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tv   Civil War World War I and Total War  CSPAN  August 16, 2017 10:02pm-11:04pm EDT

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united states. live, all day coverage, of the solar eclipse on monday, starting at 7:00 a.m. eastern, on c-span and listen live on the free c-span radio app. and this saturday, we'll take a look at preparations for the first solar eclipse over the united states in 100 years. plus, programs on the nasa budget, mars exploration and more. beginning at noon eastern, on c-span. interested in american history tv? visit our website, you can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, and watch college lectures, museum tours, archival films and more. american history tv, at next, u.s. army war college professor michael neiberg talks about the civil war, world war i, and the concept of total war.
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this was part of an annual conference hosted by gettysburg colleges civil war institute. >> good evening. i am peter carmichael. i am professor of history at gettysburg college. i'm also the director of the support institute. it is my pleasure this evening to introduce to you michael neiberg, michael is the newly appointed inaugural chair of war studies at the u.s. army war college in carlisle, pennsylvania. an internationally recognized historian of world war i and ii, dr. neiberg formally served as the henry l. stinson chair of history and department of national security and strategy at the u.s. army war college. his scholarship focus s on the american and french experiences in the two world wars, and seeks to make the history of warfare and international relations relevant to policymakers and
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practitioners. he is the author of numerous scholarly mondaygra lly monogra dance of the fuhries, europe and the outbreak of world war i, a work named by the wall street journal as one of the top five best books ever written about world war i. pretty impressive. his most recent work "the path to war," how the first world war created modern america, was just published by oxford university press in 2016. with a background in social history, military history, french history and american history, dr. neiberg published widely on the theme of war, and, tonight, dr. neiberg will be broadening our topics will beyond 1865, as he discusses toward the age of people's war, the civil war, to world war i. dr. neiberg. [ applause ]
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>> well, thanks, pete, for that fantastic introduction. i want to thank pete for the invitation to be here. i want to thank ian, where ian is, for his role in getting me. ian and i are both from pittsburgh. i want to thank ian for a year ago having the foresight to make sure that this talk was planned on a night when the stanley cup was not being played. ian, wherever you are, exceptionally well done, my friend. i'm going to just pick up on one of the things that pete said. i am not a civil war historian. so anything that i do wrong, anything that i say that is terrible, my colleague chris keller who is the army war college's real civil war expert, chris is going to wave his hands at me or threaten me in some way. so if i do anything wrong, blame chris, all right. everything i know i know from chris. pete and ian asked me almost a year ago to talk about the concept of total war, and the notion of total war. as it relates to the american
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civil war and as it relates to the conflict that i study the most, the first world war. we'll see how this goes. as i said, this is not a subject i know particularly well. but what the heck, we'll walk on a wire and see if i fall off. total war is a tough concept to pin down. when we use it in the classroom, sometimes we treat it as a bimodal concept that is to say a war is either total or limited. or sometimes we think about war as i prefer to do in the classroom, as a spectrum, from some notion of limited war to some notion of total war, being aware of the many complexities of the concept, even inside itself, and what i mean by that is that wars can go from being limited to total, or less often from total to limited, and, of course, the two sides fighting in a war can have different concepts of the kind of war they're fighting. a war can be limited for one side and total for the other, which creates some interesting issues of asymmetry. defining total war has alluded a lot of scholars. a difficult concept to come up with a definition.
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some historians focus on technology, that is they think of total war as something that exists in the modern industrial age only. a concept i'm not sure i'm comfortable with. there are some that define total war in a more kind of causewitzian sense, a problem with politics, total war depends upon the goals that a state is fighting for. if a state is fighting for control of a coal field in sylesia, that is limiting the kind of war it will fight as opposed to the first world war, which is described as a war of big ideas, a war where the two sides are not fighting for something limited. they are fighting for a total kind of victory. it can also be, and i'll come back to this concept at the end of my talk, as john horn argued, a problem of culture that is cultures can totally reform themselves within a war to make a limited peace unacceptable. i'll come back to that concept in a bit. where is the first total war?
