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tv   Politics Public Policy Today  CSPAN  December 22, 2014 9:00am-11:01am EST

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to make real revolution elsewhere. a nightmare for the czar. but there is also that going on. i think one has to remember all this, the huge sort of rather like the map that we were showing earlier on. i think there was all this happening. an awful lot of stuff was happening so i doubt that any of the three could have done anything about it. is just throwing out an idea. but in the early years if the family had handled willie right, or, an even bigger what-if, if he hadn't had that terrible breach birth and he was the brightest of those three and he hadn't fallen into the hands
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of -- i mean you could imagine a different outcome. but that's not the way it was. >> hello. i've recently completed, or read, history of world war i by john keegan. and he expressed a view i had not heard before. what he said was before austria issued its ultimatum which was very weak and crumbling even then, sent its ultimatum to serbia, he first contacted the kaiser as to whether the kaiser would support him if he invaded serbia.
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and the kaiser answered yes. and his view was that was the real spark that brought about world war i and, in essence, caused the allies later to blame germany for the beginnings of the war. i wonder if you have a view on that. >> well, i knew john keegan actually just -- not because we shared a subject. and we talked about this and i think that was a very valuable way of looking at it, to tell you the truth. the only thing i would add to it is what i have been talking about today, which is if willie had been different, if the kaiser had been different, he might not have said yes. though mind you, the alliance -- it was an alliance. and what's more, the wales-copenhagen link, as the germans like to call the two danish sisters and the way they influenced their respective husbands, that was very active as well. so you did really have two
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camps. >> question here in the back. could you speak a little bit about the danish princesses and their fashion and how that had some kind of pliolitical -- >> i'm glad you asked. because shortening this talk i left out all sorts of things. that was one of the things i left out. the danish princesses were absolutely brilliant at the politics of fashion. so they would appear in identical clothes to make it perfectly obvious that the alliance was between britain and russia. and they did it at all sorts of very key moments and the public was completely enchanted and they didn't realize that they were being brainwashed from this way. but they did this. both of them had the habit, if germans came to the russian court, or to buckingham palace,
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they frequently froze out -- i mean there was once when the king of prussia, before he became kaiser, went to visit them. they were there and they were sparring and she insisted she wouldn't see him when she was ill. an unbelievable thing to do in a private family you can just about do it but this had huge political significance. and the very next day she was partying and off and out. you know. and at the beginning of the war, the duchess sechlt rrena who sa anyone who would listen to her said we're finally at war with germany. i can't tell you how pleased i
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am. so when they were dressing in identical clothes, the brittish and russian public knew what this meant. >> could you tell us, please, because i don't know, who did willie marry, what did she think about this? >> who? >> willie -- wilhelm's wife. what did she think. >> donna, william's wife, had nothing to say about anything. donna, no. actually, they were very rude -- the two princesses were phenomenally rude about donna. i think they called her a cow, but meaning that she just was there to breed. you know. and she did. in fact she had six boys and then sissy, you know. seven children. but it was not -- it's a big subject, a very, very big subject about wilhelm's
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sexuality and so on and so forth which we won't even begin to go into but she was essentially just the mother of the children and the wife. i wouldn't say they had a bad relationship at all. but he certainly wasn't going to be listening to her opinions on anything. is that who you meant, donna? yes. yes. absolutely. no, in a way she was a good wife to him because she did what was needed. you know? >> i saw -- continuing with wilhelm, i saw in one of the photographs, it looked like he was wearing a royal navy uniform. i was wondering if you could talk a little bit about his relationship with the royal navy, again the split personality and how that impacted the naval race and increased tensions in europe. >> that is, of course, the right kind of question to ask here. it's so true. it is another thing i cut out of the talk actually so i'm very pleased because it was an extraordinary thing because these royal colleagues, the three of them, were forever exchanging uniforms. they'd make each other admirals
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in their own -- in their navies. or colonels in the prussian army. it was an extraordinary thing. in william's case -- we call him william because he's wearing the english admiral's uniform -- he was fantastically proud of it. he really, really was pleased to be it, you see? but at the same time, he makes fun of it. this is the terrible thing. and in the end, of course, once they're all at war with one another, they have to kind of give each other back. you know? the medals and -- it's a sort of crazy situation they are in. unavoidable, i guess. all the flags incidentally had to be taken down. the world or russian flags in windsor castle chapel. glorn
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george's chapel at windsor castle. . queen said this is ridiculous -- take them down. when we were looking at the photograph, i forgot to say it was english admiral which is the whole point of him signing it "william." >> curiosity's got the better of me with your letter there on the screen. i'd love to see the second page. but could you explain what he was referring to when he talks about persia there in the very last line? >> oh, my lord. i hope very, very much that one of your other speakers will tell you a bit about that. but we forget completely where else trouble was brewing the whole time. at that time persia was a really, really big issue. it sort of got lost in the margins of history after a while. but it was. it was the big concern. the ottoman empire and who was going to get what.
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all that was going on and afghanistan, god knows. all sorts of things. but of course, eventually it all focused on our -- essentially european war and i obviously need to add my personal opinion, we obviously couldn't have won this war, could we, without you americans coming in on our side. i'm not at all sure that we'd ever have won it. so i actually thank you on behalf of the brittish natio. >> was there much of a movement, a feeling, of going after wilhelm after the war, putting pressure on the dutch to give him up for some sort of -- >> not a thing. >> -- retribution, whatever? >> not a thing. and there are famous photographs -- i'm sure you've seen of him chopping wood and things like that.
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just being an old man. he had a little bit of a court and things, but absolutely no one. well, until hitler of course sent a wreath when he died. but ie4bk/p' no, nothing. and he was just abandoned, you might say, or forgotten. no. >> what was the reaction of king george when nicholas abdicated the throne or was overthrown. what was the correspondence with that? >> yes. i mean that is -- i think probably a lot of books have been written about it. it is really a book on its own, isn't it? i mean it was a terrible situation for him to be in because it was brought to bare on him becau on him that he was a constitutional monarch and he had to do what he was told. he could not help.
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he wrote in his diary, i can't remember the wording now but he was devastated. this terrible, terrible thing is happening. and he sort of felt to an extent he hadn't been able to help. but he hadn't been able to. you know? >> are there other questions? all right. there's a couple more back here. >> we're doing much better for time. >> hi there. all three of these men, they wore uniforms, they gave each other medals, they looked f-- b what extent were they actually military men? that is to say, what kinds of hands-on role, what kind of role in strategy? did they mettle or were they content to remain aloof from the actual prosecution of the war? >> not much is the answer.
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georgie was the only one who actually was genuinely military. not military. he was in the navy. you know. if his brother hadn't died, he'd have carried on, i guess. so he had actual experience. but being a constitutional monarchy, he took no part in anything and what he would do was go to france and see the troops and award medals and things like that. that was it. william was -- wilhelm, much more complicated, because he half believed he was the clink's heir. he hadn't understood they were bypassing him all the time. what they did was used the imperial train rather cleverly. nice train. they put him in there and told him to go east or west or -- they kept him away. he likewise didn't. bear in mind that before the war, their experience was to sort of -- or his was to go on
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maneuvers. but you didn't actually have to do anything. you had to be the kaiser taking the salute and so on. it was pageantry. there was no real experience. had he no idea about strategy. i think he was quite a problem actually for hindenberg and so on, so forth. and the czar did go to the front and that was -- and took command. that i hope someone may be talking about this properly because that's another huge subject because it was a terrible mistake for the simple reason that when things went worse and worse for russia -- which it most certainly did -- they now blamed him. and he was, likewise, not a strategist, really. but he felt he needed to be there. it was a good thought, in a way. he thought he should be there leading his men, and so on. but of course, the suffering
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there was quite terrible. >> i wanted to ask about wilhelm and franz ferdinand. whether they close and what was wilhelm's relationship with the imperial family like franz joseph and ferdinand as well? >> i don't think they were particularly close. they were just in the sense of royal colleagues, that great phrase. they all felt that and we will stand shoulder to shoulder against, you know, all the forces of anarchy and social impl, ism. but they didn't have i don't think at all a close relationship. it was his feeling, his emotion, i will be pretty sure, lay with his english family, ironically. he was massively upset by their
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snu snubs and rejections. and furious. that's where his heart lay. i think. someone else may answer this completely differently. but that would be my thing. >> if you'll permit me, i'm going to ask the last question here. as an author, particularly when you're writing about individuals in a biographical fashion, authors frequently find themselves growing very close to the people they write about. so i was just wondering in terms of reading all these archives where do you stand with regard to nicky, georgie and willie? did you find yourself siding with nicky and georgie at times? >> it is a very interesting process, isn't it. sort of you get to know them so well. and i sort of like one and then another and then another. really. i felt for them all at different times. but the person i would have liked to gone out to have lunch with or dinner, that would have been edward vii.
