Sympathy and the sources of Keynes’s critique of the peace

by Eric on May 7, 2013

Apropos nothing at all I thought I might address the suggestion, sometimes raised, that John Maynard Keynes’s “love” for Carl Melchior, German representative at Versailles, might substantively have influenced Keynes’s position on what reparations the Germans ought to pay.

Keynes made early calculations for what Germany should pay in reparations in October, 1918. In “Notes on an Indemnity,” he presented two sets of figures – one “without crushing Germany” and one “with crushing Germany”. He objected to crushing Germany because seeking to extract too much from the enemy would “defeat its object by leading to a condition in which the allies would have to give [Germany] a loan to save her from starvation and general anarchy.” As he put in a revised version of the same memorandum, “If Germany is to be ‘milked’, she must not first of all be ruined.”

Keynes also worried that too large a reparations bill might distort international trade. “An indemnity so high that it can only be paid by means of a great expansion of Germany’s export trade must necessarily interfere with the export trade of other countries.”

The point of mentioning it is that Keynes developed these concerns prior to going to the negotiations and meeting Carl Melchior.

Which is not to say that Melchior did not make a great impression on Keynes; as Keynes wrote in 1920,

A sad lot they were in those early days, with drawn, dejected faces and tired staring eyes, like men who had been hammered on the Stock Exchange. But from amongst them there stepped forward into the middle place a very small man, exquisitely clean, very well and neatly dressed, with a high stiff collar which seemed cleaner and whiter than an ordinary collar, his round head covered with grizzled hair shaved so close as to be like in substance to the pile of a close-made carpet, the line where his hair ended bounding his face and forehead in a very sharply defined and rather noble curve, his eyes gleaming straight at us, with extraordinary sorrow in them, yet like an honest animal at bay.

Keynes was so impressed by Melchior’s account of German suffering – both his implicit and explicit account – that he would illicitly confer with Melchior to try to strike a deal whereby the Germans would receive food relief in exchange for giving up merchant ships.

In The Economic Consequences of the Peace, Keynes criticized the treaty not only for what was in it – the reparations demands – but what was not – “The Treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe, – nothing to make the defeated Central Empires into good neighbors, nothing to stabilize the new States of Europe, nothing to reclaim Russia; nor does it promote in any way a compact of solidarity among the Allies themselves; no arrangement was reached at Paris for restoring the disordered finances of France and Italy, or to adjust the systems of the Old World and the New.” He warned that without such provisions, ” “depression of the standard of life of the European populations” would lead to a political crisis, such that some desperate people might “submerge civilization itself in their attempts to satisfy desperately the overwhelming needs of the individual.”

At the conference, Keynes himself had made such a proposal, suggesting refinancing the international debts to provide funds for reconstruction and development. Here it is worth noting that Keynes developed the plan after hearing Jan Smuts’s account of “the pitiful plight of Central Europe.”

So it seems that Melchior did matter to Keynes, and inspired him to propose relief for Germany. But as for his critique of the peace, what really mattered to Keynes was British self-interest, which inspired him to warn against reparations before he even went to France, and sympathy for the people of Central Europe, which inspired his “grand scheme for the rehabilitation of Europe” – which of course was only one of many “grand schemes” that showed Keynes’s interest in the long-run welfare of humanity.

{ 353 comments }

1

Yastreblyansky 05.07.13 at 11:17 pm

That’s certainly not being gay or non-gay but being a really good writer, which is I suspect what they really have against the Bloomsbury economist. What a gorgeous paragraph and how precisely the empathy matches the quality of the prose.

2

Vance Maverick 05.07.13 at 11:23 pm

The first phrase may need a footnote in a year’s time, or a month’s.

3

pedant 05.08.13 at 12:27 am

Look, you have made your case: Ferguson is talking utter nonsense in a way that is a disgrace to the profession of history, and demonstrates that he has no remaining capacity for scholarly research, and no intellectual integrity.

But why do you hate Academic Freedom?

4

Rich Puchalsky 05.08.13 at 12:33 am

Whee, I guess that people have to seriously address every antiquated anti-gay slur that some right-wing creep makes. This was better than the last one, anyways.

But sure, I’ll try to derail the thread before they turn up to take the “Keynes did too betray his country because he was gay and besotted with lust” side. Let’s talk about hot German guys! Specifically The Heart of Thomas.

Noah Berlatsky:

“Specifically, I’d argue that a big part of the appeal of setting the comic at a boys’ school is that it allows male, European characters to be objectified, just as Asian women often are in Western fiction. In a lot of ways, The Heart of Thomas is an Orientalist harem fantasy in reverse. Instead of a Westerner thinking about veiled maidens on cushions in some distant palace, the Japanese Hagio fantasizes about beautiful boys in an exotic Europe.

The genre of boys’ love, in other words, allows Hagio and her readers to place themselves in a position of power and aggrandizement that is rare for women—as the distanced, masterful position, letting his (or her) eyes roam across variegated objects of desire. It is, then, perhaps, no accident that the villain of The Heart of Thomas—a boy named Siegfried—is distinguished primarily by his interest in the Renaissance and by his odd, octagonal glasses. Siegfried’s fetishization of old Europe parallels Hagio’s fetishization of contemporary Europe; his dangerous gaze parallels Hagio’s dangerous gaze. And Siegfried’s abuse of Juli, the protagonist, is congruent with Hagio’s own stylized sexualization of her characters. His desire is her desire—and also, perhaps, the desire of her readers. Thus, the prurient fan-service which is usually doled out only to men is here explicitly taken up by women, who get to watch more exotic male bodies than you can shake a spectacle at.”

So, Keynes / Melchior slash fanfic? Hotter with or without success of the “tempted to betray his country” scene? Discuss.

5

the anon 05.08.13 at 12:57 am

“John Maynard Keynes’ cleverly written account of the Council of Four commanded lasting attention among popular writers, although neither enlightened contemporaries nor historians considered it fair-minded or well-informed .” The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 4.

That is the scholarly consensus.

6

Colin Danby 05.08.13 at 12:58 am

Less-sexy derailments:

1. I’ve heard it said that _Economic Consequences_ had an impact on the League of Nations debate in the USA, mainly because it made Wilson look bad. Is this true?

2. How did the debate over reparations play out in Britain between 1919 and 1944? Keynes remained interested in the issue; was there a point at which opinion turned in favor of his critique?

3. Also apropos of nothing in particular, _Economic Consequences_ seems to me wholly Burkean in argument, warning against large-scale social experiment. From its opening paragraph:

“Very few of us realize with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organization by which Western Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly. On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions, and feel ourselves with enough margin in hand to foster, not assuage, civil conflict in the European family.”

http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Keynes/kynsCP1.html

7

scott 05.08.13 at 1:09 am

Thought experiment: If Keynes were Jewish, or black, and Ferguson said that what Keynes advocated all stemmed from that, would Ferguson even have a job now? I’m pretty sure the answer would be no because, however messed up we are, we have gotten to the point of effectively ostracizing people who do that. Here’s getting to the point where gay-baiting yields similar results; the reaction this time is very encouraging, but we’re not there yet.

8

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 1:26 am

I have no idea whether it’s the consensus view or not, but there is clearly a substantial body of contemporary historians whose views on the Great War are of the same value (and, I suspect, similar motivation) as those of the Dunning school regarding the US Civil War and Reconstruction, which represented the scholarly consensus for 100 or so years afterwards.

I’m unconvinced by the claim that any particular respect needs to be paid to expert knowledge here. The central facts about the War and the Peace were already known when Keynes wrote (except that Keynes’grim assessment had not yet been validated by events).

Those who want to justify the conduct of the victors are simply taking sides with Keynes’ “enlightened contemporaries”, Lloyd George and Clemenceau.

9

Bruce Baugh 05.08.13 at 1:44 am

Scott: Thought experiment: If Keynes were Jewish, or black, and Ferguson said that what Keynes advocated all stemmed from that, would Ferguson even have a job now? Of course he would. Look at the tremendous academic hardship not suffered by people like Charles Murray, and these folks, and a whole lot more. And it’s not like the right-wing think tank network would spurn him, either.

10

P O'Neill 05.08.13 at 1:51 am

It’s unthinkable that senior figures in the British establishment might have had some sympathies for Germany during the Great War period ….

11

Eric 05.08.13 at 2:09 am

Keynes’s account may not have been either fair-minded or well-informed, but he pretty much called his shots correctly – the interwar economy was not stable and it did collapse, leading to depression so severe that civilization was imperiled.

Versailles revisionism has always struck me as pretty much the definition of too clever by half – if there’s such a thing as a FACT of twentieth-century history, it’s that the peace crafted at Versailles turned out to have a lot of serious flaws.

12

JW Mason 05.08.13 at 2:28 am

Keynes’ essay on Melchior is really lovely. I remember when I first read it, I thought, if this guy had not become an economist he could have made a great modernist novelist.

13

ronnie 05.08.13 at 2:31 am

I still laugh at the exceedingly-gay Mr. Keynes’ reply to WWI draft board members, outraged at his conscientious objector stance, who asked: what would you do if a German soldier were raping your sister. He replied: I would try to interpose myself between them!

14

Corey Robin 05.08.13 at 2:36 am

Josh Mason at 12: Wasn’t Alasdair MacIntyre’s big complaint against Keynes, essentially, that he was a great modernist novelist?

15

JW Mason 05.08.13 at 2:37 am

Corey: I don’t know, but I’d like to. Where’s that from?

16

Corey Robin 05.08.13 at 2:44 am

Josh: After Virtue. Haven’t read it since grad school — and as with so many of my books it’s in storage — but that’s my memory of his critique. It’s a brilliant book, and it takes its bearings (negatively) from G.E. Moore’s ethics. Moore was a huge influence on the entire Bloomsbury crowd, whom MacIntyre loathes, and Keynes plays a fairly big role there. But he sees Keynes as symptomatic of a modernist ethic in morals (inherited from Moore), which finds expression in literature, philosophy, and economics. Also I remember reading (I think) in one of the biographies of Virginia Woolf or Lytton Strachey (I used to be obsessed with those guys) that one of them did think Keynes was a great portraitist/novelist and that part of his success as an economist had to do with that sensibility and those skills.

17

Eric 05.08.13 at 2:53 am

Keynes originally wrote and presented the Melchior essay at the Bloomsbury Memoir Club. Woolf was impressed with its “method of character drawing.”

18

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 3:18 am

@Eric Having been repeatedly bruised in arguments about this stuff, I don’t think “too clever by half” is the right diagnosis in many cases. Versailles revisionism, like revisionism about the Great War in general, is driven at least as much by simple jingoism. (Worth remembering, given the inevitable protestations, that the original jingoes “didn’t want to fight”).

19

Geoff Robinson 05.08.13 at 3:22 am

W K Hancock somewhere in reference to Allied claims that somehow Germany could be made to pay whole cost of the war notes that they exemplified how wars become an occasion for intellectual holidays that are always grim and joyless; sums up much post 9/11 thinking as well.

20

Matt 05.08.13 at 3:35 am

Corey and JW-
MacIntrye makes essentially the same argument in both his _A Short History of Ethics_ (around p. 256) and in the start of _After Virtue_ (14-17). The idea is, very briefly, that Keynes and the other Bloomsbury types followed G.E. Moore in thinking that “good” was an undefinable, non-natural property available to intuition, and that certain things such as pleasant states of mind, friendship, the enjoyment of art, etc. could be intuitively known to be good (or to have this undefinable non-natural property). But, MacIntrye thinks, it’s clear that all that they did was give pride of place to their own (rather narrow and idiosyncratic) preferences, not “intuit” anything at all, and that mere rhetorical skill and force of personality is what passed for argument among them. MacIntrye clearly holds them in low regard, but his criticism of Moore’s method (while a bit unfair) isn’t without its strengths. It’s pretty unclear to me, however, how this would be a good argument against Keynes’ work in economics or at least most of his policy work, and as far as I can tell, MacIntrye doesn’t argue against that, at least not in these books.

21

Corey Robin 05.08.13 at 3:49 am

Thanks, Matt. It’s been ages, as I said, but doesn’t MacIntyre in After Virtue take it further: that the whole disguising of private and personal preferences as intuited goods finds an expression in the manipulative personality of the government bureaucrat and the corporate manager, i.e., some of the major protagonists of the postwar Keynesian economy? Anyway, I didn’t mean to suggest it was a developed argument against Keynes — much less a developed good argument; I remember it more as a throwaway comment.

22

Matt 05.08.13 at 4:00 am

That might be right, Corey- I haven’t read the whole book carefully for a long time either- but I think this is the only extended discussion of Keynes as such, and there doesn’t seem to be a careful discussion economics at all, though he does complain quite a bit about “experts” and the “managerial attitude” in government, and the attendant bureaucracy. It’s all a piece with the “It’s all been down hill since 1300″ shtick of the book, I’d think.

23

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 4:04 am

Economists are almost universally utilitarians, or at least consequentialists, and that’s certainly true of Keynes in his economic work – that’s one of the reasons he found it easy to reject Versailles, when his “enlightened contemporaries” were howling for their pound of flesh. He cites Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees, something that might have been written expressly to annoy MacIntyre (at least if I understand virtue ethics correctly), as a precursor of his theory of aggregate demand. But that’s nothing to do with Bloomsbury. As an economist, Keynes pretty much channels Bentham “given equal effective demand, pushpin sets are as good as poetry books”.

Stepping way outside my zone of competence, it seems as though Bloomsbury ethics are pretty much the same as MacIntyre’s except with a different set of self-evident virtues, and that his criticism of them is equally applicable to his own position.

24

the anon 05.08.13 at 4:11 am

Like many in Britain, Keynes’ sympathy extended only to his fellow Teutons. He didn’t give a damn about those who suffered for years under German occupation.

@ 8 The facts about the War and the Peace were most certainly not clear to everyone during the 1920s. The fact that John Quiggin says as much betrays his deep ignorance of history. Until very recently, for example, historians dismissed stories of German mass atrocities in Belgium as wartime propaganda. We now know that those stories were true and that they had been blotted from public memory by a concerted German propaganda campaign during the 1920s. See John N. Horne & Alan Kramer, German Atrocities 1914: A History Of Denial (Yale University Press, 2001). The same pattern is visible across the whole spectrum of historical research about the First World War. Until the 1960s, there was no real effort to untangle the myths from the truth about the reparations. The few serious works on the subject, like Étienne Mantoux’s posthumous The Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes, were completely ignored. In sum, the 1960s and 70s witnessed a dramatic shift in the way Anglophone historians interpreted the origins and settlement of the First World War.

Quiggin would like us to ignore this shift and the research accumulated over the past half-century because it does not accord with his preconceptions. It’s not that he has conducted his own research. Nope. He is guided entirely by faith. If there is a “Dunning School” in First World War historiography, he embodies it perfectly. It is a school based on ignorance and faith. His only recourse is ad hominem. Only a jingoist would dare suggest that Keynes was wrong about the Treaty, he tells us. If “a substantial body of contemporary historians” endorses views contrary to his, then it can only mean these academic historians are all unreformed jingoists. He is not impressed by “expert knowledge,” but unwilling to provide his own. What a great model for academic inquiry!

@ 10 Members of the British establishment strongly sympathized with Germany because they considered themselves part of the same Teutonic race. For them, the war was an unmitigated disaster. It not only led to great social leveling at home but it also beckoned the rise of the racially inferior Slavs and perfidious Latins abroad. This dual emancipation was incredibly threatening to the British establishment and it explains, in part, why German propaganda, and later appeasement, found such strong support in interwar Britain.

Good night.

25

Corey Robin 05.08.13 at 4:23 am

John at 23: “Stepping way outside my zone of competence, it seems as though Bloomsbury ethics are pretty much the same as MacIntyre’s except with a different set of self-evident virtues, and that his criticism of them is equally applicable to his own position.”

It’s interesting that you say that — very interesting in fact — because I had never read any Bloomsbury before reading MacIntyre in grad school. So I had this distinct impression of the Woolfs, Strachey et al as this cesspool of emotivism, the antithesis of MacIntyre. But then I read all of Woolf’s diaries, a great many of her essays and some of the novels, as well as her letters, and I thought to myself: she sounds *exactly* like Alasdair MacIntyre.

26

Bruce Baugh 05.08.13 at 4:39 am

I have a long-standing appreciation for transformation fiction, in which what wasn’t human becomes so (or is recognized as already having the crucial elements of humanity), from Pygmalion to the Oz books to modern riffs like Clive Barker’s and Neil Gaiman’s. It’s fascinating, in its own way, to watch someone like Anon turn themselves from human into straw.

27

john c. halasz 05.08.13 at 4:42 am

@23:

” As an economist, Keynes pretty much channels Bentham”

“we were amongst the first of our generation, perhaps alone amongst our generation, to escape from the Benthamite tradition. In practice, of course, at least so far as I was concerned, the outside world was not forgotten or forsworn. But I am recalling what our Ideal was in those early days when the life of passionate contemplation and communion was supposed to oust all other purposes whatever. It can be no part of this memoir for me to try to explain why it was such a big advantage for us to have escaped from the Benthamite tradition. But I do now regard that as the worm which has been gnawing at the insides of modern civilisation and is responsible for its present moral decay. We used to regard the Christians as the enemy, because they appeared as the representatives of tradition, convention and hocus-pocus. In truth it was the Benthamlte calculus, based on an over-valuation of the economic criterion, which was destroying the quality of the popular Ideal.”

Quoted in comment #86 of the N. Ferguson thread.

28

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 4:51 am

@jch Exactly right. As I said, there’s a big contradiction between Keynes as economist and Keynes as member of the Bloomsbury group. He looks at some of the tensions in Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, where he says

For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

He’s talking mainly about market incentives, but the point is even more true of policies to stimulate consumption demand.

29

Walt 05.08.13 at 6:57 am

I swear to God, I just read a thread where people insisted that historians now agreed that popular perceptions of World War 2 were distorted by pro-British propaganda, and the badness of Germany was exaggerated. I suppose Niall Ferguson probably holds this view, which brings the thread full circle.

30

jb 05.08.13 at 7:04 am

This thread is about World War One, not World War Two.

Or were you referring to a different thread?

31

Phil 05.08.13 at 7:05 am

Worth remembering, given the inevitable protestations, that the original jingoes “didn’t want to fight”

Well, the original jingoes said they didn’t want to fight. To be even more precise, they used the words “we don’t want to fight”. But there’s already a big difference between “we don’t want to fight” and “we don’t want to fight, but” – and, just as some of the peace-loving statements here are more peace-loving than others, some ‘buts’ are bigger than others. And
We don’t want to fight, but by jingo, if we do
We’ve got the men, we’ve got the ships, we’ve got the money too!

is a very big ‘but’ indeed.
(Hat-tip: my O Level History teacher, Terry Fairman.)

32

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 7:17 am

@Phil Indeed, that was my point – there was a big “but”, just as in all defences of Allied conduct before, during and after the the Great War.

They “didn’t want to fight”, but by jingo, they would if the alternative was to scale back their imperial ambitions.

I notice “the anon” has signed off. A pity. I was hoping for a demonstration that the claims of 10 million dead were a hoax by pacifist propagandists.

33

Walt 05.08.13 at 7:21 am

I meant World War 1, obviously. I think even Niall Ferguson hasn’t gone so far as to argue that Britain was wrong to fight WW2.

34

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 7:28 am

To restate my general point, the historians of the Dunning School were experts, who knew more about the Civil War and Reconstruction than I ever will. But all their extra knowledge added essentially nothing to what was already on the public record. The facts about slavery were brutal and obvious, and no amount of archival work was going to change them. Participants chose one side or the other at the time, and historians did so thereafter, for the same reasons.

Exactly the same is true of the Great War.

35

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 7:47 am

It ought to be obvious, I guess, but this problem isn’t specific to history. In the social sciences in general, and most obviously in economics, expert knowledge is essentially uncorrelated with getting the big questions, such as socialism v capitalism, right.

Feynmann had something smart to say about this, from the viewpoint of a condescending physicist. The gist was that the things we can discuss at dinner are those about which the experts know nothing, including most of the big questions in economics. By contrast, if you want to argue about the way gold points worked in the days of the gold standard you’d better hope there isn’t an expert present (paging Eric).

36

Geoff Robinson 05.08.13 at 8:03 am

On WW I Niall Ferguson thinks German misdeeds overstated.

37

Alex 05.08.13 at 8:38 am

Ronnie@13 – one for the WAS thread, I think.

38

Ronan(rf) 05.08.13 at 9:42 am

“Here’s getting to the point where gay-baiting yields similar results; the reaction this time is very encouraging, but we’re not there yet”

I think that would be a terrible point to get to

39

Vanya 05.08.13 at 9:46 am

“Until very recently, for example, historians dismissed stories of German mass atrocities in Belgium as wartime propagand”

The stories were wartime propaganda not in the sense that they were untrue, but in the sense that equally awful or worse atrocities by, say, the Russian allies on the Eastern Front in Galicia were not given the same attention, nor was British or French conduct in the African theater subject to much scrutiny. There was certainly a cultural double standard at work.

Moreover, the atrocities can’t be used retroactively to justifiy entering the war in the first place. The easiest way to have prevented German atrocities in Belgium would have been for France and Britain to remain neutral observers to a German-Austrian-Russian war.

40

Mao Cheng Ji 05.08.13 at 10:11 am

Damned Teutons. They still owe me two woolly mammoths. I got records.

41

bexley 05.08.13 at 10:54 am

I’m not an expert so would be grateful hearing from actual historians, but I don’t really understand the point being made in 24.

Like many in Britain, Keynes’ sympathy extended only to his fellow Teutons. He didn’t give a damn about those who suffered for years under German occupation.

Germany wasn’t left occupying anywhere under Versailles. Nobody seems to be criticising the terms of the treaty that removed control of Germany’s colonies and kicked the Germans out of France and Belgium. The criticism is about the rest of the terms. I don’t see how your complaints about German atrocities during the War have anything to do with Keynes’ criticisms of the economic consequences of the treaty.

42

Ronan(rf) 05.08.13 at 11:02 am

Does anyone have any reading recommendations on the interwar years?
Amazon has been telling me:

Zara Steiner The Lights that Failed: European International History 1919-193
and
The Great Interwar Crisis and the Collapse of Globalization by Robert Boyce

Something that incorporates politics and economics (rather than either or), reasonable, not overtly ideological..

43

Peter T 05.08.13 at 11:24 am

Oh dear. the anon leaves muddy bootprints across the thread.

Keynes was more right than those who wanted to squeeze the German lemon dry, and very much more humane. But he had his blinkers – I don’t think he saw the strength and determination, and the fear, of those elements in Germany who had wanted a war, had controlled German policy through it, and had hastily pushed people like Melchior into the role of spokesman/scapegoat when it ended badly. Nor did he understand the fears which drove many European elites to prefer dictatorship to democracy if democracy meant admitting the organised working class into politics.

Whether a less punitive peace would have averted World War II is unknowable, but it helps to situate the two wars not as wars of imperialism (imperial gains and losses were pretty much incidental to the major struggle) but as the outcomes on the international stage of the class conflicts that had riven Europe since 1870. All previous major social changes in Europe had produced major wars coupled with domestic upheavals, the two feeding into each other. Europe was, and is, a society of states.

The reformation: The Eighty Years War, the Thirty Years War, the Armada, the French and English civil wars, the Irish wars, 1688 and so on. The French Revolution: 50 years of war and revolution, not really ending until the revolutions of 1848.

The Keynesian-inspired settlement after 1945 reflected some of the ideas he put forward in 1919. But they also reflected the comprehensive defeat – mostly through violence – of the forces which had driven Germany to war in 1914 and again in 1939, and which, in France and Britain, had resisted change between the wars.

44

sherparick1 05.08.13 at 12:03 pm

Just on empirical grounds Keynes made certain predictions about the consequences of Versaille and its unworkability. And everything that happen after 1919 and 1923 proved its unworkability. Reading the revisionists on Versailles they like to say that Keynes was unfair or somehow wrong about the kind of treaty that could have been constructed, but that revisions to Versailles through Locarno and reparation and Allied debt payments with the Dawes and then the Young Plan fixed the problems that Keynes was so unfair to point out. But of course, even these limited corrected steps did not.

The stated purpose of Versailles was to create a new, stable, international that would provide for wide spread prosperity and prevent the outbreak of a another Great War. By its own goals it was total failure almost from the start. The fact that near 100 years later we find people defending it is further evidence of the perversity of the human intellect and the existence of “original sin.” Much like the popularity of the term “War of Northern Aggression” in some circles.

45

Sam Clark 05.08.13 at 12:18 pm

Picking up on the MacIntyre subthread:

1) Keynes’s ‘Dr Melchior’ is half of his Two Memoirs. In the other half, ‘My Early Beliefs’ he makes something very like MacIntyre’s criticism of Moore, that his ‘intuition of the good’ was nothing more than the dogmatic assertion of his own preferences. Keynes is funnier than MacIntyre, though:

How did we know what states of mind were good? This was a matter of direct inspection, of direct unanalyzable intuition about which it was useless and impossible to argue … In practice, victory was with those who could speak with the greatest appearance of clear, undoubting conviction and could best use the accents of infallibility. Moore at this time was a master of this method – greeting one’s remarks with a gasp of incredulity – Do you really think that, an expression of face as if to hear such a thing reduced him to a state of wonder verging on imbecility, with his mouth wide open and wagging his head in the negative so violently that his hair shook. Oh! he would say, goggling at you as if either you or he must be mad; and no reply was possible.

2) To be fair to MacIntyre, he does have a better answer than intuition to the question, which kinds of activity and states of character are virtues? They can be found in the practice and self-understanding of some particular form of life. We can tell what a good blacksmith is, in the context of a functioning form of life which needs blacksmiths; ditto for a good soldier, good teacher, good wife, etc. We can’t tell anything about what a good person is, in the context of modernity, because modernity isn’t a functioning form of life but the wreckage of a broken one. I don’t buy this myself, I should say.

46

LFC 05.08.13 at 12:45 pm

ronnie @13:

I still laugh at the exceedingly-gay Mr. Keynes’ reply to WWI draft board members, outraged at his conscientious objector stance, who asked: what would you do if a German soldier were raping your sister. He replied: I would try to interpose myself between them!

Ronnie is misremembering: the protagonist in this little anecdote/story was Lytton Strachey, not Keynes. (Or at least that’s how I remember it, from past bits of reading on the Bloomsbury group.)

47

LFC 05.08.13 at 12:57 pm

Peter T @43:

If you think WW1 and WW2 were “the outcomes on the international stage of the class conflicts that had riven Europe since 1870,” how do you explain, w/r/t WW1, the breakdown of int’l working-class solidarity? Didn’t nationalism trump class? “The socialists marched,” after all. (There were exceptions; I’m talking about the majority.) I suppose you could claim it was all the product of state and upper-class coercion, but I doubt it.

I’m also not sure your explanation works all that well for WW2. Nazism was not primarily an upper-class movement. The Prussian aristocrats were not, for the most part, initially warm to Hitler. The plotters who were tried to kill him in 1944 were from the aristocracy.

I think you’re right, at a general level, that there are connections between internal upheaval and interstate war in European history, but to say that WW1 and WW2 were “the outcomes on the international stage of the class conflicts that had riven Europe since 1870″ seems to me somewhat simplistic and reductive. Complicated events tend to have complicated, multiple causes.

48

LFC 05.08.13 at 12:59 pm

Correction: “The plotters who tried to kill him….”

49

Phil 05.08.13 at 1:43 pm

Cider, people. It’s when you’re making cider – not wine, not lemon juice – that you squeeze something until the pips squeak.

50

Anderson 05.08.13 at 2:21 pm

13, 46: yes, Lytton Strachey. The same occasion, I think, where before he took his seat at the conscription hearing, he made a small production of blowing up his inflatable hemorrohoid pillow?

51

Anderson 05.08.13 at 2:29 pm

24: “Until very recently, for example, historians dismissed stories of German mass atrocities in Belgium as wartime propaganda.”