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it is a question that bedeviled a lot of historians. david bell argued that it is a napoleonic war, creating the political and cultural necessity that i talked about for totality, while the late 18th century creating the first inklings of an industrial system of warfare. i'm sure many folks in this room might argue the american civil war is the first total war. we start the army war college, chris and i start, we'll start here in a couple of months, by teaching through sidities, an awful lot to say about the nature of total war and the nature of cultural change within war in ancient greece. moreover, in the grand sweep of history, i think it is fair to ask another question. do we move linearly from limited war in an era of the past to something total war as you go forward. in other words, if david bell is right, and 1789 marks the beginning of the era of total war, and if we mark the end of
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the era of total war in 1945, as many historians would, then we have to ask the question of whether this is a linear transformation, or whether there is something that binds the two ends. 1789 on the one end and 1945 on the other. what cause ed the stop in 1945 to end this period of total war? it could be the existence of nuclear weapons as some would argue, that that creates a limit to the totality that you can go to. but that seems to me an insufficient explanation. and it also seems to me that these questions are fundamental ones if we're going to think about total war as a concept, as a way of organizing our thoughts. now, unless you reject the idea of total war entirely, it seems to me that the american civil war in the first world war would have to count in any definition of total war that we might use. which leaves us again with this fundamental problem of definition, and this fundamental problem of causation. now, the first scholar that i know of to try to think about
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defining total war, though we didn't exactly use the phrase, is von clausewitz. he translated the war as absolute war is the phrase he used. he contrasted it with real war. absolute war is the war that a state might want to fight, real war is the war that a state ends up in fact fighting. and without too much mental gymnastic, you can translate the ideas into something that would look like limited and total war. understanding carl von clausewitz is worthy of many seminars. as chris and i do every year, trying to get folks to understand the complexity of what he was arguing rather than the bumper stickers is itself a problem. he argued that absolute war is the direction that war naturally goes if nothing limits it. in other words, in clausewitz's understanding of war, war goes towards totality. limiting war is the challenge. and, again, remembering the wars
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that he sought saw and the wars fought in, it is easy to understand the background he's coming from. the french revolution, napoleon creating a war that stretches from russia to spain. and although we think of clausewitz talking about wars between states, he had a lot to say about the guerrilla war that was fought inside spain, came as close to totality as anything the europeans fought. as napoleon fought against the spanish guerrillas, known as napoleon's spanish ulcer. in his mind, what limits war are the political goals that a state sets, the natural fog and friction that is the things that naturally go wrong as you begin to fight a war, geography, and the nature of what a state can do, and maybe most importantly the size of an army that a state can raise. that is if you can only raise a small army, you can't do too much with it.
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this is the problem that his home state, prussia, had. a small state, relatively poor state in the 19th century, trying to find a way fight its way through a total war. those familiar with the time period knows some of the things in the decades before the american civil war that the prussians did to reform their army, to make it more professional, to make it more modern and to change the society around it in part by freeing the prussian surfs as a way of trying to get the average person in prussia to believe in the national ideal. clauswitz's essential problem for prussia was to get prussians to believe in their state the way the french did, the way that french people did -- french soldiers would march from paris to russia, you had to find a way to create that kind of spirit without at the same time creating the revolutionary spirit that clauswitz and so many prussian conservatives were afraid of. as a result, clauswitz argued, war tends to go towards its absolutes, but at the same time, there is naturally within that
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system things that limit the nature of war. generals, therefore, can never fight the kind of total war that they want to fight. they can never get to absolute war because they're always limited. not even napoleon. not even the generals that clauswitz observed in the early 19th century. i must confess, i am at the very least sympathetic to the arguments of the scholar at west point names jenny keesling. she argued that total war was what she call a fetish for historians and practitions of war alike. she argues very provocative andly and very intelligently and thoughtfully that the concept of war is pointless, it provides us with no insights at all. in her argument, her conception, it is for i had storians ahisto it to an either/or variable, a bimodal yes or no. in jenny's mind, this is a concept brought up mostly by
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policymakers and generals in order to think about war in its thesis and antithesis, another way to think about binaries. her argument is by identifying periods of total war and limited war, you can simplify history and you can make it a case where total war almost seems to be good. total war is what you do when you win. total war is what you do when you're willing to put effort behind the political goal you've staked out. limited war on the other hand becomes like korean vietnam. limited war becomes the kind of war you fight incompetently. and jenny is talking about the way we think of this re for t rhetorically. it is the kind of war you should fight. this is common in american military thought. you can see it in things like the weinberger doctrine, the powell doctrine, what we want, put all our effort to it, win and come home. limited war becomes its antithesis, the unnatural state
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of thinking about war, unnatural limits put on generals by politicians. limited war as a concept being a code for the kinds of political interference and incompetence in america's wars since the end of the total war period in 1945. now, i'm not asking you to agree with jenny's nithesis, just put ing it out there. calling for total war, thus implies using all of the tools in your arsenal. not taking anything off of the table. and importantly, at least in the way that jenny sees it, total war means leaving the tactical, operational and strategic decisions in the hands of war fighters, not politicians. and here i want to make clear that this is never been the case. right. this is classically clauswitzian, the direction of war comes from the political environment. this is true even in ages of total war. now, jenny and i this is for an article that jenny wrote for a book that i edited, but we had a
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lot of discussions about this and jenny will admit that something like sherman's march to the sea becomes a good example of total war. minimal outside restraint from politicians, here again i'm walking out on that tight rope, but my understanding of it certainly is. sherman is not calling back to the white house every couple of minutes for direction, he's cut ing his lines of communication and i'll see you in savanna. a positive strategic outcome that comes from this application of total war. and the total use of military power at least in type that is if sherman wasn't able to bring every new technological advance along with him, he was able to reconceive of military power in the march to the sea and reconceivable way to use it in order to obtain the political end that the united states government wanted him to achieve. now, skipping forward to my war, the first world war, my war, skipping forward to the first world war, which i study, much the same might be said of the 1916 battle for verdun.