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>> let's all give a hand for catrine clay. >> here on c-span3 all this week we are featuring american history tv programming. we'd like to get your tlouts on our shows. e-mail us at americanhistorytv to leave your comments and suggestions. >> here on c-span3 we show you the most relevant congressional hearings and public affairs events. on weekends, c pan 3 is the home to american history tv with programs that tell our nation's story including six unique series.
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c-span3. created by the cable tv industry and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. watch us in hd, like us on facebook, and follow us on twitter. american history tv visited the macarthur memorial in norfolk, virginia, which was hosting a symposium mark rg the world war i centennial. holger herwig author of "19 the opening of world war i the battle that changed the world" explains how the battle prevented a quick german victory. and he discusses march tenacity in spite of early losses and the different command styles of the opposing military leaders. this is about 50 minutes.
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our next speaker is holger herwig. he lives in canada where he holds a dual position as professor at university of calgary and canada research chair in the center for military and strategic studies. his list of awards and appointments is staggering. dr. herwig is a fellow of the royal society of canada, a grant recipient from the alexander von humboldt foundation and he has held numerous distinguished visiting appointments such as the visiting professor of strategy at the naval war college, newport, rhode island. dr. herwig has an impressive publication list and many of his projects have been transformed into television documentaries.
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he has published more than a dozen books, inclusive of "the first world war, germany and austria/hungary, 1914-1918" that won the norm lynn e. tomlinson prize for best book. another important book is "the marne 1914." dr. herwig will speak to us did about battle of the marne. of that engagement he writes, he wanted to write about it because i regard it as the most decisive land battle since the allies defeated napoleon at waterloo in 1815. i regard its impact for have been spectacular. germany was denied victory and had germany over europe, france was spared occupation, britain maintained its foothold on the
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continent. without the marne, places such as verdon, and others would not resonate with us as they do. without the marne, no lenin, no stalin, no hitler. ladies and gentlemen, i present to you today dr. holger herwig who will speak to us about the battle of the marne 1914, 10 >> well thank you so much, you spared me about one-third of my talk, which i'm most grateful for.
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thank you. the story that i tell in this begins with a lieutenant albert myer of the 5th mount boden regiment on 1914 before war was
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even declared between france and germany led a patrol on the southern ridge southeast in the mountains where 1,972 years earlier julius caesar had advanced against a german force under ariel vistas. suddenly french guards of the 44th infantry regiment appeared. myer charged with be striking the first frenchman over the. the remaining french soldiers took cover in a ditch, opened fire. myer tumbled from the saddle dead. and in this unexpected encounter, the 22-year-old yeager became the first german soldier killed in what ironically and collectively would be called the battle of the marne which raged from the swiss border to the channel. i have argued, as you've just
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heard, this is the area, that the marne was the most decisive battle of this war. there is our favorite friend in one of his many incredible outfits, william ii. germany failed at the marne, as you just heard. and the promise was gone. yes, for all you a zuber fans, there was a schleefen plan. it existses. what is so incredible about the marne is the scale. between 5 and 11 september 1914, the two sides committed nearly 2 million men with 6,000 guns to a front just 200 kilometers wide. the technology of the killing was also unprecedented.
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rapid small arms fire, machine guns, hand grenades, heavy artillery, howitzers, made the kill ground lethal. casualties suffered by both sides were unimaginable to prewar planners. 200,000 men per side in the hilly battle of the frontiers in august, another 200,000 on the chalky plains of the marne in september. by comparison, brittish casualties were 1,701. no other year of the war compared to its first five months in terms of death. the chapel of the french military and college at st. seer had only a single entry for its dead for the first year of the war. "the class of 1914." that is before hitler destroyed
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it. the immediate impact of the marne, i argue, was stunning. as you've heard, the great assault on paris had been halted. the enemy driven behind the river, france spared in 1871. as you also note, long-term repercussions were tragic. marne ushered in four more years of what the future german military historian, a veteran of the song called "the monotonous mutual mass murder of the trenches" which you'll hear about tomorrow. the marne, of course, was high dra drama. winston churchill looking back after 1914 wrote, "no part of the great war compares in interest with its opening. the measured silent drawing together of gigantic forces. the uncertainty of their
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deployment. the fickle role of chance made the first collision a drama never surpassed. never again would battle," he wrote," be waged on so grand a scale. never again would the slaughter be so swift or the stakes so high." what's incredible, as so much of world war i, the marne is also enshrouded absolutely in myth. some were simply propaganda. the kaiser's planned entries, the white dress uniform of the guards, the 20-meter-long german flag, especially made to fly from the top of the eiffel tower. the ten railroad cars loaded with metals for t amedals for t paris that accompanied first army alone. other myths were the product of
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ambitious writers and mythmakers. general did he casttrcast general ferdinand's communique that while his position in the marshes was quote, "impossible, i attack," pure myth. another general's command to the staff on the eve of the battle accentuated by pounding his fist on the table, "gentlemen, we shall fight it out on the kb/ marne." an equally a myth, the persistent claim that the bef save the day by exploiting the gap between german 1st and 2 armies. other myths were much more harmful and a test of the s
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centrality of the marne in the history of the great war. largest of these is of a mere saxon lieutenant colonel on the general's staff allegedly sflaching victosflach i snatching victory from the hands of another by order rg the retreat to two four-star jebls behind the marne. why this myth obscured for decades the truth behind the german retreat. flawed command structure. an inadequate logistical system. an antikwatd communications arm. and two inept field commanders. in the verdict of the german official history of the war, the commander of the 2nd army was hesitant and insecure. of the 1st army, overly
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aggressive, unwilling toed a he adhere to commands. in concluded in volume 14, "in the hour of decision over the future of the german people,adh commands. in concluded in volume 14, "in the hour of decision over the future of the german people, its leader in the field of battle completely broke down psychologically and physically." i also argue that the battle of the marne was a close-run thing. it recon firmed the elder council's thought that no plan of operations survives with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's major forces. there you see general kluck. it also recon firmed the dictum that war is the realm of uncertainty. nothing about the marne was preordained. senior commanders did not at first understand the magnitude
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of the decision at the river. it seemed simply a temporary plip blip on the way to victory. soon again on the way to berlin or to paris. below headquarters, army and core commands, a million men on either side, likewise, had no idea in mid-september what "the marne" meant, except more endless marches, more baffling confusion, more bloody slaughter. the future great french historian mark block with the french 272nd infantry regiment on 9 september recalled marching down what he called a torturously winding road at night, oblivious to the fact that the great german assault had been blunted. "with anger in my heart, feeling
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the weight of the rifle i had never fired and hearing the faltering footsteps of our half-sleeping men echo on the ground, i could only consider myself one more among the englorious advantage wished who had never shed their blood in combat." i also argue that there are a whole lot of what-if scenarios attached to this battle. what if germany had not violated belgium's neutrality? would britain in fact still have ensterrtered it the war? what could half of the 331,000 soldiers on the left wing have held the right wing to victory in france? what if in panic at the russian advance into east prussia malta
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had not dispatched 3rd and 9th army corps east. they spent the russian campaign in september in railroad cars going from one front to the other. above all, what if papajov had not been the french commander. what if he had been cashiered after he had been badly defeated at the battle of the frontiers in lorraine? joffre's inscrutable aplomb, among other major reasons, the french did not win the collapse of 1871.
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furthermore, "after the initial defeats, joffre recognized he had played the game poorly. he had broken off the campaign with every intention of resuming it as soon as he had repaired the weaknesses discovered. and only once the enemy's ultimate intentions to march through belgium had been detected did he move forces brilliantly from his right wing to his left. he cashiered dozens of general officers whom he found not to be up to standard. he orchestrated an orderly withdrawal behind the marne and seine rivers. pe kr he created the army of maneuver north of paris. and he launched the great attack between the horns of paris and ver dunn.
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he concludes, he judicially combined the offensive with an offensive after ordering an energetic about-face. and by a magnificently planned stroke he dealt the invasion a baltimore t mortal blow." i hope i've shown the contrast to the physically and mentally broken malta. but still joffe knew the great gamble he had taken. he later mused, "i don't know who won the battle of the marne. but if it had been lost, i know who would have lost it and been blamed." what if french morale had cracked after the initial battles? campaigns are not fought against lifeless bodies. the enemy is never tired of lecturing, reacts, innovates, strikes back. were it not for the passions of the troops, comparative figures of opposing strengths would suffice to decide the issue.