I don’t see how that’s remotely true. Belgian village have had monuments since the war for group of civilians “Shot by the Germans.” Tuchman’s “Guns of August,” which if nothing else is rather conspicuous, covered German atrocities, and was published in 1962 IIRC.

As for contemporary reactions to Keynes, let’s look at that Commie activist, Herbert Hoover:

“The sheer scope, the cumulative impact of all the provisions, worried him. Unable to get back to sleep, he wandered out into the empty Paris streets. There, as day was breaking, he ran into Jan Smuts and John Maynard Keynes. ‘We agreed,’ Hoover recalled years later, ‘that the consequences of many parts of the proposed Treaty would ultimately bring destruction.'”

(Margaret MacMillan, “Paris 1919,” at 467. She is not a glowing admirer of Keynes, to judge by her other references to him.)

52

LFC 05.08.13 at 2:32 pm

Anderson @50:
we must have read the same account

53

LFC 05.08.13 at 2:36 pm

@51
Hoover, Keynes, and Smuts — that’s quite a trio.

If the names weren’t famous, one might almost think it was a law firm, or something. ;)

54

Eric 05.08.13 at 3:09 pm

It’s when you’re making cider – not wine, not lemon juice – that you squeeze something until the pips squeak.

Hey, it’s Keynes who says “milked”.

55

Eric 05.08.13 at 3:11 pm

Anderson, that Hoover paragraph is peculiar – it comes from his memoir, written much later, and taken in context, you can see it’s Hoover trying to take credit for Keynes’s prophetic treatment of the Versailles Treaty – Hoover has to tie himself in knots, though, because he then has to criticize Keynes the economist. He probably only liked Keynes the treaty critic because if the depression could be blamed on Versailles, then it could not be blamed on Hoover.

56

Anderson 05.08.13 at 3:21 pm

55: Yah, I figured it must be something like that, given the source. But for a couple of reactionaries condemning the Treaty, Hoover and Smuts are good.

Of course, they were despicable Teutonophiles – Hoover is reliably reported to have actually prevented many Germans from starving! – so their opinions can be discounted.

57

Eric 05.08.13 at 3:40 pm

Lots of people, reactionary and not, condemned the treaty as a disaster in the making. Winston Churchill, William Bullitt, T. E. Lawrence, Nguyen Ai Quoc…

58

Phil 05.08.13 at 7:16 pm

Hey, it’s Keynes who says “milked”.

Sorry, that was a drive-by nitpick – I read Peter T’s ‘lemon’ reference & assumed it was evoking Lloyd George’s (public) stance of “squeezing the Kaiser till the pips squeak”.

59

Stephen 05.08.13 at 7:22 pm

Vanya@39: “The easiest way to have prevented German atrocities in Belgium would have been for France and Britain to remain neutral observers to a German-Austrian-Russian war.”

It would be interesting to see you explain how that could have been done, given that the German government had decided that Russian mobilisation (note: not a Russian declaration of war) must immediately be followed by a German invasion of Belgium (neutrality guaranteed by Germany, France and Britain) in order to attack France at a weak point.

Over to you.

60

Stephen 05.08.13 at 7:34 pm

JQ@32: “They “didn’t want to fight”, but by jingo, they would if the alternative was to scale back their imperial ambitions.”

Right, suppose you’re President Poincare (sorry, can’t do accents) in 1914. Several German armies have invaded neutral Belgium and are poised to fall upon the weak French left flank.

Do you really think “scaling back France’s imperial ambitions” is a realistic alternative?

61

Anderson 05.08.13 at 7:44 pm

Tush tush, Stephen, no wargaming.

But, yeah, for the benefit of anyone who’s forgotten: Germany declared war on France in 1914, not vice-versa. The French were IIRC sternly warned by GHQ not to cross any border first.

62

bexley 05.08.13 at 7:47 pm

@ 59

According to Wikipedia, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August and asked France to remain neutral. The French PM says that “France will act in accordance with her interests.” which leads to Germany declaring war. Had France confirmed they would stay neutral the German Ambassador would have asked her to temporarily surrender the Fortresses of Toul and Verdun as a guarantee of neutrality.

Not sure what would have happened if the French had confirmed their neutrality but refused to hand over the fortresses. If it had handed the fortresses over I’m not sure whether the Germans were ultimately planning on attacking the French anyway after defeating the Russians. Its certainly not a request I could imagine them acceding to.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_World_War_I

63

Anderson 05.08.13 at 8:05 pm

62: asking a neighboring state to hand over fortresses for safekeeping is code for “we’re planning to go to war against you anyway,” I think.

I certainly don’t think France was obliged to pledge neutrality just because Germany asked. And as the German plan B confirms, such a pledge would have been more or less meaningless anyway. France could always say “circumstances have changed and thus so must our status.”

(Haven’t read up on this stuff for a while, but I don’t think Germany even *had* a plan for “war with Russia but not France.” When Germany mobilized, on Aug. 1, it mobilized vs. both France & Russia, right? The Kaiser asked Moltke to change to just Russia, Moltke threatened to cry, plans went ahead as previously.)

Your Wikipedia link cites A.J.P. Taylor, whom I quote from the same page of his book:

“On 31 July the Germans took the preliminary step towards general mobilization on their side. From this moment, diplomacy ceased so far as the continental Powers were concerned. The only German concern was to get the war going as soon as possible. * * * The Germans had no plausible excuse for war against France. They therefore trumped up some false stories of French violation of German territory; and with these decked out a declaration of war on 3 August.”

And so to the bloodbath.

64

Stephen 05.08.13 at 8:06 pm

bexley@62: by 1914, the only German war plan was to attack France, in any circumstances.

I can’t blame the French for objecting to being attacked. Maybe JQ can.

65

Anderson 05.08.13 at 8:17 pm

Okay, this was bugging me, tho doubtless of no interest to anyone else:

“The chief of staff [Moltke] explained to his royal master that Germany had only one war plan and that to attempt to change it now and arrange for an initial assault in the east would be to invite disaster.”

–Craig, “Politics of the Prussian Army,” at 294. The sheer arrogance of a general staff’s having *one* war plan is mindboggling.

66

bexley 05.08.13 at 8:36 pm

If France had complied then Germany would have been guaranteed a one front war . Wilhelm might have tried forcing the German general staff to accept only a war with Russia in those circumstances.

Of course it would have been almost impossible for the French to comply because as you say they would have worried that Germany would declare war on them anyway. Either immediately or after defeating Russia.

67

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 8:40 pm

Maybe the Germans guessed at the existence of something like this.

The Franco-Russian Alliance Military Convention – August 18, 1892

France and Russia, being animated by a common desire to preserve peace, and having no other object than to meet the necessities of a defensive war, provoked by an attack of the forces of the Triple Alliance against either of them, have agreed upon the following provisions:

1. If France is attacked by Germany, or by Italy supported by Germany, Russia shall employ all her available forces to attack Germany.

If Russia is attacked by Germany, or by Austria supported by Germany, France shall employ all her available forces to attack Germany.

2. In case the forces of the Triple Alliance, or of any one of the Powers belonging to it, should be mobilized, France and Russia, at the first news of this event and without previous agreement being necessary, shall mobilize immediately and simultaneously the whole of their forces, and shall transport them as far as possible to their frontiers.

3. The available forces to be employed against Germany shall be, on the part of France, 1,300,000 men, on the part of Russia, 700,000 or 800,000 men.

These forces shall engage to the full with such speed that Germany will have to fight simultaneously on the East and on the West.

4. The General Staffs of the Armies of the two countries shall cooperate with each other at all times in the preparation and facilitation of the execution of the measures mentioned above.

They shall communicate with each other, while there is still peace, all information relative to the armies of the Triple Alliance which is already in their possession or shall come into their possession.

Ways and means of corresponding in time of war shall be studied and worked out in advance.

5. France and Russia shall not conclude peace separately.

6. The present Convention shall have the same duration as the Triple Alliance.

7. All the clauses enumerated above shall be kept absolutely secret.

(Emphasis added)

68

Anderson 05.08.13 at 8:48 pm

67: Then just possibly the peace-loving Germans, aware in general terms of this alliance, should not have declared war on Russia?

66: As it happens, because Wilhelm misunderstood British intentions due to an over-optimistic report from his irenic ambassador to the UK, we know what would’ve happened had Wilhelm tried to change the plan: Moltke would’ve put his foot down, and the Kaiser would’ve folded, with a reproachful remark that “your uncle would have had a different answer.” Which was probably true, because (1) the elder Moltke’s view was to stand on the defensive in the west and attack in the east, and (2) I can’t imagine his having *one* plan.

69

bexley 05.08.13 at 8:56 pm

@ 67 I’m sure the Germans did, but I’m not sure what your point is?

As Anderson pointed out above a request for neutrality along with a demand that fortresses are handed over is basically unacceptable because the French are going to worry about being attacked after complying (and that’s ignoring the internal political implications of handing the fortresses over).

70

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 8:59 pm

“Then just possibly the peace-loving Germans, aware in general terms of this alliance, should not have declared war on Russia?”

Indeed they should not. Austria should not have declared war on Serbia, Russia should not have mobilized in support of Serbia, Germany should not have declared war on Russia, France and England should have declared themselves neutral, and all sides should have sought a peace “without indemnities or annexations” at the earliest opportunity.

Of the various imperialists who made the war, it’s easy enough to make a case that the Germans were the worst, but with 10 million dead by 1918, and tens of millions to follow, there’s plenty of guilt to go around.

71

the anon 05.08.13 at 9:03 pm

The German establishment wanted war in 1914. Why are my comments not being posted?

72

Anderson 05.08.13 at 9:04 pm

Well, I think my views on this turn-the-other-cheek style of foreign policy were made sufficiently clear in a previous thread, so no need to repeat them here. I think Machiavelli in the “Discourses” gave the definitive reply anyway.

(And the 100-year anniversary is over a year away! What fun, internet!)

73

jb 05.08.13 at 9:09 pm

Good God, this thread has gotten nasty.

Frankly, I don’t get why some people have, yet again, decided to attack John Quiggin. I don’t entirely agree with his views on the war (though I agree more with him than his loudest opponents), and I agree that he is often uncharitable to his opponents. But the abuse he is taking from certain quarters is over the line. As far as I can tell, he thinks the Great War was an utter catastrophe for which all the great powers were to blame. I agree that this does seem to understate the degree to which Germany was responsible, but to act as if he is somehow “apologizing for Germany”, or to accuse him of sympathizing with Germany is bizarre.

Frankly, I cannot help but wonder at the motivations of some of the people here.

74

bexley 05.08.13 at 9:10 pm

@ 70

The British clearly had the ability to stay neutral. I’m not sure how you think the French could have. Are you suggesting that the French should have handed over two key military instillations at the German’s request? How could they have guaranteed they wouldn’t be attacked anyway?

75

the anon 05.08.13 at 9:10 pm

John C.G. Röhl: Kaiser Wilhelm “approved the notorious and revealing offer the chancellor made to the British ambassador that same evening [July 26] to restore France’s territorial integrity in Europe after the war provided that Britain remained neutral.” (Bethmann Hollweg to Goschen, 29 July 1914, Deutsche Dokumente, No. 373) On August 1 the Kaiser Wilhelm announced that he was “determined to settle accounts with France” (Szögény to Berchtold, 2 August 1914, Geiss, Julikrise und Kriegsauchsbruch, vol. 2 No. 1063).

76

the anon 05.08.13 at 9:11 pm

Quiggin, you batty old man, who ever said the “10 million dead were a hoax by pacifist propagandists”? You malign professional historians because you have nothing of value to add to the conversation. Let this thread stand as a testament to your intellectual dishonesty.

For everyone else:
The Dunning School was discredited not because historians finally acknowledged the brutality of slavery, but as a result of painstaking research into the motivations of the Southern elite. The argument we now take for granted was the result of considerable labor. Yet again, Quiggin devalues such labor. Historical research is irrelevant to his way of thinking. For him, it suffices to know that slavery was brutal and the First World War was destructive to understand what happened in 1861 and 1914. Everything else follows seamlessly from these judgments.

There is, of course, a glaring tension in Quiggin’s approach to suffering and death in these two wars. Suffering and death in the American Civil War is cast as noble despite its enormity (and the pacifists who argue otherwise are apologists for slavery). Suffering and death in the First World War was ignoble because of its enormity (and the pacifists who argue so are not apologists for German militarism). Of course, one can argue that wars always produce injustice, stupidity, and callousness on a massive scale regardless of the legitimacy of the cause. And there is no doubt that both the Union and the Allies caused a great deal of unnecessary suffering and death. But that’s not Quiggin’s argument. He is drawing inferences about the origins of the war based on a post-hoc moral calculus that completely discounts Germany’s responsibility for starting the war and its wartime conduct. (On origins, aims, and conduct see Isabel Hull and John Röhl). Quiggin’s logic is quite simplistic: the war was bad. Everyone who participated in it must have wanted it (by virtue of participating). Therefore those who participated in the war were all bad (and equally so), whether they were fighting in self-defense or not.

Quiggin’s thinking about of the War and the Peace is built backwards from Keynes writings. It is grounded in circular reasoning. “Those who want to justify the conduct of the victors are simply taking sides with . . . Clemenceau.” But he has shown no evidence that his interpretation of Clemenceau is based on anything other than what Keynes published. Quiggin’s logic is based entirely on leaps of faith that devalue the hard work of professional historians.

@ 33. No. Here is the comment to which you are referring:

“The current consensus among most historians attributes the largest share of responsibility to the decisions made by German leaders in 1914 …”
http://crookedtimber.org/2013/04/26/gallipoli-and-crimea/#comment-463814

@ 39 Germany had only one war plan. That is a very well-known fact. You do not have to be a historian of Modern Europe to know that. So it is simply not true that France could have stayed out. Germany’s only plan was to violate Belgian sovereignty, knock out France, and then wheel back to the eastern front to defeat the Russian army just as it finished mobilizing. This is why Germany’s military elite wanted war in 1911 and in 1914. They had long planned for a two front war (at least since 1890, when Germany declined Russia’s offer to renew the Reinsurance Treaty). But the window of opportunity for such a bold move (essentially continental conquest) was rapidly vanishing. The German military knew that once Russia finished its program of railway construction, Germany would no longer be able to perform this maneuver. Russia would be able to mobilize much faster.

I referred to the Kramer & Horne book on the Belgian atrocities because they convincingly argue that German propaganda during the 1920s has left a huge imprint on historical memory and obscures basic truths about the war. But now that you have mentioned the atrocities in Galicia it is worth distinguishes between the radicalization and racialization that occurred in the east as the three empires implemented various misguided nationality policies (in order to mobilize ethnic support) and the atrocities that were committed in Belgium at the very start of the war and without any prior radicalization. The Belgian massacres are now cited as evidence of Germany’s overall attitude to international law. Germany subordinated everything, including the welfare of its own people and its international reputation, to the war effort and war aims. It is these exaggerated war aims that justified continuous law-breaking on a massive. There is no question that Germany was exceptional. Read Isabel Hull’s Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany, and keep an eye out for her next book which is a comparative account.

cont.

77

the anon 05.08.13 at 9:12 pm

@ 41. Keynes argued that Poland was not economically viable and that various Polish areas of Silesia should be given to Germany. Keynes wrote of the “bankruptcy and incompetence of the new Polish State” which had “no industry but Jew-baiting.” About Rumania: “if only she could be persuaded to keep up appearances a little more, is a part of the same scatter-brained conception.” I could go on. Keynes thought that the decline of German power in Europe was a disaster because the Slavs were incapable of ruling themselves. He even thought that the Germans should play a role in overseeing Russia’s reconstruction. Even by the standards of the day, he was incredibly racist. This is what he had to say Belgium’s suffering: “After 1914 [Belgium] played a minor role” and her “sufferings from invasion [] cannot be measured in money.” He further argues that Belgium suffered less than Austria. But Belgium was on the tip of starvation for much of the war (and it would have starved but for American aid). When Hoover visited, he called it one giant concentration camp. Keynes was callous to the suffering of non-Germans. And he saw the political decline of Germany as a great tragedy. That is why many in Britain, including Keynes, were perfectly willing to interpret the treaty as a conspiracy to depopulate Germany, the great Teutonic brother. The charge has never been proven. The French knew perfectly well that reconciliation with a reformed Germany was the only long-term solution and they negotiated accordingly. This too is well documented. Read Robert Boyce.

@ 43. Nobody tried to squeeze “the German lemon” dry. Go read Sally Marks. The reparations imposed on Germany were below what Keynes thought doable. Sally Marks established this over forty years ago.

The peace was not punitive. The punitive rhetoric came from Wilson and Lloyd George (who lapsed into highly racialized rhetoric even about the Germans). The peace was largely a form of restorative justice intended to repair the enormous damage done to Belgium and northern France (much of it as Germany retreated). The only element that can be considered punitive was Jan Smuts insertion of the war pensions into the reparations (and he did that even as he criticized the harshness of the treaty!).

@ 44. “And everything that happen [sic] after 1919 and 1923 proved its unworkability.”

It proved unworkable because Germany deliberately exacerbated inflation in order to avoid paying reparations. This is not up for debate. Even Gerald Feldman accepted this argument. There are obviously hews of interpretation within the scholarly community. But nobody accepts the argument that Keynes was right about Germany’s inability to pay. I recommend Stephen Schuker’s work.

cont.

78

bexley 05.08.13 at 9:14 pm

@ 72

I agree that this does seem to understate the degree to which Germany was responsible, but to act as if he is somehow “apologizing for Germany”, or to accuse him of sympathizing with Germany is bizarre.

Who is this aimed at? I wasn’t aware that anybody had accused him of apologizing for Germany on this thread.

79

the anon 05.08.13 at 9:16 pm

jb: Motivations? How about revulsion at historical negationism? Quiggin is not simply devaluing the work of historians, he is violating the memory of the victims of the First World War.

80

jb 05.08.13 at 9:19 pm

Certain phrases that have been used here (Anderson’s sarcastic “peace-loving Germans” is a clear example) give me the impression that people think Quiggin is too sympathetic towards them and/or not hostile enough towards them). Anon, in particular, made this accusation out loud.

It might be mistaken, but that is the impression I am getting.

81

Anderson 05.08.13 at 9:25 pm

Sorry for the poor communication; since the Germans were obviously *not* peace-loving, I intended to convey that the fact of the Franco-Russian defensive alliance did not cast any guilt on France or Russia. Allying to discourage an aggressor from attacking would seem to be the opposite of desiring war. (The treaty was secret, but as JQ correctly observes, it was a poorly-kept secret … “diplomatic deniability” may be the phrase. The kind of secret ambassadors would share over their cognacs.)

I think JQ is naive on this issue and too inclined to judge July 1914 from a post-1918 p.o.v., but I don’t accuse him of any special affection for the Germans … please don’t confuse me with Niall Ferguson!

82

Stephen 05.08.13 at 9:27 pm

JQ@69: to repeat the treaty you so object to:
“The Franco-Russian Alliance Military Convention – August 18, 1892. France and Russia

being animated by a common desire to preserve peace, and having no other object than to meet the necessities of a defensive war,

provoked by an attack of the forces of the Triple Alliance against either of them”.

You seem tohave a problem with the central bit. Why?

83

jb 05.08.13 at 9:28 pm

OK, sorry I misunderstood.

84

Anderson 05.08.13 at 9:39 pm

77: it *is* kinda cute that they would put that in a secret treaty. Almost like the French were thinking, “hey, this Tsar guy almost got the Louis XVI treatment in 1905, maybe we should imagine some chain-smoking revolutionaries taking the place over and publishing this stuff.”

Or then again, maybe the treaty was “secret” in the sense of “show it to the other guy but don’t let him have a copy.”

85

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 9:43 pm

@Stephen And the US military is under the control of the Department of Defense, which proves that it would never engage in aggressive or illegal war.

86

Ronan(rf) 05.08.13 at 10:01 pm

“I think JQ is naive on this issue and too inclined to judge July 1914 from a post-1918 p.o.v.”

I think you’re quite obviously naive on the nature of the European state system at the time, on the behaviour of those states leading up to the war and in the decades after, on how those who lead those states viewed the world (either leading up to the war or for decades after), on the morale authority those states possessed (either leading up to the war or for decades after), on the nature of the victors political systems (either leading up to the war or for decades after)..’the discourses’ really doesnt help you out here.
On the specifics of the war, I see no one has taken up Chris Williams challenge to actually read anything up to date on the conflict..but why bother when you can moralise with such certainty?

87

jb 05.08.13 at 10:10 pm

“It proved unworkable because Germany deliberately exacerbated inflation in order to avoid paying reparations. This is not up for debate.”

What utter bulls***t.

88

Anderson 05.08.13 at 10:11 pm

“I think you’re quite obviously naive on the nature of the European state system at the time, on the behaviour of those states leading up to the war and in the decades after, on how those who lead those states viewed the world (either leading up to the war or for decades after), on the morale authority those states possessed (either leading up to the war or for decades after), on the nature of the victors political systems (either leading up to the war or for decades after)”

I look forward to reading your monograph on the subject, but I don’t see how it will address the specific claim that France should (and could) have declared neutrality after Germany declared war on Russia. Your own grasp of the period 1870-1914 seems uncertain. Bismarck’s war scare in 1875, for instance?

German unification, combined with the post-Bismarck decision to put its relations with Austria over those with Russia, made something along the lines of the Franco-Russian alliance inevitable. Germany made itself very scary. What did it expect?

89

the anon 05.08.13 at 10:12 pm

But if you are going to engage in this sort of debate you owe it to your readers to do a minimal amount of reading.

I’m going to put together a reading list later today for anyone who is interested.

end.

I wrote this three part post (76, 77 and this) at lunch today. I tried posting it for five hours without success. About half an hour ago Crooked Timber finally allowed my posts to go into moderation without deleting them. They then posted all of them (except for this last one). I will reply to more recent posts later in the day.

90

Ronan(rf) 05.08.13 at 10:13 pm

“Go read Sally Marks. The reparations imposed on Germany were below what Keynes thought doable. Sally Marks established this over forty years ago.”

Interesting between Marks and Boyce on this

http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/roundtables/PDF/Roundtable-XII-12.pdf

91

Anderson 05.08.13 at 10:33 pm

90: thanks, will read!

92

jb 05.08.13 at 10:33 pm

Serious question:

If the Treaty of Versailles was not “punitive”, even though it deprived Germany of about 10-15% of its territory, imposed severe restrictions on its military, and required high reparations payments, than what, precisely, would a “punitive” treaty have looked like?

I can understand the argument that the treaty was justified because it was no worse than what Germany would have imposed in the event of victory, or was nessecary to secure the self-determination of the Poles and prevent Germany from waging war again. But to insist the treaty wasn’t punitive rather puzzles me.

Additionally, I may have been mistaken in declaring the accusation that Germany deliberately created inflation to be “bulls***t”, but the assertion that the Germans deliberately acted to damage their own economy and society in order to get out of paying reparations strikes me as rather wrongheaded. It may be true, but nothing of what I have read would suggest this.

93

jb 05.08.13 at 10:41 pm

And quite frankly, the assertion that Quiggin is somehow being disrespectful to the memory of the dead, and to the victims of WWI is both absurd and offensive.

Offering a different historical interpretation of WWI is not automatically disrespectful. And historical interpretations often change dramatically, sometimes for reasons that have little to do with historical research. It may be possible that in another century, something like Quiggin’s interpretation will become standard, in which case we will have come full circle.

94

jb 05.08.13 at 10:41 pm

Which is not to say that Quiggins’ views are automatically correct of course.

95

Anderson 05.08.13 at 11:02 pm

93-94: concur entirely.

96

Eric 05.08.13 at 11:10 pm

I’ll try to say again here what I said in the post – reparations are only part of what Keynes objected to, both at the conference and in The Economic Consequences.

Which is to say that we could stipulate that Keynes was wrong about reparations and he would still have been right that the failure to provide a system of relief and reconstruction would lead to economic and political disaster.

Hoover thought “The present Government [in Germany] is the only alternative to either Reactionary or Communistic Government, and if it fails we have political debacle in any event.” He was right about that.

Winston Churchill worried about the position of Russia. “Unless she became a living part of Europe, unless she became a living partner in the League of Nations and a friend of the Allied Powers, there would be neither peace nor victory.” William Bullitt actually resigned from the US delegation for related reasons, predicting that the failure to deal adequately with Russia meant “a new century of war.” They were, in their ways, right about that.

Nguyen Ai Quoc criticized the treaty’s failure to deal adequately with empire in general and Southeast Asia in particular, warning that unless conditions in Indochina were relieved, well, “the Socialist Party [would] lead an efficient action in favor of those terribly oppressed.” He himself fulfilled that prediction.

William Monroe Trotter, a US civil rights activist, wanted the treaty clause barring racial discrimination – which the Japanese also wanted – ratified. The US refused to grant him a passport to go, but he managed anyway. When Wilson refused to consider the clause, Trotter predicted the failure to address racial discrimination meant “there will not be the dawning of a new day of democracy, nor of a new era of permanent peace”. He was surely right about that, even if it’s not sure that such a clause would have done much.

T.E. Lawrence, of course, said “There will be hell to pay” about the Arab world. Giving the imperial powers the benefit of the doubt, he said, “Mind you, I don’t say we have deceived them intentionally, but we have reached the same result by not letting our right hand know what the left hand was doing.” Do I need to point out that he turned out to be correct?

The peace was not a success, for reasons foreseeable and foreseen at the time.

97

John Quiggin 05.08.13 at 11:11 pm

@anon “Go read Sally Marks”

As mentioned in the previous thread, Marks was apparently the originator of the claims about Keynes and Melchior that are the subject of the OP. At the least, it seems likely that Ferguson got the idea from her. So, a sceptical reading would be in order.

98

Tom Hurka 05.09.13 at 12:41 am

Coming in late, but please, MacIntyre’s After Virtue is a terrible book, wrong all over the place in its claims about the history of philosophical ethics and hopeless in its positive suggestions. They involve a kind of relativism, so what’s right in a community is determined by the history of that community, which can of course involve slavery and God knows what else. (It can certainly involve Catholicism.) And trying to base ethics on concepts like “good blacksmith” faces the obvious problem that we also talk about “good con men,” “good torturers,” and “good safecrackers.” One of the things people in the philosophical school to which Moore belonged realized was that “good” as used in “a good F” is irrelevant to ethics, because the F can itself be either good or bad. MacIntyre didn’t bother to think about that.

About the Keynes quote in #45: yes he did say that in My Early Beliefs, but although I don’t have my copy with me it’s in general very respectful of Moore’s ethical views. Keynes talks about the “religion” he and the Bloomsberries got from Moore and thinks it was a pretty good religion. He blames the group for not taking in all of Moore’s view, for embracing only its implications for personal life and not its larger social and political implications. (Leonard Woolf, in a reply, contested that, saying they had understood that side of Moore.) But the fault there was with his crowd, not with Moore.

In which connection it’s worth mentioning that Moore’s one bit of writing on practical ethics was a piece written during WWI and arguing, against the prevalent jingoism, that morality requires you to care equally about the interests of all people, whether citizens of your country or not. John Quiggin should applaud that bit of consequentialism.

But the idea that Alasdair MacIntyre is any kind of guide to the thought of Moore or Keynes or anyone else? Puh-leeze!

As for Keynes,

99

Krugmanic Depressive 05.09.13 at 12:54 am

100

LFC 05.09.13 at 1:08 am

@the anon:
There is no question that Germany was exceptional. Read Isabel Hull’s Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany, and keep an eye out for her next book which is a comparative account.

I looked at Hull’s Absolute Destruction some time ago after a friend mentioned it. I found it a bit daunting in terms of length, w/ a substantial section on SW Africa (German violence vs the Herrero) before one gets to the section directly on WW1, if memory serves. I did not find it sufficiently compelling to do more than dip into it here and there, though no doubt that is my failing rather than Hull’s. To the best of my recollection the book has to do w how Germany fought the war and its war aims, not directly w the question of causes/origins, which is what animated much of the discussion in the previous thread on this whole subject. The book is interesting, as I recall, on the issue of ‘military culture,’ but, again, I’m not sure that’s esp. central to this particular discussion. Could be wrong.