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he argued the first world war battlefield, the western front, had completely deadlocked and the only way to win the war was to use that deadlock to germany's advantage, use the tactical stalemate for strategic advantage. and some of you may know his design here. his intention was to attack a place on the western front, he knew france would have to counter attack to get back and a place where germany's logistical lines would be superior to the logistical lines of the enemy. the place he picked is the french frontier fortification city of verdun, what we were talking about before pete disappeared. the idea was to attack a place, capture the outer fortifications, capture the major fortifications and force the french to counterattack, being aware that the defense was
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stronger than the offense. now as some of you know this turns out to be a bloody and feudal failure that cost him his job and cost about 1 million french and german carnsualties together, not to move the lines on the western front hardly at all. it is one of the kruppiecreepie places you'll ever get a chance to go to. the plan, like sherman's, reinvestigationed the nature of warfare. took political level control off the table and in the most famous account of the battle, by allister horn and reinforced by alex jankowski's more research and archive based study of the battle, he intentionally kept his political masters in the dark. knowing that they would put limits on what he could and could not do. so that falconhime told his bosses that the purpose of the battle was to capture the town
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of verdun. he knew if he told them the goal was to kill three french men for every two germans that got killed, they would never accept the plan. okay. now, to me, those are examples of the total use of military power. that fits the kind of model that we have for totality. interestingly, though, this total war concept that we have been talking about has lost some of its shine in recent historiography. adam toos never used the term. neither did nicholas landburg, planning armageddon, in which he argues that the british war plan devised by the navy, pre-1914, was to destroy the global economy, crash the entire system, win the war by bankrupting the world, knowing that great britain would be in a position to pick up the pieces when it was over. now, the british government never really approved of this plan, navy really wanted to execute it, but if anything strikes me as total war, it
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would seem to be nazi war financing, or a plan to destroy the entire global economy at the outset of a war. yet, neither toos nor lambert uses that phrase. even roger chickering and sid firster who edited five volumes on the concept of total war remain unsure. in an essay in one of those books, revealingly titled, are we there yet, robert wrote despite the work of scholars from around the world and the publication of five edited volumes on the topic, across disciplines, they could not agree on, quote, a definition of total war that can command our general assent. now, maybe this say function of the natural contrariness of scholars, we prefer disagreement, hopefully collegial to general assent, we tend not to like general assent, i noticed this is one thing where chris and i worked at the army war college that they prefer general assent, academics do not, or maybe jenny is right,
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could concept is too vague to be of any use. therefore, maybe the concept lacks any real scholarly utility and i'm wasting my time up here anyway. it is possible. adding to the confusion, as i noted earlier, very few wars begin as total wars. as i hope i'm right in saying, abraham lincoln was willing to fight a reasonably limited 90-day war to ensure the survival of the union. even if that meant allowing slavery to remain in place, and what they called the slaveocracy in power. back to my war, the first world war, no one, i think, would have gone to war in 1914, had they been able to see where that limited war was going to go even within a few months. jack levy has done a pretty in depth analysis of the states of 1914 and concluded for all of them, total war was the least desirable outcome. yet that's precisely what they have by october of 1914.
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frederick angles was right in 1887, he wrote the next war in europe would, quote, involve, quote, 8 million to 10 million soldiers will be at each other's throats and in the process, they will strip europe bearer than a swarm of locusts. the 30 years war will be compressed into three or four years, and extended over the entire continent. famine, disease, the universal lapse into barbarism, both the armies and people, in the wake of acute misery irretrievable dislocation of our artificial system of trade, industry and credit, ending in universal bankruptcy, collapse of the old states, conventional political wisdom to the point where crowns will roll into the gutters by the dozens, and no one will be around to pick them up. that's a pretty powerful and pretty prophetic statement of what was to happen by 1918. but the key point to me is nobody thought this is what they were setting loose in 1914. nobody. and, again, had they known, my
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guess is nobody goes to war. the germans, as most of you know, expected a victory over france in six weeks, plenty of people who doubted that would be possible. and the british expected to fight a world war while maintaining what the british prime minister called business as usual. now, with all of those caveats aside and all of those kind of warnings that i've just given you, i'm going to proceed with a comparison of the two world wars as total wars anyway. keeping in mind two assumptions, both of which i am perfectly willing to see us challenge or discard in the q&a. one, that the concept of total war does have some analytic utility, at least for a lecture on a friday night in june, and, two, that it does apply, both to the american civil war and to the first world war, though as i hope to show here, they apply in different ways. so, just as clauswitz said it is trinity, i'll look at three different parts. i'm going to look at differences
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in the way the two wars can be understood as total wars. this is where i expect chris to wave his arms at me. i'll conclude with some thoughts of ways total wars come to an end. it seems to me if the concept of total war has any utility whatsoever, it should be used to help us think about the ways that total wars have to end in a different way than limited wars end. so, first, let me start with similarities. it seems to me that one indicator of total war is a war that intentionally targets civilians. and intentionally targets civilians not as an incidental part of war, not the way 18th century wars could affect civilians by going over their fields, but by targeting civilians as an intentional part of military strategy. surely the targeting of civilians should be a part of any discussion in any notion of what a total war is. both wars had blockades that aimed to deny food to civilians, both wars understood civilians as part of the war-making
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capability of the enemy. this is a point that david bell makes in his book on the napoleonic war as well, this is a key concept both sides understood they were fighting not just civilians but -- fighting not just soldiers, fighting civilians as well. sherman's march to the sea, of course, makes this point. as does what mark grimsley called the hard hand of war, as union civil war strategy became harsher and harsher and harsher as the war went on. the first world war, of course, also had the beginnings of strategic bombing, using both zepplins and using airplanes to bombard civilian targets as far away as london. it also involved genocide, in the armenian case and the paris gun, a rail gun so big that it could only be moved by rail, and the gun that fired a shell the size of a volkswagen halfway to outer space before it landed. now, with the gun like this, you can only hit a city. and that's what the germans used it for.