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put differently, he put it sarcastically, a kind of war by algebra. what's incredible about the marne in 1914 is that the french poier surprised the germans. he wrote his wife, "just when it is on the point of being extinguished, it flames up mightily." a bavarian general likewise expressed his surprise at the enemy's tenacity, "who would have expected of the french that after ten days of luckless battles and bolting in open flight, they would attack for three days so desperately." general von kluck after the war told a swedish journalist, "the reason that transcends all others in explaining the german failure of the marne was the
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extraordinary and peculiar aptitude of the french soldier to recover quickly." cynically, he said, "most soldiers will let themselves be killed where they stand. that, after all, is a given in all battle plans. but that men who have retreated for ten days, that men who slept on the ground half-dead with fatigue should have the strength to take up their rifles and attack when the bugle sounds, that is a thing upon which we never counted. that is a possibility we never even spoke about in our war academies." now, i suggest the marne reveals two different types of command styles. maltka was content to replain at
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headquarters, far removed from the front to give his commanders great latitude in interpreting his general directives. he chose not to control them by way of telephones with bei, air staff officer who languished at headquarters. already in peace time he had let it be known it sufficed for them simply "to be informed about the intentions of the high command, orally through the sending of an officer from headquarters." the war proved otherwise. a chief of the military cabinet struck at the heart of the matter on 13 september, "it is clear that during the advance into france the necessary tight leadership on the part of the chief of the general's staff had been totally lacking." the next day, maltka was placed on sick leave. more than 30 commanders,
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generals, were relieved of their commands. but three of the top leaders were not because they were being held on future grounds. not even the two most controversial commanders were sacked after the marne. kluck who disobeyed maltka's orders turned himself east of paris xlandi icommanding his ar the spring of 1915. the only commander sacked whausr of the third army because of the case of typhus. on the other side, if we look at
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joffre, we see someone who played a highly active role. parrot from issuing a host of special instructions and orders, i should tell you the french official history is 144 volumes -- he showered his commanders with hundreds of personal and secret memoranda, telephone calls, orders, he used his le mans race car driver to great advantage, constantly on the road to inspect, to order, to encourage, and where necessary, to relieve. in fact, he sat two army, ten corps and 38 commission commanders in the first month of the war. some he fired because he thought they were overly pessimistic. others because he found them nervous and imprudent. but he maintained a core of loyal and aggressive army commanders. he promoted many of them
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because, as he said, they had faith in their success and who by mastery of themselves know how to impose their will on their sboubordinates and domina events. he never regretted his sometimes unjustified firings. and after the war, he's probably the only french general who declined to engage his "victims" in a war of memoirs. ironically for me as a german military historian, the elder maltka's strategic use of railways in 1866, and again in 1970, was absent in 1914 at the front. the brilliant railroad performance was joffre's, who used his directorate of railways and interior lines. and when he realized by 24 august he had lost the battle of the frontiers, the germans were sweeping through belgium, he
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altered the entire center of gravity on his dispositions to achieve numerical superior or the at the western extremity of the front. he dissolved ineffective armies. he sent to reinforce the trench camp at paris. he orchestrated a staggering transfer of forces from lorraine to greater paris. 4 corps, 9 corps, 15 corps, 21 corps. all of this -- here you have three of the french xhabdzers a commanders and of course the famous parisian taxis. they are lore. they are in the museum in paris. i can tell you from the french official history, 90% got lost, broke down, ran into one
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another, and delivered very, very few to the front. but it was gaelic, it was chivalrous. pardon that, lorraine. artillery, as you well flow, ruled the battlefield. german howitzers ripped men and horses alike into shreds of flesh and deposited their remains as mounds of pulp. the french 75s filled the air with shrieking shrapnel shells that exploded above the enemy, drenched those below with thousands of iron balls. american journalists who accompanied both armies wrote, incredibly, "for four weeks, crude, stinking, crowd ed ambulance wagons jostled the wounded back to barns hastily converted into field hospitals
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where the unfortunate laid for hours in clouds of flies drinking their blood. for days, in words one historian addressed to the soldiers of 1914, "you ainte nothing, drank nothing, no one washed you, your bandages went unchanged, many of you died." the living -- and this again caught american journalists -- "the living moved on amass a stinking mass of unbathed of humanity amidst a stinking bed of foul air of dying cattle and mutilated horses to fight another battle, another day." on yous obviously the murderous nature of industrialized warfare changed the common soldier regardless of social, regional or religious origin. they wrote home of the filth and dirt, the horror and fear of their front line experiences. some remembered the initial
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euphoria marching through fall-clad orchards, the camaraderie, and above all, the liberating of wonderful wine cellars. then they remembered the constant nagging hunger and thirst, the endless marches by day and night, the choking dust, the searing heat, then the cold rain and oozing mud, the burning villages, the growing of the wounded, the deathly rattle of the dying. just remember, 1st army alone in september marched 523 kilometers on foot. fought 17 major battles and had zero days of rest. a german soldier wrote home, "my opinion about the wars remain the same. it is murder and slaughter. it is still incomprehensible to me that humankind in the 20th
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century can commit such slaughter." a professor of art from munich stated his feelings in better terms -- i've seen so much that is grand, beautiful, monstrous, base, brutal, heinous and gruesome, but like all the others, i am totally stupefied. to see peopledie, hardly interrupts the enjoyment of the coffee i've brewed in stark filth under fire. this is september 1914. a french poet described the same "beautiful innocent at news of victory, victory, quickly took flight as he surveyed the battlefield and he wrote his parents, there a lieutenant of the 74th. there a captain of the 129th. all in groups of three or four. sometimes singly and still in
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the position of firing prone. red pants. these are ours. these are our brothers. this our blood. the harrowism of 1870-71 he said was gone. "we feel small, so small, in the face of this frightening thing. some with bloody arms. others with boots ripped to shreds by red holes. the meaning of it all escapes me. we do not know, not really, if we've done anything for use for the country." incredibly, despite the savage warfare, morale held. there were flo wino widespread refusals to obey the call-ups. large numbers of all in tears, even in grossly exaggerated for public consumption, runs to the recruiting depots, no major
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rebellions, no major strikes took place. the marne, i argue, prefigured the resilience of european militaries and societies to endure horrendous sacrifices. to be sure, there were those at imperial headquarters who understood that the time had come in the fall of 1914 to end the great folly. field marshal hazler activated at the tender age of 78 advised william ii, "it seems the moment has come to end the war. the plan has failed." the kaiser sent him away. chief of staff maltka's successor in november informed the government, "it is impossible to beat the allied armies to such a point where we can come to a decent peace. by continuing the war, "germany runs the danger of slowly
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exhausting ourselves." this is from a chief of the general staff, "we must make peace with russia now." the civilian chancellor rejected the counsel and sent him home. well, to sum up, it began at the marne in 19 -- we'll stay with that. that's not lunch. as you heard already in the introduction this morning, it ended at versailles in 1919. in between -- we all fudge our numbers -- somewhere around 60 million to 65 million young men had been mobilized. 9 million possibly killed. 20 million wounded. and of course, with the 20-20 vision of hindsight, the great tragedy of the marne is that it was strategically indecisive.
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had german 1st army destroyed french's 5th army east of paris, or had there been a decisive victory, of course the world would have been spared. the greatercatastrophe that was to follow in 1935. i thank you for your time. just like last time, we'll continue with questions. remember to speak into the mike. questions? >> if von kluck's 1st army had not made the turn to the east and marched toward paris, would the outcome have been different? >> that's a super question.
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being a historian, i must digress. it's part of my makeup. when east germany inherited 3,000 general staff files we never knew existed. the red army had locked them up in berlin, then the east germans had locked them up. and from that, historians of the german military history center in potsdam have written a book, i'll make an ad for it, i get no royalties, i'm no part of it. university of kentucky press published last month. 700 pages, including every single operation's plan, 1895 to 1913. okay? what they showed from these documents is, clux's chief of staff, von kohl, two-star general in 1914, of first army,
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as a major in 1905, in schliefen's last war game had played two war games in the attack on paris, and in both cases he had turned in east of paris realizing they didn't have the logistics to go on that grand sweep that you see in the west point map. so i can't document it, but major kohl as general kohl in 1914 zam well realized that after marching 523 kilometers, the troops dead, the horses dying in their traces, it was time, war game 1905, turned in. and virtually every german commander says if we had tried to sweep around paris, we would have basically had to beg for sandwiches and wine.