101

John Quiggin 05.09.13 at 1:09 am

“John Quiggin should applaud that bit of consequentialism”

Hear! Hear!

102

LFC 05.09.13 at 1:19 am

I think ‘the anon’ might do well to acknowledge that one can value the work of professional historians and at the same time realize that there is no historical account that is not affected in some way by a historian’s particular predispositions and values. As someone said upthread, interpretations change over time, and while there are certainly better and worse interpretations, more and less convincing claims, about most big events there is, I think, no final-for-all-time historical truth.

103

Anderson 05.09.13 at 1:33 am

Tom Hurka may be the first person to keel over from sheer disgust with MacIntyre. Not a bad way to go, I hasten to add. I’ve never shaken the suspicion that, per MacIntyre, virtue existed only before the hoi polloi got all uppity n shit.

104

Jerry Vinokurov 05.09.13 at 1:39 am

Tom Hurka may be the first person to keel over from sheer disgust with MacIntyre. Not a bad way to go, I hasten to add. I’ve never shaken the suspicion that, per MacIntyre, virtue existed only before the hoi polloi got all uppity n shit.

I don’t know, I came close when reading After Virtue, which I agree with Tom Hurka is quite a terrible book (which given that virtue ethics is a pretty terrible philosophical program should not be surprising) . I was genuinely surprised to see it getting so much love in a CT comment thread.

105

Anderson 05.09.13 at 1:49 am

I wanted to ask WTF re Woolf = MacIntyre, but I can only get into so much discord in one thread. Maybe CR will enlarge on that in another post.

106

the anon 05.09.13 at 3:10 am

@ 93.

Quiggin’s remarks speak for themselves:

“there is clearly a substantial body of contemporary historians whose views on the Great War are of the same value (and, I suspect, similar motivation) as those of the Dunning school”

“I’m unconvinced by the claim that any particular respect needs to be paid to expert knowledge here”

“Versailles revisionism, like revisionism about the Great War in general, is driven at least as much by simple jingoism.”

“I was hoping for a demonstration that the claims of 10 million dead were a hoax by pacifist propagandists.”

No substance. Only disrespect.

@ 92.

A punitive peace could have involved the long-term occupation of Germany, trials of Germany’s political elite, foreign military government, the forced transfer of ethnic Germans from peripheral areas into a rump state, the division of that rump state into multiple polities, and so on. The peace imposed after the First World War was much more lenient than the one imposed after the Second World War (which, let’s not forget, also included reparations for the Soviet Union). Let’s not forget that.

Where have you read that German policies were not designed to exacerbate inflation? That is the argument I’ve encountered in nearly every economic history on reparations. It is not one of those questions that is being actively debated by the scholars in the field. I could be missing something (after all, I am not an economic historian and I do not specialize on the First World War). But before going analyzing where historians might have gone wrong we need to know what an opposing argument would look like. As you can see from Ronan’s link in note 90, these historians are very careful to address competing claims. Before dismissing the scholarly consensus it may be a good idea to take a look at the work. The problems in this thread started with Quiggin dismissing outright any account (including those of professional historians) that did not fit his narrow view.

@ 96. If Keynes cared about reconstruction he would not have been as hostile to the French delegation in this book. The French were the main champions of workable system of relief and reconstruction.

Hoover and Churchill repeated stories about the Bolshevik menace because they were more interested in the German market than in the long-term reconstruction of the continent. If you are going to cite U.S. and British political opinion about Germany you are going to have to address the systematic bias identified by historians like Robert Boyce, Sally Marks, and Stephen Schuker.

@ 96. Skepticism is always good and I look forward to other explanations about why someone as smart as Keynes could have been so wrong about the Peace, about Germany’s capacity to pay, and about Germany’s postwar aims. His collaboration with the Germans during this period was so extensive and so utterly wrongheaded that it begs explanation. Many historians have been attracted to the Melchior story as a potential explanation:

Other historians making the same claim: Stephen Schuker, “The collected writing of John Maynard Keynes,” 18 Journal of Economic Literature (1980): 124-6; Gordon Martel, “The prehistory of appeasement: Headlam-Morley, the peace settlement and revisionism,” 9 Diplomacy and Statecraft (1998), 242-65. The may be others as well. Note that Schuker’s review predates Marks’ 1986 essay.

@ 100. Read Röhl on origins and Hull on conduct. The reason Absolute Destruction does not spend a great deal of time on origins is that Hull already addressed the subject in her first book on Wilhelm’s Entourage. But if you read the books together you’ll see that the institutionalist argument in Absolute Destruction fits hand in glove with her earlier argument about the origins of the First World War. If you pick up Entourage you can skip to the last chapter for the origins explanation, but the whole book is excellent.

@ 102. Yes. I acknowledge the historians are influenced by their lived experiences. No historian will deny that. But will you acknowledge that the way Quiggin characterized professional historians at the top of this thread was beyond the pale?

107

the anon 05.09.13 at 3:30 am

Further reading:

On the First World War: this is an excellent syllabus
http://www.history.upenn.edu/courses/syllabi/hist212/holquist_13a.pdf

If you are interested in the origins you must read John Röhl. You can find a very condensed form of his argument here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=oO1R5fT3JbwC&lpg=PA75&dq=john%20rohl%20guilt%20improbable&pg=PA75#v=onepage&q=john%20rohl%20guilt%20improbable&f=false

On reparations: Ronan beat me to the punch. Read Robert Boyce’s The Great Interwar Crisis but keep in mind the criticism leveled against it by Sally Marks in the exchange linked at note 90. It is a good book, but far from perfect. Once you’re done with Boyce, read Marks and then Schuker.

Once you’ve started reading these works the daisy chain of footnotes will lead you to other works and to competing arguments. Historians nowadays are pretty honest about acknowledging the places and questions in history where legitimate disagreements persists.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 4:08 am

Almost forgot: on the Treaty read Alan Sharp’s The Versailles Settlement (the revised 2008 edition)

109

Peter T 05.09.13 at 4:47 am

another WAS – it was Eric Campbell-Geddes who spoke of “squeezing the German lemon until the pips squeak”.

The core of JQ’s stance is that World War I was a policy mistake – if only someone had done something, had more moral courage, been less attached to stupid causes such as imperialism or nationalism, then 10 million people would not have died, and the liberal world of 1914 would have continued to evolve towards shared prosperity. It’s the policy-makers’ fault.

Trouble with this is that politics is the art of the possible, and strategy (political or military) is never a one-person game. In 1914 the elites in control of Germany (and to a considerable extent also in Austria, Hungary and Russia) had spent 30 years trying to block the liberal currents they saw emanating from Britain and the national ones from France, while trying also to preserve or enlarge their positions vis-a-vis each other, Britain and France. These two policies were closely intertwined: Germany built the High Seas Fleet to try to buy support among the north German workers (who supported the Social Democrats), deter Britain from supporting France, cement the “alliance of steel and rye” between the industrial lobby and the agricultural aristocracy and maintain a high level of military spending at a time when the army was hesitant about expansion because it might dilute the conservative political character of the officer class.

It seemed to its proponents like an all-round win on both the domestic and international fronts at the time; characteristically it failed on pretty much all counts, as it generated quite predictable reactions among those affected: the shipyard workers turned their backs on the Kaiser when he gave a speech, the British allied with France to allow them to concentrate their fleet in home waters, and then out-built the Germans, the French were confirmed in their fear of German expansion and so on. Could the British at the time have responded otherwise? Supremacy at sea was central to their political, social and economic life – to the City (insurance, trade), to Manchester (exports), to the Clyde (shipbuilding), to the empire (all those cousins in the dominions and all those posts abroad). No conceivable political coalition could have done much differently.

And just as British options were limited, so were German IF the elites refused to countenance social democrat participation in politics – not just representation in parliament, but a say in budgets and foreign and economic policy. Being who they were, they chose a suicidal gamble over retreat, then foisted the blame on their perceived class enemies when it failed, then tried another suicidal gamble when they backed Hitler (and yes, some aristocrats opposed Hitler, but army support was crucial to his rise to power).

If you think of Germany as the Republican party, and Britain and France as Obama, you see their dilemma – they look like they are in charge, but the delusionists are in control.

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Peter T 05.09.13 at 5:02 am

And the point of this bit of history is that if utilitarians and consequentialists have trouble imagining that some people will choose the most desperate and unreasonable courses rather than abandon central elements of their felt identity. You can buy the acquiescence of slaveholders to liberation only if you are carrying a very big and visible stick as well as a bag of gold, and even then some will choose to take the beating rather than the money.

111

Peter T 05.09.13 at 5:09 am

aagh. Please delete first ‘if”.

112

John Quiggin 05.09.13 at 7:18 am

@Peter T I don’t really disagree with anything you’ve said here. The consistent advocates of peace (liberals like Angell and social democrats like the ILP) were a minority of a minority in all countries. So, obviously they couldn’t possibly have prevailed. My point is that they were right, and that everyone else was wrong (some more than others, but all grievously) in ways that led to the catastrophe.

And, obviously, I see the same thing happening today, as do the consistent advocates of war. What I can’t fathom are those here who see huge differences between the war in Iraq today and that in Iraq (as well as many other places) a century ago.

As you say, no-one in Britain (except the kinds of people I listed) could imagine that the country could survive, let alone prosper, by abandoning its Empire. And none of them doubted (any more than their present-day supporters) the need to use military force to promote the national interest.

The German ruling class held the same beliefs in more virulent form, partly because of the power of the Prussian military class, and partly because they were the newcomers, and therefore likely to benefit from aggression, while the British were defending the imperial status quo and therefore preferred deterrence.

113

Vanya 05.09.13 at 7:30 am

“Keynes was callous to the suffering of non-Germans. And he saw the political decline of Germany as a great tragedy”

And subsequent European history has more or less proven him right. Certainly from a Central or Eastern European perspective it is hard to imagine a worse alternate history for the Slavic and Jewish populations than what actually took place between 1919 to 1989. Although it was the political decline and destruction of Austria-Hungary that was the greater tragedy, a political entity that English speaking historians have never seemed to want to understand.

114

John Quiggin 05.09.13 at 7:35 am

I don’t suppose many people are going to slog through to the end of this unpleasant thread, so I’ll note the one thing I have learned from it, thanks to anon

Ferguson’s slur on Keynes isn’t (only) an expression of personal bigotry. It’s the received view among pro-Versailles historians.

115

Josh G. 05.09.13 at 8:08 am

From what I can tell, the Versailles apologists in this thread seem to be operating on an extreme form of deontological reasoning. Fiat justitia ruat caelum. Germany was primarily at fault for WWI [1] so therefore making Germany pay for this was right. [2] Never mind whether this led to a workable long-term solution; even asking the question is an insult to the victims of sainted Belgium. [3]

In contrast, Keynes and Quiggin are taking into account utilitarian concerns. It doesn’t matter whether the Treaty of Versailles was or was not “just” in some abstract, formalistic sense; what matters is whether it worked, and it very clearly did not. Whatever the Entente got out of the treaty could not possibly have been worth the carnage of WWII.

I am not a strict utilitarian, but nonetheless the Keynes/Quiggin view is obviously correct. The view expressed by “the anon” and the historians he cites [4] is so extreme that it’s practically a parody or reducio ad absurdum of deontological reasoning.

[1] A highly questionable premise in itself.
[2] Note, too, the collective guilt argument implicit here. The people of the Weimar Republic were expected to pay for the sins of a previous government in which many of them had no say.
[3] I wonder if the deontologists would have felt differently if the Kaiser had claimed to be exacting justice for Leopold’s victims in the Belgian Congo.
[4] Assuming he’s accurately quoting them. I’m not willing to give him any benefit of the doubt since at this point he is basically trolling.

116

bexley 05.09.13 at 8:43 am

And, obviously, I see the same thing happening today, as do the consistent advocates of war. What I can’t fathom are those here who see huge differences between the war in Iraq today and that in Iraq (as well as many other places) a century ago.

What I see as different are not the morals of going to war but rather the practical possibility of evading war. From a British perspective it seems there was large scale support for WW1. By the time Germany invades Belgium it is difficult to see how Asquith could have avoided joining the war given the domsetic climate.

Contrast that with the Iraq war where there was huge opposition to British participation. It would have been much easier for us to not go to war so I think the politicians are far more culpable in this case.

117

Peter T 05.09.13 at 8:46 am

JQ @114 – that’s very ungenerous. I don’t agree with anon’s approach, but there’s nothing homophobic in it.

And you seem locked into some view that it was about imperialism. The general view is that it wasn’t – either for the Germans or the British. The German naval challenge threatened more than empire – it threatened the economic and political survival of Britain itself should Britain choose to oppose German aims in Europe. It was not a challenge that any but a convinced pacifist could refuse to meet.

To say that Versailles failed, you have to be able to say what “working” would entail. Clearly the best course would be a Germany accepting the loss of territory, adopting more liberal institutions and settling down to cooperate with the rest of Europe in reconstruction and then in shared growth. This seems, as far as we can tell now, to have been a vanishingly unlikely prospect whether or not Keynes arguments prevailed – mostly because key German elites did not want that to happen. Most of the likely courses involve another war at least – the derangements of Nazism were at the extreme end of the probable outcomes, but pretty much all the likely outcomes involve “failure”.

In short, Potsdam and the Ruhr did not buy Angell, and they were not going to buy Keynes.

118

jb 05.09.13 at 8:54 am

The German naval challenge threatened more than empire – it threatened the economic and political survival of Britain itself should Britain choose to oppose German aims in Europe.

Why?

It was not a challenge that any but a convinced pacifist could refuse to meet

Really?

119

jb 05.09.13 at 8:55 am

JQ @114 – that’s very ungenerous. I don’t agree with anon’s approach, but there’s nothing homophobic in it.

Sure.

120

GiT 05.09.13 at 9:06 am

On the – ahem – intellectual bonafides of the ‘Keynes got things wrong cause he was one of those gay folk’ school of historical interpretation, see the piece from the always inestimably brilliant Jonah Goldberg (so much so, he stupefies himself as he writes), “Keynes was Gay Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That” at the NRO. You see, Schumpeter and Himmelfarb and others made the same points, so what we’re dealing with here is a *serious intellectual tradition*, not garden variety bigotry.

121

jb 05.09.13 at 9:20 am

Sorryaouttheshortquestionsmykeoardisntworking

122

Walt 05.09.13 at 9:40 am

I thought that Quiggin’s original Dunning School comparison was unfair, but anon’s additional points have made me think he might have it right. Whatever Keynes got wrong in Economic Consequences of the Peace, it’s not something that requires maligning Keynes’ character to explain. As someone apocryphally said, “Prediction is hard, especially about the future.” anon’s comments about Keynes’ “utter wrongheadedness” are the words of someone with a score to settle.

123

Peter T 05.09.13 at 9:57 am

jb

Because the British economy of 1914 rested on the export of coal and textiles, shipbuilding, shipowning (70% of the world’s fleet – largely powered by British coal), trade insurance and finance that in turn rested on British predominance in shipping. And Britain was a food deficit country – its beef came from Argentina, its lamb from NZ, its grain from the US. The threat of a German blockade was meant to deter Britain because the consequences would be so awful – hunger, the collapse of the City, ruin in Manchester. So the British – as might have been predicted – built two capital ships for every German one to make sure it could not happen, and allied with France. Churchill’s remark that Jellicoe (commander of the British fleet) was the only man who could have lost the war in an afternoon was pretty much literally true.

124

Katherine 05.09.13 at 11:39 am

The peace was largely a form of restorative justice intended to repair the enormous damage done to Belgium and northern France (much of it as Germany retreated).

Yeah, “restorative justice” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

I know the thread has moved way beyond that point, but I couldn’t let that egregious abuse of the concept of restorative justice go unchallenged.

125

Katherine 05.09.13 at 11:41 am

126

jb 05.09.13 at 11:53 am

Walt@122

There’s also the point that it has little to do with the accuracy of Keynes’ arguments. It may well be true that his views on the Peace Settlement were influenced by his relationship with Melchior. This does not mean that his views were wrong. The fact that some libertarians may be motivated by greed, or leftists by hatred of the rich, does not make they arguments they advance automatically untrue either. And no one’s views are arrived at completely independently from their experiences. While objectivity is a worthwhile thing, no one is really completely objective.

Moreover, the implications of this argument are rather unpleasant. Am I required to avoid all friendships or relationships with someone if their country has recently been at war with mine? Is this nessecary to remain objective?

I actually agree that this argument is not automatically homophobic (although I have a rather hard time believing that homophobic prejudices played no role when it was first made, as that was decades ago), but it is quite wrongheaded.

127

jb 05.09.13 at 11:55 am

(Finally got my keyboard working!)

128

LFC 05.09.13 at 12:35 pm

the anon@106
Your mention of Hull’s ‘Wilhelm’s Entourage’ noted (thanks).
I haven’t read Rohl, Marks, Boyce, Schuker, so I will not express any view on them.

Peter T @109: I think I agree w most of this. (My questions about your view @117 would have to do w prospects for liberalism in post-WW1 Germany, but that’s a whole other subject [and not one I can discuss v. knowledgeably].)

129

LFC 05.09.13 at 12:45 pm

anon @107
Thanks also for the reference (via the link) to Afflerbach & Stevenson, eds., An Improbable War?.
(Worth mentioning that, on a quick glance at the contributors to that book, they are all historians — no IR scholars interested in WW1 are among them. And of the contributors the only one, afaik, who has engaged the IR people in any significant way is Schroeder.)

130

John Quiggin 05.09.13 at 12:49 pm

@Peter T I didn’t accuse anon of homophobia. I just drew attention to his claim (backed by citations) that the ad hominem slur on Keynes was part of the consensus of the group of historians on whom he is relying, and not an individual aberration by Ferguson. As noted above, the badness of the argument doesn’t depend on the fact that Melchior and Keynes were of the same gender. And, as noted in the OP, the argument isn’t supported by the facts.

131

chris y 05.09.13 at 12:51 pm

ronnie @13. I fear that’s a WAS. I’ve seen it credited to almost every gay man active in the first half of the last century, most commonly Lytton Strachey.

132

LFC 05.09.13 at 12:58 pm

@chris y

See previous comments @46 and 50.

133

ajay 05.09.13 at 1:00 pm

Moreover, the implications of this argument are rather unpleasant. Am I required to avoid all friendships or relationships with someone if their country has recently been at war with mine?

I think it would probably be a good idea, should you end up being a member of your country’s delegation at a conference aimed at bringing an end to the bloodiest international war in history, to avoid sleeping with any members of the delegation from the other side.

134

Anderson 05.09.13 at 1:01 pm

Evidence, as opposed to a laundry list of citations, for the alleged German conspiracy to devalue the mark, would be useful. Gordon A. Craig’s “Germany 1866-1945″ volume is getting long in the tooth (1978), but as of his writing, the conspiracy theory was treated as Poincaré’s propaganda, or possibly as something he believed, but not as the real explanation. Per Craig, Germany in 1918 already had huge war debts, and the Weimar gov’t lacked the authority (one might say, the guns) to impose the necessary taxation on the business elites who, as Craig says, “assumed that the sacrifices would be made by others.”

If something new has turned up since 1978, I would be interested to hear about it.

… Going off into counterfactual ether, the very recalcitrance of the elites and the negative influence of the army on the Weimar gov’t are good indications that the Treaty was at least punitive in the wrong places. An occupation government, and Ludendorff hanged, might not have made things better, but with 20/20 hindsight they were probably worth a try. Perhaps that would have happened had the Allies won without Wilson’s intervention.

135

ajay 05.09.13 at 1:04 pm

What I can’t fathom are those here who see huge differences between the war in Iraq today and that in Iraq (as well as many other places) a century ago.

The biggest difference would be that the High Seas Fleet actually did exist and the WMDs didn’t.

136

Anderson 05.09.13 at 1:29 pm

Re: Melchior, btw, is there any evidence that he was actually (1) gay and (2) Keynes’s lover? Wikipedia advises me that he “eventually married his long-time mistress, the French romance novelist Marie de Molènes with whom he had a child.” Not that that’s dispositive of anything, as Keynes’s own example shows. But it seems his Memoir Club paper just said he was “sort of in love” with Melchior, and in that setting, I doubt Keynes would have felt any necessity to conceal a sexual relationship.

137

Ronan(rf) 05.09.13 at 1:36 pm

Not sure why it’s so controversial that someone might betray their country out of love, seems a common enough phenomenon. I’d do it. Probably do it for money as well

138

Eric 05.09.13 at 1:41 pm

Re: Melchior, btw, is there any evidence that he was actually (1) gay and (2) Keynes’s lover?

No. The source is Keynes’s essay, where he described Melchior as someone with whom he had “one of the most curious intimacies in the world, and some very strange passages of experience.” During their meeting to discuss food relief to the Germans, Keynes says, “We both stood all through the interview. In a sort of way I was in love with him.”

139

Eric 05.09.13 at 1:42 pm

Are Hungarians Teutons?

140

Jonathan 05.09.13 at 2:07 pm

A technical point:
Anderson @65 commented:
The sheer arrogance of a general staff’s having *one* war plan is mindboggling.
and reiterated it @68.

It was thought at the time, probably correctly, that having more than one was plan was not possible. This was due to the nature of war plans at the time. The issue was mobilization, as has been noted. To quickly bring into action huge numbers of civilians it was necessary that they be assembled and moved to the locations of their weapons. The result was a fixed deployment of forces; arrangements to move them to the front also needed to be in place.

The form all this took was an immensely complicated set of interlocking railway schedules. It was not thought possible to create and keep in sync more than one such set. Therefore, the countries involved were stuck with a single initial plan. If they had been planning the actions of forces in being they would have had more flexibility; the constraint was the need for mobilization.

The number of troops being mobilized was so much greater than those in standing armies that if your enemy had his forces mobilized and you did not you were doomed. The act of mobilization essentially became a declaration of war.

Peter T @117 commented:

Clearly the best course would be a Germany accepting the loss of territory, adopting more liberal institutions and settling down to cooperate with the rest of Europe in reconstruction and then in shared growth. This seems, as far as we can tell now, to have been a vanishingly unlikely prospect whether or not Keynes arguments prevailed – mostly because key German elites did not want that to happen.

My understanding has been the this implied that the only course of action that would have made a lasting peace possible would have been the occupation of Germany and the destruction of those elites. After WWII this actually happened. I would be interested in knowing whether this understanding is correct, since clearly many on this thread know far more about these things than I do.

Anon, thanks for the references.

141

Anderson 05.09.13 at 2:14 pm

138: Thanks!

139: After calling a Hungarian a Teuton, it’s probably best to duck.

140:”The form all this took was an immensely complicated set of interlocking railway schedules. It was not thought possible to create and keep in sync more than one such set.”

Sorry, but that makes no sense to me. I can understand how the mobilization couldn’t be altered once underway (which was the real gist of Moltke’s reply to the Kaiser), but I would like to see a reference for the claim that Germany couldn’t have separate *alternative* plans for, say, (1) war against Russia and (2) a 2-front war. Quite obviously, general staffs with no materially different technology had such multiple plans during the interwar period.

142

Eric 05.09.13 at 2:30 pm

Well, I was asking about the Hungarians because it was Smuts’s trip to Hungary that inspired him to prevail upon Keynes’s sense of sympathy for Central Europeans. Keynes’s plan for reconstruction included both defeated and new nations. So I don’t see how he could only have sympathy for Teutons.

143

LFC 05.09.13 at 2:34 pm

From an historical standpoint and in view of some of this discussion, it’s sort of interesting to look at Miles Kahler’s nearly-35-year-old article, “Rumors of War: the 1914 Analogy,” Foreign Affairs, Winter 1979/80. (Subscribers to F.Affairs, and/or those with access to univ. libraries, can access it; others may not be able to.)

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the anon 05.09.13 at 3:30 pm

@ 109. “Germany built the High Seas Fleet to try to buy support among the north German workers . . . just as British options were limited, so were German IF the elites refused to countenance social democrat participation in politics.”

Are you seriously arguing that the navy program was a way for the German military elites to buy off the working class? This argument is so wrong I don’t even know where to begin. The navy was built because the German military establishment (Tirpitz and Wilhelm specifically) wanted a big navy. They lost the arms race and alienated much of the working class which opposed cuts in social spending to fund the arms race. The Social Democrats were not in favor of an arms race. And the German military establishment was unwilling to work with the Social Democrats to expand the tax base if it meant giving them greater control in the government. This is pne of the most fascinating aspects of Wilhelmine Germany. The military establishment was constantly wrestling with the Reichstag over funding. And most of the time they were willing to do with less rather than hand over power to what they considered the domestic enemies of the Kaiserreich.

@ 113. This is perfect rendition of the conservative German nationalist argument: the decline of Germany and Austria-Hungary was a tragedy because it led inexorably to rise of Bolshevism, fascism, and mass death in Europe’s bloodlands. No need to worry about contingency or responsibility. It was inevitable. This is nonsense and like most narratives premised on historical inevitability it is designed to obscured responsibility. It is exculpatory (and has touches of Ernst Nolte). The tragedy of East-Central Europe is not the decline of German power but the failure of the Allies to restrain Germany and protect the new states (additionally, many lives would have been saved in the Soviet Union if the Allies did not do so much to ensure that the new regime was on a permanent paranoid war-footing). Arguing that the collapse of Austria-Hungary led inexorably to mass death is tantamount to blaming the victims of the Second World War for their own deaths (again, it has Ernst Nolte written all over it).

@ 115. Germany was primarily responsible for the DAMAGE caused during the First World War so therefore making Germany pay was right. Quiggin brought up the question of origins.

@ 118. JB is continuing to deny the truth about Germany’s war aims.

@ 122. The only score for me to settle is with those who continue to deny historical facts. As you’ve probably gleaned by now from this thread the twentieth century historiography was an extended attempt to correct the highly influential German propaganda of the 1920s (read Sally Marks’ comment from the link in note 90). It is incredibly frustrating to see that this propaganda still holds sway and that the painstaking work done by professional historians is casually dismissed as jingoism.

Keynes was not simply engaging in prediction. He was advocating on behalf of the Germans with whom he maintained a long-term correspondence. How can I not be frustrated at the state of the debate when you ignore the facts and prefer to malign my character?

@ 124. That is exactly what I mean when I use the word restorative justice. The reparations (in some cases timber, iron, and other commodities) were meant for the reconstruction of Belgium and northern France. Read about operation Alberich. Read about what the retreating forces did to the land, the wells, and the mines in northern France. We cannot have a conversation if you do not possess a minimal amount of knowledge about how the reparations were a form of restorative justice.

@ 140. Other countries had multiple war plans. Germany had only one war plan because it had only one set of war aims. It was an all or nothing gambit. That is the most shocking aspect of it.

@ 141. The alleged exchange between the Kaiser and Moltke’s is based entirely on the latter’s testimony. There is no other evidence of it having happened and there is a good deal of circumstantial evidence that it never occurred. John Röhl explains this in the essay I linked above.

145

the anon 05.09.13 at 3:39 pm

@ 134.