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random bombings in paris, unfortunately for the germans, unfortunately for the people in paris, one of those shells went through a church on a good friday service. and if you read the treaty of versailles, the negotiations over the treaty of versailles, this is one of the war crimes germany is accused of, taking a gun as big as the paris gun and aiming it at a city, not a military target, a city. second, seems to me another definition of total war involves changes happening in the society that were not obtainable in peace time. that is, wars open up total wars open up the possibility for radical social cultural and even political change. in the american civil war it seems to me the most obvious case of this is emancipation. in 1861, it would have been -- chris is shaking his head yes, thank you. it would have been almost impossible to envision a scenario in 1861, in which something like the emancipation proclamation comes by 1863. of course, it comes into effect
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in 1863 because of the environment of total war. it is not an expected outcome in 1861, it is not even a desired outcome in 1861. it is almost inevitable by 1865. my colleague at southern miss where i taught, there was a fantastic book looking at texans in the civil war. she noted the absence, hard for historians to prove something about an absence, something we don't have documentation about. she was curious about an absence of the texas soldiers talking about slavery. they don't talk about it in their letters back home until very late in the war. and suzanna's conclusion, i have no reason to doubt her, she's brilliant, is that the reason they don't talk about it is they cannot imagine it happening. until 1864 when all of a sudden they're forced to think about going back to a texas without the institution of slavery being in place. now, the first world war has some more revolutionary
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outcomes. in 1914, most of europe, east of the rhein river, was governed by four empires, the german, the oft row hungarian, the russian and ottoman and much of the world was governed by those four empires. in 1914, nobody, not even the people who despised those empires, thought any of them was going away anytime soon. by 1918, all four are in frederick engels category. the crowns are in the gutter and nobody will pick them up. with the end of the ottoman empire came the end of the ottoman caliphate as well, meaning the end not just of political structures in the east, but the end of religious structures in the middle east. in my view, in the middle east at least, the rest of the century has been spent trying to figure out what replaces that political, social and cultural order in europe, and in the ottoman empire. first world war historians like
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myself are thinking of the first and second world wars at one conflict. the first world war opens up a political, social and cultural space that isn't filled in until at least 1945, some historians would argue 1989 when the soviet union, itself a product of the first world war collapses. and i think i'm sympathetic to the argument that is what is happening in the middle east today is really nothing more than the war of ottoman succession. trying to figure out what replaces the organizational system of that war. again, in 1914, nobody, nobody thought that any of these emp e empires was going away anytime soon. lenin who were working to destroy them. four years later, they are all gone. also, as a result, the emergence of two new forms of governance, fascism and bolshevism that is trying to fill in that space, the emergence of the united states as a power in international affairs, these are systems that are political, but
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they're also social. they're cultural, and they're economic. they are revolutionary changes in ways that would not otherwise be possible. third, total wars lead to a growth in the power of government and they lead in that great political phrase to politicians never wanting to let a good crisis go to waste. total wars open up possibilities for states to do things they could not otherwise do. both to prosecute the war, and to take advantage of the crisis that they see. in the first world war, one of the key examples of this is the so-called defense of the realm act, passed in great britain within a week of the war beginning with no debate in parliament. severely limiting the rights of free speech, severely limiting the rights of bartenders to keep bars open, all kinds of things that would have been unimaginable in great britain, war time makes them possible. in the united states, both the american civil war and the first world war led to the curtailment of civil rights and the
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suspension of habeas corpus. it led to the growth of executive power, it led to the growth of government control over legislatures, the courts and the economy. and it also created new political environments and as i was thinking about this course, this lecture, excuse me, i was going back to the one real civil war course i took at the university of michigan with jay mills thorton, this is the big theme i remember from the class. it wasn't so much about the war in his imagination, it was about what this new political space made possible. with the departure of the southerners from the united states congress, the remnants of that congress could put into action a series of law s, a series of motions that never would have gotten through in the years before. that involves, of course, the homestead act, the moral land grant act which creates the state university systems. this was a big theme of thornton's, opening up that space that you can now fill in. and something similar happens, of course in the first world war here in the united states and i'll just talk about france a
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lot, but in the united states, with new railroad regulations, new progressive regulations, the war is opening up a space to make the previously impossible possible. and this is one of the great legacies of total wars that i think we as historians need to be thinking about a lot more. these things that last and endure through the decades. long after the wars are over. there were differences as well, of course, let me highlight two. and here is where chris may start waving his arms. the american civil war, though total, was localized. the one exception may be mexico, where the chaos in the united states allowed france to insert maximilian and try to play international politics inside the mexican state. but the american civil war produced little revolutionary change on a worldwide scale like the first world war did and here some of you disagree, i would welcome your thought s in the question and answer. contrast it to the fist world war, the war is governed by the four empires, and their governed
