Model of Great Power Balkans Crisis Behavior:
A perfect description of the Balkans Crisis zero-to-World-War-in-3.5-5-weeks phenomenon occurs regularly in American Major League Baseball. Anyone who plays or watches Major League Baseball can use it as a physical model to easily & quickly understand how the June 28, 1914 crisis unraveled so fast.
At the plate, a batter with 2 strikes will sometimes just stand there and not swing at a pitch the umpire then calls a strike. In American Baseball parlance, it is a "Call Strike 3" and the batter is out. He was "caught looking" at the ball as the pitcher threw it inside the strike zone right in front of him.
Starting Day-1 of the Balkans Crisis, June 28, 1914, this seems identical to the dumbfounded reaction of European-British gov't officials.
For the batter, being called out while standing there and not even swinging is clearly worse than being called out for swinging and missing.
"[T]he batter expects a curveball, but the pitcher actually throws a change-up. [T]he batter is caught off-guard & can't react."
"At 90+ MPH it's extremely difficult to adjust to all the possible types of pitches at all the possible locations."
In effect, astonished officials standing at the helm of the Great Power govt's of France, Germany, Britain and Russia seemed to be "caught looking" at the June 28-July 1914 Balkans crisis as it unexpectedly zoomed inside the strike zone at home plate right in front of them and exploded into World War I.
[(right) Roger Clemens, one of the hardest-throwing pitchers ever]
In baseball, it's also known as "sitting on a pitch." As a pitcher winds up and throws, the batter decides in advance he's not going to swing at it, hoping it won't be a strike. Starting Day-1 of the Austria-Serbia Crisis, this seems identical to what European/British officials did:
[telegram] to Sir G. Buchanan [British Ambassador to Russia](Like standing dominoes one-by-one tipping over, an alarming number of European/British gov't officials reacted nearly identical to Sir Arthur Nicholson. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany literally floated away July 6 to the waters off Norway, on his yacht for a "vacation," not to return to gov't in Berlin until July 26th).
Private, Foreign Office, June 30, 1914.
"The tragedy which has recently occurred at Sarajevo will, I hope, not lead to any further complications..."[italics added]
Sir Arthur Nicolson [1910-1916 British Permanent Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs]
"During the first phase, from June 28 to July 23, he [Sir Arthur Nicholson] regarded the crisis as one between Austria and Serbia and hoped that it would be confined within the limits of a diplomatic incident."[italics added]
Harold Nicholson: First Lord Carnock - A Study In The Old Diplomacy, 1930, at 415.
(The president of France Henri Poincare and Prime Minister René Viviani also literally floated away mid-July, on a "diplomatic holiday" to Russia, not to return until July 29-30. The Germans block many telegrams to and from Poincare's yacht. Upon Poincare's return to government in France, he is shocked to discover that France, the same country he was presumably elected President to run, is only hours from war with Germany).
From Justin Verlander's 101mph fastball to strikeout king Chris Sale's devastating slider, the key is throwing the ball in a fairly devious way so that in the brief flash of time he has to swing his bat the batter is left just standing there because he can't identify the type of pitch and/or where it's heading.
American Major League Baseball infields have the pitching rubber on the pitcher's mound 60 feet 6 inches from home plate, but the pitcher may wind up and release the ball from only ≈ 55 feet away. At 100mph, if it takes 50 milliseconds for the eye-brain to register the ball and 150 milliseconds to swing the bat, that leaves the batter ≈ 0.2 second to make the decision.
When American Major League Baseball batters with 2 strikes are "caught looking" at a pitch that even close-up national television cameras show was obviously thrown well inside the strike zone, they sometimes stamp their feet, throw their bats and/or scream with rage at the home plate umpire. All this can be seen on American Major League Baseball television regularly.
The point is that the batters are usually upset not because the umpire was wrong. More often they are upset because they were caught red-handed on American national television standing right next to the plate and not swinging at a pitch the high-resolution stadium zoom cameras showed was a clear strike and what the umpire called a strike.