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the schliefen plan is a brilliant plan for mechanized mobile modern warfare. not for a war that's determined by the pace of an infantryman and horsedrawn artillery. sorry for being so long. >> that's exactly the question that i have about the horses. in this period at the start of the war, i'm under the impression that horses were still a very important part of logistics, and movement. can you tell us any more the involvement of horses, veterinary care, and all of that pertaining to the horses during this period? >> horses have a tremendous advantage over cars. you can eat them.
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i'm not being totally fat eeshs. germany has about 300 trucks in 1914, on wood ri78s. not even pneumatic tires. the horse is the draft animal literally of this war. they're requisitioned by the tens of thousands in 1914. 9 interesting thing, we were talking about this at dinner last night with lorraine, in 1915, somebody at the general staff finally said how manies fors have we got? how many horses have we lost? they found out nobody's kept records. except one infantry regiment on the western front where a busy bureaucrat decided, we better keep track of this. so there's a panic in 1915 and they start keeping records. so we really don't know for the whole first year the war on the
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german side the plus and minus. i mentioned to lorraine, austrian units in the italian front, when 1917 when they're asked for conrad's latest idiotic attack, they do a survey of horse-drawn artillery and rather than the six horses required, most guns and caissons have two. and when the troops are asked what's happened to the others, they said, it's how we got through the winter. in germany, one's gas appears. there's no time to establish a veterinary corps. the orders are simple. skafage everything from the front, traces, harnesses, et cetera. eat the animals.cavenge everyth front, traces, harnesses, et cetera. eat the animals. there's no time for long-term care for horses.
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and it's a real tragic story and one that's usually skipped over in most official histories. >> you talked about in 1914 about the elan of the french. why was the elan of the french in '14 than '40? >> oh, boy, i'm not a psychologist. do you want to get up here? i think it had to do a lot with training, with leadership. they had been taught by maison, that there would be no surrender, the cult of the offensive that it's been called. that the surrenders of pisan and others add been ignoble, not in the french tradition. and i think you have an army that has been raised for 40 years to believe in the offensive, and to believe any way you can overcome an enemy that has a population 20 million
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superior is through that offensive. why i don't think anyone could answer, not even french commanders. there is this marked, distinct difference. because in the battle of the frontiers, and going through the ardenne and going through belgium, the french basically lose every battle. they've marched out to the front, now they have retreated 80, 90 kilometers under horrendous condition, horrendous losses, especially the sin gallese and the ardennes are just ripped to shreds, and yet at the decisive moment when joffre repositions his armies, asks for the counteroffensive they arise, and they advance. i can't answer your question.
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it simply happened. >> you said it was a close run thing and you seem to put a lot on moltke. you talk about peeling off striking the left wing, two cores sent against the eastern front against russia, maybe not enough decisive communications from front commanders and finally breaking down. how might the battle have looked with a folkenheim or someone stubborn in command. might it have played out dramatically different? >> that's one of those wonderful counterfactuals which i've just come back from a conference in vienna if what if franz ferdinand had lived. i'll just give you my personal opinion. i think kluck and kohl owed it
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to those armies at the crucial moment that maunoury's basic reserves are coming to fight it out. there's an entire brigade under general lapel that's coming that's been besearching brussels. they're virtual to fall into the side of french six army. and i think they owed the somers that one last thrust. it could have resulted in kluck's army beingdy feeted. but i think we would have had a result. by the way it should be called the battle of the orc. it's a wonderful battlefield if you ever get there. i took my wife there three years ago. we went up the ridge, where the command of german fourth research corps, the general looks out and he's got in reserve corps, no artillery, and he sees an entire french army
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marching at him, 250,000 men. this adjutant says general, what do we do? he says well, i'm taking a nap, and then we attack. if you go there today, and i said to my wife, here's the highlight, you're going to see the plain, and here come maunoury's soldiers, you look into disneyland, europe. so far has paris gone. >> i'm going to take your bait on the british expeditionary force. and ask a two-part question on this. the first part is how decisive do you think was kitchener's fabled midnight trip to paris to meet with sir john french? and second of all, what is basically the question would be i guess the question would be phrased best is why have you ignored the third nation that participated in the war, and what are your -- i'm curious as to your reasons for that? >> okay.
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i think kitschner's trip is absolutely critical. as you well know, he comes in the blue uniform of a field marshal although he's a civilian. secretary of cabinet now because sir john french was ready to go home. let's face it. he continuously panicked. he was going south of paris. he was looking for whichever harbor he could get to quickest. so i think kitschner's resolve was absolutely critical. now, on the british, since you should know, i'm obviously from canada, and we just have nothing but triumphalism of the bef. i mean my god the french did nothing, the russians did nothing, but the bef stopped the schliefen plan. i read a marvelous book by seoul tyng, t-y-n-g, british colonel, the battle of the marne, before
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all the documents were out, and you will hardly hear of the book because he was totally ostracized in england by writing a about the bef. hague, a cabinetry member is absolutely hesitant about exploiting the gap. british fliers are constantly reporting there's nobody ahead of you. sir john french said it's a trap, it's a trap, it's a trap. we see dust up there. well the dust are the supply lines of kluck's army, which is racing up to the orc to fight maunoury six army. there is a gap but the british do not exploit it. joffre, in the french official history, almost howerly is pleading, begging, ordering, cajoling the british, please for "f" sake advance. is pleading, begging, ordering, cajoling the british, please for "f" sake advance.o is pleading,
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begging, ordering, cajoling the british, please for "f" sake advance.ur is pleading, begging, ordering, cajoling the british, please for "f" sake advance.l is pleading, begging, ordering, cajoling the british, please for "f" sake advance.y is pleading, begging, ordering, cajoling the british, please for "f" sake advance. there's nobody ahead of you. you're seeing phantoms. but this is the first weeks of the war. this army has not been trained to fight a world war. and you know, you've got kluck advancing to the north on your left. you've got bulow's army to the left. maybe it is a trap. so the bef is very, very hesitant and they do not exploit the gap. it is and only in the prussian german system could this happen, where a lieutenant colonel is able to order two four star generals to retreat 500,000 men from the front behind the river marne. >> we've got time for one more question. >> you touched on the elan of the french army. and i guess the f. scott
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fitzgerald quote about there went my old, safe secure world. what do you think prompted the men on both sides -- >> i'm sorry? >> what do you think prompted the men on both sides to be able to withstand sub human conditions over and over again and keep coming back? what's different between the soldiers of world war i, and the soldiers of world war ii? >> well, first of all, let me answer that backwards. i think the soldiers of world war ii were equally heroic. they certainly died in much greater numbers. when i think of the eastern front, the slaughter that went on there, right to the very end, down to the subways and the very basement of the parliament building in berlin. it was horrendous. these men had been trained. they'd been trained to march in close order. which accounts for much of the
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suffering, beginning with the storms at liege. they had discipline. they had an absolutely hard, tough, noncommissioned army officer corps, a back bone of any army, i will argue. but to retired generals, i apologize. we can lose 100 of you and it doesn't matter. but you can't lose 4,000 or 5,000 sergeant majors. and certainly after verdunne both armies are finished as the old army. the austrian looks at in gallicia i argue are finished as a professional hardened army at the end of 1914. it is doing one's8ó-5 duty, it supporting your buddy, marching with your comrade. but you are, if you think of 2 million men on a front 120 miles
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wide, you're literally marching arm in arm. there's an almost a sort of herd mentality, to stop meant to be killed. so you move on. and the other, which we know from the now just recently published unexbrigaded dairy of junker, not what he wrote later on, drunkenness, if you read junger's diary before every single engagement on the western front, two bottles of wine, a bottle of brandy. and let's go, lads. and there are a number of other diaries being published right now of sort of captains to majors on mainly the western front of the german side, and it's the same in many of them. it's almost shocking the amount
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of liquid intestinal fortitude that helps overcome this incredible slaughter. and i don't make fun of it. i'm simply citing you folks some dairies. >> thank you very much, professor herwig. [ applause ] here on c-span3 all this week we're featuring american history tv programming. and we'd like to get your thoughts on your shows. e-mail us at to leave your comments and suggestions. we'd like to tell you about some of our other american history tv programs. join us every sunday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern for a look at american artifacts. travel with us to historic sites, museums and archives to learn what artifacts reveal about american history.