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by the overseas empires of great britain and france. and let me cite two examples. i've been doing a lot of work on the first world war in the period and one thing beautiful about this is to hear from scholars who work on parts of the world i know very little about. and it has been wonderful. one of those is india. in 1914, of course, india is fully a part of the british empire. in fact, india produce ed the largest volunteer army of the 20th century that is an army raised with no consubscription whatsoever, it is india's army to serve the british in the first world war. the war brought massive fundamental changes to india, personified in no person better than gandhi, who supported the war in 1915, and was a firm advocate that britain had to leave india by 1918. the war made india a net creditor to great britain and created a net trade balance for india, positive trade balance for india, radically realitiering the relationship between india and great britain. india also became a
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manufacturing center as britain moved manufacturing to india to make thej logistics of the asia empire easier. britain introduced one rupee notes, paper notes, which you wouldn't think would be a big deal. the previous smallest unit of currency was a five rupee coin. this is bringing paper currency into india, it brought 100 million indians out of the barter economy and into the global cash economy. 100 million people. britain promised it would reconvert the rupees into silver, a promise they never kept and never intended to keep. in part because they counted on the united states giving them that silver, which the united states refused to do. tensions over this issue led in part to the so-called massacre in northern india in 1919. by that point, the india national congress, gandhi and most indians who had been
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dedicated to the war had been supportive of the war when the war began were now dedicating either to home rule or to independence from india. again, a concept unimaginable in june of 1914. a second example that i would like to give is the issue of a backward, dusty, underpopulated, little known province of the ottoman empire called palestine. in 1914, it was fully a part of the ottoman empire and the ottomans understood it as one of the most stable, most dependable, easiest to govern of their provinces. by 1918, the ottoman empire is gone entirely, and the british army is running india. the british army is running india. its commander walked through the gate of jerusalem and said, 1,355 years of muslim rule in the city are over.
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think about that. as a political change brought about by the war. now, that would be complicated enough. if it weren't for the fact that alan came to jerusalem with the british government already having promised th ed thad thate piece of land to the arabs in a document called the huessein mcmahon agreement, and to themselves in a document called the saxby cove s agreement. isis takes bulldozes and bull zo dozes over the lines to make the statement that the first world war borders are going away. i could have used china. i could have used latin america. i could have used any of the european neutral countries as well to make the case that even states that did not fight this war are fundamentally altered by it. it is the first world war, the treaty of versailles, the first time canada signs a document on
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its own as an independent state. no longer willing to work through the british foreign office. a similar story is told on australia, new zealand, all throughout the british empire. fundamental changes in the world as a result of the war. second difference that i'll come back to, a little bit at the end, i want to introduce now, is in the way that these wars end in the concept of conflict termination. the american civil war did come to a process of conflict termination. the white south may have been unhappy with its defeat, but they did not fight another war. the struggle continued for many in the form of paramilitaries like the ku klux klan, or in struggles that become political struggles rather than military struggles. but within less than a generation, the same people are back in politics in the south, and the struggle after 1877 is largely nonviolent and it is largely political rather than military. the first world war, of course, did not end. and, in fact, this is an exercise i like to do with my students. when did the first world war
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end? almost no one who does what i do for a living is any longer willing to accept november 11th, 1918, as the date for the end of the first world war. almost nobody. the war continued not just in the form of smaller wars, they continued to rage, but it of course continued in the so-called interwar period, the so-called peace period, from 1919 to 1939, if you wanted to fine it that way. as i mensementioned earlier, mo scholars are thinking of the first world war and second world war as one conflict, another 30 years war. it also, of course, sparked anti-imperial wars. it sparked tensions between china and japan. it created the cold war. and if you believe their own propaganda, it created the islamic state as well. now, let me come back to that concept of conflict termination as my third of three points here. first world war scholars talk about a concept they call total
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war culture or war culture. the argument is that when you create a total war, a total war begins, it creates an altered state. it creates an increase in hatred and anger and the book that pete was kind enough to mention that i worked on in 1914, i make exactly this argument, that it is not the hatreds of the french and british or the hate against the germans or hatreds of the germans against the russians that creates the first world war, that's not what happens. you can read any numbers of letters, diaries, anything you want, of europeans, before august 1914, and not one of them will say i really want a war to start because i wanted to kill a german. that's not what europeans are saying. instead, they're saying, we never have known a time that is more peaceful than this. we never have known a time when it looks like everybody is coming together. it is one of the reasons i think the first world war is such a shock to europeans. nobody saw it coming. by the early weeks of the first world war, however, you had
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germany's war crimes in belgium, russia's war crimes in east prussia, the mobilization of society for war, in the case of france, you had french men joining the colors not because they wanted to kill the german, but for easiest and simplest reason at all, an enemy army crossed their frontier. this creates the war culture, the violence, the need to kick the germans out of occupied french soil, this creates the hatred and the anger that creates war culture. now, i mention once before, but john horn, one i think one of the most brilliant historians working on this, argued there were three conditions you had to set for dismantling war cultures. john was particularly interested in two cases, the franco german case at the end of the first world war, incomplete dismantling of war culture and the dismantling of the war culture between northern ireland and the republic of ireland, a much more successful one.
