"We can at least feel sure that the greatest of all the dangers which we feared, the danger of a European war is gone..."(50)
Mr. Bonar Law, Leader of the Opposition, Aug. 12, 1913.
[Chancellor of the Exchequer 1916-1919, Prime Minister, 1922-1923]
"Europe was on the verge of suicide.
Humanity fell into a terrible hell."(51)
French President Emmanuel Macron
Armistice Centenary, 2018.
1914: A general willingness to believe "war was something that was not going to happen in Europe."
Page 3: "Caught Looking": Physical Working Models
of European/British Response to June 28-July 1914 Crisis
Historians on Causes of World War I
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Delayed Telegrams June-July 1914
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
Winston Churchill on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
Ambiguous Defensive/Offensive Military Preparations
June 29th-July 1914, Wagons-Lits to the French Riviera
Switzerland: Europe's Strongest Neutral Armed-Power and the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis
To broadly sum up, starting Day-1, June 28th 1914, radical military/political elements in Europe capitalized on the astonishing passivity of the far larger major opposition, which gave those elements free reign to hi-jack lightning-fast European/British electric telegraph cables to solicit their closest Great Power allies and widen the Crisis.
Since those radical elements did not encounter insuperable resistance - the opposition was hoping the crisis would blow over - they had little trouble successfully enlisting additional radical military/political elements & in a couple weeks all the Great Powers found themselves dragged in.
Since the onset of the June-28-July 1914 Crisis was not taken seriously and promptly arbitrated, it ignited World War I, the end of which which satisfied almost nobody, making the govt's of Europe/Britain about as stable as a bowl of jello, which led straight to World War II, the fearsome atomic age and the unraveling of the Middle East.
Ypres, France"The war [WWI] 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 Balkans, 1905-1914:
[There are informal estimates of 25,000-30,000 books on WWI, yet its exact causes have not yet been positively ID'ed. Possibly it's because the right crews - those already highly trained in large-scale investigations - have yet to take a look at it]
Since WWI unhinged Western Civilization, leaving the world to spiral further and further away from any reasonable international order, it prompts the query whether in the initial stages the June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis was at any point amenable to prompt arbitration?
The Balkans region was tightly packed with often fiercely antagonistic ethnic groups and small nationalities. From London, Foreign Secretary Edward Grey stated the Great Powers were "sitting on a powder-magazine." That statement can readily be extracted from an easily readable, detailed timeline of a shocking & furious cascade(52) of political/military events/crises/wars in the Balkans and Morocco circa 1903-1914.
There had been many political crises in the Balkans region that were settled, but in a very disorderly manner; specifically, each crisis was handled purely in an ad hoc, case-by-case fashion.
In the next Balkans crisis/London settlement, who would would gain influence and territory and who would lose influence/territory? Nobody knew.
[(right) Balkans map indicating 18 distinct ethnic groups]
At one settlement, ink flowed and an entire country (Albania) popped into existance out of thin air.
Possibly such disorderly although well-intended ad-hoc, case-by-case settlements may have had the opposite effect, and perversely encouraged Balkaneers eager for greater influence/territory to boot up more disputes/local crises in hopes of receiving favorable settlements from London, the Hague, etc.
Another difficulty with all these so-called Balkan "settlements" is with many ethnic nationalities and countries potentially involved,(53) after each "settlement" it was not uncommon to have one or more of the losing parties feeling aggrieved, e.g., Russia after the 1908-9 Balkans crisis settlement:
"Austrian Foreign Minister Aehrenthal dupes Russian Foreign Minister Izvolsky - Russia, Serbia, the Turks, and Italy are enraged - ~Serbian agitation against Austria intensifies."[emphasis in original]Each attempted Balkans "settlement" may have unwittingly multiplied the layers of severe underlying ethnic grievances and resentments. For every Balkans crisis "settled," the argument could be advanced that in reality the opposite was happening: the more volatile and unstable the region was becoming.
