A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Fore

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Fore

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:42 am

A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare
by Diana Preston
© Diana Preston 2015
Maps © Jeffrey L. Ward 2015





• Inside and Back Cover
• Spring 1915-The Legacy
• Chapter 1 "A Flash of Lightning from the North"
• Chapter 2 "Humanising War "
• Chapter 3 "The Law of Facts"
• Chapter 4 "A Scrap of Paper"
• Chapter 5 "The Worst of Contrabands"
• Chapter 6 "England Will Burn"
• Chapter 7 "A Most Effective Weapon"
• Chapter 8 "Something That Makes People Permanently Incapable of Fighting"
• Chapter 9 "Operation Disinfection"
• Chapter 10 "This Filthy Loathsome Pestilence"
• Chapter 11 "Solomon's Temple"
• Chapter 12 "They Got Us This Time, All Right"
• Chapter 13 "Wilful and Wholesale Murder"
• Chapter 14 "Too Proud to Fight"
• Chapter 15 "The Very Earth Shook"
• Chapter 16 "Order, Counter-Order, Disorder!"
• Chapter 17 "A Gift of Love"
• Chapter 18 "Do You Know Anything About Gas?"
• Chapter 19 "Zepp and a Portion of Clouds"
• Chapter 20 "Remember the Lusitania"
• Chapter 21 "Each One Must Fight On to the End"
• Chapter 22 "Weapons of Mass Destruction"
• Appendix The Lusitania Controversies
• Acknowledgments
• Notes and Sources
• Bibliography
• Index
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:44 am



Image Image



Inside Cover

Poison gas, the torpedo, the zeppelin -- Diana Preston offers a startling new window onto onto World War I with her chronicle of the birth of weapons of mass destruction.

Between April 22 and May 30, 1915, Western civilization was shocked. World War I was already appalling in its brutality, but it had until then been fought on the battlefield and by rules long agreed by convention. Suddenly those rules were abandoned when Germany forever altered the way war would be fought. On April 22, at Ypres, German canisters spewed poison gas at French and Canadian soldiers in their trenches; on May 7, the German submarine U-20, without warning, torpedoed the passenger liner Lusitania, killing 1,198 civilians; and on May 31, a German zeppelin began the first aerial bombardment of London and its inhabitants. Each of these actions violated rules of war carefully agreed to at the Hague Conventions of 1898 and 1907 and were deliberately breached by Germany in an attempt to spread terror and force the Allies to surrender. While that failed, the psychological damage caused by these attacks far outweighed the casualties. The era of weapons of mass destruction had dawned.

While each of these momentous events has been chronicled in histories of the war, celebrated historian Diana Preston links them for the first time, revealing the dramatic stories and the personalities behind them through the eyes of those who were there -- whether making the decisions to use the weapons or experiencing their horrifying effect in the trenches, on board the Lusitania or on the streets of London. Placing the attacks in the context of the centuries-old debate over what constitutes "just war," Preston shows how, in their aftermath, the other combatants felt the necessity to develop extreme weapons of their own. In our current time of terror, when weapons of mass destruction are once again implemented and threatened and wartime atrocities abound in a very different kind of conflict, the vivid story of their birth is of great relevance.


Diana Preston is an acclaimed historian and author of the definitive Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy, Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology), The Boxer Rebellion, A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, and The Dark Defile: Britain's Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842, among other works of narrative history. She and her husband, Michael, live in London.



Back Cover:

Praise for Diana Preston

"A fitting monument to a multitudinous loss." -- John Updike, The New Yorker, on Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

"A book as majestic as its subject ... Preston is a ... stylish and elegant writer whose prose carries one along on waves of excitement." -- Chicago Sun-Times on Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

"Preston's gifts as a writer of narrative history place her in the company of Barbara Tuchman and a handful of other historians." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer on Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy

"Offers a novel and remarkably human perspective on greater and lesser stars in the atomic firmament and the ways they influenced each other ... Preston's achievement is a rare one." -- San Francisco Chronicle on Before the Fallout

"In a swashbuckling spirit, armchair adventurers will savor [it]. But armchair historians will too." -- The Wall Street Journal on A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:00 am

Spring 1915 -- The Legacy

During peacetime a scientist belongs to the world but during wartime he belongs to his country.

-- The words of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Prize-winning German chemist who developed poison gas as a weapon and personally supervised the world's first use of it on April 22, 1915, in a chlorine gas attack by the German army against French and Canadian troops at Ypres. Haber is later said to have commented: "In no future war will the military be able to ignore poison gas. It is a higher form of killing."