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american artifacts every sunday at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on american history tv on c-span3. here's a look at some of the programs you'll find christmas day on the c-span networks. holiday festivities start at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span with the lighting of the national christmas tree followed by the white house christmas decorations with first lady michelle obama. and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. and just after 12:30 p.m. celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00 supreme court justice samuel alito and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights and the founding fathers. on c-span2 at 10:00 a.m. eastern venture into the art of good writing with steve pinker. and at 12:30 see the feminist side of a superhero as jill lepore searches the secret history of wonder woman. at 7:00 p.m. author pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits. and on american history tv on c-span3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with
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c-span footage of president george bush and bob dole. with speeches from president's john kennedy and ronald reagan. at noon, fashion experts on first ladies fashion choices and how they represented the styles of the times in which they lived. and then at 10:00, former nbc news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world events. that's this christmas day on the c-span networks. for a complete schedule go to american history tv visited the mcarthur memorial in norfolk, virginia, which was hosting a symposium marking the world war i centennial. author sean mcmeekin talks about the events in 1914 that led to war, and how it might have turned out differently. he argues against the idea that an arms race between germany and britain provoked the war. instead, he describes a series of decisions made by heads of state that had a domino effect. this is about 50 minutes.
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>> professor sean mcmeekin did his ph.d. at uc berkeley and he talked at many universities before beginning at professor of history of russian and eurasian studies at bard college in new york. among his recent boox are the russian origins of the first world war, july 1914, and the berlin baghdad express, the ottoman empire and germany's bid for world power. his research languages include russian, turkish, german and french. his talk today is the war of 1914, an avoidable catastrophe. >> thank you for that kind introduction. we'll see if i can get the
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clicker to work before we get going. there we are. it's true, i did one book with the german bid for world power in the title. i did another book called the russian origins of the first world war. some people have been a bit confused by this. i blame the russians in one book and the germans in the other. now, for which i can only say that i'm not responsible for the titles. but what i'll try to do today is lay out some of where my own thinking has come from and also i think to explain a little bit of where the current generation, or maybe even the future generation stands, that is scholarship on the war. like many of you i assume i grew up on what we might call the cold war historiography on the conflict touchstones for august, and war by timetable i suppose in the german tradition, somebody inaccurately translated into english, germany's aims in
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the first world war. the thing all these accounts had in common that we can date to the high cold war era was their emphasis on what we might call structural factors. you had an arms race. you had an alliance system. you had a kind of buildup of tensions. something like a bilateral system of alliances. the war being eventually somehow somehow kind of set in stone in the cards, there was a burgeoning inevitability about it. this arms race between britain and germany people used to focus on the naval race that is the building race. this tradition lingered on really into the '90s even with some works. i'm thinking of one by robert massey who is a fantastic writer who's very much in the barbara tuchman tradition in his book called elegantly and simply enough, dread naught. and his book was kind of about this story. britain and germany drifting apart and then eventually producing this kind of cataclysmic thing. it's a very, very stubborn tradition to dislodge. there are some serious problems
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with it, however. to begin with, it just doesn't really fit the facts. to take the british german naval race in particular. i was in germany a couple of times earlier this year. at one of these events i was introduced by an historian called dominique gephardt. he had done his doctoral work as we would call it on the british german press war, a kind of adjunct to the naval race, and i asked him, well so how did you bound it? that's what you do with these boring doctoral dissertations? he said well i brought it up to the send of 1911. i said why did you end there? he said, well that's because that's when the press war ended. the british admiralty didn't take them seriously. the press war kind of ramped up partly to just sell newspapers and so on and then it kind of subsided. the german chancellor in power in 1914 had, in fact, devoted
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nearly hess entire foreign policy to improving relations with great britain. and in fact they were getting much better in 1914. i think you saw just the tail end of a letter between georgie and nikki this morning in which there was this odd, one of you asked about this, about his allusion to persia, an unsatisfactory state of affairs. that was putting it mildly. in fact there was a major surge in tensions between britain and russia in 1914. the so-called accord between britain and russia dating back to 1907 which had divided asia, particularly persia or iran, up into spheres of influence had essentially broken by 1914. the russians are basically installing kind of imperial pro-consuls in the north carving up the land, they have troops on the ground, the persians are hearing no end of this. they're complaining to the british. the british are saying you're violating the treaty. it's not quite got to the state of war but things are pretty serious. britain and russia were at loggerheads. in fact i discovered in my own work in the archives there was
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another side to that story which is that britain was selling to the ottoman empire, russia's greatest enemy, hereditary enemy going back centuries strart dread naughts. it would be like at the height of the cold war britain had been selling nuclear weapons to the soviet union. that is to say the so-called alliance between britain and russia was anything but. to go back to barbara tuchman. now not to pick on her because i'm quite fond of her. i've drawn a lot of inspiration from her books. it's a fascinating thing you notice if you read the guns of august. she tells you what she's going to do right at the beginning. she says, i'm going to leave austria, hungary and serbia out of the story, she says. it's a bit like writing the history of the second world war without mentioning poleland. when she actually gets to the outbreak of the war everyone thinks this book is about the outbreak of the war. it's not! there's one line on sarajevo.
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there's one of paragraph on the entire july crisis. it's just not there. the geography isn't there. there are the plans. there are the great powers then poof, war breaks out. interesting story. there's no context. and to a certain extent, there's no story. now i like to think we understand things a little better today in part because the wars of basically in the former yugoslavia, taught us a bit more about the balkans. some of us have rediscovered turkey. in my own case just because i went to live there. these places back of beyond the cold war, turkey was, if nothing better really than a bit player in the cold war and the cuban missile crisis, otherwise largely forgotten. the balkans were, of course, behind the iron curtain. so i'd like to bring you back a little bit like, what we might have called after 9/11 the world of 9/10. i'll call it the world of june 27th. now some of the more latter-day historians have i think taken the before and after effect a little bit too far. it is true the war came as a shock to most europeans. neil ferguson showed us it wasn't priced into the bond
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market. mike myberg and others have shown us that order near people came just as a bolt from the blue. no one was expecting it. however, those like david fromekin, he wrote a book about a decade ago called europe's last summer. an interesting metaphor of what he called clear air turbulence. that is the airplane is going along and it's so calm that, you know, the seat belt sign is off and so you're wandering around the plane and unluckily you find your head bouncing off the ceiling because of clear air turbulence. that's what he said happened in 1914. well, yes, maybe if you were new york or london or paris that's how things might have looked. but not in this part of the world. this part of the world had seen three wars in three years. 1911. italy invades the ottoman empire. why? well because france sent troops to morocco. don't ask me why that gave italy the right to send troops to tripoli but that's the way they saw things. so italy sent troops into tripoli and there was a ferocious war there which in
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fact saw the first use of air power in modern warfare, the dropping of bombs from dirigibles. in some ways the last of the colonial wars, first of the post-colonial wars. bogs down around the suburbs of interestingly enough benghazi saw the most ferocious fighting when must after fa, later attaturk saw his first action, lie later pasha. the turks discovered they had no way of getting to tripoli. literally mustafa, kamal and envir went there in disguise as civilians. they couldn't get there because italy had a more powerful fleet and the ottomans could not get troops across the eastern mediterranean. in the course of that war, before it was even over, a couple of important things happen. someone that the ottomans close the straits right here the dardenles, thus cutting russia off from any access to warm water markets, including the mediterranean, and all oceans
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beyond. russia, of course, being mostly an ice-bound country in the winter but for vladivostok which is 11 time zones away from europe. the other thing that happened was that the balkan league teamed up and invaded turkey. sush yeah, bulgaria, greece and montenegro. piggybacking on the italian conflict. in that war the turks discovered to their further horror that because of greek naval strength they couldn't even get troops across the aegean. oddly enough the turks actually did make one amphibious landing in this war, wry was on the gallipoli peninsula, which was actually to get at the bulgarians from behind, because the bulgarians nearly conquered the city. they made it to about here. the turks actually tried to get them from behind. so this is actually the world of june 27th. a world of warfare in southeastern europe. a world in which, in fact, the riding expectation, you know, a little bit like if you had woken up on the morning of 9/11, you wouldn't have been hearing about osama bin laden. if you were in new york like me
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you would have been hearing about shark attacks in florida and scandal involving a little league baseball pitcher who falsified this age documents. you wouldn't have been hearing about the naval race between britain and germany. you might have been hearing, however, about a naval race in the eastern mediterranean, basically a tripart hide naval race pitting greece, the ottoman empire and russia. because the ottomans had ordered state-of-the-art dread naughts from britain. russia was watching this with trepidation and terror but so were the greeks. in the course of the balkan wars, huge wave of refugees are pouring into the ottoman empire, mostly muslims coming from the balkans, a few christians fleeing in the other direction. greek christians are being displaced from their homes particularly in and around smirnoff, today's ismere. what everyone is expecting on june 27th and the morning of june 28th, 1914, it's for the third balkan war to break out between turkey and kwrooes. greece. now it's interesting that that
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is not, as we know how the first world war began. it is, however, how it ended. ten years later. and it is not entirely an accident that that is so. because this is actually where, of course, the first world war began. didn't begin in london. didn't begin in flanders. began in the balkans. technically speaking, i suppose you want to look at the spark, began in sarajevo. as to what happened on that morning of the 28th of june? well of course the arch duke franz ferdinand woke up. he had no idea what was in store. he dashed off a note to his children, poppy and mommy can't wait to see you on tuesday. his children were actually in another town. mine are actually just staying in the hotel next door so it was a little more difficult for him. he was expecting to see them on tuesday. he just had one last stupid little morning of like photo-ops in his royal progress and then frank god the whole bosnian tour, which he didn't want to do in the first place, would be over. little beknown to him however there were seven assassins lined up along the quay.