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john argues, three things have to happen in order to get to this point. first, young men, mostly men on the two sides, have to stop being willing to die and kill for their cause. you can still carry a grudge, you can still be angry, but you don't take it to the point of violence. second, the two sides end the dehumanization of one another. they accept the basic humanity of the people on the other side. and, third, and for historians this one is particularly interesting, and ever since i read john's article and talked to him about it, it has been in my head. they have to develop a shared history of the events, they have to come to some form of agreement about how they got to where they got. this version of history doesn't have to be true. it doesn't have to be accurate. it just has to be agreed upon. it has to be what we call a convenient fiction. now, i think if i'm right, the american civil war has all three of these. however much the ku klux klan
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and others were willing to execute violence to enforce their view of what the peace of the civil war ought to look like, they were usually unwilling to combat u.s. occupation troops in large numbers. they were willing to kill, they were not willing to die. that is they had their beliefs, they were no longer willing to sacrifice their lives for them. i understand there are exceptions. second, for the most part, both sides at least among whites in the u.s. civil war accepted the other as american. this begins quickly as the symbolism of appomattox. when i was a kid, my uncle in georgia, macon, georgia, used to take me to a restaurant with a big sign that said beautify georgia, stick a yankee on a bus. but even there it was always done with a sense of difference, never dehumanization. and it was the friendliest place to get a piece of fried chicken and glass of iced tea you can imagine.
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the logic only holds between whites. it is african-americans and the freed men that suffered as part of this. now, points one and two only become possible because of a version of history that soon became common on poeth siboth s. one, both sides were honorably fighting for their cause. states rights, not slavery, was the reason for the war. and african-americans get written out of this narrative, almost entirely until quite recently. is it a false history? yes, in many ways. but it is enough to allow white americans to move forward together in general agreement about what the war meant until the 1960s. and now i think to me it is fascinating to see how this is coming back. that history is becoming fragmented in ways that are interesting for me to observe. by contrast, none of these three things work at the end of the first world war. germans, russians, italians, many others, were willing to die and kill to reverse the outcome
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of 1918, 1919. this explains in my mind the development of fascism. it is the one political form that is call ing for greater sacrifice, greater violence, on the part of people upset with the outcome. indeed, the entire logic, not just the fascism, but bolshevism is based on the idea that the outcome of the first world war ran counter to the logic of history and had to be reversed in order to set right the direction of human history. second, first world war did not end the dehumanization that each side demonstrated toward the other. we think, of course, mostly of nazi attempts to dehumanize every one they saw, but examples from george orwell's experience in spain, to the american war against japan that john toland identified in the 1940s will all serve as examples of the point i'm trying to make.
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third, the first world war produced no single history. american, british, french, german, and russian memories all diverged in critical and important ways, most notably in the desperate search for somebody to blame. the first generation of first world war literature that goes well into the 1970s is a blame game literature. there are still examples of it today. i could cite several books published even in the last couple of years. only since the end of the cold war has an inaccurate but shared european history come into focus that fits john's criteria. it has at its best expression the best-selling book by christopher clark, sleepwalkers, which blames everybody and nobody for the outbreak of the first world war. not surprisingly, it has taken criticism from academics, but has become a runaway best-seller in, you guessed it, germany. just to give you another example of this, in 2012, i was asked to
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go to berlin to be part of the project on the -- to determine what the european union would do as its official commemoration of the first world war. the first set of meetings we had were from eu diplomats, who came into the room and said, we want a history of the first world war, that depicts the war as a war created by nationality. too much nationalism. and now that we have the european union, and now that we have checks and breaks on nationalism, the era of the world wars is over. every historian in the room started laughing. right. to us it made no sense. it made perfect sense politically. and this is backing the dominant way that young people in france and germany and britain, ireland, are beginning to understand the first world war, that it was, as christopher clark articulated, a war started by nobody and everybody. i have huge problems with it. as a political way to move forward, it allows europeans to go forward without
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dehumanization and without looking for vengeance. the first world war is easy to do this with because the regimes that created the war are all gone. the monarchies of europe are all gone. now, in conclusion, before i open up to see how much of this you want to challenge me on, today, these two wars, the american civil war and the first world war occupy very, very different places in american culture. we see the civil wars the start of modern american history, and the spring from which almost everything since has emerged. and i use ed to do this with my comrades when we look at textbooks who argued that wars weren't important to teach. and in every year we would get stakz of textbooks sent to us that they wanted us to adopt, and used to put in piles how many break american at 1861, 1865 or some other year. what do you want to get was always the smallest pile? there is a reason. modern european history textbooks begin in 1914.