Lusitania. Missing a baby girl, fifteen months old. Very fair curly hair and rosy complexion. In white woollen jersey and white woollen leggings. Tries to walk and talk. Please send any information to Miss Browne, Queens House, Queenstown.

-- Notice in a shop window in Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland, seeking information about a child lost in the torpedoing without warning on May 7, 1915, by the German submarine U-20 of the British Cunard liner Lusitania with the loss of 1,198 people including 128 citizens of the then-neutral United States.

The principal objective is extremely simple and thoroughly German. They wish to kill as many people and to destroy as much property as they possibly can.

-- Editorial in the Times, June 2, 1915, commenting on the first aerial bombing raid on London on May 31, 1915, by a German zeppelin.

THESE QUOTATIONS ENCAPSULATE three milestone events that occurred in a single six-week period during the initial year of the First World War and forever changed the nature of warfare. Each of the three was important in its own right. By the end of the war nearly 30 percent of German artillery shells contained poison gas, and gas was a major component of all belligerents' armories and strategies arousing particular fear and aversion as it still does today. The sinking of the Lusitania highlighted the potency of the submerged submarine as a commerce raider capable of destroying large tonnages of merchant shipping. This would be demonstrated both later in the First World War and in the Battle of the Atlantic in the Second World War when U-boats came close to cutting off imports of food and war materiel to Britain. In geopolitical terms the Lusitania was described as failing to bring two hundred U.S. civilians to Liverpool in 1915 but in 1917 bringing two million U.S. soldiers to France. This was because it provoked a long-running dispute between the United States and Germany about the latter's submarine tactics that led to the U.S. declaration of war in April 1917, and consequently and inexorably to Germany's defeat. The bombing raids on London's civilians were the precursor to the Second World War German blitz on London and the Allied destruction by area bombing of Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo.

However, viewed together, the three attacks acquire even greater significance and resonance. They represent a cataclysmic clash between the laws on the conduct of warfare laid down in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 under which all three were illegal and the new weapons developed by technology under the impetus of war. In doing so they epitomized the sharper edge science had given to the eternal dilemma as to how far the ends can ever justify the means. They also posed the question how the laws of war could be universally rather than unilaterally enforced, particularly given that in agreeing the Hague Conventions, politicians had felt compelled to ignore the pragmatic reservations of men such as British admiral "Jacky" Fisher, American admiral Alfred Mahan, and German admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. Fisher, the father of the Dreadnought battleship and a delegate at the first Hague Conference, summed up such views: "The humanising of war, you might as well talk about humanising hell! The essence of war is violence!"

The British and their allies had been forewarned of each attack. German army deserters and Allied agents dearly indicated the imminent probability of a gas attack on the western front near Ypres, providing considerable and -- as it turned out -- accurate detail. Indeed, the prospect of the use of gas was so widely discussed that the Times reported it thirteen days before it was deployed. The German embassy in Washington placed an advertisement in the American newspapers on the day the Lusital1ia sailed from New York warning passengers against traveling on British ships. In the New York Times it appeared next to Cunard's announcement of the Lusital1ia's schedule. The British Admiralty knew separately from decoded German targeting information that the Lusitania was at risk. The British authorities had recognized the potential for zeppelin raids on London from the beginning of the war.

Nevertheless, the authorities took little action to forestall these known threats. In part this was due to the relatively few defensive measures available at this stage in the war (no gas masks, no depth charges, no sonar, no fast-climbing fighters) and in part due to complacency. Even more significantly, those in high positions refused to believe in the face of all the evidence that Germany's political leaders and its military commanders would countenance the unleashing of attacks that in addition to being illegal would shatter long-cherished concepts of honor, decency, and "civilized" behavior in warfare.

Thus each attack was condemned roundly not only by the Allies but by most neutral opinion. In the press, banner headlines and editorials accused Germany of barbarism and "frightfulness." The latter -- a translation of the German word Schrecklichkeit and often placed in quotation marks -- was rapidly becoming shorthand for what were perceived as Germany's brutal methods of waging war. Reporting the gas attack at Ypres, the Observer deplored the use of "a poison-mixture patented by German frightfulness." On the sinking of the Lusitania it commented that "while the Germans think there is the least possibility that superiority in 'frightfulness' may save them, 'frightfulness' will continue to rage with increasing and extending virulence." The Washington Herald ruled that the Germans who were guilty of the "frightfulness against Belgium were the same who sank the Lusitania" while the New York Nation denounced the sinking as Germany's "latest display of frightfulness." In a similar vein, the Guardian called the first air raid on London "a piece of 'frightfulness.' "