So for upset European/British gov't officials at the helm in 1914 to insist - adamantly swear up and down on a stack of Bibles they saw the Austria-Serbia Crisis as strictly a local crisis - what does that say?
[(right) Bryce Harper says good-night]
It says they unanimously mis-read it. Every gov't official in Paris, Berlin, London, St. Petersburg and Vienna had to have known for many years exactly what London-stationed Foreign Secretary Edward Grey stated, that they were all "sitting on a [Balkans] powder-magazine." Starting at least as far back as 1908, the Balkans region experienced blowup after blowup after blowup.
And they still mis-read it. For example, one previous Balkans Crisis became so unstable that Foreign Secretary Edward Grey himself stated during the arbitration two of the offended parties decided to resume the war -which they promptly did - and the clearly well-intended London arbitration immediately collapsed.
Standing right there on site, European/British gov't officials were "caught looking" at the June 28th Balkans pitch. Otherwise, instead of pretending it was nothing to worry about and goofing off, they would have realized the blatantly obvious potential of the conflict quickly spreading and done something about it.
[(right) "clearing the benches"]
Instead, gov't officials - in effect - heroically pretended for 3.5 straight weeks that Russia and its vast army was not Serbia's closest ally. They heroically pretended France and its big army was not Russia's closest ally. They heroically pretended France and its big army was not a frequent ally of Serbia. And they heroically pretended Germany and it's vast army was not Austria-Hungary' closest ally. What other logical explaination is there?
By the time of the June 28th regicide, it seems European/British gov't officials had strayed so far off the reservation it took them over 3.5 straight weeks to come to their senses.
[(right) "clearing the benches"]
When the Balkans crisis booted up, severely distracted gov't officials promptly "sat on the pitch." This went on day after day, long enough that the brief 3.5 week window-of-time for potential arbitration ended, which immediately ignited WWI.
Even the British Encyclopedia Britannica admitted the Balkans Crisis of 1908 produced "severe international tension caused by the annexation by Austria-Hungary of the Balkan provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina..." By the end of 1908, it should have been ominously apparent to Europe, Russia and Britain that to maintain the peace of Europe what was required was a standing means of arbitrating future local crises in the Balkans (or elsewhere in Europe) the moment they arose.
"1901-1902.And not a minute later. 1914 Europe - a heavily-armed camp that in any suitable crisis had the ability to deliver millions of soldiers via railroads to the Front at the drop of a hat - was arguably running a dramatically escalating risk that with so many ethnic nationalities and tiny nations crowded into such a small Balkans region, the hope of gaining influence & territory could perversely inspire radical military and civilian elements to strive mightly to create local crises and then quickly push them into a wider conflict.
Conference of Mexico of eight powers, October — to January 29. Convention agreed to, ad referendum, to submit all difficulties that may arise between them to The Hague tribunal, or to a special arbitration commission, if either party prefer. Uruguay ratified in October, 1902."[italics added]
International Congresses and Conferences of the Last Century, at 815-816.
Starting June 28, 1914, no gov't official was gettting paid to stand there at the helm pretending to be a bystander, as if trying out for a part in a dramatic stage play, wringing their hands and loudly bemoaning the situation while wistfully hoping a "local crisis" stays local. The European/British populations could do that, and some probably were. Instead, 1914 Great Power gov't officials were being paid to ask what happens if it doesn't. This they unanimously refused to do.
As mentioned, when a batter goes down on a Call Strike 3, sometimes they will vociferously protest to the umpire. Sometimes the team manager will race out of the dugout and stop only inches from the umpire and also protest loudly. Bats, gloves and hats are sometimes vigorously thrown in anger.
And that's another great physical model fur cutting through much of the alleged "confusion" surrounding the "origin" of WWI.
[(right) Adrin Gonzales says good-night]
After watching a Balkans crisis speed right across the plate and explode into World War I right in front of them, European/British gov't officials could not have been elated with their non-performance, and (surprise, surprise) reacted exactly like some Major League Baseball players do by blaming somebody else.