Robert Boyce, French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 (Routledge 1998)

“Contrary to received opinion, the French authorities understood the problems which Germany faced over the payment of reparations, and economists whom Poincaré had long admired, such as Charles Gide, favoured an “international solution” whereby the cost of reconstruction would be borne by the international community and not solely Germany. Thus a number of French politicians and newspapers of the centre favoured a “Financial League of Nations.” (cites: M. Trachtenberg, Reparation in World Politics: France and European Economic Diplomacy, 1916-1923, New York, Columbia University Press, 1980, pp. 44-5 and on the main thrust of French foreign policy during these years ibid., pp. vii-xi and various.) But America’s rejection scuppered French efforts.” (52)

“Despite the German propaganda, or perhaps because of it, Poincaré did not abandon the idea of economic collaboration with Germany as an alternative means of obtaining satisfaction for France on reparations. Like his predecessors, he still hoped to solve the reparations question by means of a vast credit operation through which reparation bonds would be sold to foreign investors in order to finance German reparations to the Allies, in particular France. But this needed to be conducted in conjunction with a tight control of German finances by the Allies; otherwise potential investors would not subscribe to bonds issued on behalf of a potentially bankrupt Germany. This remained his policy right up to the occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923. At the same time he pursued a policy of seeking reparations in kind, which he described as a “secondary but important” means of payment. Indeed, agreements on this were reached with Germany on 15 March and between 6 and 9 June 1922. Similarly, he endorsed the scheme devised by his minister of public works, Yves Le Trocquer, for large scale public works programmes to be carried out by Germany in France as a means of paying reparations. In the spring of 1922 he also pursued the schemes developed by his predecessors for Franco-German industrial collaboration. (cites: Trachtenberg, Reparation in world politics, pp. 237-8.) Despite Poincaré’s best efforts the German government and German big business, often blaming each other, repeatedly sought pretexts to avoid any || serious Franco-German agreement, setting as pre-conditions the ending of Allied occupation or French recognition of its share of responsibility in the outbreak of the war. (cites: See Tirard to Poincaré, 15 March 1922; Laurent to Poincaré, 16 March 1922, Europe 1918-1929, Allemagne vol. 386, “Politique Etrangère. Relations avec la France.”) (53-54)

This is what I have at my immediate disposal. There is information out there, if you bother to look.

146

roger gathman 05.09.13 at 3:40 pm

Keynes was so clearly right about the Versailles treaty that the major powers pretty much changed it at Locarno just as he suggested. However, this thread does show what a strong emotional current could push the allies at Versailles to go so disastrously wrong. What they wanted was a German republic that was normal – not communist, and not lead by the militaristic imperial elite. But what they did is loaded the republic up with all the sins of the imperial regime that lost, thus doing their best to discredit their own aim. It is best not to get on too moralistic about the allies and German crimes. I don’t think Belgium, for instance, ever paid reparations for the crimes committed by its king in the Congo, though these were exponentially worse than anything the Germans did – last time I looked, the conservative estimate was that a million died in the Congo under Leopold. The antisemitic Russian Czar, who was casually committing genocide in Russian Turkestan while waging war on the East Front, was not exactly attaching moral glory to the allied cause, either.
Myself, I think the twentieth century would have gone much better if the communists had succeeded in Germany in 1919, but that was an unlikely alternative. Given that the allies were unwilling to militarily occupy Germany for years after the armistice, the best course of action was to make Germany viable again under a Republic, rather than to engage on the one hand in showy vindicativeness, and on the other hand, in raising ethnic tensions while pursuing shoddy imperialist aims (such as the British encouragement of the Greek attack on Turkey).
Keynes was perfectly right, of course. I think the real heir to his pamphlet was the arrangement made by the allies in 1945, which did insure German viability and cemented peace in Western Europe. Which is just another of our debts to the great man.

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Josh G. 05.09.13 at 3:55 pm

roger gathman @ 146: “But what they did is loaded the republic up with all the sins of the imperial regime that lost, thus doing their best to discredit their own aim.

I think this is a very important point that hasn’t been emphasized enough on this thread. One of the central problems with the Weimar Republic is that it never attained legitimacy in the eyes of Germans, either the common people or the elites. And the fact that it was tasked with carrying out the bitter tasks of Versailles was a large part of the reason why.

This is very clear when reading Richard Evans’ excellent Coming of the Third Reich. Any attempt to fix fiscal or economic problems in Weimar Germany was torpedoed by the politically toxic subject of reparations. If you were in favor of raising taxes, then you were in favor of squeezing Germans to pay the French, since that’s where so much of the money was going. This was not only politically unviable, but could get you beaten up or killed. The result was that until the shackles of Versailles were thrown off, anything resembling normal government in Germany was flatly impossible.

(Weimar also made a big mistake in not purging the imperial judiciary during the transition. Evans’ book shows in chilling detail how right-wing courts can help kill democracy. Hitler should have been executed or imprisoned for life for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch, but the courts let him off with a slap on the wrist, largely because they sympathized with his goals.)

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the anon 05.09.13 at 3:56 pm

@ 142. Seriously? You’re asking whether Jan Smuts embraced the idea that Germans were racially superior to Slavs? Seriously?

Smuts : “we were putting the Germans under a lot of Kaffirs.” Source: Bernard Baruch (Technical Adviser to American Peace Commission) diary, 2 June 1919.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 4:11 pm

Why am I even bothering? So many people on this thread are not even bothering to check whether their arguments have any historical foundation.

@ 146. The notion that Keynes was right because Britain eventually betrayed the French and forced a renegotiation is illogical. It doesn’t necessarily tell us whether he was right or wrong. It simply tells us that his political allies prevailed (and that in the long-run appeasement prevailed).

Your next mistake is in assuming that there had been a change in the German leadership and that the Republic was then saddled with the sins of the Empire. This too is false. The republic was saddled by the German establishment with the sins of defeat, which were the only sins that mattered in Germany. With that bold stroke, the establishment was then able to wash its hands of the defeat, claim that Germany had been stabbed in the back just as it was about to win the war, and lay plans for territorial revision. The German establishment was able to saddle the republic with the sins of defeat even as they continued to control German policy. That’s what you need to know. The German government never intended to pay any reparations.

The argument about “showy vindictiveness” is nonsense. Go read the history.

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Eric 05.09.13 at 4:20 pm

@ 142. Seriously? You’re asking whether Jan Smuts embraced the idea that Germans were racially superior to Slavs? Seriously?

No, I’m not, because I didn’t say that. Let me say what I said again.

(1) Smuts went to Hungary.
(2) Smuts returned and described to Keynes “the pitiful plight of Central Europe.” (Smuts’s words)
(3) Keynes developed a scheme for rehabilitation and reconstruction of Europe, that included a mechanism for providing relief and reconstruction to the defeated and newly created nations.

This does not seem to me a history that suggests that either only had sympathy for Teutons.

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Eric 05.09.13 at 4:22 pm

So many people on this thread are not even bothering to check whether their arguments have any historical foundation.

The anon, it’s clear you’re conversant with the literature critical of Keynes, but it’s not clear you’re familiar with the part of the historical record regarding Keynes that doesn’t make it into that literature.

Part of the point of the original post was to say yes, Keynes did say he had some kind of “love” for Melchior, but if you stop there, you’re not giving an adequate impression of Keynes’s critique of the peace, or the sources of that critique.

You seem to be recapitulating that error in this thread.

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Anderson 05.09.13 at 4:24 pm

145: as the H-NET roundtable suggests, Royce apparently bends over backwards to praise the French. Simply accepting Poincaré’s version of the facts at face value does not demonstrate that he was correct. Nor does it address the point about the weakness of the Weimar government.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 4:28 pm

Keynes and Smuts were not the only ones to sketch out schemes for the reconstruction of Europe. So it is worth looking into how their project differed from those of others and what motivations animated these differences. That’s where racism comes in. You can’t simply argue that Keynes and Smuts thought German control in Eastern Europe would be in everyone’s best interests therefore, let’s ignore the racist assumptions behind so much of British policy during this period)

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Bruce Baugh 05.09.13 at 4:29 pm

The Anon: Why am I even bothering? Some of us have been wondering that too, since not a scrap of your blathering even begins to take account of the simple reality that Keynes correctly predicted the general course of bad consequences, as did others. You’re in the position of someone analyzing a baseball team’s performance with all their fine fieldwork and excellent rotation without noting that their opponents got all the runs scored.

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Eric 05.09.13 at 4:33 pm

So it is worth looking into how their project differed from those of others and what motivations animated these differences. That’s where racism comes in.

Could you point out the racism in Keynes’s project? I summarized it in a post here.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 4:34 pm

@ 152. You are misrepresenting the discussion. Nobody in that discussion ever says that Boyce accepted Poincaré “version”at face value (whatever the fuck that means; Boyce cites archives and Poincaré did not defend his policies in a book, to my knowledge).

If you intend to continue participating in this conversation I recommend that you stop lying to the readers.

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roger gathman 05.09.13 at 4:42 pm

Go read the history yourself, Anon. As historian Norman rich pointed out in his review of The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Central European History, Vol. 33, no. 2), the book exaggerates the newness of historical attitudes and ignores contexts. Let’s quote Rich: “To understand why the entire peacemaking process has come under such intense “revisionist” criticis, we should surely be reminded of Wilson’s refusal to negotiate with the German imperial government, which meant that the Allied peace terms, which would inevitably be resented by the defeated parties, no matter how reasonable or lenient – vide the French in 1815 or the Russians in 1856 – were not imposed on German’s imperial government and military leadership, where the responsibility for Germany’s disastrous diplomatic and military policies belonged, but on a German civilian representative government, which the Allies had every reason to support. “
Again, there is only one critique of Keynes that matters, which was mounted by Mantoux in the 40s. It concerned Keynes’ figures. The latest review of the controversy calls the debate a tie. Keynes was right. You, anon, are not only wrong, but curiously naive about what a peace treaty is supposed to do.

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pedant 05.09.13 at 4:45 pm

Keynes says, “We both stood all through the interview. In a sort of way I was in love with him.”

Given how things were talked about in Bloomsbury, this strikes me as extremely strong evidence that Keynes 1) never had any sexual contact with Melchior, and 2) is not here adverting to an attraction that was primarily sexual in any case.

The twee pre-Raphaelite romanticism of “in love in a sort of way” is just not how they talked about sex. If you saw semen, you said “semen.”

No, I think Keynes is describing some other kind of intense sympathy, perhaps like the kind that bonds straight men under fire. In any case, one that has little to do with his particular sexual orientation.

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Anderson 05.09.13 at 5:23 pm

156: Lighten up, Francis.

Your Boyce quote included citations to P’s own correspondence. The inferential link between “taking France at its own estimation” and “taking P at his own word” should not be too difficult for you, but then, who am I to evaluate your capacities.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 6:02 pm

@ 155. When I find the time, I will check if there has been any historical research on the plan. The statements made by Keynes and Smuts are probative of their general attitudes but they cannot be used to explain the genesis of the plan.

@ 158. “The latest review of the controversy calls the debate a tie. Keynes was right.” You are wrong about the controversy ending in a tie. But assuming that you are not, how does a tie vindicate Keynes?

You’ve also managed to dredge up a review noting that while “the essays in in this volume are for the most part models of scholarship” we should nevertheless remember that Wilson was a hypocrite and the German representatives at the conference were good-intentioned. The claim about Wilson is true but irrelevant. He was a hypocrite and he made many unworkable promises.The claim about the German representatives is inaccurate. The best source on this is Richard Bessel’s Germany After the First World War but I don’t have a copy at my immediate disposal. I’ll look around for an alternative source.

But that’s not the locus of the debate. The revisionist agree that Wilson was a hypocrite and

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roger gathman 05.09.13 at 6:41 pm

I like ‘dredge up”. It is so, well, injudicious and dumb. The tory revisionist revisionist line, which coincided with Thatcherism and a nostalgia for imperialism, in England, and the rise of neo-liberalism in Germany was all about attacking the world order in which Keynes figured as a master. To this end, there were attacks that made no sense of what contemporaries thought, and that are simply howlers set against the historical record of peace keeping in 20th century Europe.
The book you cite actually has a much more level headed chapter on revisionism and revisionism of revisionism by Michael Graham Fry. And it looks to me that we are in for the third twist, as the revisionism of the revisionists now looks connected to a rightwing drift of the 80s that now looks dated. Keynes comes through this really very well, the dredgers being on the other side, utterly confused about how to interpret the evidence before them. Surely some young history grad looking around to overthrow an orthodoxy should go for the Ferguson inspired case for the Versailles treaty. It is rotten.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 7:03 pm

Apart from the Dolchstoßlegende the best evidence of Germany’s bad faith at the conference pertains to the way they used the so-called “war guilt clause” to denounce the entire treaty.

MacGregor Knox: “Between the November armistice and the unveiling of the Allies’ terms in April-May 1919, the German people took collective leave of reality, as in August 1914 and so often throughout the conflict – in favor of that same “dreamland” in which the German army had returned undefeated from the field. Virtually all shades of German opinion harped passionately on Germany’s inalienable right now that it had overthrown the monarchy, to an essentially status-quo-ante peace, identified perversely or disingenuously with Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The SPD-dominated provisional government and its successor, the first cabinet of the German Republic created in January-February 1919, failed to dampen these expectations which it largely shared. Its negotiatiotors, under the irascible leadership of the new foreign minister, Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, truculently denounced as an assertion of German “war guilt” an innocuous treaty clause – the famous Article 231 – drafted primarily to underpin Allied claims for expenses that included the enormous damage caused by Germany’s invasion of Belgium and France, its calculated devastation of the occupied areas, and the depredations of its U-boats.”

http://books.google.com/books?id=I_yD9LlU6coC&lpg=PA235&dq=%22for%20expenses%20that%20included%20the%20enormous%20damage%20caused%20by%22&pg=PA235#v=onepage&q=%22for%20expenses%20that%20included%20the%20enormous%20damage%20caused%20by%22&f=false

Sally Marks: “Though he had not yet seen it, he denounced it for containing a war-guilt clause, whose inclusion his delegation assumed. Actually, the Allies did not intend Article 231 to connote war guilt, which it does not mention, and virtually identical clauses in the Austrian and Hungarian treaties were not so interpreted, but the German denunciation in a sense “created” a war guilt clause.”

http://books.google.com/books?id=JZCEnQvQjc4C&lpg=PA19&dq=%22virtually%20identical%20clauses%20in%20the%22&pg=PA19#v=onepage&q=%22virtually%20identical%20clauses%20in%20the%22&f=false

Zara Steiner: The Germans used the charge “to attack to only the reparation clauses but also the ethical basis of the whole treaty. In short time, the attack won the support of large sections of the public in Britain and the United States.”

http://books.google.com/books?id=zLeQoe_O9AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=oxford+illustrated+history+of+the+first+world+war&hl=en&sa=X&ei=mfCLUZKaCJX54AOU4IDICw&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=%22ethical%20basis%22&f=false
Page 299

Also from Steiner: “This was not a ‘Carthaginian peace,” as J.M Keynes asserted in his brilliant, highly influential, and misleading polemic The Economic Consequences of the Peace.”
Page 295

Back to Knox:
“The new Reich cabinent confirmed that view [that the revolution had changed little or nothing]. In examining the collection of top secret 1914 foreign office documents that it had commissioned, many of its members concluded privately that Germany had indeed launched the war. But Evert, now Reich president, and the Republic’s first cabinet under Scheidemann as chancellor shrank from publication. That decision foreclosed the one course that might have partially assuaged the Western powers: open repudiation of Imperial Germany’s action, policies, and ethos.”

More obviously, it would have completely shifted the responsibility for the war, the defeat, and the peace onto the militarists.

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Ronan(rf) 05.09.13 at 7:10 pm

the anon
I’ve found your posts very interesting tbh
I’ve a few (very) basic questions if you dont mind

The highlighted part at the bottom of this post seems to reinforce your position, from what I can tell

http://www.whiteoliphaunt.com/duckofminerva/2012/01/addendum-use-of-history-in-ir-and.html

Unless there’s more to it that I’m missing, is that a fair summation?
Also what do you make of Adam Toozes book wages of destruction?
Finally, the second paragraph in the highlighted part in the link starts … “War was likely just a matter of time at that point..” by 1924.. would you agree with that? If so, why is that?

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the anon 05.09.13 at 7:13 pm

@ 161 “the Ferguson inspired case for the Versailles treaty”

That’s quite a claim. If this thread has established anything, it’s that Ferguson was merely following the consensus position on Versailles. His own “contribution” is the old discredited argument that Britain should have kept out of the war in order to preserve the Empire because German occupied Europe would have ended up looking exactly like Europe under the boot of the EU! He also argued that some soldiers relished killing. That’s the sum total of Ferguson’s contribution.

Don’t taint other historians just because Ferguson makes the same arguments.

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Anderson 05.09.13 at 7:14 pm

Article 231:

“The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”

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Eric 05.09.13 at 7:28 pm

I will check if there has been any historical research on the plan.

I’ll save you the time. I’ve done the research, in the Keynes papers at Kings College. I’m also familiar with Skidelsky’s and Moggridge’s work. There’s no racism in the plan. You’re talking about something you know nothing about.

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Eric 05.09.13 at 7:30 pm

Or to be fair, a lot less about than your interlocutors.

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jb 05.09.13 at 7:33 pm

roger@146

“Keynes was perfectly right, of course. I think the real heir to his pamphlet was the arrangement made by the allies in 1945, which did insure German viability and cemented peace in Western Europe. Which is just another of our debts to the great man.”

The problem with that argument is that the initial peace settlement in 1945 was in some ways harsher on Germany than that of 1918. It involved both the forceful transfer of ethnic Germans westward, and the transfer of large parts of eastern Germany to Poland (with East Prussia going to the USSR). Additionally the Russians in particular took a sizable part of Germany’s industrial wealth back to their homeland. I believe that there were also initially strict limitations on the German economy in the original settlement, though these limitations were quietly dropped in the next few years as the Cold War heated up. I don’t agree with anon at all, but when he brings this up as being more punitive than the Versailles treaty, he has a point.

Additionally, the case of whether Keynes was right about Versailles and whether he was right about the economy more broadly are very much two separate things.

That said, I think anon is largely eliding why the settlement in 1945 was both harsher (in some ways) than the last, and more widely accepted by the Germans:

(a.) When peace was made in WWI, Germany had been pushed back from most of the places it was occupying, but it still held most of its own territory. Many Germans thus expected a peace would be lenient, as Germany had been defeated, but not as drastically as would be the case in 1945. Additionally, official sources continued to tell the populace that Germany was winning, with the result that the defeat came as a great shock to many, and the “stab in the back” legend had fertile soil in which to take root.

(b.) In contrast, when Germany surrendered in 1945, its cities had been utterly blasted to rubble, its infrastructure was in ruins, and the Allies had already taken over the vast majority of its territory. By the last few months of the war, it was apparent to all but the most fanatical Nazis that Germany would be utterly defeated (and even they probably knew at some level). Additionally, as the war drew to a close, the German propaganda machine began pumping out vivid assertions that the Allies would destroy the German population, or deport them all to Siberia, and that Germany would be finished as a nation. All of this meant that the Germans expected much harsher treatment than they actually got, which was dramatically different than what they expected in 1918.

(c). Much has been said in this thread about the brutality with which Imperial Germany conducted WWI. It is true that the German forces in World War One conducted several atrocities, and particularly abused the people of Belgium. But the atrocities it committed pale in comparison to what the Nazis did in World War Two. The number of Belgian civilians deliberately killed by the Germans has been estimated at about about 6-10 thousand (by one of the sources anon uses). The number of civilians killed by the Nazis runs in the millions. And this is to say nothing of the Holocaust. Imperial Germany was bad, but it in no way compares to Nazi Germany. The revelations of Nazi atrocities inevitably meant that a much harsher peace would be imposed.

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Eric 05.09.13 at 7:35 pm

To help you out, here’s Austen Chamberlain to the Prime Minister, 4/17/19:

I have no hesitation in recommending the scheme to you. It is marked by all Mr. Keynes’ characteristic ability and fertility of resources: it provides the stricken countries of Europe, whether allied or enemy, with the means of re-equipping themselves and restarting on a sound basis the trade and industry of the world: it provides equally for the new Nations which the Conference is calling into existence; and it offers hope to the enemy powers and provides them with the means by which, whilst accepting the arduous conditions of the peace which will be imposed upon them, they can restart their industrial life and put themselves in a position to meet their onerous obligations. Finally, it does this by means of an international agreement placed under the auspices of the League of Nations and thus makes the rehabilitation of the world the first task of the new League.

He goes on to say, “there is no other comprehensive scheme in the field”.

So a few things. It’s not just for Germany. It’s for all Europe. Including Slavs. It’s not just Keynes and Smuts. It’s the British government. So it’s not some treacherous little side deal, it’s what Lloyd George wanted. He presented it to Woodrow Wilson, who said no.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 7:47 pm

@ 163. The first paragraph is correct and probably understates the extent of Stresemann’s ambitions.

The claim that “war was likely just a matter of time” in 1924 is problematic. It’s way too deterministic. It rests on two questionable assumptions: that the attitudes of the German population would not moderate at some point in the future and that German nationalists would eventually launch a war whether or not they had the means to wage it. What happened after 1924 is important. France and her continental allies were were completely abandoned by Britain (and the U.S.) and Germany was allowed to re-arm (Britain gutted attempts at arms control). If the French had had British backing during the 1920s and 30s there would not have been a Second World War. It would have been nipped in the bud. So basically, the argument works only if you are willing to assume that British policy after 1924 was fixed (this is Schuker’s argument in his monumental The Financial Crisis of 1924 and the Adoption of the Dawes Plan). But the argument is too deterministic for my taste. Things could have changed. The rest of the second paragraph is correct.

I don’t know enough to comment on LI theory but it is debatable whether the Soviet Union was passive until attacked. The French tried to integrate the Soviets into their security system but these efforts repeatedly failed because Stalin was unwilling to guarantee Poland and Romania’s borders. After the start of the Terror there was no way for the French to continue trying to attract the Soviets. The first victim was Tukhachevsky (the point man for the French in the USSR). The Terror took its deepest toll on those with foreign connections (the diplomatic corp was wiped out and borderland ethnic minorities suffered disproportionately). I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Stalin preferred making a deal with Hitler because it gave him a buffer zone. On the other hand, the USSR was incredible passive once this security need was met.

Tooze is great. Highly recommended.

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Anderson 05.09.13 at 7:53 pm

… “War” may have been inevitable, but not necessarily a general war. Germany wanted “border corrections” in the east, and one can imagine such a war’s being localized in a universe where Hitler got blown up by a shell on the Western Front.

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the anon 05.09.13 at 8:21 pm

@ 169. You may be right. But I want to know what other historians have said:

Sally Marks: “in April 1919, Keynes contrived a clever scheme through which inter-Allied debts to the United States would be paid in German bonds whose value would probably be minimal at best. When Wilson rejected all attempts to dump the costs of Europe’s war on the United States, the battle over reparations was joined in earnest.”

I’m going to look into this issue more deeply. It matters whether or not the plan was politically viable. And it matters what the British delegation did after the plan was rejected by the United States.

Alan Sharp: “Keynes created the impression that the French, who ‘made in the first instance the most definite and the most extreme proposals’, were mainly responsible for the conference’s difficulties over reparations – essentially what compensation Germany and its allies should pay for wartime damage. In fact it was British representatives, most notably Lords Cunliffe and Sumner, who presented the highest demands, originally seeking £24,000,000,000, with £9,500,000,000 as their lowest offer. Lloyd George’s chosen negotiators were christened the ‘Heavenly Twins’ by their irreverent colleagues because they were always in each other’s company and demanded astronomical sums. The French suggested £8,000,000,000 with most other estimates in the region of £3,000,000,000 to £5,000,000,000, though the Americans were prepared to raise their proposal to £6,000,000,000 in the interests of achieving allied agreement. Lloyd George later claimed that he would have settled for much less but that he was trapped by the public expectations raised by the Twins’ figures. The reality seems to be that it was Lloyd George who insisted that the Twins maintain their demands, thus pursuing the high reparations policy he wanted, yet allowing him to present himself as powerless to follow his own moderate inclinations – a typical piece of Lloyd George chicanery. He would later claim credit for delaying the final naming of the German bill for two years so that tempers could cool – rather as if an arsonist, in mitigation, pleaded that he had summoned the fire brigade. For the Americans, it was the British rather than the French who presented the main obstacles to reaching agreement on a question that generated much more heat than light in Paris. “

What I want to know is why Keynes misrepresented the French position.

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Bruce Baugh 05.09.13 at 8:33 pm

While a lot of us are still more interested in why Keynes correctly foresaw the outcome of the peace terms, others didn’t, and why he gets attacked and by whom for his correct analysis.

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Josh G. 05.09.13 at 8:33 pm

the anon @ 170: “France and her continental allies were were completely abandoned by Britain (and the U.S.) and Germany was allowed to re-arm (Britain gutted attempts at arms control). If the French had had British backing during the 1920s and 30s there would not have been a Second World War. It would have been nipped in the bud.

So what you’re saying is that France lost because they were stabbed in the back?
You don’t see the irony in this?
Typical warmonger logic: my plan is perfect, it’s the rest of the world that is wrong… if only they had fallen into line and acted the way I thought, everything would have been fine.

175

the anon 05.09.13 at 8:49 pm

@ 174. What are you blathering about? There was no single French plan or a European plan, just various attempts to create stability. These efforts were far from perfect but preferable to all other alternatives. France was not stabbed in the back by anyone. Europe was abandoned. First by the U.S. when it reneged on their security commitments. Next by Britain. Those are the facts.

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Bruce Baugh 05.09.13 at 8:52 pm

I admit to wondering how much of the attack on Keynes’ relationship with Malchior is based on right-wingers who don’t actually understand friendship very well. The attackers may not all be sociopathic, but people can accommodate themselves to sociopathic influence pretty readily, and normal friendship – including deep respect and attachments that don’t have to be sexual at all – has no place in such an approach to life. Anything of that sort, where there’s a lot of emotion and no dominant or inferior partner in the pair, must look sexual when sexuality is all you’ve got for bonding.

177

Anderson 05.09.13 at 9:10 pm

How France, “abandoned” by her allies, was actually forbidden to rearm herself, is left as an exercise for the reader.

178

jb 05.09.13 at 9:14 pm

Meh… I don’t think that’s really the reason.

I figure this attack is used because of two things

a. Many of the people who defend the treaty feel that the case for it is so ironclad, and Keynes so utterly wrong, that they cannot understand how he came to hold the positions he did without some nefarious external influence. Hence Melchior.

b. Many people have a vague sense that Keynes was somehow “betraying his country” by having a friendship/relationship with a German. General disgust with homosexuality might have played a role in the initial argument, but is in no way necessary for it, and I’m guessing has been mostly abandoned by those who aren’t right-wing.

(I actually agree with ajay that this relationship was problematic. But this does not mean Keynes was wrong.)

Ferguson generally holds the completely opposite position from anon on WWI (he’s actually pro-German, not merely anti-war), but he hates Keynesian economics, so he decided to attack Keynes. Since his arguments against Keynes have been utterly destroyed whenever he comes into contact with a halfway decent economist, he decided to attack Keynes personally. He also loves making “controversial” statements that upset people, as he thinks they prove his “boldness”, so this isn’t exactly a departure for him. (This probably also influenced his position on WWI).

That said, I have no idea what Ferguson actually thinks of the peace settlement, as opposed to the war.

179

the anon 05.09.13 at 9:47 pm

@ 177. Europe as a whole was abandoned by the U.S. and Britain. That includes Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia etc.

France was not abandoned by her other allies and maintained a very rich multilateralist foreign policy. It enjoyed the support of Spain, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and much of Latin America for much of this era. But none of these alliances would substitute for the kind of help that Britain could offer. The French were so wedded to their multilateralism that they not only courted the Soviet Union but also continued trying to talk the British into doing what was right. It did not re-arm until very late because that was a deal-breaker for Britain and the French knew that the possibility of talking reason into the British was more valuable than unilateral re-armament. You can blather on all you want about warmonger logic. This is not about France. It’s about a pan-European settlement.

@ 178. Who exactly has accused Keynes of betraying his country? Does Ferguson do that? Keynes’ argument about the Peace was very popular among the British establishment because it aligned perfectly with British economic interests. Keynes was the establishment position. That is a fact. The historians who criticize him disagree with that establishment position.

180

Anderson 05.09.13 at 10:02 pm

“It did not re-arm until very late because that was a deal-breaker for Britain and the French knew that the possibility of talking reason into the British was more valuable than unilateral re-armament.”

“Knew”? Better, “thought.” Incorrectly, as it turned out.

181

LFC 05.09.13 at 10:19 pm

the anon @144 (responding to Peter T @109):

Are you seriously arguing that the navy program was a way for the German military elites to buy off the working class? This argument is so wrong I don’t even know where to begin. The navy was built because the German military establishment (Tirpitz and Wilhelm specifically) wanted a big navy. They lost the arms race and alienated much of the working class which opposed cuts in social spending to fund the arms race. The Social Democrats were not in favor of an arms race. And the German military establishment was unwilling to work with the Social Democrats to expand the tax base if it meant giving them greater control in the government.