The motivation for the attacks was the desire by the German government under Kaiser Wilhelm II to break the stalemate in the war and to achieve a quick victory before their enemies could ful1y mobilize their greater economic and military resources. Part of the attraction of the new weapons to the German authorities was indeed the potential of their "frightfulness" to cause mass panic not only among troops but also civilians, thus forcing their opponents to make peace. Although they failed in this aim, the attacks did indeed have an immense psychological effect disproportionate to the initial casualties incurred. Henceforth no one -- whether a member of the armed forces or a civilian or even a neutral -- could feel or be safe from attack without warning from air, land, or sea, however far they were from the battlefield, whatever they were doing, day or night.

As a consequence of these six weeks in 1915 no technology thereafter would be considered too indiscriminate to deploy in warfare. When Fritz Haber oversaw the release of gas over enemy trenches, science lost any innocence it had retained. Using the childhood argument "They started it!" the Allies swiftly followed their enemies in the use of poison gas, pursuing military victory at the price of legitimacy. The age of weapons of mass destruction had dawned when a single attacker or a small group in comparative safety, at a distance and often unseen, could launch at the press of a filing button or the touch of a bomb release a weapon that could kill thousands.

Hitherto-held concepts of morality had clashed with technology and political and military expediency and lost. We still feel the consequences today as the international community struggles to protect civilians in warfare and to regulate the use of weapons such as poison gas still deemed too "frightful" or "barbaric" to be deployed. A 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal about the civil war in Syria headlined SYRIA'S GAS ATTACK ON CIVILIZATION affirmed that "it takes a barbarian to employ poison gas." It could have been written in 1915 with the simple substitution of "Germany" for "Syria."
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:03 am

CHAPTER ONE: "A Flash of Lightning from the North"

IN EARLY TIMES warfare was total, constrained only by limits of weapons technology, transport, and communication. No distinction was made between combatants and civilians. Defeated enemies might be sacrificed to gods or enslaved, women raped and/or forced into marriage. Captured cities were looted and destroyed. Territory was taken by right of conquest. Scorched-earth policies where countryside and dwellings were razed were common, for example, in the long Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta in the late fifth century B.C.E.

However, as societies developed, they began to think about regulating the conduct of war. Several verses from chapter 20 of the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy show the beginning of such thinking:

When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it ... If it makes thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it. And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies ...

When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege.

The next chapter of Deuteronomy stipulates that a victor may take a "beautiful" captive woman if he has "a desire unto her" but thereafter "if you have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her."

In the sixth century B. C. E. , in chapter 2 of his classic book on the art of war, Sun Tzu advises that captive warriors must be kindly treated and kept but suggests that the taking of booty should be permitted to maintain the morale of troops. In the first century B. C. E. the Roman orator, lawyer, and politician Cicero praised the conduct of wars that was "mild and marked with no unnecessary cruelty" while again allowing the destruction or seizure of enemy property.

In time, Christian thinkers began to discuss the justification for and conduct of wars at least when they were between Christians. Both Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C. E.) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 C. E.) considered what constituted a "just" war. Saint Augustine thought that war was a crime if fought "with a malicious intent to destroy, a desire to dominate, with fierce hatred and furious vengeance." Conversely, it became a moral duty if fought "in a just cause" to turn wrong into right. Saint Thomas Aquinas believed war could be justified provided three conditions were satisfied: that there was a just cause, that it was begun on proper authority, and that it was waged with the right intention for "the advancement of good or the avoidance of evil" -- conditions sufficiently general to leave considerable room for debate.

In the Islamic tradition the first caliph, Abu Bakr, suggested "rules for guidance on the battlefield" including: "Do not commit treachery ... Do not mutilate dead bodies ... Do not kill women or children or an aged infirm person ... Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees ... Do not slaughter [your enemy's] sheep or camels except for food ... Do not destroy an inhabited place." This guidance amplified the Koran itself which requires that in combat Muslims only strike back in self-defense against those who strike against them and, once the enemy ceases to attack, Muslims also should stop fighting.