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you can see the numbers here. there are more than several numbers. because several of the assassins actually moved positions. now it is true that despite the fact this does seem a bit overdetermined, you might say, plot being hatched as we know in belgrade, by subjects of austria hungary of serbian nationality although they did recreate one muslim, kind of window dressing, interesting we note today, because there's no longer any doubt about it, that the head of serbian military intelligence not only organized the saying, but of course he gave the final go-ahead. he helped make sure everyone had guns and weapons and training and so on. princip was only one of the assassins. we generally know him by his code name, historians generally agree that he was if not the only mastermind, the key mastermind of the affair, after all he said so in a confession several years later. what not everyone remembers
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about the afis confession is that he also said that the russians gave him the green late. and they provided funds. now we don't know if that's true. we do know, however, that he said it. so afis green lights this expedition, overdetermined possibly, not necessarily. because of the asanses, the first two in fact didn't lift a finger. the first to had been trained in belgrade. he lit the fuse bomb, threw it at the arch duke and hit him in a cheek. bounced off of his face. it crazed him. he was wounded, not seriously. it wife was wound, as well. detonated behind the staff car behind and luckily nothing else happened. everyone else survived, they dusted themselves off and the 20th century proceeded along its course. the third balkan war broke out between turkey and greece, the russians desperate to keep the straits from being closed again,
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cut off greece, brought the war to an end, the concert of europe was effectively revived. wait a minute. that's not what happened. what did happen? well, what did happen is they actually proceeded along i keep hitting the wrong button here. we have to go back. here we are. they proceeded along to the town hall, they went along with the program. franz ferdinand gave his own remarks, the mayor welcomed him and said as you can see, we citizens of sarajevo salute you and welcome you with your great warmth of heart, and he said they just threw a bomb at me. what are you talking about! he was in a little bit of a pissy mood. but interestingly enough he was still in charge of things. the reason this matters is because, he actually altered the route. now originally they were supposed to go to the mu steam, which was up here. unfortunately wasn't right here. wasn't next door. they would have had to go through the town, up here to the museum. everyone else is saying look that's too risky. there are all these assassins around here.
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we don't want to go through there again. no let's go through the muslim quarters, much safer than the serbian neighborhoods. everyone will be on their way. franz ferdinand says no. i want to visit the wounded man from the morning bombing. that was a lieutenant colonel, unfortunately the garrison hospital happened to be located so close to the museum that this meant they went according to the original route plan. however they said no, no, no, that's too risky so we'll run our cars at full speed along the apple kay. that is what was supposed to happen. right about here about 250, 300 meters distant they should have been shifting into fourth gear hitting the gas driving on into safety. however, the driver of the first car in the motorcade forgot, or wasn't told, not entirely clear on this, made the turn. second car made the turn. third car in which franz ferdinand was traveling with his wife, with a bodyguard on the running board, which turned out to be the wrong side because princip had crossed the street.
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hmm, interesting. bodyguard on the wrong side, the car turns, military governor barks out wrong turn, turn around of course then they try to activate the reverse gear, the car stalls, and in those five, six, seven seconds, two shots were fired, and i think altered the course of world history. now why did it matter? who was franz ferdinand? so just briefly, franz ferdinand was not simply the heir to the hapsburg throne of austria hungary. he was the heir to a throne held by an octogenarian expected to pass away. he had already begun running military policy. he had his own kind of pseudo government in belvedere palace. he was already in all but name running military affairs for the empire. there's no figurehead we're talking about. part of the reason it mattered aside from his importance and the fact he was shortly expected to ascend to the throne was that he was also an important voice, if not for peace exactly, then a
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voice arguing for caution in the balkans. there are already legends about him. we have this great plan. he didn't have a plan at his desk for a greater south slav, yugoslavia type state. that's kind of a myth. it is true that he had concluded that war with serbia would be a great mistake. chief of staff was of a very different view. famously had proposed going to war with serbia something like 25 times in the year 1913 alone. opposed all 25 times by franz ferdinand. who was now dead. second reason this mattered. in berlin we've all heard about the war party. i'll tell you a little bit more about the chancellor. the kaiser was volatile. everyone knew this. he was kind of a wild card. but he was not seen as a war monger not by those who knew him the best. in fact, recently, during the second balkan war the kaiser had taken a position against austria hungary and even said and i
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quote that a war with slavdom, that is a war to say a war on behalf of you against the slavs would leave us quite cold. he in fact took serbia's position in the major question of the balkan wars whether serbia would have access. he said anything else would be nonsense. he did not take a pro-austrian line. he was, however, probably alone among europe's royal houses in actually liking franz ferdinand. he was not a very popular man but the kaiser tilely was quite fond of him. they had recently visited, talked about all kinds of affairs of state and now the kaiser was angry. his blood was up. that was the first trick for the austrians. there was no mystery there was a war party in vienna. now the war party is gearing up. conrad wants a war right now. of course he has to reckon with the fact that austria hungary is about to send its army on harvest leave which is going to slow things down a bit. that's why he wants to go right
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away. in the end he doesn't get his way. the foreign minister is only slightly less gung ho. he is opposed by a hungarian. so things are a little bit complicated. the main thing the austrians have to figure out is what germany will do. now the original plan was to corner the kaiser at the funeral while he was still angry and emotional. unfortunately he didn't come to the funeral. that's partly because no one else came to the funeral either because the emperor didn't like his nephew and didn't want anyone to come there. it was also because the kaiser had supposedly been attacked with a lower back pain. privately the germans in fact said that he shouldn't go to vienna because they weren't sure the austrians could secure their own funeral from terrorism. austria hungary was kind of a laughing stock. copy of the mobilization plan had been sold to the russians. various plans had been sold to the russians by the same man. so it wasn't really expected that they would be particularly competent but that's what the germans wanted. that was the first real serious
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problem. not miscommunication so much as misunderstanding. when the austrians finally corner the kaiser back in berlin and just badgered him, and at first he actually said no. at first he said no, no, no, i fear european complications, then he finally said yes, we will stand with you come what may. in es spence the blank check so cold. still what the germans thought they were agreeing to is the austrians would make some kind of a move against serbia. didn't quite work out that way. four weeks passed the austrians are dithering and delaying. finally on the 19th of july they hold the war council, this is in berthold's residents in vienna. the strudelhoff, yes that actually means the house of strudel, where they got together to plan the war, the staging of the war. by then they'd taken so long they were coming up against the fact that a presidential sim mitt was about to take place at st. petersburg with the president of france along with viviani who was premier and foreign minister and they didn't
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really want the french and russians to be able to coordinate a response while they were toasting champagne so they waited until after they left and sent telegrams to petersburg asking about details. unfortunately the russians had broken the austrian code so they were reading these telegrams. in the end they didn't even learn from this. the russians learned about the ultimatum, oddly enough, because berthold the foreign minister of austria hungary blabbed it to a friend who was a retired diplomat who frequently had lunch with the british ambassador who happened to have the house next door in the country to russian ambassador. that's how the russians learned about the ultimatum. the reason this is an important part of the story. russia's often knee kwlekted the story, as is france incidentally but all this mattered greatly. if you look at the mobilization plans, and various versions of this plan are quite well known along with the french mobilization plan. the russian mobilization plan say little bit less known. what we do know, however, is thats russians wanted to get a
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head start because they didn't mobilize as quickly as the germans and they knew that. so they wanted to get going early. so they wanted to make sure that they had french support. now it just so happened that the president and foreign minister and premier of france, in the second two cases the same man, were actually in st. petersberg between the 20th and 23rd of july. so happened the french ambassador was able to basically green light everything the russians were doing for the next week. because he had just spoken with the president. i have no smoking gun proof of what he was told him. but the french stance was just as hard line as the rux stance. without boring you of all the details i do want to hone in on several days. not the best known days of the crisis but to my mind the most interesting. so i'm going to start on a sunday, july 26th, the ultimatum has already gone out. serbia, austria, hungary have
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already begun mobilizing after serbia rejected the ultimatum advised to do so incidentally by the russians. they reject one clause unequivocally, fudge the rest. yes we are sorry that you acc e accused us of a crime. serbia rejects the ultimatum, they moanize even before austria hungry does but things haven't been declared yet. the austria hungarians up against the fact they're so incompetent they're that going to be ready to invade serbia until august 12th. that's nearly a month and a half after sarajevo. that's what they tell the germans. the germans have been telling them no you have to go quickly invade now. they say no on august 12th. okay. that was on the sunday. monday the kaiser returns from his cruise, the kaiser, there's still kind of keeping slop of part because the war party doesn't trust him but he makes up in the morning of the 28th,
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tuesday, july 28th, 1914 he goes for a staff ride. unfortunately he waited until after he got back from his horse ride to read serbia's reply to the ultimatum which he actually misread. he thought it constituted acceptance more or less. he then said oh, god this is brilliant. diplomatic victory. we must convince the austrians to negotiate and at the very least have some kind of symbolic occupation of belgrade, make sure the serbs behave, et cetera. but he doesn't pick up the telephone because he doesn't like using the telephone. and he thought it was such a critical document that he shouldn't send it by telegram either so he sent it by private courier and by the time this message reached berlin, let alone vienna, austria-hungary had declared war on serbia. by telegram in french. a language which the serbian prime minister did not know.ayv÷ he sent an urgent kwirry to petersburg asking about this strange telegram.