Nothing you’ve said in this passage, anon, actually is inconsistent with the position, expressed by Peter T @109, that the German naval construction program was — among various other things — a badly calculated, failed attempt to ‘buy off’ parts of the working class. (Emphasis on “badly calculated” and “failed.”)

Which is not to say, however, that I would emphasize that motive very much. As it turned out, it was mainly elements of the urban middle class, plus certain parts of business and industry (and academia), that supported the fleet after Tirpitz and others developed the ‘strategic’ arguments for it (such as they were). Ideological support for the fleet was found among “the Protestant, urban, upwardly mobile professionals….” (J. Snyder, Myths of Empire, p.102) “Even ‘liberal’ intellectuals like Max Weber touted the fleet as part of a package of social imperialist reform, aimed at undermining Junker resistance to political liberalization and economic rationalization.” (ibid., p.104) [not that this aim was realized]

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jb 05.09.13 at 11:07 pm

LFC@181

I’m not terribly suprised. Wasn’t it mainly the upper-middle class in Germany that was the most nationalistic?

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Peter T 05.10.13 at 12:24 am

the anon and LFC

re the naval program buying off of the German industrial classes. I came across this in V R Berghahn’s Germany and the Approach of War in 1914. IIRC, it was a documented claim, but I don’t have it to hand.

I can recommend it as an excellent shortish read on the a situation where, as he remarks at one point, “ruling elites in particular developed pathological fears and could no longer judge their environment accurately..”

One could link this to Corey’s latest post – Nietzsche’s fears of the lower classes are typical of the ferment the rise of organised labour caused among the middle and upper classes of Europe (and the US), and that were a main driver of German militarism. Keynes efforts to find a middle road are laudable, but he failed, I think, to recognise that first one had to disarm a set of paranoid maniacs.

184

John Quiggin 05.10.13 at 12:45 am

@Peter T I can’t remember if you mentioned The Strange Death of Liberal England in one of our earlier discussions, but events like the Curragh mutiny suggest that the English elite had their share of pathological fears, as of course did their counterparts in France and Russia. To repeat, plenty of blame/explanation to go around.

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the anon 05.10.13 at 1:03 am

@ 180. Don’t be so sure. France cared deeply about its international reputation. It paid close attention to attitudes in Britain and the United States. Unilateral re-armament would have been grist for the mill of pro-German appeasers. Imagine if Britain had stayed neutral? Imagine if a pro-appeasement government aligned with Germany? None were an impossibility, especially if France had acted more aggressively that it did.

@ 181. 182. Berghahn is a solid source. I’m not sure why I can’t seem to recall encountering this argument.

A final word: the debate over “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” and Keynes’ collaboration with the German government can and should be examined separately from his important contributions as an economist. We also should not assume that historians that criticized this aspect of his life harbor a hidden agenda against Keynesian economics. Nor are they jingoists, right-wingers, or warmongers. History is messy and you can’t fit everything and everyone into one box or another. That’s true of Keynes and others as well.

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rootless (@root_e) 05.10.13 at 1:20 am

“We also should not assume that historians that criticized this aspect of his life harbor a hidden agenda against Keynesian economics. Nor are they jingoists, right-wingers, or warmongers. “

In Ferguson’s case, no assumptions are needed.

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Peter T 05.10.13 at 1:30 am

JQ @ 184

I did. Yes – distaste for mass politics and fear were widespread. But it was in Germany, Austria and Russia that these fears translated into full-blown elite psychoses. In Russia, as one historian of the old regime put it, the elite were basically at war with the mass of the population; they feared the consequences of defeat. In Germany and Austria, the elite positions were incompatible with liberalism and nationalism, and they were running out of options to contain them. What might have worked was the military occupation of Berlin accompanied by reasonably lenient economic terms – more carrot, but also more stick. I think Keynes humanism saw the need for more carrots; i don’t think he saw the need for more stick.

The key industrial and military leaders started laying the groundwork for blaming the social democrats as early as 1917. They really were an extraordinarily devious, self-righteous, self-pitying bunch.

188

roger gathman 05.10.13 at 9:04 am

jb, I don’t disagree with you. The point, of course, is that harshness and leniency aren’t opposites. They are a policy mix. Keynes knew that the allies – while perfectly willing to enforce a harsh and punitive blockade on Germany – were not willing to occupy Germany. Being an economist, he thought in terms of scarcity and resources. A policy that enforced harsh terms without the resources to create a situation in which those harsh terms would solve the problem posed by the peace conference – mainly, how to make peace – was doomed. The Western allies in 1945 did not cripple the German economy, and make the government illegitimate in the eyes of German people.
As for the comparative harshness – this is hard to say. On the one hand, you have the breakup of Germany and the ethnic cleansing of German populations in 1945 – on the other hand, you have the breakup of the Austo-Hungarian empire and the loss of I believe 13 percent of German territory with Versailles. And of course the the UK and the USA in 1945 made every effort to feed the people, in contrast with the Allies in 1919, who alternated emergency food with a policy of starving the people.

189

Ronan(rf) 05.10.13 at 10:12 am

Thanks the anon @170, very interesting. Which leaves us in the unfortunate position, I assume, that the only politically realistic way of avoiding war in 1939 was by implementing a genuinely punitive peace on Germany post WW1

190

Ronan(rf) 05.10.13 at 10:26 am

Also Tooze has an article coming out (“Hegemony revisited: a critique of Barry Eichengreen’s interpretation of the interwar period” ) and argued in a recent article that Eichengreen’s position isnt satisfying as it ignores power and tries to fit the depression into a neoclassical framework, so I’m guessing the consensus on the interwar years is slowly moving back to a Kindlebergian interpretation (if such a thing exists. Im really just making stuff up now)

191

Walt 05.10.13 at 10:53 am

anon @178

Who exactly has accused Keynes of betraying his country?

let me introduce you to anon @144

Keynes was not simply engaging in prediction. He was advocating on behalf of the Germans with whom he maintained a long-term correspondence.

and anon @106

Skepticism is always good and I look forward to other explanations about why someone as smart as Keynes could have been so wrong about the Peace, about Germany’s capacity to pay, and about Germany’s postwar aims. His collaboration with the Germans during this period was so extensive and so utterly wrongheaded that it begs explanation. Many historians have been attracted to the Melchior story as a potential explanation

This is “I’m not saying Eisenhower was a communist, I’m just asking questions”-level argument.

Your complaints about disrespect are touching, since you freely claim that we are all blinded by 90-year old pro-German propaganda.

192

Katherine 05.10.13 at 3:18 pm

the anon: @ 124. That is exactly what I mean when I use the word restorative justice. The reparations (in some cases timber, iron, and other commodities) were meant for the reconstruction of Belgium and northern France. Read about operation Alberich. Read about what the retreating forces did to the land, the wells, and the mines in northern France. We cannot have a conversation if you do not possess a minimal amount of knowledge about how the reparations were a form of restorative justice.

Good grief – you read about a concept of justice aiming to repair personal and community relationships, with a person-centred ethos, and somehow manage to equate this to nation states paying reparations? We cannot have a conversation if you do not possess a minimal amount of knowledge about what restorative justice means.

Reparations =/= restorative justice. Reparations = reparative justice.

193

Anderson 05.10.13 at 3:26 pm

Katherine, just forget it. You and I, and everyone but the Anon, lack minimal knowledge of whatever the Anon is talking about. We are unworthy.

194

Katherine 05.10.13 at 3:41 pm

More fool me for falling into SIWrOTI Syndrome.

195

the anon 05.10.13 at 3:47 pm

@ 189. No. Not at all. The Peace did not have to be punitive. It just needed to be enforced (unless you think the idea of arms control, for example, is punitive).

@ 190. Thanks! I’ll keep an eye out.

@ 191. I never claimed that Keynes betrayed his country. If Keynes had published an accurate account of the negotiations or had advocated for France, his actions would be considered heroic. Loyalty to one’s government is irrelevant to the point I am making. My argument does not turn on whether Keynes was loyal to Britain. It turns entirely on the question of his collaboration with the German government that was already misbehaving and trying to avoid paying any reparations. The fact that Keynes continued this relationship with the Germans long after it became clear that they had no intention to respect the treaty raises important historical questions about his conduct. Keynes never disavowed his influential account of the conference or his advocacy on behalf of Germany. That is the problem.

Walt, I am not interested in determining the roots of your ignorance. Your only contributions to this thread have involved misrepresenting a comment made on another CT thread (29, 33) and insinuating that I have a hidden agenda (122, 191). You’ve offered nothing of substance.

The explanation that Keynes acted the way he did because he was in love is more charitable to Keynes than saying that the motivation was racism or personal profit from insider information (none of which are mutually exclusive). I’m not wedded to one explanation or another. But some people in this thread seem to be deeply in denial about the fact that Keynes did something wrong.

196

the anon 05.10.13 at 3:57 pm

@ 191. Restorative justice if a broad concept and you don’t have a personal monopoly on the definition. It usually involves reparation and reconciliation of the victim and the wrongdoer.

197

Walt 05.10.13 at 4:45 pm

Anon, I have no idea what you think 29/33 is referring to, but it wasn’t even on CT. (I should have made this clear.) I was just surprised to get into two different internet discussions where people insisted that consensus of historians were two diametrically opposed views.

The irony is that I’m basically sympathetic to your view — I think that Germany is largely at fault for WW1, that the importance of the Treaty of Versailles in causing Nazism is overstated, and that Keynes overestimated how bad the consequences are. In the other internet discussion, I was arguing in favor of the “blame Germany” position. But you are clearly some sort of anti-Keynes fanatic. I don’t know if you are projecting your fanaticism onto historians, or if you learned it from then, but it’s unmistakeable. As I said above, I’d originally thought Quiggen’s “Dunning school” crack was unfair, until you quickly proved he had your measure.

198

the anon 05.10.13 at 5:09 pm

@ 197. You accuse the historians and me of fanaticism because of our exasperation with the fanatical denial that The Economic Consequences of the Peace was wrong.

This was the reaction to my initial post: Dunning School, expert knowledge is irrelevant, Keynes called his shots correctly, and jingoism. All that in reaction to this simple cite:

“John Maynard Keynes’ cleverly written account of the Council of Four commanded lasting attention among popular writers, although neither enlightened contemporaries nor historians considered it fair-minded or well-informed .” The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 4.

This was followed by a “I was hoping for a demonstration that the claims of 10 million dead were a hoax by pacifist propagandists” and the reiteration of the claim that historical facts are irrelevant. This was then followed by another rounds of assertions that Keynes was proven correct.

Who are the real fanatics? In this thread I’ve responded with evidence. The deniers have responded with a mix of blind faith and abuse. I don’t give a damn what you think is “unmistakeable,” this thread speaks for itself.

199

the anon 05.10.13 at 5:21 pm

@ 191. On restorative justice:

You argument cannot be that restorative and repartive justice are antithetical (the terms are often used interchangeably). So I assume that the problem is a lack of historical knowledge. Before being restored back into the “society of nations” Germany had to fulfill certain obligations unrelated to paying reparations. This was the rhetoric used at the time. Restorative justice was the idea. Germany had to show that it was willing to comply with international law and the post-war regime. But it never did so and Britain lobbied hard for the restoration of Germany’s rights (e.g. admission to the League of Nations) even when it failed to participate in this process of restorative justice. It was restorative justice because the emphasis was on Germany’s responsibility to take the necessary steps and make amends. France badly wanted this to work. But it did not.

The rhetoric of punishment came largely from Lloyd George and especially Wilson and it had a very religious flavor. The French were more interested in a long-term solution.

200

Walt 05.10.13 at 5:48 pm

anon, your responses have been a mixture of evidence and bizarre speculation about Keynes’ evil motives, where the most charitable explanation you’re willing to consider is that Keynes was acting like a lovesick teenager. If you didn’t act like an anti-Keynes fanatic, then people wouldn’t treat you like one.

201

the anon 05.10.13 at 6:19 pm

@ 200. More circular logic from Walt: if pro-Keynes fanatics treated someone like an anti-Keynes fanatic it surely must mean that that person is is indeed an anti-Keynes fanatic.

Evidence and speculation are the fundamentals of historical research. Blind faith and ignorance are not. The pro-Keynes fanatics are not even willing to acknowledge that The Economic Consequences of the Peace misrepresented the negotiations, let alone speculate about possible motivations.

202

Rich Puchalsky 05.10.13 at 6:50 pm

The only reason for Ferguson to have brought this up in the first place is that Keynes is still alive politically as Keynesianism, i.e. as the opposite of the austerity that conservatives want right now. So his comment is just propaganda, intended like all good propaganda to establish connections that people absorb without really knowing how they did, or rationally thinking about them. It’s “Government spending = gay = traitor”.

I have no idea whether the anon is a dupe or thinks he’s in on the con. It doesn’t matter.

203

the anon 05.10.13 at 7:20 pm

@ 202. Ferguson is an idiot. I’ve already said as much in comment 164.

The argument that Keynes misrepresented the Peace and collaborated with the Germans is not Ferguson’s own personal argument. It’s the scholarly consensus. Have you not been reading this thread? Or are you consciously trying to muddy the conversation by impugning the motives of all the historians who subscribe to the scholarly consensus just because this one asshole, Ferguson, is conducting a personal vendetta against Keynes?

204

the anon 05.10.13 at 7:32 pm

The scholarly consensus predates Ferguson. Ferguson added nothing of value. The historians I’ve identified are interested in Keynes’ book and his collaboration with the Germans, not in his economic theories. I realize some of you may be tempted to use the fact that Ferguson has been attacking Keynes because of his opposition to Keynesian economics in order to malign the motives of everyone else who subscribes scholarly consensus. Please do not do that. It is unprofessional.

205

Walt 05.10.13 at 7:39 pm

If it’s a scholarly consensus (and to be honest, I’m pretty skeptical that it really is), then it seems to be one that that’s not actually based on any evidence of wrong-doing on the part of Keynes, but starting with the self-evidence awesomeness of the Treaty of Versailles, and working backwards.

206

the anon 05.10.13 at 7:44 pm

Its now clear what happened in this thread. For a number of you, any critique of Keynes is an attack on Keynesian economics. You’re either with Keynes or you’re with Ferguson. If you subscribe to this kind of pro-Keynes fanaticism no amount of historical evidence is going to change anything. Keynes was perfect in every respect and anyone who argues differently must be doing so for the very same reasons as Ferguson. That is why some of you have been attacking professional historians throughout this thread.

207

the anon 05.10.13 at 7:55 pm

@ 205. Have you been reading this thread? Even Quiggin acknowledged the consensus. How much evidence do you need?

Zara Steiner: “This was not a ‘Carthaginian peace,” as J.M Keynes asserted in his brilliant, highly influential, and misleading polemic The Economic Consequences of the Peace.”

Introduction to the most important collection of essay: “John Maynard Keynes’ cleverly written account of the Council of Four commanded lasting attention among popular writers, although neither enlightened contemporaries nor historians considered it fair-minded or well-informed .” The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 4.

Alan Sharp: “Keynes created the impression that the French, who ‘made in the first instance the most definite and the most extreme proposals’, were mainly responsible for the conference’s difficulties over reparations – essentially what compensation Germany and its allies should pay for wartime damage. In fact it was British representatives …”

You’ve done nothing in this thread but malign my argument. I’ve given you leads. Now go read.

208

the anon 05.10.13 at 8:04 pm

Five historians are represented by those three quotes. Want more from this thread?

The following historians have looked in Keynes’ private motives for collaborating:
Other historians making the same claim: Stephen Schuker, “The collected writing of John Maynard Keynes,” 18 Journal of Economic Literature (1980): 124-6; Sally Marks, “1918 and After: The Postwar Era,” in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1986); Gordon Martel, “The prehistory of appeasement: Headlam-Morley, the peace settlement and revisionism,” 9 Diplomacy and Statecraft (1998), 242-65.

That makes eight. None of this information is new. I already posted it once in this thread. Somehow you’ve managed to miss it. Stop trolling and read up.

209

Anderson 05.10.13 at 8:04 pm

“in order to malign the motives of everyone else … Please do not do that. It is unprofessional”

LOL!

210

LFC 05.10.13 at 8:40 pm

anon posted this earlier:

Alan Sharp: “Keynes created the impression that the French…were mainly responsible for the conference’s difficulties over reparations …. In fact it was British representatives, most notably Lords Cunliffe and Sumner, who presented the highest demands….

Anon asks (perhaps rhetorically), among other things, why Keynes threw blame on the French, i.e. rather than on the British representatives, where, according to Sharp, it more properly belongs. Not knowing much of anything about this particular issue beyond what I’ve read here and not having read ‘Ec Consequences of the Peace’, I wonder whether it wouldn’t be reasonable to surmise that Keynes was reluctant to put the main blame on the British reps b/c he viewed his prime audience for the book as a British one and perhaps thought that blaming the Br reps would detract from its being received well, or at least w/ an open mind? I don’t know, just asking…

211

Anderson 05.10.13 at 8:57 pm

210: According at least to a bio of Lloyd George, Clemenceau & co. were the drivers behind harshin’ on the Germans. (Understandably; Britain didn’t have its industrial heartland seized for 4 years & then trashed.)

Here’s one tidbit re: the opening of the conference:

“Foch, with Clemenceau’s full approval, wanted to obtain Britain’s support for a proposal to transform all the territories west of the Rhine, including Belgium and Luxembourg, into a huge Confederation which would serve as a buffer state between France and Germany.” – Rowland, “Lloyd George,” at 477.

… If that’s the term actually used, reminding everyone so nakedly of Napoleon’s “Confederation of the Rhine” was not the sharpest diplomatic move ….

I need to get around to reading “Paris 1919″ but it’s so depressing knowing how the movie ends.

212

LFC 05.10.13 at 9:24 pm

An understandable proposal I guess, but of course, holding everything else constant and given the German invasion route in 1940, most of that buffer state wouldn’t have buffered anything… right?

213

Harold 05.10.13 at 9:27 pm

Malign for me but not for you!

214

Sebastian H 05.10.13 at 9:53 pm

I’m confused, doesnt Keynes’ analysis of what would happen with a punitive peace settlement track really well with what actually happened?

Is there some group of historians suggesting that the punitive peace settlement did not create the horrible circumstances that Keynes predicted? It seems weird to focus on his motives–especially in such a speculative way–when his analysis was right on.

215

Rich Puchalsky 05.10.13 at 10:00 pm

“None of this information is new.”

None of this information is meaningful. There is no pressing public controversy over how Keynes behaved during the treaty negotiations. The only reason that we’re hearing about this is because of the attack on Keynesianism. So… Ferguson shouldn’t have said it in the first place, Eric shouldn’t have bothered to give it a serious reply as if the actual history mattered, no one should have bothered to debate that history here.

Don’t blame me, I offered to discuss slash fanfic instead. Eh, I’ll write some.

Melchior made his last, passionate appeal. “Please, Keynes,” he said intensely, “I’ve told you about the suffering of my people. They need more relief. As their representative — let me bring it back to them. I need this relief, Keynes.” Seeing the doubt on the British negotiator’s face, Melchior gritted his teeth and cried out “You’d have me beg? Very well! The might of Germany lies prostrate before you, Keynes! Now, I beg you, give me more. Give me more.”

Hoover said “Oh dear!” as he inadvertently entered the room where Keynes and Melchior were engaged in intense negotiations. At first, he thought he didn’t see any way that he could come between them, they were so closely involved. But then his trained engineer’s mind saw a way to put himself into the situation. A muscular, American intervention, he thought with growing excitement, could satisfy everyone. Carefully he stepped toward them and

[…]

216

Ronan(rf) 05.10.13 at 10:15 pm

Whether or not Keynes pushed for more lenient terms for Germany due to a British affinity for Germans ,a love for one of the German delegation, racism towards Slavs and Latins etc are interesting questions imo..there just doesnt appear to be any evidence to support any of them, I think
But the left often use these arguments (how life experience, personal relationships, racism etc) influence policy
The problems not the line of questioning but the lack of evidence, afaict

Sebastian H

“the punitive peace settlement did not create the horrible circumstances that Keynes predicted”

That is more or less what the anon is arguing, (supported by a good bit of evidence) The argument is, afaict, that it was failure to enforce Versailles rather than its punitiveness that helped created “the horrible circumstances that Keynes predicted”

217

Mao Cheng Ji 05.10.13 at 10:39 pm

It seems to me that they were all wrong, both the “crushing” side, and the Keynes’ “milking” side, at least from the peace-keeping point of view. The post-WWII approach, with rebuilding and helping, appears to be most successful, at least in the western part; I seem to remember reading in the news some time ago that the revanchist sentiment, to extent it exists, is much more pronounced in the poorer eastern part. But that’s all quite natural.

218

bexley 05.10.13 at 11:34 pm

@ 217

Is the revanchism because the east is poor or because after WW2 Germany part of its eastern territories became part of Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia. Presumably the Germans in East Prussia and the Sudetenland who were expelled ended up in East Germany and their descendants are more revanchist than west Germans who never got expelled from anywhere.

Minor quibble: Presumably not much rebuilding was needed in Germany after WW1. The War was basically fought in Belgium and France.

219

Ronan(rf) 05.10.13 at 11:41 pm

Perhaps this is a British/Oxbridge (historian) thing?

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/412621.article#.UGR77fDqEug.email

220

the anon 05.11.13 at 12:47 am

My comment is stuck in moderation. So I’m going to try posting this again:

@ 213. You malign me and these other historians because of your fanaticism. You’ve provided no evidence to suggest otherwise. No links. No sources. Nothing. I have shown that there is a legitimate question about Keynes’ acts and motives. My own motives have been impugned from the very beginning.

@ 210. The biography you’re citing is from 1975 and was not written by a specialist. He probably did not know about the new work. The French were interested in security, not harshness for its own sake. They briefly toyed with the idea of an independent liberal Rhenish state headed by liberal separatists like the young Adenauer but in the end opted against such a course.

@ 214. The consensus argues that the notion that the peace was punitive is a myth.

“The peace settlement and its subsequent revisions, viewed from this perspective, represented the most stable arrangement that could have emerged from the contentious peacemaking process in Paris. . . . Yet the broader public, to judge from newspaper opinion and textbook treatment, clings to the impression of a Carthaginian settlement that gave the French too much leeway to play a predominant role in Europe at Germany’s expense.”

http://books.google.com/books?id=zqj-oHp4KsgC&lpg=PA3&ots=5kWWr5Ysxm&dq=%22%20clings%20to%20the%20impression%20of%20a%20Carthaginian%22&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q=%22%20clings%20to%20the%20impression%20of%20a%20Carthaginian%22&f=false

@ 215. Of course it’s not a pressing controversy. That’s my point. Ferguson and his opponents in this controversy are (ab)using history for short-term political ends. The only people who truly care about this topic are historians of Modern Europe. We have to deal with the fact that myths about the peace keep being perpetuated.

Why does this matter? I’ll give you one reason that hasn’t been brought up: the myth of the Carthaginian Peace is used to justify U.S. hegemony. Only the U.S. was/is magnanimous and innocent enough to nurture international organization and lead the world. Europe is vengeful and corrupt. That is the subtext. The myth of the Carthaginian Peace is used as evidence for U.S. exceptionalism. That is why I personally care about this interpretation of the treaty.

221

LFC 05.11.13 at 2:07 am

Sebastian H: the anon and some of the historians whom he quotes don’t apply the adjective “punitive” to the Peace; they reject that description. I’m not saying they’re right, but that does seem to be the position he’s defending. Unless I’ve really misunderstood the thread…

222

LFC 05.11.13 at 2:12 am

as ronan basically says above

223

rootless (@root_e) 05.11.13 at 2:17 am

“The scholarly consensus predates Ferguson. Ferguson added nothing of value. “

But few care, except that Ferguson raised this in an attempt to discredit Keynes economics. And Keynes economics is absolutely abhorrent to people of Ferguson’s repellent political faction.

224

John Quiggin 05.11.13 at 4:10 am

Maybe a bit late to remind people of this, but “Germany” didn’t do anything, good or bad. Individual Germans, particularly military and political leaders, made decisions, and others went along with them, enthusiastically or otherwise.

Comparing the conduct of the Western Allies after the two wars, the big change was that in 1919, individual criminals like Hindenburg and Ludendorff got off scot free, while ordinary Germans were subject to collective punishment. In 1945, it was the other way around. I’ll leave it to the pro-Versailles historians to explain the superiority of their preferred approach.

AJP Taylor makes the point somewhere that Hungarians were subject to a punitive peace in the Treaty of Trianon, while most other non-German nationalities in the Habsburg Empire were treated well, simply because the name Austria-Hungary defined Hungary as one of the guilty countries.

225

Mao Cheng Ji 05.11.13 at 6:54 am

“Is the revanchism because the east is poor or because after WW2 Germany part of its eastern territories became part of Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia.”

I have no doubt that it’s the former. Generally, more satisfied people make less trouble, don’t dwell on past injustices.

226

roger gathman 05.11.13 at 9:33 am

For a balanced history of the Treaty and its subsequent reputation, see this article:
http://www.historytoday.com/antony-lentin/treaty-versailles-was-germany-guilty.
Lentin underplays the nuttiness of the process, but the treaty was nutty. It evidently did not produce peace. As Keynes said in his preface, ” If the European Civil War is to end with France and Italy abusing their momentary victorious power to destroy Germany and Austria-Hungary now prostrate, they invite their own destruction also, being so deeply and inextricably intertwined with their victims by hidden psychic and economic bonds.” This was, of course, all too true, as events confirmed.

227

Walt 05.11.13 at 10:26 am

I’ve looked at some of your links, anon, and it requires a lot of speculation to get from the evidence presented and your conclusions. You haven’t presented any concrete evidence that Keynes’ motivations were nefarious — the links you’ve provided are about general questions about the aftermath of the war, and challenging Keynes’ assessment (which I have no objection to). By and large, the anti-Keynes fanaticism seems to be yours alone.

You sure whine a lot, though, so that’s something. Nobody respects anybody on the Internet.

228

the anon 05.11.13 at 12:11 pm

@ 223. The notion that historians should just cede the ground to the pro and anti-Keynes fanatics engaged in this historically illiterate bum-fight over Keynes’ reputation is laughable. When the dust settles, the origins of the Second World War will continue to be one of the most important questions in all of history, while the question of Keynes’ reputation will continue to command minimal interest. It seems to me that many of you actually believe that historians in the 1960s and 70s started writing about the Peace not because they were interested in studying the origins of the Second World War but in order to attack on Keynes. If that’s what you think, stop gazing at your navel. Your bum-fight over Keynes reputation is not that important. And the notion that professional historians would cede ground to someone with such a warped view of history, where everything revolves around Keynes, is laughable.

This is a question of stewardship. Historical fact may not matter to pro and anti-Keynes fanatics. And that is precisely why they should not be allowed to dictate how the public understands and approaches the question.

229

Harold 05.11.13 at 12:25 pm

“Pro- and anti-Keynes fanatics” — nice rhetorical trick.

230

the anon 05.11.13 at 12:38 pm

@ 224. You are wrong about the absence of collective punishment after the Second World War. That peace was designed to demonstrate to ordinary Germans that they had been defeated. They were expelled en masse, forced to visit concentration camps and extermination camps whether or not they were members of the regime, and were denied aid for quite a long time so that ordinary Germans feel the pinch of defeat. Many died in the winter of 47 because the Allies had purposefully delayed reconstruction. You couldn’t be more wrong about the peace after the Second World War. It was punitive. It was demonstrative. It afflicted ordinary Germans much more so than the elite (few were really tried and apart from Nuremberg, only the Soviets actually produces many convictions).

But going back to the First World War: the German government caused great harm during the First World War. Subsequent German governments were unwilling to acknowledge this fact or make reparations. Instead, they did their best to nurture revisionist sentiment.