Over centuries in Europe a system of uncoded customs and traditions concerning war evolved covering matters such as the status of treaties and ambassadors, and arrangements for the safe conduct of the latter together with heralds and other envoys. However, they did little to mitigate the horrors of warfare for the individual soldier or civilian. These reached a peak in the Thirty Years War starting in 1618 between the Catholics of the Holy Roman Empire and their neighboring Protestant states, with other countries such as Sweden and France also intervening. Armies routinely lived off the land, killing, raping, and looting, even digging up graveyards for the jewels buried with the dead. After the capture of Magdeburg, a center of Lutheranism, by the Catholic general Count Tilly, the city was destroyed and some twenty-five thousand of its thirty thousand inhabitants killed, the majority of the survivors being women who had been taken to the enemy camp to be raped. Even when order was restored the few surviving males were forced to buy back their womenfolk and ransom themselves. Those unable to do so had to march with their captors as forced laborers.

Writing during this period the Dutch jurist and diplomat Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) published a series of works that make him usually considered "the father of international law." One of his early works, De Mare Liberum, dealt with the freedom of the seas, suggesting they were open to all to conduct their trade -- a proposition adopted by the Dutch but opposed by other thinkers and indeed nations, such as the British, who argued that the sea could be annexed by a state just as land could be. Disputes about free trade and freedom of the seas led to two Anglo-Dutch wars in the mid-seventeenth century after the English forbade any goods from entering their country except on an English ship. States reached a compromise in the early eighteenth century that the extent of the sea to which a nation could lay claim was the distance that a cannon shot could travel to protect it, which in turn evolved into the three-mile territorial limit. Nevertheless, the freedom of the seas and the ability of belligerents and others to impose restrictions on it remained a subject of controversy through the Napoleonic Wars and into the First World War, being among other things a prime cause of the Anglo-American War of 1812 and a source of tension between the Union side and Britain in the American Civil War.

Grotius's major work was, however, De jure belli ac pads (About the law of war and peace) published in 1625, and prompted Grotius said by his belief "that there is a common law among nations which is valid alike for war and in war ... Throughout the Christian world I observed a lack of restraint in relation to war ... I observed that men rush to war for slight causes, or no cause at all, and that when arms have once been taken up there is no longer any respect for law divine or human; it is as if in accordance with a general decree, frenzy had openly been let loose by the committing of all crimes." His work was in three volumes; the first two looked at the justification for war, the third at its conduct. Grotius quoted a comment from Cicero that "people are apt to call lawful what they can 00 with impunity" and then argued that what they should think about is not the rigor of the law but what is "becoming to one's character." He maintained that humanity and morality are as crucial to the declaration and conduct of war as to any other sphere of life and he recognized three "just causes" for war -- self-defense, reparation of injury, and punishment -- and argued that once war has begun all parties should act humanely and are bound to do so whether or not their cause is just.

Over the next two centuries debates continued about the legitimacy of the causes and conduct of war, interacting toward the end of that period with the concept of the "civilized" nation as opposed to the barbarian one, which had developed in discussions about the United States Constitution as well as in Europe. (The earliest use of the word "civilization" in its modern sense dates from the late 1750s.) By the mid-nineteenth century a fairly general consensus had emerged about the justification for wars between civilized nations. Much more latitude was at least tacitly given to the treatment of "barbarian" states and individuals.

Few would have dissented from the definition of a just war quoted by an Englishman, Henry Lushington, in opposing his country's first (and disastrous) intervention in Afghanistan in 1838-42:

The received code of international morality is not even in the nineteenth century very strict. One principle, however, seems to be admitted in the theory, if not the practice of civilized men, that an aggressive war -- a war undertaken against unoffending parties with a view to our own benefit only -- is unjust, and conversely that a war to be just must partake the character of a defensive war. It may be defensive in various ways ... either preventing an injury which it is attempted to inflict, or of exacting reparation for one inflicted, and taking the necessary security against its future infliction but in one way or other defensive it must be.

Another major step in the codification of laws about war followed what was intended to be a business trip by thirty-one-year-old Henry Dunant, a chubby banker from Geneva, to visit Emperor Napoleon III of France. At the time Napoleon was leading his army with that of his Piedmontese allies against the forces of Austro-Hungary commanded by their emperor Franz Ferdinand. On June 24, 1859, the two armies clashed at Solferino on the north Italian plains in the last major battle in Europe fought under the direct and personal command of reigning monarchs. The French and their allies were the victors but more than thirty-five thousand men from both sides lay dead or wounded when Dunant arrived that evening. At sunrise the next day, Dunant went to the battlefield and was appalled: "Corpses were strewn over roads, ditches, ravines, thickets and fields; the approaches to Solferino were literally thick with dead ... The wounded ... were ghostly pale ... The most badly hurt had a stupefied look ... Others were shaken by spasmodic trembling ... Some had gaping wounds already beginning to show infection [and] begged to be put out of their misery ... Many were disfigured, limbs stiffened, their bodies blotched with ghastly spots, their hands clawing at the ground." (The French had four veterinary surgeons for every one thousand horses but only one doctor for every one thousand men.) Dunant put aside all thoughts of business and began organizing help for the wounded, irrespective of nationality, with the assistance of some local people and four English tourists, a Parisian journalist, a French count, an ex-naval officer, and a chocolate manufacturer called Philippe Suchard.