Some strove to portray themselves as being reasonable and cool-headed throughout the crisis, others pretended to be largely AWOL, while other Great Power gov't officials were portrayed as occasionally unreasonable, aggressive, secretive, unstable, insincere, or possibly even belligerent.
Hardly unique, hardly surprising, but American Major League Baseball has devised a sardonically effective deterrent for such players who likewise try to evade any share of their responsibility for non-performance/awful behavior/bad timing/mis-reading pitches/sitting-on-a-pitch.And here. And here. And here. Very large fines and suspensions, here.
"When a batter has two strikes against them in any at-bat, their main goal at that point is to at least give an effort to put the ball in play. The last thing they want to do is be caught looking at a called strike.
"However, many times a batter does watch the third strike cross the plate usually because they were fooled and guessed incorrectly at what type of pitch the pitcher was going to deliver."[italics added](2d)
American Major League Baseball seems to have the a great physical working model of the reaction of European/British gov't officials in 1914:
When the archduke was assassinated on June 28, 1914, those gov't officials were "caught looking" for a wholly different kind of pitch - specifically, a localized Balkans crisis probably requiring a protracted and tedious arbitration period resembling the previous ones.
[(right) "Clearing the benches"]
But instead of taking 5 or 8 months, the mini Austria-Serbian Crisis zipped inside the strike zone in just 3.5 weeks and nobody took a swing at it. Nobody.
"On Saturday [July 25] Sir Edward Grey left for his fishing lodge in Hampshire, and all other Ministers followed his example and left town."
"Mr. Harold Nicolson, in his Life of his father, the late Lord Carnock, who was then Permanent Head of the Foreign Office, states that Sir Arthur Nicolson, as he then was, became so alarmed about the situation on this Sunday [July 26], that he took immediate steps to bring Sir Edward Grey back to London.
"War was declared by Austria on Serbia two days later and by Germany and Russia five days later."[italics added]
Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer: War Memoirs (at 32-33)
Rather than ask the obvious question what happens if the local crisis spreads, European/British gov't officials decided to "sit on the pitch" and hope it wasn't going to be a strike.
What the many millions killed in WWI reflect is the immense distance European/British gov't officials had veered off the reservation by June 1914, especially how badly they continued - day after day after day - to mis-read the tremendously important first 3.5 weeks of the Balkans Crisis. In Major League Baseball, here's 98 ways to zip it inside the strike-zone with clearly perplexed opponents unable to make a single move to stop it:
- "Clearing the Benches":
In American Major League Baseball, "clearing the benches" is when a difference of opinion between 2 players on the field becomes so heated that opposing baseball teams clear their dugouts and flood the field, temporarily creating an unstoppable melee:In the June 28-July 1914 political crisis, the Balkans dispute very quickly cleared the benches by dragging in the Great Powers of Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France and Britain with nobody around to stop it:
"...on 30 June, 2 days after the Sarajevo incident, the [Russian] General Staff, under pressure from Tsar Nicholas II, approved the dispatch of 120,000 three-line rifles, with 120 million rounds, to Serbia."[italics added](2e)
For understanding the speed at which the June 28th Balkans Crisis exploded this must be one of the best Major League Baseball physical action models: an estimated 70 ballplayers racing to empty the benches and even the bullpens in this astonishing bruhaha that seems to arise out of virtually nothing: "I've not seen bullpens run this fast in my life."(0:30) See esp 1:37ff:Other physical working models: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
And those Major League Baseball disputes had multiple umpires often struggling very hard to keep oppposing players/teams apart.
Whereas for the June 28-July 1914 Crisis however, American Major League Baseball played without any umpires delivers a far more credible picture of what must have developed into a supremely chaotic situation played out in Paris,Berlin, London, and St. Petersburg as their foreign ministries saw themselves being inexorably dragged into the Balkans 200-megaton Krakatoa volcano.
Considering the gigantic amount of industrial Maxim machine-guns and heavy artillery then being stockpiled in France, Germany and Russia, that was perhaps the moment it dawned on gov't officials that "sitting on the Balkans pitch" might become the most catastrophic mis-read in the history of all Western Civilization.