Oct. 6, 1908: Austria annexes Bosnia: THE BOSNIAN CRISIS to Apr.1909.(54)
"But it was the effect on Russia which was most serious. The bitter animosity excited against Austria throughout Russia became a penultimate cause of the Great War...
"If Russia did not consent, Austria would declare war on Serbia with the full and complete support of Germany. Russia, thus nakedly confronted by war both with Austria and Germany, collapsed under the threat..."(55)
"I said that no great Power could submit to a second humiliation such as Isvolsky and Russia had suffered in 1908. It was precisely because Russia had recoiled in 1908 that she was sure not to abdicate her Slav role now."(56)
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey
"Russia had been obliged to give way to us on all points, as she was never in a position to procure success for the Serbian aims. Albania was established as a vassal state of Austria and Serbia was pressed back from the sea.
"Albania was established as a vassal state of Austria and Serbia was pressed back from the sea. Hence this conference resulted in a fresh humiliation for Russian self-esteem."[italics added]"(57)
"It may be argued by some that we had better leave things alone, and allow them to fight it out... I am told that 50,000 lives have been destroyed since this fratricidal war commenced...The foreign secretary, July 14, 1913:
"If our civilisation is worth anything, if the culture of Europe is worth anything, why allow these primitive peoples to continue this carnage, this inferno, this slaughter? No material advantage can accrue to Europe... if we stand silently by while this terrible carnage continues."(58)
David Mason, WAR IN BALKANS, House of Commons Debates, July 14, 1913.
"Nobody can say that anybody who paints in strong colours the deplorable situation which is caused by the war in the Balkans at present is using too strong language...Possibly the Great Powers, in their fervent desire to prevent a war from breaking out amongst themselves, had been unknowingly engaged in assembling a vast, multi-layered, increasingly-combustible ≈ 1/2 million-square-kilometer Balkans "powder-magazine."
"But the best prospect I can put before the House is that the war now proceeding in the Balkans is so exhausting and so horrible in its features that it should not last long, and that the mere intensity of it should bring it to a conclusion, and we hope that no complication will arise out of it which will make any of the Great Powers lose touch with each other or endanger the Concert of Europe.
"The first business of the Concert of Europe, after all, is to preserve peace and harmony between the component parts. If that were not secured the consequences to Europe would be far more disastrous than anything which has yet occurred..."(59)
Suppose Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, French Ambassador Paul Cambon and their 1914 foreign ministry colleagues were sitting on the rim of something resembling a freshly-built 200-megaton Krakatoa-scale volcano, or a Spain-sized IED (200+% larger than Britain), with the Russian Steamroller as Serbia's protector, heavily-armed France as Russia's closest ally and the German War Machine as Austria-Hungary's strongest protector?
February 2,1914: "The Serbian Prime Minister Pasic meets with the Czar in St. Petersburg, and is told 'For Serbia, we shall do everything.'"(60)
- Great Powers' Balkans Crisis Arbitration 1908-1913:
Moreover, some local conflicts seemed to take monumental amounts of time to arbitrate:
"Shortly after my arrival in London, at the end of 1912, Sir E. Grey proposed an informal conversation to prevent the Balkan War developing into a European one...A conference to settle one Balkans crisis reportedly started Sep't 1912 but an agreement wasn't reached until 30 May 1913. That seems like a very considerable period of time.
".. and during the eight months or so of the negotiations his goodwill and his authoritative influence contributed in no small degree to the attainment of an agreement."[italics added](61)
Prince Lichnowsky [German Ambassador to Britain, stationed in London]
"The friendly personal relations between us could not prevent our proceedings from being protracted and sometimes intolerably wearisome.