On his return to Geneva Dunant wrote A Memory of Solferino and paid for the book's publication. In it he proposed societies of volunteers to help the wounded of all sides in war and "some international principles, conventional and sacred, which once agreed and ratified would form the basis for these national societies to help the wounded." His book was widely praised throughout Europe and beyond. Subsequently Dunant and four other prominent citizens of Geneva established an international committee for the relief of the wounded. The committee oversaw the establishment of kindred national organizations and then persuaded the Swiss government to sponsor an international governmental conference to draw up a convention on the treatment of the wounded.

The conference met in Geneva's town hall in August 1864. Within a fortnight the members had agreed to a convention requiring the care of all wounded irrespective of nationality, and neutrality for medical staff, hospitals, and ambulances. To ensure that humanitarian helpers and facilities were recognized, the delegates agreed on the use of a red cross on a white background (the Swiss flag's symbol with its colors reversed) to distinguish them. Quickly thereafter the national and international organizations became known as the Red Cross.

Although Britain and the United States were among the sixteen states represented at the conference, they were not among the first to sign up to the new convention. Florence Nightingale, who had done so much to improve the treatment of the wounded during Britain's war in the Crimea a few years previously, wrote that it would be "quite harmless for our government to sign ... It amounts to nothing more than a declaration that humanity to the wounded is a good thing. It is like an opera chorus. And if the principal European characters sing,

We never will he cruel more,
I am sure, if England likes to sing too,
I never will he cruel more,
I see no objection.

But it is like vows. People who keep a vow would do the thing without the vow. And if people will not do it without the vow they will not do it with."

Britain signed the convention in 1865. Clara Barton, who had performed a similar role to Florence Nightingale and emerged with equal heroine status from the Union side in the American Civil War, was an avid supporter and her advocacy was a major factor leading to the United States' ratification of the convention though not until March 1882. It is symptomatic either of the slow speed and extent of communication or the chauvinism of the inhabitants of Geneva and quite probably both that in their deliberations the five founding members of the International Committee claimed not to have known the details of either Nightingale's or Barton's work. They professed themselves similarly unaware of the "Sanitary Commission" that on the Union side in the U.S. Civil War had much improved the care of the wounded, establishing convalescent homes and a corps of stretcher bearers as well as regular inspection of hospitals.

The Union side also issued guidance to troops on the conduct of warfare, developed by Francis Lieber, a German-born university professor who had emigrated to the United States after being wounded at the Battle of Waterloo. He concluded that the destruction of people and property was acceptable if essential to victory; however, cruelty to prisoners of war, torture, use of poison, and wanton destruction as well as "any act of hostility which makes the return to peace unnecessarily difficult" were not. "Men who take up arms against one another in public war do not cease on this account to be moral beings responsible to one another, and to God."

The Civil War established another milestone in the law of war by the conviction and execution of Captain Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the Andersonville, Georgia, prisoner of war camp who was judged responsible for the death of Union soldiers in the camp "in violation of the laws and customs of war." The court set a precedent for future such trials by refusing to accept the validity of the defendant's plea that he was only following orders.

When in June 1866 Austro-Hungary and Prussia went to war, Louis Appia, one of the original five founding members of the International Committee wore the first Red Cross armband in Schleswig. By that time Henry Dunant had left the organization he had done so much to establish. He was never astute in commercial matters and probably distracted by the demands of his humanitarian work on his time and attention. In autumn 1865 one of his businesses -- a bank called Credit Genevois -- went into liquidation with large debts, and the bankruptcy court declared that Dunant had "knowingly swindled" shareholders. Dunant resigned from the Red Cross and departed Geneva forever, pursued by the malice of his creditors and more surprisingly by that of another of the five founding members, Gustave Moynier. Now the president of the organization, he had long felt animosity to Dunant, partly at least due to jealousy of his charisma and celebrity. Moynier did his best to rewrite the history of the Red Cross, expunging Dunant's name and contribution wherever he could and warning any who would listen against further involvement with him.