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please help me explain what this stupid thing is because austria-hungary hant done anything yet. this is about as bad as you can get getting your carrots and sticks backwards. the war won't come for two weeks but the declaration is here now. why? the chief of staff doesn't want a declaration of war. japan didn't declare war on russia 1904 she just attacked. the balkan powers didn't declare war they just attacked. why are we shooting ourselves in the foot. i have a theory which i can't prove, berthold, foreign minister of austria-hungary everyone is bombarding him with what today would be kind of e-mails and text messages. in that day it was telegrams and a few phone calls. he was sick of hearing about it. and now, that he had declared war, he didn't have to answer the telephone. brilliant, stupid but also brilliant. next day, 29dth of july. it's interesting that when things are beginning to get serious the germans, even though they're the ones who have been
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egging the austrians along with beginning to get cold feet. the kaiser gets cold feet, and he doesn't get cold feet quite soon enough on the 29th this is now a wednesday, at about 10:00 p.m., the british ambassador is called in by the german chancellor. by now he realizes war is possibly on the hoar susan so he wants to know what britain will do. he wants a pledge of neutrality. he's so desperate for british neutrality the day before he offered to give britain germany's high seas fleet as a gift. the kaiser didn't like the idea and neither did the naval minister. but he did offer this. that's how desperate he was. he now began doling out inside information. as kind of a diplomatic strip tease. you know the british guy didn't realize he had a live one on his hands. are you saying if there's a war will you invade holland? no, no, no, i can assure you of that. thank god he's thinking because in the original plan they were
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going to invade holland, too. but so then he gets to belgium and all they can do is hem and how about more or less well, i can assure you that so long as france doesn't violate belgium first we will respect belgian territorial integrity at the end of the war. oops. you have the deepest darkest secret of the german war plan revealed to the british. a few minutes later, a telegram tells him sir edward gray an opaque man at the best of the times has issued a warning of sorts, in hisa.íiwuáu(tt of something to the effect of like if things do come to a pass on the continent, it will not do to stand aside and wait. which is about as close as he could possibly come to threatening that britain might join france and russia in war. he is so panicked by this he's stloen into an uproar. he already hant been sleeping.
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his wife died in may. the man is a miserable wreck. so he composes an urgent message to vienna. the night of wednesday, july 29th. saying that we refuse as we germans refuse to let ourselves be dragged wantonly and without regard to our advice into a world conflagration. he rekinded the blank check to austria. about ten hours too late because austria-hungary that afternoon had begun shelling belgrade. mostly ineffectually but there you are. that same night, wednesday, july 29th, interesting barbara tuchman has this great scene in the guns of august, you know, the russians are just they're they're in a panic, what will france today? will you stand with us? they wake up the french in the middle of the night. oh, god damn these russians they're worse insomniacs than drinkers. great scene she puts it on friday, july 31st. happened on wednesday, july
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29th. not friday july 31st. and here's why it happened. it happened because russia's ambassador to paris receives a telegram from russia's foreign minister, who had learned earlier that evening that austria-hungary had begun shelling belgrade. he then got the czar to sign the order for general mobilization on wednesday july 29th, he then sent off a telegram to paris saying in rather elliptical language due to germany's desire that we cease mobilizing we must now regard war as imminent and that is why on the same night that he was panicking and trying to rescind the blank check france and russia resolved on war. could it have been averted is the question? obviously the chancellor and kaiser would have had to have been more forthright sooner on.
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probably they should have called the military to account about this idiotic plan to invade france by way of belgium, which was potentially a cassis belly for the british. i think that's quite possibly true. still it is interesting, that the timing mattered greatly. it was not all written as lawrence would have put in lawrence of arabia. it was not necessarily in the cards. even to the last minute there were decisions to be made there were always alternatives. and i think i will stop there and open the floor for questions.
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>> sean could i start with a quick reference to the historic russian interests and the protection of christians in the ottoman empire? >> sure. >> how serious is that notion? i think of it as going back to the 18th century as something very serious. how serious is it still in the early 20th century? >> it's quite serious. if you go back to the treaty of 1774, the first of the great russian turkish wars of modern times there had been a clause pertaining to the rights of christians or the rights of protection. the russians later misinterpreted this. in fact it referred literally in the document to the right to protect a certain church still to be built. in constantinople or istanbul. a church that was never built. this was effective the casu casus belli of the 1850s. if you fast forward to the 20th century this is quite serious. among other questions it opened the question of crete and the
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kind of the powers decided that after this conflict they would send well they called them gendarmes, today we call them peacekeepers. they did the same thing in 1903. they were on the point of doing the same thing in 1914 in the eastern provinces of turkey known to western diplomats as the armenian provinces of eastern turkey. a reform plan was signed in february 1914, pursuant to the six eastern provinces. now with the russians had wanted was international gendarmes in eastern turkey, full recognition of some kind of autonomous status recognized as armenian provinces. they did not actually get it. the germans watered down many of these provisions. the germans kind of playing into -- running interference you might say for the ottomans. but still the flag had been planted, so to speak. and so this was definitely at issue. the way the ottomans are seeing this of course is you have trojan horses in both directions.
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potentially you have the greek, bulgarian minority in western turkey and the armenians in the east. it's a very explosive question and it does have a lot to do with the tensions. and that is how the story ends. the first world war doesn't really end in the treaty of lausanne. and of course we christians sent in the other direction. most were actually gone by then. then of course, armenians most of them of course were either expelled or deported or killed or murdered in 1915. although some of them actually did come back after the war. >> it's been fascinating listening to how the now that i'm beginning to actually change my mind that there were indeed junctures in which in many of these interlocking alliances, and many of these situations, "p that indeed possibly war could
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have been averted? but in a larger sense, what to you are some of the lessons should they, you know, stop to consider of politicians today, what could politicians today what lessons could they draw from some of the missteps, and steps not taken? >> well it's a great question. it's a difficult one to answer. i mean history never repeats itself. sometimes it rhymes. but i think we could definitely say that there are perils in brinkmanship. i mean this is i suppose the most obvious conclusion. and maybe both in kind of the air of nuclear weapons and today there maybe is a greater cog nizance of the risks of an outright great power of war. something about how theorists
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are debating right now. the rise in china. if you read tragedy of great power politics he sees it as inevitable. i think he makes a very persuasive case. i don't necessarily agree with it simply because when i look at history, or even just recent history, i see how little we can actually foresee even the near future. to give an example of this. i've been giving these lectures all year. one of them i gave in australia and i still remember because it was in kuala lumpur i was on a malaysian airlines flight several days before the first of the two malaysian airlines went missing. i had no inkling that was about to happen obviously. so i'm sitting there in the lounge in quayle la lumpur and the conference organizer in australia was asking me this kind of question. can you explain for our audience some of the contemporary parallels, maybe this island dispute, the senkaku islands between china and japan, south china sea or this or that. it's interesting that in between getting this e-mail, and then
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actually sitting on the panel five days later, russia sent troops into the crimea. he hadn't even said anything about russia or ukraine or crimea in this e-mail about current events. which is to say if you're looking at the world in this period, sure if you were a diplomatic professional, you probably would have known something about the balkan wars and third balkan crisis. yes. you would have known something about those. but most people wouldn't have had the quaintest clue about it and they wouldn't have been talking about it. they would have been talking about what we usually talk about which is whatever we think is going on right now. but things can change on a dime. they can change very quickly. now that's not to say the mobilization plans and the alliances didn't matter. when people talk about the alliances they forget all kinds of things. italy is the great example. i was actually just looking at this map i think in the memorial, you know, across the way, about the powers, and they left italy out of it because, of course, italy doesn't make sense. italy was on the central power side.