[(right) Savador Dali]
"It was said after the first few weeks that Cambon [Paul Cambon, French Ambassador stationed in London], when asked about the progress of the Conference, had replied that it would continue till there were six skeletons sitting around the table."(62)
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey
To scale this in the modern world: 5 Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne F-1 engines generating 160 million horsepower burnt over 15 metric tons of oxygen/kerosene fuel mix per second"(63) to lift a 363-foot-tall NASA Saturn-V rocket off the launch-pad at Cape Canaveral to a height of 36 miles at 6,000mph, and Apollo 11 sped 384,400Km to the Moon, where jubilant American astronauts got out, spent a couple hours cavorting on the Moon's alien lunar surface, re-embarked Apollo 11 and voyaged well over 1/3 of a million kilometers back to the distant blue planet - all in 8 days. That's ≈ 0.03% the time the London Conference took.
Let that sink in.
In the years leading up to the July 1914 Crisis, it was almost as if European/British gov't foreign offices embraced some kind of backwoods, or neo-luddite concept of time. (Luddites were adverse to technological progress).
The British Foreign Secretary explains:
"Those of us who grew to maturity in the nineteenth century acquired our sense of values and formed our first opinions in the latter part of the Victorian age."Another iconic Britisher of the very first rank put it this way:
"The general point of view in domestic affairs was already changing rapidly before 1914.
"The war may be regarded as the division between two epochs in foreign affairs as well. We, who were in foremost places in 1904, belonged to one epoch and have lived on into another.
"We are now confronted by problems that are new to us, our vision may be rendered unsteady by things that seem disquieting or alarming, because they are strange to us."[italics added]"(64)
[Q:]"So it's patience."
[(right) Men-An-Tol, Cornwall, England]
[A:]"Lots of patience.
"The famous story goes, 'How do you make these beautiful British lawns?' and the answer is, 'Oh, you just roll them for 200 years.'
They've never thought of things in terms of quick returns."[italics added](65)
Freeman Dyson, (British) physicist, IAS [Institute for Advanced Studies], Princeton.
Ironically, the wheel is perhaps the supreme exhibit of Luddite technology. The deservedly famous British physicist shows a commendable attitude, but the point made here is when the archduke was assassinated on June 28, 1914, that sitting patiently on the sidelines was precisely what allowed radical elements in Europe to speedily turn a local crisis into a much wider conflict.
The steep discontinuity between the Old World and the New will be explored in much greater detail. For the moment, to clarify: for "Old World" London reps to arbitrate a local Balkans crisis took longer to settle than SIXTY space flights of NASA's Saturn-V Apollo 11 to the Moon, or ≈ the estimated flight-time of NASA's Apollo 11 spacecraft, departing Venus, to cross the orbit of Mercury, voyage to the Sun, and then departing the Sun, re-cross the orbit of Mercury and voyage all the way back to Venus.
Possibly the over-tolerant and patient 1914 Great Powers were fundamentally geared to handle local crises with extremely patient and forgiving fuses.
The gas giant Jupiter, at just over 3/4 of a billion kilometers from the Sun, is on the opposite, deep space side of Earth, with Mars situated between. The "Old World" 1912-1913 London conference took ≈ as long to settle a local Balkans crisis as NASA's Apollo 11 spacecraft, departing Mars, would take to cross the orbits of Earth, Venus and Mercury and voyage to the center of our Solar System.
Possibly British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey was right. Maybe those of us alive today have no idea how 1870-1914 Europe/Britain conceived space and time. None.
1914: A general willingness to believe "war was something that was not going to happen in Europe.":Top
Nevertheless, impossibly-lengthy London settlements appear to have misled Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna and St. Petersburg gov't officials into believing that if they were arbitrated with a near Greek-god-like patience, all local European crises might be successfully settled:
"My object was indeed to preserve the Entente, for British interests, I thought, required this; but the intention and hope were that the Entente and the Triple Alliance might go on side by side and preserve peace by settling diplomatically each difficulty as it arose."(66)This certainly is a majestic political view. Except starting Day-1, June 28, 1914, a "settling diplomatically each difficulty as it arose" is precisely what never commenced.