After the agreement of a humanitarian approach to those involved in war when it broke out, as the nineteenth century drew toward its close, public attention began to turn toward preventing wars or at the very least regulating the methods used in their conduct to comply with the concept of what civilized values permitted. Peace unions sprang up in industrialized countries and international peace congresses were held where individuals and groups such as the Quakers urged alternatives to war such as the use of arbitration to resolve disputes between nations. As early as 1874 a nongovernmental conference of experts held in Brussels produced a draft code of laws on war and in 18g4 the campaigning British journalist William Thomas ("W. T") Stead proposed that the great powers should jointly pledge not to increase their military budgets until the end of the century.

Nevertheless, what the French newspaper Le Temps called "a flash of lightning from the north" shocked governments on August 24, 1898, when entirely unexpectedly at his weekly meeting with foreign ambassadors in Saint Petersburg, the Russian foreign secretary Count Mikhail Muraviev handed to them a call on behalf of Czar Nicholas II for the convening of an international conference to consider "the grave problem" of the development of "military forces to proportions hitherto unknown." His note stated:

The intellectual and physical strength of the nations, labour and capital are for the major part diverted from their natural application and unproductively consumed. Hundreds of millions are devoted to acquiring terrible engines of destruction, which though today regarded as the last word of science, are destined tomorrow to lose all value in consequence of some fresh discovery in this field. National culture, economic progress and the production of wealth are either paralysed or checked in their development. Moreover, in proportion as the armaments of each power increase, so do they less and less fulfil the object which the government has set before themselves.

Many were surprised that such an initiative should come from autocratic, backward Russia. Some welcomed it as "an omen for the coming new century" or, as an American journalist wrote, possibly "the most momentous and beneficent movement in modern history -- in all history." W. T. Stead brought out a new weekly, War Against War, launched an international peace crusade, and toured European capitals urging support for the proposal. Most, however, looked cynically for the motive, agreeing with Britain's Prince of Wales that it was "some new dodge of that sly dog M[uraviev] who put it into the Tsar's head." The ailing Russian economy could not in their view finance the latest weapons and therefore Russia had decided on the initiative.

Germany, only united since 1871 following its victory over France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War in which it had seized from its defeated enemy the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, had none of Russia's economic worries but great political and imperial ambitions. The thirty-nine-year-old mercurial, sometimes vacillating, sometimes impulsively unreasoning Kaiser Wilhelm II, among whose titles was that of "Supreme War Lord," was stunned that Nicholas had "put a brilliant weapon into the hands of our democrats and opposition. Imagine a monarch dissolving his regiments and handing over his towns to anarchists and democracy." He compared the invitation to the conference to a Spartan proposal during the Peloponnesian War that Athens agree not to rebuild its city walls and asked, "what will Krupp pay his workers with?" (Friedrich Alfred Krupp's company was then Europe's biggest business and at the forefront of artillery development.) Inclined as often to see issues between nations as personal ones between their rulers, Wilhelm alleged Nicholas was trying to steal the limelight from his own planned visit to Jerusalem. As a confidant of the kaiser put it, "he [Wilhelm] simply cannot stand someone else coming to the front of the stage."

However, with vibrant peace unions in many countries and with no desire to appear enemies of peace, all invited nations felt compelled to accept the czar's invitation even if many privately sympathized with the kaiser when he said, "I'll go along with the conference comedy but I'll keep my dagger at my side during the waltz."
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That

Postby admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:04 am

CHAPTER TWO: "Humanising War"

ONE HUNDRED AND eight delegates from twenty-six countries assembled in May 1899 in a red brick Dutch royal chateau -- "the House in the Woods" -- just outside The Hague, which as the capital of the Netherlands, a neutral country, the nations had chosen as the venue. Thus began the city's association with the laws of war, just as the conference in Geneva began that city's association with the Red Cross. The head of the American delegation, Andrew White, was not alone in thinking that no similar group had ever met "in a spirit of more hopeless scepticism as to any good result."

The agenda had two main components -- how to avoid war by the use of arbitration and the limitation of armaments, and how war should be conducted if it did break out. Each delegation had strict guidance from its government on how best to protect its interests. The British, for example, were told prohibiting or restricting innovations in weaponry would "favour the interests of savage nations and be against those of the more highly civilised."