@ 226. “In The Economic Consequences of the Peace Keynes quoted and endorsed the German view that the Treaty of Versailles signalled ‘the death sentence of many millions of German men, women and children’. . . . Neither the acute and prophetic analysis published soon after, Jacques Bainville’s Les conséquences politiques de la paix (1920), which has never been translated into English, nor the detailed refutation of Keynes by Etienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace or The Economic Consequences of Mr Keynes (1944), succeeded in stemming its influence, though while none of Keynes’ predictions were realised almost every one of Bainville’s were . More recent research contained in two collections of scholarly papers has fared little better. William Keylor, in his contribution to The Treaty of Versailles 75 Years After (1998), and Zara Steiner in ‘The Treaty of Versailles Revisited’, published in The Paris Peace Conference, 1919: Peace without Victory (2001), strove to correct what Steiner calls ‘the misused image of the “Carthaginian” peace’. In The Lights that Failed: European International History 1919-1933 (2005) Steiner repeats that ‘the traditional view’ of Versailles ‘needs to be abandoned’.”

“The war weakened Germany far less than Germany had weakened her continental adversaries. Unlike much of Belgium, north-east France, Poland and the Balkans, German territory was virtually unscathed, infrastructure unimpaired and industry poised to outstrip that of its ex-enemies. By 1921 Germany was producing three times as much steel as France.”

” Versailles was also blamed, inaccurately but obsessively, for Germany’s home-grown ills: for inflation, a consequence of the war rather than of the peace; for hyperinflation, unleashed by the German government’s reckless issue of paper money during the Ruhr crisis; and for the six million Germans thrown out of work by the Great Depression of 1929.”

Have you actually read the article? It contradicts everything else you say.

231

roger gathman 05.11.13 at 2:20 pm

Sure, I read the article and called it balanced. I don’t read articles to discover a creed or a faith. I leave that to you, anon. I don’t think Keynes is discredited, contra Lentin, but I think Lentin does a pretty good job of laying out why the negotiations were considered so rotten at the time.
Although I figure to each his madness, anon – and you are making a huge mating dance of yours on this thread -still, you’ve displayed anything but a sense of how to do history, making me doubt that you are in a history department. There are roughly three ways in which knowledge production is legitimated, corresponding to Weber’s forms of political legitimation: Traditional, in which knowledge is backed solely by authority – something like the philosophy of the scholastics – rational, in which evidence and logic are used, and charismatic, which is the knowledge of revelation. Yours is definitely traditional, a medieval approach in which you quote the assessments of historians as though assessment – interpretation – were strike me down fact. It is funny to watch – it is like someone who quotes Aristotle to prove that vacuums don’t exist in nature. After all, Aristotle said they don’t!
However, historians in general haven’t operated this way for hundreds of years.
Assessing the evidence means, for one thing, understanding the nature of the texts in question. Keynes book was a polemic, and his arguments are tinged with a persuasive rhetoric that exaggerates. Big deal. Basically, he was trying to create action, and he did. The modifications of the treaty that came after 1919 had much to do with Keynes’s influence. But the flaws which he saw in the treaty and the peace it produced were too deep to heal the bad peace. Since his book is about, you know, economic consequences, a brief look at the history of Germany post-Versailles is needed to assess his assessment. The German inflation of the early 20s, and the French stagnation, are pretty well known. On a political level, France’s actions post Versailles – actions that by themselves condemned the treaty, since evidently the conditions of it couldn’t be met without further armed force – and the inability of the European system to stand the shock of a downturn, all justifying Keynes’ premonitions.
Now, you can argue with that. But you don’t argue with that by quoting five historians saying the Versailles treaty was divine, I loved it, two thumbs up. That’s meaningless. And especially when the quotes are broad generalizations that the historians themselves would rush to modify if they saw them in your funhouse mirror. That is simply farce. For instance, what does the word “consensus” which you like to use even mean? There are different historical points of view, and certain in economic history, Skidelsky’s defense of Keynes’s point of view has a lot more weight than say Sally Marks. Sorry, that is the way it is. As I’ve pointed out upthread, the very books you cite -for instance, the anthology coming out of a 1993 conference on the treaty – present varied viewpoints by historians who would, I am sure, find your idea that Keynes was doing something sinister or wrong by publishing his book simply absurd. David Stevenson, in The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years , pushes back against the complaint that Keynes exaggerated French vindicativeness and softpeddled the UK’s, although his point is not to defend Keynes, but to outline French policy. He certainly outlines a vindicative and shortsighted French policy that looks like Keynes own analysis.
This is how historical assessments are done. You don’t go out with a faithbased method of research and you pursue arguments, not heresies. You will either learn this, or you will go nowhere as a historian.

232

Bruce Baugh 05.11.13 at 2:32 pm

Roger, that was good stuff. thanks.

233

Anderson 05.11.13 at 2:37 pm

JQ “while ordinary Germans were subject to collective punishment. In 1945, it was the other way around”

One might note that ordinary Germans had just been slaughtered in numbers inconceivable during the previous war. (Leaving aside the ones who drew the Soviet straw until 1989.)

… Roger, a long but worthwhile blog comment is a rare thing. Good job.

234

Rich Puchalsky 05.11.13 at 4:00 pm

If only “the anon” were actually a historian! Then I could engage in some amusing slagging of the entire discipline. Sadly, I agree with roger that I don’t think he is. But I’ll look at some points where he gets things very, very wrong.

“The notion that historians should just cede the ground to the pro and anti-Keynes fanatics engaged in this historically illiterate bum-fight over Keynes’ reputation is laughable.”

Note: there are no pro or anti-Keynes fanatics in this dispute. The people like Ferguson who attack Keynes are doing so as a way of discrediting the current-day policies associated with him, which are what they really care about. Likewise, the people arguing against Ferguson care about a number of things — primarily, responding to anti-gay slurs, and defending those same current-day economic policies. No large number of people involved really care about the actual, historical Keynes to any great extent.

“When the dust settles, the origins of the Second World War will continue to be one of the most important questions in all of history, while the question of Keynes’ reputation will continue to command minimal interest.”

An amusing inversion of values! — caring about contemporary economic policy is unimportant, and no one should be expected to talk about it on blogs, while caring about historical footnotes is all-important. But of course, when the dust settles, all of us are dead.

“It seems to me that many of you actually believe that historians in the 1960s and 70s started writing about the Peace not because they were interested in studying the origins of the Second World War but in order to attack on Keynes.”

Of course right-wing historians purposefully wrote attacks on Keynes. Attacks on him in the 1960s and 1970s were just as relevant as they are today, for the same reasons. There has never been a shortage of academics willing to get ahead with rich right-wingers by writing to order.

That doesn’t mean that all academics who wrote on the subject were right-wingers, or that all attacks on Keynes came from this source, but they’ve certainly poisoned the well. And, specifically, attacks on him that start with him making a treaty deal because of gay sex would need extraordinary scrutiny to determine that they were *not* from this source.

235

the anon 05.11.13 at 4:02 pm

Lentin never calls the treaty rotten. Like Bainville and most historians, he argues that it should have been enforced.

If you are interested in the specific mechanics of the argument you are free to consult the literature. It’s not my job to reproduce in this thread a detailed blow by blow summary. Quiggin started by arguing that expert knowledge is irrelevant. I’ve shown that expert knowledge matters and you’ve now conceded this point. Your only qualm is that I haven’t produced a detailed academic summary of the literature. You keep moving the goal posts because you have no other option.

Now that I’ve established that this consensus does indeed exist, you are left with no other option but to contradict the consensus (without offering any argument of your own) and demand something that cannot be expected in this type of thread (a detailed summary of the argumentative apparatus behind the summary Lentin provides).

When I responded to Quiggin I noted that his approach represented “ignorance and faith. His only recourse is ad hominem. Only a jingoist would dare suggest that Keynes was wrong about the Treaty, he tells us.”

In this thread, we’ve now seen quotes from multiple historians, including Lentin, arguing that Keynes was wrong about the treaty. That is what I sought to establish and I have succeeded. If you are interested in knowing precisely why these historians think Keynes was wrong you are welcome to read their work. Blaming me for not engaging with Skidelsky’s argument is moving the goal posts. I’m not here to conduct live original research. I’m just citing what other people have said so that readers may then engage with these works.

Lentin complained that “Versailles was also blamed, inaccurately but obsessively , for Germany’s home-grown ills.” Versailles continues to be blamed inaccurately and obsessively. But at least now, nobody reading this thread will be able to deny the need to engage with expert knowledge.

236

the anon 05.11.13 at 4:04 pm

@ 231. You’re making the stuff up about Stevenson. I have his article in front of me as a searchable pdf. Here is where Keynes comes up:

“French policy at the peace conference was contentious from the outset
and was denounced by interwar British and American memoirists ranging
from John Maynard Keynes and Ray Stannard Baker to Harold Nicolson
and David Lloyd George.1 It was defended by its authors, including
Clemenceau himself, and most persuasively by Andre Tardieu.2 It then suffered
a generation of neglect, although in the 1940s there was a riposte to
Keynes from Etienne Mantoux, and Philip Mason Burnett and Etienne
Weill-Raynal made major contributions to historical understanding of the
dispute over reparations.3″

“Keynes alleged at the time
that the French demanded reparations in order to stay in the Rhineland, and
Clemenceau told Maurice Barres that “Germany will not pay, and we will
remain.”56″

That’s it. That’s all. You are lying.

237

the anon 05.11.13 at 4:10 pm

@ 234. “No large number of people involved really care about the actual, historical Keynes to any great extent. “

What then accounts for the fanatical reaction in this thread?

“Attacks on him in the 1960s and 1970s were just as relevant as they are today, for the same reasons.”

So you actually think that Marks, Schuker, Lentin, Steiner, Martel, and everyone else criticize Keynes because of a conspiracy to discredit his economic theories? They poisoned the well? Get your head checked, man.

238

js. 05.11.13 at 4:56 pm

Anyone else think “the anon” sounds like the Del Rey character that would show up every once in a while and destroy threads. (Or maybe all trolls sound the same after a while.)

239

Harold 05.11.13 at 5:01 pm

Fanatical and malign!

240

Bruce Baugh 05.11.13 at 5:26 pm

It’s always interesting, in a certain way, to see posters who utterly fail to grasp the reality that they have no power in someone else’s comment section to command attention, let alone respect, and that therefore they have to be persuasive in some way to influence others. Whether it’s mockery and slash fiction or compact citations and straightforward arguments building on basic decency, there are lots of ways to influence people. But shouting at them at great length in condescending tones…that one doesn’t generally influence any positively.

It’s one of those basic questions: Would I be persuaded by someone arguing against me in exactly this way? Generally not. But people like the anon press on regardless. I’ve decided in recent years that I’m comfortable saying they’re not actually serious about their cause. People who care about accomplishing things pay attention to whether their means work.

241

roger nowosielski 05.11.13 at 5:35 pm

In perfect agreement with you, Bruce.

Could you clarify, however, what exactly do you mean by “someone else’s comment section”?

242

JanieM 05.11.13 at 5:40 pm

js.: Anyone else think “the anon” sounds like the Del Rey character that would show up every once in a while and destroy threads. (Or maybe all trolls sound the same after a while.)

The repeated giving of orders has the flavor (or the odor?) of Scent of Violets, but the overall style isn’t the same. So really, I think it comes down to your parenthesis.

There’s been a lot of that kind of thing lately. Real life beckons ever more enticingly.

243

Bruce Baugh 05.11.13 at 5:41 pm

Roger: Oh, I just mean that The Anon isn’t a front-page poster here at Crooked Timber, so he can’t even ban people and suppress comments, no matter how much he might wish to.

244

roger nowosielski 05.11.13 at 5:48 pm

Of course.

What I was getting at, however, was the comments policy on CT, whereby the OP has a prerogative to moderate or edit abusive or irrelevant comments on his or her thread. Not all public bulletin boards function that way; many employ an independent editor/censor who performs those duties.

I happen to think that the CT system is superior to other forms in the mentioned respect.

245

the anon 05.11.13 at 6:15 pm

I’m not writing for your benefit. This is for posterity. It’s pretty clear that none of are interested the history, so I am responding to your criticism purely for the benefit of some future individuals who may come across this thread.

246

Bruce Wilder 05.11.13 at 7:10 pm

The problems of history are a lot like the problems of journalism: how to legitimately coordinate headline, narrative and fact, so that the last, fairly and accurately reported, can be said to support, or are consistent with in some “objective” sense, the former.

In the ideal case, the headline is just an extremely compact label, which unpacks into shorter and longer narratives, which account for the full array of factual evidence.

The headlines and shorter narratives have a currency, a value as propaganda in shaping the present and future, and a value in the expression of individual and tribal worldviews, which makes the tether to the array of factual evidence, . . . problematic.

Headlines take on a life of their own, in current politics. The rules that might unpack the headline into a factual, historical truth can easily be lost, along with the facts. And, narratives, by nature, are shaped in accord, not with facts per se, but dramatic and moral intuitions; it is the moral truth of the narrative, which gives it power. Factual, historical truth can ground narrative in realism, but that’s not something all of us desire strongly enough, imho.

I don’t know that one can get the “big picture” “right”, without reconciling with facts. I don’t subscribe to the sort of naïve pragmatism or absolutism, which would suggest that a narrative can be “proven” wrong by fact. Narratives are basically moral constructions, and a reasonably supple moral worldview can accommodate many value-less facts, without injury to its central, moral thesis. It is the human impulse to lie that trips up most political and historical narrative; that the architecture of the narrative seeks to distort or ignore or hide facts, is what reveals the narrative to be a lie — an attempt to persuade by deception. The facts, themselves, don’t have that power.

247

roger nowosielski 05.11.13 at 8:18 pm

As Derrida would say, there are only connotations.

I’d take exception, however, to the statement that all narratives are “moral constructions.” I think it would be more accurate to say that they purport to be so.
Narratives seek to legitimize a POV, by any means available. Some of those means may rely on the appeal to the instrumental.

248

Rich Puchalsky 05.11.13 at 8:34 pm

“how to legitimately coordinate headline, narrative and fact, so that the last, fairly and accurately reported, can be said to support, or are consistent with in some “objective” sense, the former.”

There are no facts about Keynes that bear on whether gay people are concerned for the future, or whether Keynesianism broadly is a good idea. That’s what people keep losing sight of. People never took the time to deny Ferguson’s basic premise strongly enough. There is no way to coordinate headline, narrative, and fact in this case, because the headline “Keynes was not substantially influenced by his ‘love’ for Carl Melchior” is not a headline.

“the anon”, if he wasn’t arguing so badly and being a tool, would be doing less damage than Eric, who is more sympathetic and generally seems like a better historian in every way, did. Eric’s post begins with “Apropos nothing at all I thought I might address the suggestion […]” But of course it’s not apropos nothing at all. It’s implicitly in answer to something, and it’s not a good answer, because it implies that there is a factual question about Keynes at issue. If someone like the anon jumps in and disputes that factual question, however badly, well, that’s inevitable.

That’s part of the general professional deformation of being an academic. Someone in the mediasphere is being wrong, so you have to answer, and the answer becomes the kind of answer that you’d give to a student. Not that mockery is better, really; the Bush to Obama transition made me realize that mockery is rather overvalued by the left and easily slips from mockery of power to mockery of the powerless. But it should still be possible, if you have to answer, to answer the real question, not the one that’s within your expertise.

249

ckc (not kc) 05.11.13 at 8:46 pm

But it should still be possible, if you have to answer, to answer the real question, not the one that’s within your expertise.

…if we answered only questions within our expertise, the internet would be a very quiet place

250

john c. halasz 05.11.13 at 9:55 pm

@224:

Except that all the “lost” territories of the *Kingdom* of Hungary, most prominently Croatia, Slovakia and Transylvania, had only minority ethnic Hungarian populations.

251

Anderson 05.11.13 at 10:00 pm

“I’m not writing for your benefit. This is for posterity. “

Almost as funny as the “malign” comment!

Future generations will wonder who was the mysterious “Anon”
they have to thank.

248: ” But of course it’s not apropos nothing at all”

Well yes, Eric is proficient in irony. He has also the “professional deformation of being an academic,” i.e., his job brings him in regular contact with people who Don’t Know Shit … not having learned Shit previously. So rather than act like they should just know what right-thinking people ought to know, he explains. On the Internet. Where potentially at least, someone may google up the truth, instead of finding only reactionary Fergusons, because all the Puchalskys were too … pure? … to deem the question worth addressing.

252

Walt 05.11.13 at 11:01 pm

Based on style, I would say that anon is clearly not Del Rey or Scent of Violets. He’s just someone who really, really likes the Treaty of Versailles. Sure, the original post was specifically about Keynes and his motivations, but what’s really important is that we have failed to love the Treaty of Versailles enough.

253

LFC 05.11.13 at 11:26 pm

the anon
…It’s pretty clear that none of [you] are interested [in] the history, so I am responding to your criticism purely for the benefit of some future individuals who may come across this thread.

On the contrary, I think it’s pretty clear that several of us are interested in the historical questions, and I for one have learned from anon that there exists a lot of writing on the Versailles treaty that I didn’t know about. (Which is not to say I’ve followed up the references, and I may never do so, but at least I know they exist.) I did look quickly at the Lentin article linked by R Gathman, which I thought was interesting, esp the characterization of the settlement in the summation/conclusion.

The trouble is that anon has adopted a quite shrill tone which has detracted from the substance of what s/he said. Anon was ruffled by JQ’s initial dismissive remarks about historians and then proceeded to adopt a belligerent persona for the rest of the thread. Not v helpful. Would have been better to get just the substance w/o the rest.

I understand R. Puchalsky’s point that none of this bears on the merits of Keynesian policies now, but historical questions can be worth examining in their own right.

254

LFC 05.11.13 at 11:28 pm

Btw, historical footnote re Lentin: he says in passing that the French suffered the highest proportion of casualties of any belligerent country in WW1. I thought it was Serbia first actually, w France second.

255

John Quiggin 05.11.13 at 11:30 pm

@250 Well yes, but, as usual in such cases, there were, there were majority Hungarian regions within the non-Hungarian majority countries created by Trianon, and they weren’t offered the option of staying with Hungary. At least that’s my memory of what Taylor had to say.

But the *Kingdom* point is spot-on. Because the King of Hungary (aka the Emperor of Austria) made war, “Hungary” was guilty.

256

roger nowosielski 05.11.13 at 11:39 pm

Am in perfect agreement with you, LFC. He may be opinionated on the historical question, but who isn’t. In any case, he made a sufficient distinction between Keynes the historian and Keynes the economist, and it’s not too far fetched that some of the interlocutors here, swayed by one side of Keynes, may have rushed to judgment when it comes to the other. Two separate, though perhaps related, questions.

Whatever the case, and take away the belligerent persona, anon is neither ignorant nor historically naive, as some may have insinuated.

257

Rich Puchalsky 05.11.13 at 11:54 pm

“So rather than act like they should just know what right-thinking people ought to know, he explains. On the Internet.”

I think that’s exactly backwards,. He didn’t explain what “right-thinking people ought to know”, that’s what your remark about him being proficient in irony was about. At least, I think that “what right-thinking people ought to know” is that personal attacks on historical figures don’t have anything to do with whole classes of people, or with economic policies named after them. Maybe he shouldn’t have to explain that, since it seems so basic — so we’re all agreed that the attack on Keynes is pointless in itself? Ok, then–

“Where potentially at least, someone may google up the truth, instead of finding only reactionary Fergusons, because all the Puchalskys were too … pure? … to deem the question worth addressing.”

So you *do* agree that the attack on Keynes is worth addressing? Why? Because you’re one of “the anon”‘s pro-Keynes fanatics? I don’t think so. It sounds like maybe that the irony skipped over an actual disagreement about whether knowing the correct history about Keynes is going to have anything to do with changing people’s opinions about gay people or government spending.

And “someone may google up the truth” is exactly what the anon said, minus the admittedly more funny bit about future generations. Is this a truth that there’s a special reason that people have to google for? If they’re googling it because of this attack of Ferguson’s, isn’t the most important thing not to validate that attack by treating the history involved as important to it?

Of course it may be worth Googling just because it’s nice to have random bits of history Googleable. But there we’re going from irony that acknowledges Ferguson to a kind of silly denial. This is a special bit of history right now.

258

Peter T 05.12.13 at 1:26 am

re JQ at 255. Taylor is not reliable on this (and much else). It was the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1867 because it was a federation of the Kingdom of Hungary (which took in Slovakia, Transylvania, Croatia and some other bits) and Austria (the rest). Hungary had an independent parliament, army, Prime Minister, finances and internal policy. Tisza – the Hungarian PM – had the power to stay out of the war but was gung-ho, as the Hungarian elite had an expansionist agenda of their own.

This is not to support the Treaty of Trianon, although one could note that all parties in central and eastern Europe made large claim to their “historical” lands, and the nationalities – lacking the benefit of forcible assimilation practiced in France and Britain – were so extensively intermingled that drawing boundaries was exceedingly difficult, and drawing one to the satisfaction of all parties impossible.

On collective punishment – yes – but this is the nature of institutions. When a bank is fined for the idiocies of its CEO or a few traders, then collective punishment is visited on its employees and customers, and probably on taxpayers too.

259

john c. halasz 05.12.13 at 4:53 am

@258:

Thanks Peter T. for making my point clearer. (I was relying more on familial hearsay than any claim to historiographical scholarship). But now that the economy and politics of Hungary are a sordid mess, and the neo-fascists are on the march, whereby everything is the fault of the Jews and the Gypsies, (and while there are relatively few Jews left, there is a significantly large minority of Gypsy/Roma people, many of whom are desperately poor), giving an quarter to irredentist “Greater Hungary” claims would be unfortunate, to say the least.

260

John Quiggin 05.12.13 at 5:08 am

Unsurprised that Taylor is unreliable, like most of the historians I’ve ever heard of, it seems.

OTOH, everything I’ve ever read refers to a declaration of war by “Austria-Hungary”. Is this similar to the British Empire where a declaration of war by the UK government was taken to imply the same by the colonies? IIRC that implication was rejected by Canada in the Chanak crisis, but it was still taken as binding by Australia in 1939.

261

John Quiggin 05.12.13 at 5:25 am

On collective punishment, your example points up what’s wrong with your general position. In the context of a bank failure, money has been lost and someone has to pay it, but there are plenty of choices – the public at large, depositors, borrowers, shareholders, bondholders, or the senior management personally. And, there’s a choice as to whether to seek criminal or civil sanctions against those responsible.

Different choices (Versailles and individual impunity vs the Marshall Plan and Nuremberg) have different consequences.

262

Bruce Wilder 05.12.13 at 6:10 am

I was under the impression, under the very complex arrangements of the Hapsburg empire, that the superintendence of the army and navy, and foreign policy in a military (but not an economic, aka commercial, sense) was in the hands of the Emperor/King, and a small common council of ministers, of which the PMs of Austria and Hungary were ex officio members. The Hungarians might have had the power to obstruct, if they really wanted to, but I don’t think there was any clear line of authority, by which the Hungarian PM (or his parliament) could, on his own, stop the Empire from going to war.

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John Quiggin 05.12.13 at 6:17 am

@259 I wasn’t meaning to endorse Hungarian irredentism or irredentism of any kind. OTOH, it’s not as if the competing nationalisms in the region are any more attractive. A central part of my argument is that any attempt to distinguish “good” imperialisms and nationalisms from “bad” ones is a recipe for pointless and destructive war.

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Peter T 05.12.13 at 6:26 am

re 260 – I’m not an expert, but what I have read implies considerable Hungarian discretion. Hungarian support was certainly essential, and was forthcoming.

Taylor was a diplomatic historian, and he was working on what was known up to the 60s. Since then a lot more work has been done, in the many archives and with various unofficial papers (diaries, correspondence etc) that alter the picture considerably. If I wanted to snark, I could remark that history tends to be a cumulative endeavour, unlike those which are still arguing about simple theories from 150 years ago.

My other point was that, in practice, every member of an institution pays for the faults of its leadership. I am not aware that it would be possible to mulct the senior management of the banks for even a tithe of what they have cost us.

It might, in 1919, have been preferable to punish the military/industrial leaders and then impose lenient terms on Germany, Failure to do so was not entirely a matter of allied choice – the military had pushed the Social Democrats and other non-rightists to the front, and these were reluctant to deal with the right – in part because many shared the same nationalist agendas. The allies were not sitting in Berlin and had, moreover, to deal with increasing chaos and competing claims across eastern and southern Europe.

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john c. halasz 05.12.13 at 7:19 am

@262:

Again more hearsay than anything else, but 1) various claims for Hungarian rule over various and sundry territories were based less on Hungarian ethnic populations than on historical rule by Hungarian nobility, (the crown of St. Istvan having been traded to the Hapsburgs, more or less, by the rump Kingdom, then HQed in Bratislava, in exchange for help against the Ottoman occupation, which was, er, rather long in coming), who would have been fairly well integrated into the Hapsburg system of rule. And 2) the Hungarian nationalist POV would have been dominated by fear of the Russians, (Hungarians being non-Slavs, though technically so too are the Romanians, though the latter are Eastern Orthodox), and, if anything, it expressed itself by being rather more pro-German than pro-Austrian. So I don’t think, at least among the ruling elites, there would have been any strong anti-war sentiment anyway.

Though the biggest take-away that I remember from my grandparents, who were young back then, married after the War, was that Wilson was a naive and duplicitous idealist.

@263:

Why, yes, most assuredly, Rodney King. OTOH, on a meta/revisionist level, e.g.,there is reported to be current on the Turkish left a certain nostalgia for the tolerant multiculturalism of the Ottoman era, as opposed to Kemalist authoritarian nationalism or resurgent political Islam. Just food for thought…

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Bruce Wilder 05.12.13 at 7:59 am

there are plenty of choices

In an endless chain, where this choice is a consequence of earlier choices, and the consequence of this choice are later choices.

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John Quiggin 05.12.13 at 9:41 am

“I am not aware that it would be possible to mulct the senior management of the banks for even a tithe of what they have cost us.”

The top 1 per cent of the income distribution take more than 20 per cent of all US income. One way or another, most of that is dependent on the financialization of the economy. It would be hard to extract it all, as it is in most cases of collective punishment, but there’s plenty to target.

In reality of course, this group has been rewarded even further since 2008.

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Peter T 05.12.13 at 11:36 am

I’m confused. Is JQ arguing for collective punishment of the 1 per cent as payback for the sins of the senior bankers? If so, I’m very supportive.

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the anon 05.12.13 at 1:55 pm

States should not be immune from liability simply because the burden to compensate falls indiscriminately on all tax payers. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try making that argument in front of Holocaust survivors or Soviet veterans. Let’s not forget that Germany paid substantial reparations after the Second World War.

Separately, I think there is some confusion in this thread about the genesis of the Marshall Plan. It was not part of the original peace, which was designed to be punitive. The original plan was that the U.S. would “take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany.” That policy was eventually scrapped in 1947 as the reconstruction of Germany came to be seen as a national security prerogative for the United States. I suspect that many of you already know these facts, but I just want to restate them so that we don’t make the mistake of thinking that the reconstruction emerged from a righteous critique of the Versailles treaty. The juxtaposition of the Marshall Plan and the Versailles treaty came later as American propagandists set out to create a triumphalist narrative about the superiority of U.S. hegemony when compared to a narrative of Soviet rapaciousness and French vindictiveness. Some of you appear to be laboring under that Cold War era narrative. It is,in my opinion, the single most important reason why the Carthaginian Peace myth keeps being perpetuated.

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the anon 05.12.13 at 2:32 pm

Millions of Germans were used as forced labor for years after the end of the Second World War. Industry continued to be dismantled and shipped out of Germany even after the start of the Marshall Plan (whose aid was was dwarfed by the cost of reparations). Germany was also stripped of important intellectual property. Isn’t this common knowledge?

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the anon 05.12.13 at 3:34 pm

It is also incorrect to say that Versailles mandated individual impunity. The French and British wanted a trial for the Kaiser (who would have probably implicated Ludendorff and Hindenburg). Because of American opposition to an international trial, the French and British had to settle for the Leipzig War Crimes Trials. These were a disaster and proved to be yet another example of the German government’s bad faith.