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey
"In discussing the situation with Nicolson [Sir Arthur Nicolson, British Permanent Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs], it had been agreed between us that at an opportune moment, or as a last resort, we should propose a Conference."[italics added](67)"[O]r as a last resort." There it is. At an opportune moment, or as a last resort, we should propose a Conference. The foreign secretary:
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey
"Day by day I consulted with Nicolson at the Foreign Office. We agreed that, if things became more anxious and the prospect grew darker, I should propose a Conference. "(68)It's perplexing that the normally highly astute foreign secretary did not instantly grasp that each passing day - each passing hour - was CRUSHING the Great Powers' chances for any arbitration proposals. Presumably the opportune moment began June 28, 1914, shortly after the foreign secretary received the telegram sent by British Vice-Counsel J. F. Jones in Serajevo on the assassination(along with the other telegrams received by the foreign secretary that evening at 18:00, 21:00, 21:23).
Every day that passed only played into the frantic machinations of radical elements in Europe who wanted to widen the Crisis and exploit it for their own ends.
Nevertheless, starting Day-1, June 28, 1914, for over 3.5 straight weeks other European Great Powers adopted the same tactic and sat on the sidelines. As far as the Balkans was concerned, the Great Powers may have well as been staring through the equivalent of NASA's Hubble Telescope watching events in a tiny corner of another galaxy.
The wealthy and powerful European/British Great Powers, by a dismissive wave of the hand, had rendered the Balkans beyond insignificant, and by a brazen faith that would make even the Vatican blink, fooled themselves into believing Napoleon, von Clausewitz, Niccolo Machiavelli and Sun Tzu's Rules of War could not possibly apply to the Balkans, and thus assumed no local European crisis requiring prompt arbitration could ever occur:
"...I think also in society at large [in 1914 there was a general willingness] to believe that war was something that was not going to happen in Europe."(69)
Professor MacMillan, University of Oxford, 2015.
The assumption proved quite wrong: the June 28th-July 1914 Crisis went from zero to World War (peak mobilization of ≈ 45,000,000 men) in under 5 weeks flat.
"[Continuing] That of course in a way was dangerous."What an understatement. WWI's 15,000,000 dead inserted right between the eyes of every historian the most terrible & convincing evidence imaginable; heavily-armed 1914 Europe/Britain foolishly monkeying around with utopian revisionist views was extraordinarily high-risk. It was the opposite of "in a way" dangerous.
For the last thousand years no region of the world has been more addicted to warfare & fighting than Europe/Britain. By 1914 France, Germany and Russia had built up colossal assembly-line industrial-grade Maxim machine-gun and heavy-artillery stockpiles and the largest land armies on Earth, and Britain had built-up the most heavily-militarized maritime fleet on the globe.(70)
To pretend otherwise, to pretend to oneself that in the decades leading up to 1914 a veritable miracle had occurred, that heavily-armed Europe/Britain, with no conceivable earthly explaination, like Jesus rising from the dead, had morphed through the Looking-Glass to arrive newly reborn as model peace-loving countries is to defy 1,000 years of exorbitantly violent European/British history.
[(right) The Selling of the Bulbs.
Only days before the spectacular crash of the 1637 Dutch Tulipomania market, the Semper Agustus (depicted) fetched the highest prices.]
In 1636-7 the Dutch believed they discovered the key to non-stop wealth:
"... they rushed to the tulip-marts, like flies around a honey-pot....Nobles, citizens, farmers, mechanics, sea-men, footmen, maid-servants, even chimney-sweeps and old clothes-women, dabbled in tulips. People of all grades converted their property into cash, and invested it in flowers."In the years leading up to 1914, Europe/Britain believed they discovered the key to non-stop peace. 1914 Europe/Britain had morphed into a political version of Dutch Tulipomania: war had been (however temporarily) banished. Starting February 3, 1637, the value of Dutch tulips fell over 99% in 3 weeks. Starting June 28, 1914, the value of believing a European/British fantasy that war had been banished fell even further: 100% in under 5 weeks.