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they had a formal treaty of alliance of germany, austria and hungary. not only did they not join them they went over to the other side. bulgaria was kind of listed on the central powers, with turkey, bulgaria had, in turkey in both 1912 and 1913 and they more or less quarrelled at the end of the war. one of the little known aspects of the end of the first world war is that in some ways the decisive breakthrough actually mapped in macedonia. again to get back to this map you look at the military history of this thing it was a little bit accidental. they sent troops there because nothing was going on at gallipoli. they were trying to impress the greeks into joining the war. it didn't work. they had to send troops to greece and basically depose the king and put in a puppet government so that greece would join the war. then basically around september 1918 the bulgarians who have something like 200,000 troops pinning down you know defending all of central europe, against this allied expeditionary force in macedonia, they get screwed over by their allies, where they
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don't get the territory they thought had been promised to them. they get angry at the turks and the germans. and they more or less just give up the fight. and they don't surrender immediately. bulgaria is a little bit like in the second war, bulgaria, romania, to some extent bat for both teams. it was a bit like that with bull yeah in the first world war. when you really look at it you couldn't have predicted a lot of what happened. italy according to again the treaty of alliance a lot of diplomatic pro-specialals knew she really wasn't very close to austria-hungary. but the outcomes that is whether or not they're preventable by some kind of, you know, some different vision of statesmanship the fact is we just don't know what's going to happen. i think the historians w s who t all this as inevitable it's not really an accurate depiction of the events as they happened. it's an attempt to make sense of them later. maybe we need to make sense of them or else we'd go mad. or maybe we need to make sense of them so that we can prevent it from happening again.
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but in fact the history is far more complicated. great question. >> my question follows similar in line with that. had an appeasement been made and this war avoided, given the history of the region, given the tensions among all the various players, particularly in the balkans, would there have been another war, maybe a shorter war? or would there have been continuous numerous other minor wars and not have the one great war? >> maybe somewhere in between minor and major. i think there would have been a war between turkey and greece. that's how the first world war ended in 1922. essentially with the burning of smirna at the last expulsion of the greek armies. where they were expected to go in 1914. in some ways it was just an interregnum. that is to say, this is what was likely. a war here. the other war was in many ways
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becoming less likely in 1914. that it had been even several years previously. you know there had been a major war scare in 1912. war didn't happen then. you know in some ways if you look at kind of like the dynamics inside the great powers things were actually moving against greater tensions. i talked about britain and russia becoming more tense. british and german relations were improving. inside france, i mean there was a major political battle going on. and it's in part because of a sex scandal. i mean literally joseph kaio was supposed to take over as prime minister. he would end the war basically you know being strung up for treason because he was kind of the german's man in france. he would have become premier in may of 1914 except that his wife was on trial for murder. because she murdered a journalist who was printing various things. the trial was actually ongoing in july 1914. and that's what most of france was talking about. there's a likely scenario in french politics was kaio and possibly jarez were going to
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come to power and jettison the russian alliance because russia was seen as the most reactionary ant anti-labor country in europe not without good without good reason. the left hated russia and france. he was accused of taking russian subsidies which was true. there was a lot of heat in france. in german planning not something i'm a particular expert on. it was a bad scenario and might have gotten worse in the coming years. it might have gotten better for other contingent reasons that didn't come to pass. that is to say the germans could have very easily fielded a larger peace time army, they just weren't paying the money to do it. in part because the general always kind of mistrusted and they didn't want too many socialists in the army and they were paying too much for the navy. all the calculations, they were
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always in flux. it might have been different in 1915 or 1916. might have broken out under different circumstances and might have broken out between britain and russia. it's not unthinkable. >> could you talk a little bit about the popular reaction of austria hungary from the assassination? i know you said they weren't too sad. what was the popular reaction? was there a big uprising? >> well, it's a very good question in part because you might expect there is huge popular fury against the serbs. initially frans ferdinand wasn't really loved. certainly in the plots, that is
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to say the government is like cold steel. they were angry not because they liked frans ferdinand that much. what ratcheted things up was the serbian press was going busters against the hungarians. words were flying. they just unveiled a new statue this year, national hero. when the russian minister went a little late to -- died about ten or 15 minutes later and accused austrians of murdering. they started putting in monuments. a little more jaded and you wouldn't have seen it so much in society circles. certainly in the popular press
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the drum beat was very strong. even the hungarian president who was initially quite cold to the idea of punitive war on serbia seems to be largely won over by partly the kind of craziness coming from the newspapers and the upsurge. the hungarians weren't falling to the serbs, either. they have their own minority issues and were quite shall we say not terribly nice to their own minorities. and italians and other peoples that were part of the hungarian monarchy. it is hard to say there was a huge upsurge of populism. he wasn't really loved. there were a few people who did have a soft spot for him like the kaiser and people who
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respected him but he wasn't loved and didn't have particularly good artistic case but that is kind of another matter. >> especially in germany and england was there a sizable faction that was of the attitude of better now than later if we are going to fight the germans before they have industrialized even more or let's try to do it before the russians become a modern industrial power? >> i haven't really heard that argument from the british side. i certainly haven't seen evidence of it. would have been a kind of logic on that. the usual kind of argument is the germans look east and saw russia. russia is getting stronger by the year. this is why we must strike now. you do see that. it is quite clear that is the way con way talks.
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tizza was saying no, no new york ci city--no, no, no. on the british side i don't think that was really it. i think part of what is so fascinating it is difficult to crack the nettle on the british side is so much was done in secret despite the fact it was this advanced liberal empire. along with henry wilson among the generals, they are quite committed to this pseudoalliance with france. they kept fudging things. when they made an agreement with france to split up naval coverage they had told the cabinet that this did not commit britain or tie its hands in case of war. with the germans they are definitely thinking that way. that is just the way people
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thought. to some extent shared i think the concerns or the general view. he was a little less gung ho about it because he had a pessimistic nature. on the british side i'm not sure anybody made that particular argument. certainly there were people like churchill who thought the german threat was serious and had to be dealt with. it is actually a very good question. i will have to think about that. >> why was serbia so important to russia? >> that's a good question. you would have to ask the russians about that. i have a little bit personal experience of this. i was in moscow during the kosovo war 1999. >> let's just say that some punches were thrown. and it didn't go particularly
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well. i remember hearing something about serbian blood brothers in kosovo. i guess part of it is the semi mythical ties of blood and religion. russia had something of relation with clients. b the independent serbia was in that sense also forged by russian arms when russia invaded turkey in 1877. all that said in the balkan wars the russian position was conflicted. to some extent he was conducting a rogue foreign policy. he was not particularly belligerent during the wars. heartfig almost gave a green light. in the second war when everybody ganged up on bulgaria the
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russians basically left them out to dry. i suppose it's mostly a matter of prestige. that is to say that for the russians you have here this kind of proxy for russia status as a great power. my own argument is that russia's real interests were here. that is to say the straits question. that is why russia was in such a panic because they were about to float. it was expected to arrive in july and originally expected in march. they protested this with the british. the british brushed them off and said we can't interfere with private business contracts. it's not our fault. that's what churchill said. but serbia, it is curious because serbia, properly understood the russians were not
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advocating for a larger serbia. they didn't want serbia to have access to -- they actually agreed on that. the kaiser took the opposite decision. they took a pro suburb decision. i suppose the assassination and the wildcard just can't figure out for some reason no one has been interested in this half of the confession. everybody knows about the first half. in the second half of the confession he said quite openly that the russians gave him the green light and gave him money by which he meant the -- who may have been conducting a rogue foreign policy. there may have been no support from higher channels. that was often true in this era. diplomats were on a longer leash than today and probably because communications were slower and given more leeway. in the case of the balkans he made policy and created the
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first war. so it's a great question. frankly, i think in the end you would have to ask the russians because i just don't know. >> one more. >> continuous in the same area you are discussing what's the end game of the assassination? was it to provoke war? was that the objective? >> you are talking about -- it is definitely hard to say. it is not terribly well travelled or well-educated man. he was a miner, wasn't eligible for the death penalty, probably something of a sack rificial lamb. the assassination itself was the act. as far as his backers, that's --


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