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the anon 05.12.13 at 6:20 pm

The point I made earlier about facts and knowledge still stands. Some of you see facts only as a means to an end.

For some it is a means to a political end (e.g. Keynesian economics). The normative superiority of that end justifies the use or misuse of the facts. Facts are subordinate to norms. In fact, they matter only insofar as they allow us to achieve the desired norms. For others facts are a means to a theory (e.g. the 1919 peace was bad because it was a form of collective punishment, while the 1945 peace was good because it was not a form of collective punishment). The facts are subordinate to the theory. The theory comes first. The facts come later and made to fit like in Procrustean bed. Sometimes it’s not even clear how facts can be made amenable to the theory (e.g. how one would draw some kind of equivalence between one nationalism and a combination of nationalisms). But the formulation itself makes clear that the theory comes first.

This is all somewhat surprising. I was under the impression that pretty much everyone who is left of center in academia today subscribes to some Habermasian notion of deliberative democracy. The truth does not serve a normative end. Truth-seeking is the normative end. If the truth is made subordinate, we end up in the same place as the Straussians (and every other political movement based on the notion of a vanguard). This is why historians are ultimately going to be more faithful to truth-seeking discursive principles than political ideologues or political scientists. Everyone abstracts and generalizes. But some people do it to a point where facts no longer matter.

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Bruce Wilder 05.12.13 at 6:39 pm

JQ: A central part of my argument is that any attempt to distinguish “good” imperialisms and nationalisms from “bad” ones is a recipe for pointless and destructive war.

The foundational cause of the First World War was the competing and conflicting claims of various empires and actual or aspiring nationalities to political power. And, there’s no doubt about either the destructiveness of the First World War or the inadequacy of statecraft in triggering the general war, the conduct of the war, or the construction of a peace settlement. The only reason your argument provokes any controversy at all is because it seems to entail the corollary that actually knowing or trying to understand any of the detailed history is itself war mongering at worst, and idle, useless knowledge at best (we’ve got the big picture — war bad — knowing anything else will just lead the right-minded astray or something). It’s that righteously blind corollary that makes the argument, trollish.

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roger nowosielski 05.12.13 at 6:47 pm

@272

“I was under the impression that pretty much everyone who is left of center in academia today subscribes to some Habermasian notion of deliberative democracy.”

That may be so for this group here; but the “Habermasian notion,” posed as an ideal, naturally, has had its critics, Jean-François Lyotard, for instance. More importantly, perhaps, aren’t you attributing to “bare facts” (if there ever was such a thing) the status of truth? My understanding of “facts” is that they’re already theory-laden.

You may be right, though, about historians, roughly speaking.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.12.13 at 7:16 pm

the anon: “For some it is a means to a political end (e.g. Keynesian economics). The normative superiority of that end justifies the use or misuse of the facts. “

I’ll try one more time.

Historical facts (or really, our best current historical understanding) should not be twisted towards a political end. They should be reported and discussed as accurately as we know how.

But the dispute that Ferguson started is not about history. It’s a lame, contemporary smear that superficially seems to call on history.

So, yes, if someone wants to write about what Keynes did or did not do at Versailles, they should write as accurately as they can. But this thread is inextricably not about history, however much people would like it to be. It’s inextricably about Ferguson’s smear. All of the remarks about people Googling for things only emphasize that the main reason why someone would be Googling for this right now is Ferguson’s smear. At some other time, it might not be. But for now, it is — because it’s being written on a blog, and people don’t get to control the context that it’s written in.

Let’s say that conservatives made a similar implicit argument — “Marxism is wrong because Marx treated his wife badly.” And then someone wrote a long post about how Marx really didn’t treat his wife badly at all, and in the discussion some people said that he did, etc. If someone says “The question of how Marx treated his wife has no real bearing on whether Marxism is wrong or not. Why are you acting like it does?” then I don’t think a good response is “Oh you’re a pro-Marx fanatic” or “So you’re too pure to address that question” or “You only care about historical facts instrumentally” or “But it’s important for people to know history, why shouldn’t we discuss this question now?” or any of the other more or less foolish things written in this thread.

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Bruce Wilder 05.12.13 at 8:58 pm

“Smear” makes it sound as if the only issue is the insult to Keynes’ reputation, though you make a case that Ferguson’s greater sin is a faulty model of historical causality. It seems to me, though, that the whole controversy is only possible, because people, generally, have so little sense of history. Americans, in particular, are notorious for their thin knowledge of history, and economists, as a profession, are also notoriously ignorant of economic history. People with very little base knowledge, and no easy reference to trusted sources, are easy to manipulate, easy to propagandize. They have no context, for any of the issues: what was the First World War about? what were the problems of international finance and economics in its wake? how did the Treaty of Versailles relate to the genesis of the Second World War? what was the gold standard about? what are reparations?

Keynes has become an iconic figure, but also an easily dismissed iconic figure, at least on the Right. It may be maddening, but Keynes, for all his legendary persuasiveness, was not, on the record, all that successful in persuading people about the issues that mattered to him most. If it is not to be all about the man, on the most trivial personal level, then, the outline of historical context matters.

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Rich Puchalsky 05.12.13 at 9:18 pm

““Smear” makes it sound as if the only issue is the insult to Keynes’ reputation”

Then I chose the word poorly. I meant smear in the sense that Ferguson was basically asserting “Government spending = gay = traitor”. The propagandistic linkage of those concepts has nothing to do with Keynes, really, in any sense. Nor would any greater knowledge of economic concepts, historical or not, really have any bearing on them.

If you think that it would, try, let’s say, this Forbes sites post (I have no idea whether that is officially Forbes or not), taken randomly from the top of a Google search for Ferguson and Keynes, which ends with the stirring conclusion:

“But as for the large large swaths of the world which do not believe in atheism and the ideals of the higher sodomy, don’t we have the right to think out loud and express concern about the possibility that the world built by Keynes is a world built on one man’s idiosyncratic personal religious and sexual views, which most of us do not share?”

The answer to this is “No, the world was not built on one man’s idiosyncratic personal religious and sexual views”, not “I think you’d reconsider this if you knew more about what the First World War was about”.

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Harold 05.13.13 at 12:23 am

This person at the Forbes site also believes that the “Left” is “trashing” “Downton Abbey” because it shows that “Stories sympathetic to virtue, preservation of property and admiration of nobility and of wealth can be told beautifully and to wide audiences.” Um, didn’t Julian Fellowes write the script for “Gosford Park”, which was hardly sympathetic to the rich.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of the TV series (which I only saw in part). But talk about straw men arguments! Previously, such troglodytes as this would have included for mention as among the purported evils of the modern world women’s rights – along with — or leading to — sodomy, religious toleration, and social justice.

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the anon 05.13.13 at 2:20 pm

Why are we still talking about Ferguson? The response to Ferguson’s remarks should have focused entirely on his invidious motives, which are transparent. It should never have digressed into the history. On that, I fully agree. Keynes’ reputation has no real bearing on whether Keynesianism is right or not. But once people started defending Keynes by appealing to history, the discussion became about the history. That is why this particular thread has been about the history and not about the Ferguson controversy.

“It seems to me, though, that the whole controversy is only possible, because people, generally, have so little sense of history. . . . People with very little base knowledge, and no easy reference to trusted sources, are easy to manipulate, easy to propagandize. They have no context.” I thoroughly agree.

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John Quiggin 05.13.13 at 8:29 pm

The only reason your argument provokes any controversy at all is because it seems to entail the corollary that actually knowing or trying to understand any of the detailed history is itself war mongering at worst, and idle, useless knowledge at best (we’ve got the big picture — war bad — knowing anything else will just lead the right-minded astray or something). It’s that righteously blind corollary that makes the argument, trollish.

If you go back to the Anzac Day thread, you’ll see that I posted something saying, fairly simply that the war was bad. A string of commenters then insisted that if I knew more about the detailed history I’d realise that I was wrong in one way or another. Some argued that the empires on the Entente side acted rightly, others invoked various forms of moral relativism, and others just argued about military strategy in ways that trivialised the issue. So, while your phrasing is uncharitable, I think it’s pretty clear that detailed knowledge of diplomatic/military history isn’t much of an asset in understanding war, and can easily be a liability.

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Anderson 05.13.13 at 9:04 pm

“detailed knowledge of diplomatic/military history isn’t much of an asset in understanding war”

Well, thanks for putting your position just that clearly.

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js. 05.13.13 at 10:00 pm

detailed knowledge of diplomatic/military history isn’t much of an asset in understanding war, and can easily be a liability

I suspect lots of people might regard this with incredulity (Anderson @281?), but it strikes me as pretty sound. It’s not unlike discussions of gun control, where inevitably some (often, lots of) people to show up to endlessly dispute what is or is not a semi-automatic, e.g. And that’s awesome, I guess, that they know the relevant minutiae, but it is obviously not useful to a fruitful discussion about gun violence or gun control.

N.B.: The “diplomatic/military” bit is crucial, of course. If you took that out or replaced it with another qualifier, the statement would very likely be absurd or awfully dumb.

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John Quiggin 05.13.13 at 10:10 pm

@js That was an analogy that had occurred to me also, having occasionally engaged in such discussions

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Anderson 05.13.13 at 10:12 pm

280 & 282 remind me of Calvin Coolidge’s return from church on a day when his wife was stuck at home with a cold.

Mrs. C. – Calvin, what was the sermon about?
C. – Sin.
Mrs. C. – Well, what did the minister say about sin?
C. – He was against it.

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Walt 05.13.13 at 10:18 pm

It’s amazing that anon has successfully bullied everyone into switching to airy claims of theory. The fact remains that anon has pointed to no evidence that Keynes was motivated by perfidious motives; I assume because no such evidence exists. His speculations about Keynes’ man crush or his racism were demolished almost immediately. His argument continues to rely on working backwards from the objective awesomeness of the Versailles treaty, and therefore Keynes could only have opposed because of his commitment to evil.

The defense of the treaty itself is pretty weak stuff. It requires attributing the fact that many terms of the treaty being renegotiated being counted as successes for the treaty, rather than failures. The argument for reparations is not so much a question of cost and benefits, but rather a moral one that Germany needed to suffer more after World War 1 as retribution for what they did. The obvious fact that saddling the new Germany government with Versailles left it with a credibility problem and the German right a permanent grudge against it is then somehow canceled out as a consequence of Versailles because the German elite was (admittedly) evil. The mean affirmative argument for Versailles is that the Allies should have enforced the disarmament clauses. With the benefit of hindsight, this is 100% correct, but with the benefit of hindsight we also know that someone should have throttled Hitler in his crib.

So the argument in favor of Versailles is that the bad consequences don’t count, because the Germans were bad (even though Versailles allowed the bad Germans to blame the social democrats for the consequences of their own actions), or because the bad consequences didn’t take place because the treaty was renegotiated. The good consequence are: a) revenge, or b) with the hindsight of history, where the ways in which Versailles led to that history don’t count.

The aside about the Marshall Plan shows the whole absurdity of this argument. The Allies learned nothing from history, and tried to impose a more-punitive peace. Fortunately, the Cold War intervened, the Allies switched to a less-punitive peace, which led to an end to war on a large part of the European continent, and a gigantic economic boom that the French called Les Trente Glorieuses. And this is supposed to be an argument in favor of Versailles?

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bexley 05.13.13 at 10:39 pm

I suspect lots of people might regard this with incredulity (Anderson @281?), but it strikes me as pretty sound. It’s not unlike discussions of gun control, where inevitably some (often, lots of) people to show up to endlessly dispute what is or is not a semi-automatic, e.g. And that’s awesome, I guess, that they know the relevant minutiae, but it is obviously not useful to a fruitful discussion about gun violence or gun control.

Surely the diplomatic and military history is actually useful in knowing who declared war? I don’t know a huge amount about this topic but what has struck me as odd about John’s line of reasoning is how he thinks the French could have stayed out of the War.

Yes war is bad and I’ll grant him that Britain & the Empire could have stayed out of the war given nobody attacked them. However that wasn’t the case for the French surely? Germany declared war and attacked France. Turkey’s navy attacked the Russians (although the Sultan didn’t actually want to enter the War) and entered the War on the German side.

We can deplore the way the British and French helped themselves to extra colonies at the conclusion of the War and also deplore the fact the British took part but those are seperate questions to whether the French could have avoided the conflict.

287

Ronan(rf) 05.13.13 at 10:44 pm

But part of anons point, afaict, was that Keynes peace plan, or something similar, wasn’t politically feasible after WW1, (because of the way the interwar European state system functioned and because there was no one to work with in Germany), so the least bad option was a peace that kept Germany weak

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LFC 05.13.13 at 10:51 pm

anon @269

The juxtaposition of the Marshall Plan and the Versailles treaty came later as American propagandists set out to create a triumphalist narrative about the superiority of U.S. hegemony when compared to a narrative of Soviet rapaciousness and French vindictiveness. Some of you appear to be laboring under that Cold War era narrative. It is,in my opinion, the single most important reason why the Carthaginian Peace myth keeps being perpetuated.

The defenders of the U.S.-led post-WW2 international order do not need to rely on any characterization of Versailles. They talk about the benefits of a relatively open trading system, the encouragement of (W.) European integration, etc. They argue that the post-WW2 rules and insts. were so beneficial to at least the relatively rich Western countries that the rules persisted even after ‘US hegemony’ seemed to wane in the 80s’ (cf. Keohane, After Hegemony).

anon @272

This is all somewhat surprising. I was under the impression that pretty much everyone who is left of center in academia today subscribes to some Habermasian notion of deliberative democracy. The truth does not serve a normative end. Truth-seeking is the normative end. If the truth is made subordinate, we end up in the same place as the Straussians (and every other political movement based on the notion of a vanguard). This is why historians are ultimately going to be more faithful to truth-seeking discursive principles than political ideologues or political scientists. Everyone abstracts and generalizes. But some people do it to a point where facts no longer matter.

I know some political scientists who would not take kindly to the bolded sentence. This opens up too big an issue for a comment box, but suffice to say that there’s a case to be made that historians and political scientists would benefit from more interchange and fewer reciprocal put-downs.

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Anderson 05.13.13 at 11:01 pm

287: The Treaty as signed wasn’t workable, so the supposed unworkability of Keynes’s plan does not seem so grievous a fault. Better a reasonable, mild unworkability than a punitive, antagonizing unworkability?

The sad fact is probably that after such a terrible war, neither side was going to be lenient on the other. (Cf. the Brest-Litovsk treaty, which as the familiar argument goes was much harsher than anything imposed on Germany.) Maybe the only hope, if it deserves the name, was for a peace of exhaustion, which itself would have been possible only without U.S. intervention.

That *might* make the resumption of unrestricted sub warfare in 1917 the single worst decision Germany made during the war (as opposed to the decision to go to war in the first place).

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John Quiggin 05.13.13 at 11:01 pm

@Bexley France could have stayed out of the war (or rather, the French government could have kept the French people out of the war) by not entering into an alliance with Russia (or rather with the Czarist regime in Russia).

My point is that the kind of explanation of war that treats it as the outcome of a whole system of imperialist and nationalist rivalries, based on mistaken beliefs about the value of territorial expansion and the idea of war as the school of the nation, is going to give you a totally different view to one that starts the clock just after Sarajevo, and tries to nail the guilty party(ies). Detailed evidence of who said what in which chancellery, and which army was mobilised when, is useful in the second case, not in the first.

But even in the second case, hardly anything about the War that’s been discussed here over hundreds of comments was unknown to those at Versailles, although, just as today, they disagreed about how to interpret it.

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Ronan(rf) 05.13.13 at 11:17 pm

“The Treaty as signed wasn’t workable, so the supposed unworkability of Keynes’s plan does not seem so grievous a fault. Better a reasonable, mild unworkability than a punitive, antagonizing unworkability?”

Sure, I’m not really disagreeing .. I’m just not sure where that leaves the question of how to avoid a future war

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Walt 05.13.13 at 11:23 pm

I suspect the real argument to make is that Versailles didn’t matter that much. Weimar wasn’t necessarily unworkable. Third Republic France had its own extreme right, but it survived until it was toppled from without. If the Great Depression never happened, then Weimar might have survived indefinitely, and World War 2 averted.

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Anderson 05.13.13 at 11:29 pm

291: probably nowhere. Due in part to, ahem, misapprehensions about recent diplomatic and military history, Germans were not convinced that war was the wrong way to achieve their goals. Hard to think what could have changed that with the war ending when and as it did.

Tooze, IIRC, notes the irony that post-1945 Germany achieved the kind of dominance she had thought required conquest. Maybe the REAL problem was bad economics! Which takes us back to Keynes.

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John Quiggin 05.13.13 at 11:30 pm

“Maybe the REAL problem was bad economics! “

Finally, we are in agreement. Angell got all this right in The Great Illusion, but no-one, or not enough people, listened.

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 12:06 am

If politicians took books seriously, “Mein Kampf” might have stiffened some British spines. Cue Plato and the philosopher-kings.

Future thread topic? What books of today do we neglect to our dire peril?

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 12:24 am

“The current war, in Seeckt’s opinion, would end in the temporary exhaustion of all belligerents. It would be followed by a period of economic struggle. After that would come a final and decisive armed conflict. The task of German policy must therefore be to prepare for the next war ….” — Goerlitz, “History of the German General Staff,” at 174.

With such men, who thought like this before the war had even ended, in charge, what hope was there for Germany? or for Europe?

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Bruce Wilder 05.14.13 at 12:36 am

What Anderson said @ 293, absolutely.

But this from JQ:

France could have stayed out of the war (or rather, the French government could have kept the French people out of the war) by not entering into an alliance with Russia

doesn’t really answer Bexley.

Germany was using the sideshow in Serbia as an excuse to execute a plan to invade and conquer France. Germany could have required their Austrian ally to accept Serbia’s capitulation. (Austria gave an ultimatum to Serbia and Serbia caved; there was no reason for any one to go further.) Germany could have mobilized in a limited way, and flanked the Russians in the East, neutralizing the threat they posed to Austria, probably without even engaging in full-scale combat.

Germany had an elaborate plan to invade France and take Paris, by conquering Belgium, a country, whose neutrality they guaranteed. (Belgium was neutral by Great Power agreement; they were in no one’s alliance.) And, that’s the plan they executed.

France’s alliances with Russia and Britain , and its domestic commitment to universal conscription, were designed to make it less likely that Germany could win such a war. The French military establishment was dominated by incompetent right-wingers, who had ignored all the abundant evidence for what Germany planned to do. (The basic plan was 10 years old; if your intelligence service cannot discover a plan that is a decade old, it is not really trying. The Germans were fully informed of corresponding French plans.) But, I digress into the irrelevant detail. The revanchism of the French military, although real enough, was, for a variety of reasons, including geography and domestic French politics, impotent. The French did not really have the option to invade Germany, against even modest defensive arrangements by the Germans; Moltke, back in the day, had planned to defend against the French, while concentrating on the Russians.

The relevant detail, though, is that Germany’s war plan was to aggressively invade Belgium and France, and there’s no provocation — there’s barely an excuse. The Kaiser and his advisors think that Germany can profit from a war to conquer France, and the German public — including most of the German socialists — basically agree with that assessment. Belgium and France are not being offered any choice in the matter.

The idea that France’s alliance with Russia was a provocation mistakes the context entirely. I don’t think an objective observer has to put on the Team France jersey to see that Germany’s aggression — Germany’s commitment to a war plan, which precludes diplomatic involvement or modulation by civilian grand strategists, is the critical factor, making WWI the prolonged horror, which it was.

There’s a logic to the situation, to the horrifying dynamics, a logic discoverable in the details. But, you have to be willing to struggle with interpretation right with those details.

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 12:54 am

297: thanks for picking up that gauntlet. France had its ass seriously kicked in 1870, and had zero assurance it wouldn’t happen again next time Bismarck had an intractable domestic issue. I defy anyone to responsibly imagine having a duty to France and NOT seeking a defensive alliance. The map had its own terrible logic.

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Peter T 05.14.13 at 12:56 am

“detailed knowledge of diplomatic/military history isn’t much of an asset in understanding war, and can easily be a liability’.

Does JQ subscribe to this when it comes to, say, depressions? I mean, they are obviously BAD THINGS, and results from SILLY/EVIL actions and that’s all we need to know? Too much knowledge of the financial and economic mechanics of isn’t much of an asset in understanding them?

“the outcome of a whole system of imperialist and nationalist rivalries, based on mistaken beliefs about the value of territorial expansion and the idea of war as the school of the nation”.

What I have been trying to point JQ to is the work of a great many people who have significantly re-cast our understanding of why the war occurred. In brief, the work suggests that there were major domestic drivers which arose out of the inability of the pre-war liberal order to satisfy the aspirations of much of the population; a real fear of the organised working class among the middle and upper classes across the whole of Europe; commonly an alliance between these classes to keep the workers out, in strong tension with the need for popular support in the context of strong state rivalries; an inability of the part of the German, Austrian and Russian states to contain both popular grievances and national sentiments and maintain state power, and a German elite that reacted to these dilemmas by retreating into delusion, with flow-on effects elsewhere.

There’s not much here about evil people (although there were some – and more stupid ones), and it’s clear that policymakers were often confronted with very limited choices if they wanted to maintain their existing institutions and ways of life (or, as the Russians learned, even if they didn’t). It’s too easy now to say that they should have opted for revolution, even if that’s what they got in the end.

How we avoid this kind of disfunction, and how we deal with delusional people with significant power, are questions of real interest today. Telling the top people to smarten up and develop a stronger moral sensibility does not, sadly, have a great track record.

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 1:00 am

… I must also say that 100 years later, the casual invasion of Belgium as a mere stepping-stone – the 5-power treaty “a scrap of paper” – still has its power to shock. Recall Disraeli on Bismarck: “his idea of progress evidently was seizing something.” That “idea of progress” took two world wars to dispel … for a time.

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the anon 05.14.13 at 1:35 am

Walt continues making false claims:

As I pointed out in comment 106, the following historians have examined Keynes’ private motives for collaborating with the Germans: Stephen Schuker, “The collected writing of John Maynard Keynes,” 18 Journal of Economic Literature (1980): 124-6; Sally Marks, “1918 and After: The Postwar Era,” in The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1986); Gordon Martel, “The prehistory of appeasement: Headlam-Morley, the peace settlement and revisionism,” 9 Diplomacy and Statecraft (1998), 242-65. These are some of the sources I found during a quick search on the subject. A more careful search may turn up more.

Walt claims that I argue that Versailles was a success because it was renegotiated. This argument makes zero sense and does not appear in any of my comments.

The argument for reparations is that someone had to pay for the damage done. Historians, including Lentin, agree that Germany had the capacity to pay. The reparations were both economically and morally justified. Walt has ignored the sources.

He never explains how the German government was “saddled with Versailles” or why this even matters if the German elite was, in Walt’s words, “evil.” Versailles included enforcement mechanisms that were less punitive than the ones implemented following the Second World War and were designed to ensure that Germany’s government acted less evil. He still does not appear to understand why these less punitive measures were a good idea.

His argument against Versailles relies entirely on something that was completely extrinsic from both the 1919 and 1945 peace—a cash injection from the only state capable of providing such a thing. After the First World War the U.S. steadfastly refused to take on any of the burdens associated with reconstruction. After the Second World War it was propelled by national security interests into making major investments. Why this has any bearing on the merits of one peace or another is beyond me. The U.S. could have easily implemented something like the Marshall Plan after the First World War. That is precisely what the British and the French had advocated. But the fact that the U.S. chose not to implement such a plan tells us nothing about the superiority of one peace over the other. Europe did the best it could and the peace was a lot less harsh than the one in 1945.

@ 288. There was considerable economic integration during the interwar period but as Sally Marks notes in the link at comment 90, “Britain objected to all proposals for Franco-German economic rapprochement.” So did the US. Both were worried about having to with a Franco-German industrial union (the fact that this was in the works during the 1920s shows how much German attitudes had moderated right before the Depression struck). There has been very little research on this subject because it runs counter to the received narrative. But the idea that economic integration dates from after the Second World War has long been discredited by people like Alan Milward.

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Gene O'Grady 05.14.13 at 2:02 am

Without having read all the comments, may I suggest that based on a recent reading of Keynes on Dr. Melchior the issue they were discussing was not the treaty per se but ending the naval blockade of Germany. To which the relevant American comparison is not the Marshall Plan but Douglas MacArthur (a man I despise) insisting that he would not go along with demands to block the import of rice to prevent the Japanese from starving because he had just hanged Japanese generals for doing that sort of thing and didn’t intent to hang himself.

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John Quiggin 05.14.13 at 2:08 am

I’m not doing a good job on communications here, but I’ll give it one more try.

Taking Peter T’s example of Depressions, I can find you Nobel prize winning economists (Lucas, for example), specialising in macroeconomics who’ll say that the Great Depression, and the current Great Recession, arose because workers decided they wanted more leisure, either because of unemployment assistance or because they just got lazy. And of course, I can find Nobel prize winning economists who’ll say that Keynes got it right, and that the majority of macroeconomic research done in the past 30 years has been totally misguided. Both groups know lots of stuff about the kinds of details we’ve been debating here, like the way the Fed works, the Bretton Woods system and so on. But obviously, at least one group must be badly wrong. On the other hand, there are lots of people, less well-informed than the Nobel winners, who share the basic theoretical/understanding of the world of one side or the other, and draw the same policy conclusions.

So, I don’t think that detailed knowledge of economic and financial mechanics is much of an asset in getting the answers to the big questions right – that depends on having the right analytical framework, and there’s no easy way of determining this. And, to the extent that detailed understanding the mechanics of some particular policy regime creates an investment in that regime, such understanding can be a liability.

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John Quiggin 05.14.13 at 2:15 am

@Peter T Even allowing for my obvious communications problems, I can’t see how you read

the outcome of a whole system of imperialist and nationalist rivalries, based on mistaken beliefs about the value of territorial expansion and the idea of war as the school of the nation

as inconsistent with the position you lay out in the next para, and as an assertion on my part that the war was the result of “BAD THINGS, and results from SILLY/EVIL actions by evil/stupid people” (CAPS in original).

By contrast, lots of my antagonists in this thread (and, some of the time, you) seem to me to be saying precisely that the war happened because the German leaders or sometimes just “Germany” were silly/evil.

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Peter T 05.14.13 at 4:35 am

I can’t speak on the expertise of economists, Nobel or otherwise, but since we continue to get periodic recessions and occasional depressions, they obviously don’t have a complete handle on events. Should this be cast in in terms of blame? The distinctions JQ outlines seem more to do with political preferences than with expertise of any kind.

The German elite were delusional, which led the key ones to do some very silly things (and drew to the top a group with who lacked the basic emotional mindset to judge affairs at all accurately – sort of like a modern Republican pre-selection). This gave everyone else a very limited set of choices (the demand to the French is typical: “hand over the keys to Paris and we might let you stay neutral”). So this is less about blame than about some complex social dynamics.

If you have to look at economics, one main cause was the arrival of the trans-Atlantic steamship. This depressed agricultural prices right across Europe, when agriculture was just about everywhere the largest single sector. It pushed the elites into closer dependence on the state (David Cannadine documents how British government was more aristocratic in 1914 than in 1850), pushed traditional rural elites into alliance with urban/industrial ones (the German “marriage of iron and rye”) and fuelled rural unrest at a time when industrial workers were posing ever greater challenges – the spectre of a worker-peasant alliance was the great bogey in Germany, Austria and Russia.

My reading is sketchy, but I am under the impression that most of the economic advice on offer through the period probably exacerbated the political and social effects outlined above. Should we then blame the economists?

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John Quiggin 05.14.13 at 6:19 am

“Should we then blame the economists?”

I’m not sure if this is meant as a rhetorical question, since the answer seems to me to be an obvious “Yes”. I regularly write posts blaming contemporary austerians for the bad effects of contemporary austerity, and no one (except austerians) seems to complain that I shouldn’t make judgements of this kind. Similarly I blame 1920s austerians for their bad policies (though they have the excuse, relative to their intellectual descendants, that they hadn’t yet seen the Depression, or the success of Keynesian policies after 1945).