[(right) "Clearing the benches"]
Nobody can conceal the reaction of American Major League Baseball players "caught looking" by national live television stadium zoom cameras. 1914's European-British officials were men too. Suppose European/British foreign offices, their govt's and their military commanders had been on CCTV or live national television zoom cameras showing their incredible disagreements and fights - without any umpires! July 1914's total political meltdown on live television would have ended many a doubt as to how WWI was allowed to boot up.
- "Call Strike 3":
"The last thing they want to do is be caught looking at a called strike."The Austria-Serbia Crisis was a 3.5-week-long Call Strike 3. Afterwards, many European/British gov't officials claimed for many years that in their defense they saw the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis as purely a local crisis.
Why would gov't officials think labeling the Balkans Crisis as a local crisis is a defense? If they were the ones presumably responsible for preventing a World War then part of their official duty had to be correctly reading and defusing crises as they appear. If they mis-read a crisis, and it quickly explodes into a World War, what caused that?
(right) "Clearing the benches"]
Those officials did not cause a World War. Instead what they did was by mis-reading the June 28th crisis, they allowed radical military and political elements in Austria-Hungry, Serbia, Russia, Germany (and possibly France) to push the local crisis into a much wider conflict.
Their mis-reading the June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis allowed radical military elements to come in and begin to wrest control of foreign policy from their govt's.
Those gov't officials on site were the only power standing between radical military elements and a World War. Those European/British gov't officials were the only ones who could have prevented a World War.
The problem is they 100% mis-read a crisis. That's what they're responsible for. Those gov't officials deliberately took a June 28th box labeled "Deadly Crisis?" and carelessly and recklessly hid it inside a radically different box conviently labeled "Harmless Crisis."
And what was millions of times more dangerous, careless & reckless: each and every single day for the next 3.5 straight weeks, as if night was day and day was night, as if they had the ability to change water into wine, European/British gov't officials insisted on continuing to deliberately mis-label the Balkans Crisis (and it's almost instantanous expansion into what quickly became a 200-megaton Krakatoa-sized eruption).
That gave Europe's radical military elements one of the most valuable military weapons ever: time. As if handed over on a silver platter, radical military/political elements seized the all-important 3.5 week-long window, and drawing on immense reserves comprising years of alleged mistreatment & fierce territorial disputes, immediately began hyperkinetally shoving the Crisis loose from its local mooring and into a wider conflict involving the Great Powers.
And BOOM! An Earth-Sized box labeled WWI showed right up.
- von Bismarck and HM Queen Victoria:
The architect of the European peace, Otto von Bismark, gained enormous notoriety due to his accurate late-19th Century prediction that in 20 years a World War would come out of some damn fool thing in the Balkans. As usual, Sobriety Incarnate, Britain's HM Queen Victoria, aka the Grandmother of Europe, struck the exact center of the bullseye:
"...she [HM Queen Victoria] despatched a letter to Mr. Delane, the editor of The Times, asking him if he would 'frequently WRITE articles pointing out the IMMENSE danger and evil of the wretched frivolity and levity of the views and lives of the Higher Classes.'"[emphasis in orignal](3)The fantasy of timeless leisure had thoroughly infected European/British upper classes and by 1914 there was abundant evidence in plain sight that an alarming number in Europe/Britain's ruling class were gripped firmly in it's talons.
One of a tiny number of Britain's greatest monarchs, in her volumnious writings (an estimated 50M words) possibly one of the most candid, it was probably not a coincidence that the 63-year reign of HM Queen Victoria oversaw the British Empire during the climb to it's greatest height.
The direct and proximate cause of the Austria-Serbia Crisis>>WWI was radical military/political elements in Europe pushed a local crisis into a wider conflict, under cover of the Paralyzed Great Powers standing on site right there, distractedly hoping the dispute would stay localized.
WWI's ≈ 15,000,000 dead appears to have been the result of a local crisis where each offended party has a giant industrial-strength ally - with known radical military elements - and those jolly Lords of Leisure known as European/British gov't officials strutted hither and thither, supremely confident there were no limits to the time available to settle it.Top