Members of the press, soon to be considerably annoyed by being excluded from the formal sessions of the conference, and what would now be called "lobbyists" of all sorts thronged The Hague. The head of the German delegation, Count Munster, complained to his foreign minister, "The conference has brought here the political riffraff of the entire world, journalists of the worst type, baptised Jews like Bloch and female peace fanatics." In Munster's mind journalists "of the worst type" would have included W. T. Stead who was in The Hague to chronicle the conference and to campaign for his views. Ivan Bloch was a Russian railway magnate who believed that any future wars would be "suicide" and who was author of a newly published peace-promoting treatise in six volumes. Said to have influenced the czar, it prophesied the stalemate of trench warfare leading to a prolonged conflict whose intolerable human and economic costs would exhaust the belligerents or plunge them into social revolution. On the eve of the conference an international women's movement had organized demonstrations for peace in many of the countries involved and some of its members were in The Hague. Among the foremost female peace campaigners was the Czech Bertha von Suttner who considered peace "a condition that the progress of civilisation will bring about by necessity." The hotel in which she stayed for the conference flew a white flag in honor of her and her views.

Even mild-mannered Andrew White complained that "the queer letters and crankish proposals which come in every day are amazing ... The Quakers are out in full force ... The number of people with plans, schemes, notions, nostrums, whimsies of all sorts who press upon us and try to take our time, is enormous and when this is added to the pest of interviewers and photographers, life becomes serious indeed." To his regret the pressure of work imposed by the conference required that "for the first time in my life I have made Sunday a day of work."

White and the head of the British delegation, Sir Julian Pauncefote, both had members of their teams who were difficult to control and whose views were often at variance with their governmental instructions. Both the chief mavericks represented their country's navy. The Briton was fifty-eight- year-old Admiral Jacky Fisher, destined to play an important part in the events of spring 1915. From relatively humble beginnings -- his father was a failed coffee planter -- he had made a spectacular rise through the navy for which he advocated less bureaucracy, less ship painting, and far fewer time-wasting drills and in their place far more training, far better gunnery, heavier armaments, a broader officer-recruitment base, and a new emphasis on torpedoes and defenses against them.

Both charismatic and tactless, Fisher made friends and enemies equally quickly. He stood out at The Hague not only for his opinions but also for his white top hat and tireless skills on the dance floor. His language was colorful and exaggerated. The existence of politicians had "deepened his faith in Providence. How else could one explain Britain's continued existence as a nation?" His bold scrawl, usually in green ink, was full of exclamation marks, and double and triple underlinings, and he frequently admonished his addressee to burn his letters after reading to protect his confidences. He signed letters "Yours till hell freezes" and "Yours till charcoal sprouts."

At every opportunity Fisher derided the objective of humanizing war as naive:

The humanising of war? You might as well talk about humanising Hell! The essence of war is violence! Moderation in war is imbecility! ... I am not for war, I am for peace. That is why I am for a supreme Navy. The supremacy of the British Navy is the best security for the peace of the world ... If you rub it in both at home and abroad that you are ready for instant war ... and intend to be first in and hit your enemy in the belly and kick him when he is down and boil your prisoners in oil (if you take any) ... and torture his women and children, then people will keep clear of you.

He believed all nations wanted peace "but a peace that suits them." An enemy's realization of the horrors of war coupled with conviction about Britain's readiness to fight were the best deterrents of all. It was his duty, Fisher said, to see that his country, and in particular its navy, were prepared.

He was similarly dismissive of the delegates' debate about the freedom of the seas and the lights of "neutral shipping":

Suppose that war breaks out, am I am expecting to fight a new Trafalgar on the morrow. Some neutral colliers try to steam past us into the enemy's waters. If the enemy gets their coal into his bunkers, it may make all the difference in the coming fight. You tell me I must not seize these colliers. I tell you that nothing that you, or any power on earth, can say will stop me from sending them to the bottom, if I can in no other way keep their coal out of the enemy's hands; for to-morrow I am to fight the battle which will save or wreck the Empire. If I win it, I shall be far too big a man to be effected by protests about the neutral colliers; if I lose it, I shall go down with my ship ... and then protests will effect me still less.

Fisher was seconded in such opinions by another fifty-eight-year-old, the American naval delegate Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, already a renowned naval strategist. An admirer of Admiral Horatio Nelson, he had propounded in his 1890 book The Influence of Sea Power Upon History and subsequent works that "control of the sea, by maritime commerce and naval supremacy means predominant influence in the world ... [and] is the chief among the merely material elements in the power and prosperity of nations."