I don’t think there’s a statute of limitations for bad economics, and I don’t see why there should be one for imperialism. To repeat, I’m not talking about individual blame, but about the set of ideas that brought about the Great War and are still (admittedly in a less virulent form) dominant today

Coming back to your central theme, you really don’t have to convince me that the German ruling class (and much of the population) were delusional believers in military power and the benefits of empire, or that they wanted war in 1914, and might have gone to war regardless of what others did. What I want is evidence that their Russian, French and British counterparts didn’t
* suffer from the same delusions,
* act in ways that made war more likely ,
* pursue imperial goals once the war began, and
* repudiate any idea of a negotiated peace

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Mao Cheng Ji 05.14.13 at 7:19 am

The fact that booms and busts are inherent in a capitalist economy is the fundamental knowledge necessary for analyzing the great depression. The rest is details. Same’s the case with imperialist wars. The phenomenon has fundamental dynamics, that need to be understood, before diving into ‘Germany wanted this’ and ‘Russia did that’ discussions. That’s pretty trivial.

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Walt 05.14.13 at 7:24 am

I’m beginning to think you haven’t even read those books, anon. If the best argument you can make is “Here’ s a 1000 pages of reading, it’s in there somewhere,” then you don’t actually have an argument. The few details you did offer were completely demolished by Eric, which doesn’t really inspire me with much confidence your claims about the historical literature.

The point about Versailles being a success because it was renegotiated is right there in your links. If you don’t think it, then maybe you shouldn’t link to it.

I don’t have an anti-Versailles argument. As I pointed out before, I think the badness of Versailles is overrated. It’s hard to see the actual words I write when the red mist descends, I suppose. My actual claim is that the pro-Versailles argument advanced by you and your links is an incredibly shitty one, one that requires dodgy accounting of the costs and benefits.

I like now how the failure of the interwar system is now the fault of the American taxpayer. I can’t imagine an argument better calculated to make isolationism look attractive.

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Peter T 05.14.13 at 11:53 am

OK. That’s a reasonably specific set of questions. The specific German delusions were that war would allow them to settle their internal issues (that is, squash the socialists), that they could win quickly against a combination of France and Russia and that they could threaten Britain into neutrality through naval armament. The British and French had a range of goals (depending on the party in power) but, AFAICT, when they ran up against limits they acknowledged them rather than ignored them. So they compromised at Fashoda, again over Bosnia, again at Agadir and so on. Likewise they grudgingly allowed greater labour participation in national politics, rather than meeting demands with repression or evasion (see, for instance, the British response to the Taff Vale case; compare this with the Zabern affair). So yes, definitely less prone to delusion.

My impression is that Russia was simply stuck – war was an escape rather than a means to anything.

The British did not at first respond to the German naval program, then made offers to negotiate mutual limits, and only then responded with a program of their own. Likewise they limited their contacts with the French and Russians to avoid alarming the Germans, and they and France made significant concessions to Germany in the several pre-war crises, and offered in 1914 to put the issues to a general conference. Their diplomatic and military moves were generally fairly cautious, so again, hard to see them as acting in ways that made war more likely.

They did pursue their imperial ambitions during the war – guilty as charged.

A negotiated peace on any acceptable terms was not on offer (see my remarks above about the German aims as set out in April 1917). German terms were unrealistic right to the end (up to mid 1917 they wanted to keep what they had conquered; at the end of 1918, defeated and with the east and the Balkans in chaos they were offering the status quo ante!).

I don’t think we have any better answers to how to contain a dysfunctional major power now than we did then, and I’m not sure that some of our current major powers are not liable to much the same problems.

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ajay 05.14.13 at 12:48 pm

I think it’s pretty clear that detailed knowledge of diplomatic/military history isn’t much of an asset in understanding war, and can easily be a liability.

Jesus. I am just trying to imagine exactly how much ridicule would be (rightly) heaped on someone writing for, say, the National Review, who said something like this.

In fact, this is the kind of thinking that got the US into Iraq in the first place. Actual knowledge about the Middle East was a sign that your opinion wasn’t to be trusted. That’s exactly why, for example, the State Department Arabists who described the chaos that would follow an invasion were sidelined and ridiculed.

“I think it’s pretty clear,” the Quiggins of the right wing said, “that detailed knowledge of the Middle East isn’t much of an asset in understanding what we should do about Iraq, and can in fact be a liability”.

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Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 12:59 pm

“This is why historians are ultimately going to be more faithful to truth-seeking discursive principles than political ideologues or political scientists. Everyone abstracts and generalizes. But some people do it to a point where facts no longer matter”

This might well be true, but there’s also the possibility of getting lost in the detail and losing sight of the larger context. Of course the specifics (of how the war began, how the peace fell apart etc) matter,(a lot), but not if they ignore the enviornment that decisions were made in (and particularly not if they are used to construct a morality play and assign blame solely on one specific actor)

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ajay 05.14.13 at 1:05 pm

Is there, incidentally, a good reason why all JQ’s arguments about WW1 don’t also apply to WW2?

It was, after all, a huge tragedy. Surely there’s enough blame to go around? If we blame the Germans (and the Japanese) exclusively, aren’t we just echoing Allied wartime propaganda? Shouldn’t we just say that it was a tremendous waste of life and that all sides were at fault, and leave it at that?

Didn’t the British and French, for example, act in ways that made war more likely? They actually declared war on Germany, not the other way round. And in response to an attack on Poland – far more remote than Belgium, which is right on England’s doorstep. Couldn’t they just have left Germany alone to fight its local war in central Europe? There wasn’t even a danger of Russia getting involved: Russia was on Germany’s side.

Did they suffer from delusions about military power and the benefits of empire? Yes they did – the French in particular, as was proved in May-June 1940.

Did the Allies pursue imperial goals once the war began? They certainly did! (Stalin in particular but the US as well.)

Did the Allies reject attempts at negotiation? Yes, they did. Hitler would have been quite satisfied by a negotiated peace in 1939, or even in 1940 and the British wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, the Allies decided on an aim of unconditional surrender – far more rigid even than in 1918.

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Bruce Wilder 05.14.13 at 4:02 pm

JQ @ 303: I can find you Nobel prize winning economists . . . who’ll say that the Great Depression, . . . arose because workers decided they wanted more leisure, either because of unemployment assistance or because they just got lazy. [economists] know lots of stuff about the kinds of details we’ve been debating here, like the way the Fed works, the Bretton Woods system and so on. But obviously, at least one group must be badly wrong.

I don’t want to get side-tracked into economics, here, but this analogy seemed oddly discordant. Getting into the mechanistic details is how an hypothesis, say, about mass vacations causing depressions, can be settled. That economists do not grapple well with the evidence might be a problem . . . for economics, with little instructive implication beyond, “don’t do it this way!”.

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LFC 05.14.13 at 5:36 pm

Recent comments on this thread, esp. ajay @312, are in danger, imo, of muddying important distinctions betw. WW1 and WW2 in terms of origins.

Even if one accepts Peter T’s argument that German elites were more ‘delusional’ than British and French ones (and I think there is something to that), the fact is that historians are still arguing about the origins of WW1. Books continue to be published on this, two in English just recently: Clark, The Sleepwalkers and McMeekin, July 1914. The approaching hundredth anniv. no doubt has something to do w this, but it also shows that there is still controversy among historians.

By contrast, there is not, as far as I’m aware, much controversy about the origins of WW2. Contrary to what ajay says, Hitler would not have been satisfied by a negotiated peace in ’39; even if Br and Fr had said “sure, take Poland,” Hitler would not have stopped w Poland; he had made his aims quite clear in ‘Mein Kampf’.

As Hobsbawm wrote in ‘The Age of Extremes’ (1994), p.36: “The origins of the Second World War have produced an incomparably smaller historical literature than the causes of the First, and for an obvious reason. With the rarest exceptions, no serious historian has ever doubted that Germany, Japan and (more hesitantly) Italy were the aggressors.” The implication is that historians are not so unanimous about the identification of clear-cut, unambiguous aggressors w/r/t WW1, and even if the weight of scholarship points to German and Austro-Hungarian decisionmakers as being most at fault, there is still room for debate, as the new Clark and McMeekin books (at least from what I gather w/o having read them) suggest.

To paraphrase Hobsbawm (Age of Extremes, p.36), in the simplest terms there is a two-word answer for who or what caused WW2: Adolf Hitler (Hobsbawm goes on to say “answers to historical questions are not… so simple” but the point is that the statement ‘Hitler caused WW2′, while it may be simplistic, is accurate enough). There is no comparably clear, succinct answer for who/what caused WW1 that is or would be unanimously accepted by historians.

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 6:02 pm

314: “Contrary to what ajay says, Hitler would not have been satisfied by a negotiated peace in ’39; even if Br and Fr had said “sure, take Poland,” Hitler would not have stopped w Poland”

Okay, but the WW1 argument seems to run that, in light of the unspeakable carnage & waste of the war, it would’ve been better not to fight, or for Britain & France to stay neutral and let Germany cut Russia down to size. Sure, you then get a more powerful Germany, but look at all the non-dead Belgians, French, and Brits!

Given that WW2 was much, much worse in terms of suffering, would letting Hitler take Poland … or further territory in the East … have been so bad? Might it not have been preferable? Stalin had been killing his subjects by the millions … Hitler could have seemed little worse.

–Of course, as I think Ajay is implying, this kind of argument depends on 20/20 hindsight, which was an objection to JQ’s argument re: WW1. (With 20/15 hindsight, the Holocaust & General Plan East could be placed in the balance.) If we can accept the propriety of 9/1/1939’s being the time to confront Germany, why not 8/1/1914, when as Ajay says, Germany was actually the one declaring war on great powers, not vice-versa?

… It shouldn’t need to be said, but 1914 was where the 20th century went wrong, and better no war at all. The tragedy is that “no war at all” was not on the table.

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LFC 05.14.13 at 6:51 pm

Anderson @315:
Well, we’re getting into counterfactuals here, which is always dicey. (Plus I’m writing this somewhat hungry, not having eaten lunch, which is prob. not a good idea.)

That said, re your: “Britain & France to stay neutral [in WW1] and let Germany cut Russia down to size. Sure, you then get a more powerful Germany, but look at all the non-dead Belgians, French, and Brits!” Assuming this counterfactual scenario is plausible — and I’m not sure it is — one can make a case, I think, that it would indeed have been preferable to the 1914-18 war that actually occurred. Some 750,000 Britons and well over a million Frenchmen would be alive instead of dead (drawing these figures from memory). Germany would have “cut Russia down to size,” no doubt forcibly displaced and perhaps killed lots of civilians, but would there have been the equivalent of the Holocaust? No. (I don’t know whether you’re assuming in this scenario that the 1917 revolution in Russia still occurs.)

In 1939, there is a fascist, deeply racist regime in Germany driven by an ideology to which the word “evil” fully applies, bent on pan-European conquest and the establishment of Lebensraum in the east, meaning the permanent occupation and conquest of not only Poland but at least the western part of USSR; despite the fact that USSR and Germany are allies at the start of the war, you don’t have to have a hugely sharp crystal ball to see that Hitler will eventually turn on the USSR, nor does one have to wait for the General Plan to know this, b/c the policy of Lebensraum in the east is stated in Mein Kampf. Nazi Germany was qualitatively different (i.e. worse), in terms of ideology and aims, than Wilhelmine Germany, and no 20/20 hindsight is required to reach this judgment; surely it was available to clear-eyed observers by the late 1930s.

So yes, I think 9/1/1939 is somewhat different than 8/1/1914.

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John Quiggin 05.14.13 at 7:16 pm

@ajay I’m duly rebuked. Despite having little or no knowledge of Arabic, Iraqi politics or military strategy, I not only expressed views about the Iraq war, but cited my own ignorance in support of those views. Obviously, I should have listened to the pro-war experts, of whom there were many.

http://johnquiggin.com/2003/02/25/the-moral-asymmetry-of-war-and-peace/

I don’t need to know the population of Kazakhstan, its political history, or even whether I’ve spelt it correctly, to know that I don’t support a war with that country. The fact that Australians in general know very little about Iraq is a good reason why we should not be fighting a war there.

The assumption that arguments for and against war should be assessed more or less symmetrically underlies a lot of blog discussion and is fundamentally unsound. Both international law and the experience of history provide a strong presumption against war, and in favor of seeking an early peace if war breaks out. Most wars turn out badly for all countries that choose to engage in them, and even in the case of defensive wars, most decisions to forgo the chance of a compromise peace based on the status quo ante have proved mistaken (Korea and Iran-Iraq are recent examples).

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Stephen 05.14.13 at 7:16 pm

Peter T @309: Britain and France did pursue their imperial ambitions during the war.

Very true, but there is an argument that doing so was the least bad option (and also a distinction to be made: it’s not the same as saying B & F entered into the war in order to pursue imperial ambitions).

Consider the Sykes-Picot agreement, which assigned much of the predominantly non-Turkish parts of the Ottoman Empire to B & F as protectorates. B & F had not planned for war with Turkey, did not want war with Turkey and would have far preferred Turkey to remain neutral, were only at war with Turkey because Turkey had deliberately come into the war on Germany’s side: but it would have been unreasonable for them not to consider what should be done if Turkey were defeated. There were, I think, four possible outcomes.

(1) Set the former Turkish peoples free. The various Arab, Turkish, Kurdish, Assyrian, Shia, Sunni, Alawi, Yezidi, Druze, Christian and Jewish elements of the former Ottoman states resolve their manifold differences by peaceful negotiation, and settle down to form tranquil, prosperous, honestly-governed, democratic states, respecting minority rights in an atmosphere of universal religious tolerance.

That would, of course, be the preferred liberal outcome. Sykes and Picot might be excused for thinking that a more likely outcome would be that the various Arab, Turkish etc. elements would resolve their differences by methods more traditional in those parts, with very illiberal consequences, and the survivors forming corrupt, ill-governed autocracies, with little mercy for the minorities on the losing sides.

(2) Leave Turkish rule in place, even if Turkey lost. That would have advantages: there would be no European Imperialism to be blamed, and the disadvantages of Turkish rule – traditionally considerable – might well be less than those of anarchic liberation.

(3) Remove Turkish rule and install B & F mandated rule to keep order. As an essential preliminary, get B & F to agree, well in advance, the boundaries of their areas. That is of course what they did.

Can anyone think of a fourth option?

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Bruce Wilder 05.14.13 at 7:36 pm

A very common answer to the question of what caused WWII is WWI, and, in fact, that’s the causal chain we took up in this thread.

I didn’t think ajay @312 was trying to muddy waters, regarding the origins of WWI & WWII — I thought he was trying to make a meta point about JQ’s explanatory style.

“Hitler caused WWII” functions as myth more than history, and it works quite well as myth, and, if you don’t press on it too hard, does little violence to the facts, but . . . as myth it does make understanding WWI more challenging. The Hitler myth has this strange reflexive interaction with explanations of WWI. Hitler is a product of WWI, even, or especially, in Hitler’s own account. But, the very personal account of causality in WWII — Germany not an actor; no collective punishment; insane criminal masterminds did it! — makes WWI more inexplicable, because it doesn’t reduce neatly to a handful of Great Man personalities.

My own views coincide with those expressed by Peter T, and I won’t try to improve on his exposition. But, the explanatory style rests on an interpretation trying to take accurate account of a great array of facts about the social and political mechanics, and compressing short answers from longer ones, by clear and non-tendentitious rules. I admired greatly the essay by Antony Lentin on Versailles, linked to by Roger Gathman @226, as an example of that explanatory style. Counterfactuals are kept close to the factuals; the counterfactual isn’t fantasy, it explains how the participants experienced contingency.

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 7:40 pm

316: “In 1939, there is a fascist, deeply racist regime in Germany driven by an ideology to which the word “evil” fully applies, bent on pan-European conquest and the establishment of Lebensraum in the east”

Leaving aside the considerable anti-Semitism in ruling circles, I think the 1914 Allies might have recognized something very close to the Kaiser’s Germany in that quotation. France and Britain, when it came down to it, probably went to war because they feared the alternative was to let Germany pick off its neighbors one by one. Something similar was the motive in 1939.

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Bruce Wilder 05.14.13 at 7:49 pm

JQ @ 317: ” about the Iraq war . . . pro-war experts”

Again, oddly discordant — were there any genuine experts, who were “pro-war”? (Expertise in the Peloponnesian War does not count.) Not many, as I recall. Lots of fakers, though, and liars.

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Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 8:44 pm

Just to ajays comment..yes you do have to deal with all of those questions, and try and work out why the Nazi regime took the form it did, and you do have to develop some sort of convincing argument as to why they were so aggressive, beyond merely stating evil as an answer..not that I have answers to any of those questions, but they are legitimate. And as LFC noted, the comparison is a little disingenous
Bruce a number of genuine military experts (Michael O Hanlon) and regional experts (K Pollack) to name two, did support the war. You (and I) might not neccessarily agree with their positions, but they are/were considered experts .. (and Bernard Lewis!)

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Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 8:51 pm

Stephen, Turkey tried to sign neutrality pacts with Britain and France, but they couldnt due to their alliance with Russia
The rest of your comment completely ignores the reality of the mandate system and Brit/French intentions (also other more popular options in the region, such America running the mandates, or an Arab state, or just greater local say in how the states were created/run etc)
I know British perfidy is difficult to accept, but come on man!

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Bruce Wilder 05.14.13 at 8:55 pm

Ronan(rf): genuine military experts (Michael O Hanlon)

LOL

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Josh G. 05.14.13 at 8:57 pm

World War I created Hitler. This much is clear from Hitler’s own writings, from Ian Kershaw’s meticulously researched biography, and from Richard Evans’ Coming of the Third Reich. Prior to the war, Hitler wasn’t Hitler. Slumming around in Vienna, he could plausibly have been described as a slacker and a hipster. He had no job, no direction, and certainly no prospect of going into politics. He wasn’t even particularly anti-Semitic. Hitler entered WWI a normal, perhaps even relatable, man, and emerged as a demon from the pits of Hell.

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Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 9:00 pm

Well he wrote a book on the topic Bruce!..But John Keegan did aswell, iirc

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Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 9:02 pm

That’s the most impressive bit of hipster baiting I’ve yet seen, Josh!

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Josh G. 05.14.13 at 9:05 pm

Ronan(rf) @ 327: sorry if it comes off that way, it wasn’t actually my intent. I just found it bizarre how normal pre-WWI Hitler seems, according to his biographers.

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Bruce Wilder 05.14.13 at 9:09 pm

Ronan(rf): . . . he wrote a book on the topic Bruce!. . . . John Keegan did as well

ROF

[Let me guess. You’re here all week?]

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Collin Street 05.14.13 at 9:09 pm

wrt ajay’s point at 310: having more information will only help you if your analytical framework is efficiently using the information you have. If you think “2+2 = 5″ then verifying that each of the purported 2s is in fact rightly and properly a 2 to the limits of measurement won’t help you spot your problems.

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LFC 05.14.13 at 9:19 pm

Bruce Wilder @319
I didn’t think ajay @312 was trying to muddy waters, regarding the origins of WWI & WWII — I thought he was trying to make a meta point about JQ’s explanatory style.

Regardless of what ajay was trying to do, what ajay did was to suggest that JQ’s perspective on WW1 — i.e., spread the blame around to everyone, plenty of blame to go around — was equally applicable to WW2. And my response was: no, JQ’s perspective on WW1 is not equally applicable to WW2, because it is easier to assign exclusive blame for the outbreak of WW2 than for WW1. “Plenty of blame to go around” is at least a defensible position for 1914 in a way that it is not for 1939 — “defensible position” meaning not “correct position,” but “position for which a non-ridiculous argument probably can be made.” Anderson disagrees with me about this, and you may disagree with me also. And clearly we’re not going to settle it on this comment thread.

I think it’s worth noting, though, that most of the leading politicians of Britain and France were, quite understandably, desperate to avoid war in 1939 precisely because of the horrible experience their countries went through in World War I. “No more 1914s” was the guiding maxim for most British and French policymakers. This was a main impetus behind the Munich agreement and ‘appeasement': anything would be preferable to a re-run of WW1. Hitler, of course, had a different perspective: he wanted certain things which went well beyond an overturning of the Versailles treaty and he was entirely willing to have another major war to accomplish his goals. Thus one reputable historian, in a general history of 19th/20th c.Europe, called his chapter on WW2 “Hitler’s war.”

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Ronan(rf) 05.14.13 at 9:22 pm

Josh, no need to apologise, I was only joking really. I thought it was an interesting comparison

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LFC 05.14.13 at 9:24 pm

Josh G:
World War I created Hitler

There’s a lot of truth in that. It’s also almost completely irrelevant to the particular disagreement betw ajay & BWilder, on the one hand, and me. The fact that WW 1 “created” Hitler does not magically turn Hitler into the non-aggressor in ’39 nor does it mean that everyone who had a hand in starting and prosecuting WW1 is somehow responsible for Naziism.

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Anderson 05.14.13 at 9:28 pm

“And clearly we’re not going to settle it on this comment thread.”

Oh, come now, we’re barely over 300 comments in. ;)

… I took Ajay to be more satirical than arguing a strong case for Allied culpability in 1939. (Though the specific choice to go to war over Poland did, and continues to, draw some criticism from non-Stormfront types.)

And then, there’s always Gandhi’s advice to the UK in 1940:

“I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight, but because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. You will never kill it by its indifferent adoption. Your soldiers are doing the same work of destruction as the Germans. The only difference is that perhaps yours are not as thorough as the Germans. If that be so, yours will soon acquire the same thoroughness as theirs, if not much greater. On no other condition can you win the war. In other words, you will have to be more ruthless than the Nazis. No cause, however just, can warrant the indiscriminate slaughter that is going on minute by minute. I suggest that a cause that demands the inhumanities that are being perpetrated today cannot be called just. * * *

“I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions…. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”

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Mao Cheng Ji 05.14.13 at 9:33 pm

What WWI definitely did create is Bolshevism. And that, I believe, explains most the maneuvering in 1930s western Europe: Hitler, the Munich, the Phoney War, all that.

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john c. halasz 05.14.13 at 9:36 pm

When this thread is finally closed, may I suggest a topic for a follow-up thread? Cold War apologetics!

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LFC 05.14.13 at 9:52 pm

@Mao Cheng Ji:
No.
WW1 did not create Bolshevism, though WW1 did enable Bolshevism’s success in seizing power in Russia.
Bolshevism does not explain Munich. That assertion borders on the weird. What explains Munich is, above all, British and French leaders’ desire to avoid what they thought could be a re-run of WW1. There were other factors, of course, but that one was v. important.

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Substance McGravitas 05.14.13 at 10:05 pm

I think all your dads should duke it out.

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john c. halasz 05.14.13 at 10:09 pm

@337:

I thought part of what “explains” Munich was a desire, at least on the French side, to buy time for re-armament. And the French had been bound by treaty to uphold the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia, with their failure to do so having convinced Stalin of the unreliability of any possible defensive alliance with the West, since the U.S.S.R. had similar treaty obligations, which led to Stalin’s self-deluding treaty with Hitler.

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John Quiggin 05.14.13 at 10:19 pm

Niall Ferguson was quite a prominent supporter of the Iraq war, and was treated as an expert, IIRC. As were Kissinger and Bernard Lewis.

Lewis, at least, knows far more about the Arab world than I ever will – the problem is that a lot of what he knows about the world in general is wrong, and that means he draws the wrong conclusions in his area or expertise.

Bruce W, you’ve greeted each of the pro-war expert names popped up to you with a LOL or similar. I found their claimed expertise similarly laughable, but that was because they made pro-war arguments very similar to those in this thread, so I knew I could disregard them. Presumably that’s not your reasoning. Can you explain your assessment procedure in a bit more detail?

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bexley 05.14.13 at 10:45 pm

John Q @ 290. Ok I so you are effectively looking at how the French might have changed their policies well before the July crisis to reduce the risk of war.

Again I can see how not entering alliances with other powers is advice that could work for Britain and the Empire. They aren’t part of mainland Europe and Britain has a strong fleet so its hard to see anyone invading them. By taking an “isolationist” stance they could avoid being entangled in the war.

However it seems less obvious that this is the case for the French. Surely the opinion of historians is actually important to see whether your advice could have worked for France? If the French hadn’t entered a defensive pact with Russia would that have ensured they would avoid war with Germany? ie would the apparent weakness of France have made them a tempting target? (They had a smaller population and weaker armed forces than Germany.) No idea so I’d ask the historians for their opinions.

ps Stephen – wow for real? Fourth option is probably not to mislead the Zionists and Arabs at the same time as signing the Sykes-Picot agreement. What’s the defence for the Constantinople agreement whereby Russia, Britain and France agreed that Russia would end up with control of Constantinople, the Dardanelles and other bits of modern day Turkey?

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LFC 05.14.13 at 11:04 pm

j.c.h. @339
ok, I do not disagree w that. More one than consideration ‘explains’ Munich.

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Peter T 05.14.13 at 11:35 pm

Well, in 1938 and 39 the Soviet Union repeatedly approached France and Britain about a mutual pact guaranteeing current borders (note that this meant accepting the Soviet-Polish border, among others), with the explicit aim of deterring Germany. France and Britain properly refused to cut deals with a repellent regime or antagonise Germany. Worked out really well.

Re World War II, there are two things that need explaining, not one. The first is the weird character of the Hitler regime, with its obsession with race and its worship of extreme violence for its own sake. That’s a hard one. The other is general German militarism and expansionism, with its focus on the east – that has demonstrable roots in Wilhelmine Germany and support among across various influential right-wing groups across the spectrum right through the 20s and 30s.

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Mao Cheng Ji 05.15.13 at 6:23 am

“I thought part of what “explains” Munich was a desire, at least on the French side, to buy time for re-armament.”

Yes, I know, this is the western interpretation. Everywhere else (and not just in Russia, afaik), it’s interpreted as the green light to Germany for Drang nach Osten, and nothing else.

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Walt 05.15.13 at 7:24 am

Which way is Poland from Germany again?

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Mao Cheng Ji 05.15.13 at 10:17 am

345: not sure what you’re saying. It was indeed their obligation, but neither Britain nor France intervened to defend Poland. Were they still buying time for re-armament? Fine, if you say so. What do I care. Every culture is entitled to its own myths.

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Anderson 05.15.13 at 1:06 pm

Declaring war is indeed a strange way to buy time. What did Germany have in the west in September 1939?

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Mao Cheng Ji 05.15.13 at 2:49 pm

“Declaring war is indeed a strange way to buy time.”

Not necessarily, if it’s a phoney war.

“What did Germany have in the west in September 1939?”

Well, I don’t know any fancy historians, but wikipedia has this:

At the Nuremberg Trials, Alfred Jodl said that “if we did not collapse already in the year 1939 that was due only to the fact that during the Polish campaign, the approximately 110 French and British divisions in the West were held completely inactive against the 23 German divisions.”[5]

General Siegfried Westphal stated (“World at War” – France Falls – Thames TV), that if the French had attacked in force in September 1939 the German army “could only have held out for one or two weeks”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoney_War

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Anderson 05.15.13 at 3:04 pm

348: Right. (We need a separate punctuation mark for “rhetorical question.”) The war could have been, as the saying goes, over by Christmas.

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Bruce Wilder 05.15.13 at 5:26 pm

JQ

I was laughing in particular at the name Michael O’Hanlon. I think expertise ought to be real and not just made for television. People with real credentials, but dubious ethics are more problematic. Niall disqualifies himself. For me, the hiding of information about Iraq was of a piece with hiding expertise. Ymmv

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Jerry Vinokurov 05.15.13 at 9:02 pm

I’m just a humble observer to this particular debate, but I came across this piece in the NYT a few days ago and thought it relevant to the WWI discussion.

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Anderson 05.15.13 at 9:17 pm

351: thanks for the link! Good review. Makes the books sound more definitive than they probably are, but that’s journalism for ya.

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Anderson 05.15.13 at 9:21 pm

Sorry to double up, but this review of the same two books, by Holger Herwig, is not only more skeptical, but has a color photograph of Austrian troops.

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