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there is a reason. there is a reason. wars are important. the first world war, in this country, is by contrast largely forgotten. its role is to show by its absence our ambivalence with our own world role and distinctiveness from the rest of the world for whom this war remains a central touch stone of identity and you can see this very easily in a short walk through washington, d.c. from that monstrosity, that gargantuan second world war memorial we built to the isolated stuck in the trees washington, d.c. world war memorial, which was literally falling off of its pedestal until they reached an agreement to support it. the agreement was that the government would do it if private funds were raised to fix it. imagine doing that for something like the second world war memorial. total war, therefore, doesn't seem the answer to understand why we think about wars in one
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way or another. there has to be some other way to understand the way that we memorialize and remember these wars. even in totality it would seem there can be amnesia. so thank you, i'll be happy to take any questions you might have. [ applause ] >> so please come to the mike, pete's telling me, if you want to ask a question, so we can make sure to get it recorded. yes, sir. i'll go to the front while we're figuring that out. go ahead. >> can you hear me? regarding your comment about sherman being part of total war,
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i'm a little confused because i read that the grimsley book and it seemed like hard war was a better description of sherman's march. >> yeah. yeah, i mean, this is problem again with that concept of total war, right? how exactly do you define it and what words do you use. as far as i know the term total war, i think jenny is right, the term total war nobody using until the middle of the 20th century. it's not a phrase that we have. i suppose you could argue for a rhetorical difference between hard and total but that's clearly what sherman is trying to articulate, that you're moving in that direction. i don't think sherman used the phrase total war that i know of. >> what i'm referring to is that total war usually means wipe out everything, people and property, everything in the way. whereas the hard war was more property in order to avoid --
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>> i see the distinction you're making. the kill everything and leave nothing behind, salt of the earth and whatever, that's what he meant by absolute war. what he argued is you cannot get there. no state actually does that. and my colleague told me even the romans didn't do that to ka thaj. they said they didn't but they didn't actually do it. that's what the penguins did to the predators last night but that's only in theory. [ applause ] >> never mind. thank you. >> but i take the point that sherman is targeting property, not human life. yes, sir in the back and then back to the front. >> earl from pennsylvania. i'm not sure you've overturned mark's thee cease that the civil war was not a total war. however, assuming that it was and looking at your point about civil war not being localized, how would you talk about the growth of egyptian and indian
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cotton to replace american south cotton during the war. >> right. >> also the fact that the united states navy was able to assist the royal navy in suppressing the slave trade. >> yep. >> and then finally for what i have, the effects of the united states no longer being a slave nation on slavery in other western hemisphere nations. >> i have a cotton thing in the original draft of this talk and i took it out. i think i would say is yes those are all really important transformations but it's not the same as what happens in a small place like delaware. one is clearly having an impact around the world. the other is dramatically revolutionarily changing the way that people understand their relationships to their governing order, or it's destroying their governing order. i would certainly never ark that the american civil war isn't having an impact. i would put that positive tiffly. i would argue of course that the american civil war is having an effect around the globe and
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having an effect in the way that the world is operating. if i didn't argue that, my own colleague would come down and strike me. but i would still stay with the point. it's not doing what the first word war is doing. toppling four regimes that had been in place for centuries, creating entirely knew political belief systems. that's what i mean. that's what i mean in the difference of globalization. jillian. >> hi, doctor. you know me but i'm julia wall from atlanta, georgia. going back to the hard war and total war question, sherman's march to the sea was mainly against civilians. it didn't really have any military opposition since longstreet's corps kind of abandoned georgia. >> right. >> but do you think that hard war is exclusively against civilians rather than total war as civilians are targeted but
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there are other military targets? >> i guess what i would say to that is it's hard for me to think. any war that i would put on a spectrum close to total war would involve targeting of civilians. it just would have to. that's part of the war culture that john horne talks about. when you see an 18-year-old young woman work in a factory as a legitimate target that you can hit with whatever can reach them with, you've crossed some border. the only problem that i still have is thinking of total war and limited war as a limited thing. you're either on one side of the line or the other. so that's the part that in my head i'm still not sure i'm entirely content with. and i think i'm still on the side of jenny keysly and these are concepts we've devised of a way of thinking about war rather than war dhactually is. sherman's march is destroying
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property, not killing people which makes it an interesting total war. but it's a use of military force that no one envisioned before sherman did it. >> thank you. >> thanks. let's go to the back and back up front. yes, sir. >> coming forward in time and going back to the brief words in the beginning about asemitriabout total war and limited war. maybe coming forward to post-world war ii of the united states and its two limited wars, you might say, korea and vietnam, to us it was limited. we didn't want it to go total and we didn't. but to them, the vietnamese knot and society and to the koreans north and south it's total war. >> it's total. >> and in korea it still is. >> and what that shows is it's not just technological. the united states had technologies it could have used in both of those cases and for political culture social reasons it didn't use them. but your important is exactly well taken for one side a war can be limited. the same is true in iraq in
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1991. for one side it can be limited and the other side would be total. and that only makes the concept less useful intellectual ly. >> yes. >> i would like to take you up on your offer to challenge your conclusions, particularly regarding your definitions of the three conditions that end the war. i would suggest that in fact the civil war also was not brought to a conclusion or actually ended. if it had been we would not have the problems in society that we have today. i see very much a direct theme between the end of the war. i think it was an incomplete end to the war that has simply stretched over 150 years before the same issues are still starting to bubble up that were never completely resolved.