"Every one imagined that the passion for tulips would last for ever, and that the wealthy from every part of the world would send to Holland, and pay whatever prices were asked for them. The riches of Europe would be concentrated on the shores of the Zuyder Zee, and poverty banished from the favoured clime of Holland." [italics added].(71)
[(right) Wagon of Fools by Hendrik Gerritsz Pot, 1637.
"Followed by Haarlem weavers who have abandoned their looms, blown by the wind and flying a flag emblazoned with tulips, Flora, goddess of flowers, her arms laden with tulips, rides to their destruction in the sea along with tipplers, money changers and the two-faced goddess Fortuna."]
When the June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis struck, European/British gov't officials self-medicating on Fentanyl-strength Alice-in-Wonderland politics virtually paralyzed Europe/Britain, making stopping the Balkans Crisis from quickly expanding into a wider conflict, and then exploding into a World War a vastly more difficult, if not impossible task.
The single most violent/most heavily-armed region of the world, with a 1,000 year history of virtually non-stop fighting/wars spawning a lunatic utopian fantasy seems almost faintly reminiscent of the compulsive serial bank robber, who during the brief moments of time he's not actively involved in planning bank robberies/collecting weapons & disguises/robbing banks considers himself actually an extremely honest person, a veritable pillar of high-society.
Recalcitrant Europe/Britain had 10 straight centuries - 1,000 years - to come to the table and least agree on a common language to arbitrate intense territorial disputes, and in 1914 those haughty Great Powers unanimously refused to even consider it.(72)
[(right) Norman Angell's 1911 proclaimation that economic interdependency had eliminated the possibility of a general European/British war. "Four years later, World War One turned him into a ..." "In 1914...he announced to an American journalist, 'There will never be another war between European powers.'"(73)]
Agreeing to sit on a volatile Spain-sized powder-magazine while pretending one wasn't seems like an eventual glide-path on autopilot to sudden large-scale war. The early breakout of World War I, the slaughter of 15,000,000 soldiers and civilians, the total collapse of four 1,000-year-old empires - seriously, does the professor need more destructive evidence than that?
"[Continuing] Because what it meant was that when the crisis came, a lot of people thought it cannot have one - happen.Thinking through the terrible consequences of those 2 sentances was something the professor seems anxious to prevent: those 2 lines of logic had the power to completely derail the lecture. The professor literally stops speaking in the lecture, unable to complete the sentances, as if the unlimited stupidity of the most heavily-armed/violent region of the world that at the same moment had seriously dismissed the possibility of a general war might become too obvious to the audience.
"And perhaps they took it too much for granted that peace was something..."
The professor explains in plain sight how the local Balkans crisis was allowed to get completely out of control. The professor had just spent the first 20 minutes of the lecture trying to persuade the audience there were allegedly "good reasons" for 1914 Europe/Britain to utterly dismiss the possibility of war.
When the professor apparently then realizes such a thoroughly monotropic and destructive belief would work like the devil to undermine all sober, responsible and prompt attempts to arbitrate the June 28th Balkans Crisis (so as to prevent it from, for example, igniting a cataclysmic World War), the professor instantly backs off, halting in mid-sentance, unable to go on. The paramount point is 15,000,000 WWI dead are in in the balance on this one.
The exact problem the professor is grappling with is that to explain away Europe/Britain's comatose non-reaction to the outbreak of the June 28 Balkans Crisis requires strenuously asserting over and over it was "reasonable" to assume that "war was something that was not going to happen in Europe."
Just weeks later, WWI flattened that suicidal fantasy - to the last atom.
Starting Day-1, June 28, 1914, Europe/Britain's Fentanyl-strength, science-fiction parallel universe insisting "war was something that was not going to happen in Europe" became the witless and dedicated arch-enemy of every sober, official, responsible & prompt attempt at opening Balkans crisis arbitrations to prevent the 200 megaton Krakatoa-scale "powder-magazine" each and every single European/British Great Power was then sitting on from exploding into a catastrophic World War and annihilating 15 million.
____________________________________ 2018 - 2020