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and i think part of it was because the false narrative was so false. and partly because the dehumanization was permitted to continue. so i see it while not of the degree that world war i's ending was in incomplete in that it triggered a war within 20 years but in the same way a defective resolution that leads us to the potential for new civil war. >> right. the argument that john is making that i have adapted for this talk is not that you get to a conflict termination part and everything is as the british say, strawberries and champagne. that's not the argument. the argument is that the two sides come to an argument to stop killing each other. so that john's argument would be -- i'm with him. i buy it. that it doesn't -- that the system that is stable in 1914 that europe breaks, they don't stop killing each other until at least 1945 and you could make the case that they keep killing
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each other long after that. in the american civil war they do stop killing each other in 1965. the false narrative that you're talking about doesn't get challenged i don't think until the 1960s or later. and the issue in new orleans right now is showing that it's still not. it's still an issue. that's not the point. the point isn't that conflict resolution means that everybody shakes hands and makes up. what it means is that you stop the process of whatever you were willing to kill and die for, you're no longer willing to kill and die for. the battle goes somewhere else. and if it goes in the history books and the monuments, it's not a bad summation of the problem. in john's point in ireland, this is happening in ireland as well. the irish are making a big deal out of a small place in belgium where a catholic unit and a protestant unit fought side by side. it's a blip. that's where they're building
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theirmemorials. the election last night may create many more problems for ireland as well as brexit. what it means is you've gotten to a point where they're not killing each other. that's what you've gotten to. >> i would disagree that we have not been killing each other over the last 150 years. it just has not been in the magnitude of the real hot war. >> again it's not military versus military. it's become something else. >> right. >> no one is arguing that you're creating a perfect ideal type of perpetual peace. you're not in the total war state that you were in. >> i can agree with that. >> okay. >> thank you. >> last question real quick and we can -- you going to the ice cream place tonight? am i keeping you from ice cream? >> no. >> there's no hockey game to worry about. >> you talked about being charge for war crimes that they had
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done. at the end of the world war ii, the commander in the pacific said we lost our relationship. so is total war just a term that we've come up with for what the winning side does in an absolutely brutal war? >> it's an awareness at the end of the second world war that they had to avoid the mistakes that they made at the end of the first. this is an argument that i have made in a book. you can understand the end of the second world war by the decision that the policy makers made. they were only there because of the way it got screwed up 30 years earlier. and a search for blame doesn't make sense. so what they do in the german case -- i was just talking about this last night. we make a rhetorical distinction between german and nazi. we pick 12 nazis, hang them and we say everything is good now. we got rid of the problem. again, it's a false narrative but it's one that everybody knows is false and yet you're willing to go guard because you
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understand what the blame game had done. charles degal did the same thing in paris in 1944. look, we understand we were all part of the french resistance in our heart. that was completely ridiculous. but what it means is you're going from a period of total war into a period of peace. you're not going to go from total war into civil war. that's what e he was trying to avoid, that's what the americans were trying to avoid. there's a way in which kwlu do this that everybody sort of knows we're being historically disengenerous but politically this can work. thank you all for your attention. [ applause ] you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at skrrks span
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history. we've been on the road meeting winners of this year's student cam video documentary competition. first place winner jared clark won $3,000 for his documentary on the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs. and the second place prize went to classmate mary sire for her documentary on mass incars nation and mandatory minimum sentences. third place winner won a prize for $75 and grace novak won an honorable mention prize of $250 for her documentary on the relationship between the police and the media. thank you to all of the students who participated in our 2017 student cam video documentary competition. to watch any of the videos, go to and student cam 2018 starts in
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september with the theme "the constitution and you." we're asking students to choose any provision of the united states contusion and create a video illustrating why the p provision is important. american history tv is in prime time on c-span 3 every night congress is in recess. next we'll focus on the civil war and america's 16th president, abraham lincoln. we're start at gettysburg college's civil war institute for a look at president lincoln's lasting legacy. good evening, i am peter carmichael. professor of history at gettysburg college and the director of the civil war institute. i'm very pleased to welcome good friend harrell holzer to cwi. [ applause ] harold is the jonathan f. fan on


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