Andrew White in his summary of the conference observed that Mahan "prevented any lapses into sentimentality ... When he speaks the millennium fades and this stern severe actual world appears." Mahan reiterated that "the object of war was to smite the enemy incessantly and remorselessly and crush him by depriving him of the use of the sea," strangling the enemy into submission by cutting off his trade, including the neutral's right to trade with him. With such powerful opposing voices as Mahan and Fisher arguing against the conference's generally pacific purpose of introducing restrictions on warfare, the delegates thought it better to leave unaltered the by now time-honored body of custom and practice relating to war at sea known as the "Cruiser Rules," the origins of some parts of which dated back even beyond Grotius to the time of Henry VIII. Other parts, such as a ban on privateering, were more recent. [i] The consensus embodied in these "rules" prohibited enemy warships sinking on sight merchant vessels of whatever nationality. They had to be stopped and searched for "contraband" and only if contraband were found could they either be sunk -- after their crews had been given time to take to the boats -- or seized as prizes. To effect such searches warships were allowed to blockade their enemies' ports.

The delegates made no headway either on disarmament against broad and implacable opposition vociferously led by Germany, satisfying themselves with the platitudinous resolution "that the restriction of military budgets, which are at present a heavy burden on the world, is extremely desirable for the increase of the material and moral welfare of mankind." When the Russian delegation proposed that all states should agree "not to transform radically their guns nor to increase their calibres for a certain fixed period" the British objected that effective verification would be impossible since new armaments could easily be concealed. Captain Mahan opposed international control and verification in principle because they would breach national sovereignty.

During the long debates about arbitration Mahan stated his belief that "the great danger of undiscriminating advocacy of arbitration, which threatens even the cause it seeks to maintain, is that it may lead men to tamper with equity, soothing their conscience with the belief that war is so entirely wrong that beside it no other tolerated evil is wrong." Despite such objections, although no state would commit itself to put every dispute in which it became involved to arbitration, none wanted to be seen as warmongering. Consequently, the conference in its resolutions encouraged the use of arbitration and established at The Hague a permanent Court of Arbitration ready and willing to consider all cases submitted to it by those involved. Even the kaiser, who considered arbitration "a hoax" that a state could use to gain time to build up its forces to improve its position before war eventually began, felt forced to agree to the arbitration provision. However, in doing so he wrote in the margin of one of the relevant documents, "I consented to all this nonsense only in order that the Tsar should not lose face before Europe, in practice however I shall rely on God and my sharp sword! And I shit on all their decisions."

The conference did however make major progress in codifying the conduct of war once it broke out, agreeing to a convention on the laws of war on land. Among the key prohibitions were those against "poison or poisoned weapons"; killing or wounding "treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army"; declaring that "no quarter will be given"; employing "arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering"; destroying or seizing "the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war"; ... "the attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended; the pillage of a town or place even when taken by assault."

Neither these rules nor any other part of the Hague agreements spelled out specifically the position of civilians but rather relied on the consensus and the custom and usage evolved over the centuries as to their inviolability. Civilians were, however, implicitly covered by the catchall phrase that placed all caught up in warfare "under the protection and the rule of the principles of the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among civilised peoples, from the laws of humanity and the dictates of public conscience." Some of the other prohibitions, in particular that against bombardment of undefended places, provided them extra protection.

THE HAGUE CONFERENCE also considered banning certain weapons. At least since the Roman siege of the port of Syracuse in Sicily in the third century B. C. E. when Archimedes, one of the defenders, developed a crane-like claw designed to grapple Roman ships and a focused mirror system to blind their sailors and even burn their vessels, war has accelerated the pace of scientific and engineering development. The speed of innovation grew with the Industrial Revolution. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Napoleonic Wars saw the introduction of the shrapnel shell and the Congreve black-powder-fueled artillery rocket. By the middle of the century warships were becoming steam powered and iron clad; breechloading rifles were replacing muzzle-loading muskets; while the rifling of gun barrels was improving artillery. The U.S. Civil War brought innovations such as mechanical-fused land mines, machine guns and improved hand grenades, and the sinking of a Union warship by a man-propelled Confederate submarine. Alfred Nobel's inventions of dynamite and of smokeless powder -- the latter patented by him during the decade before the Hague Conference -- were among the latest developments to have a major effect on warfare. Smokeless powder, for example, allowed much greater visibility across the battlefield as well as permitting the concealment of artillery and increasing the range and accuracy of weapons.

Throughout history some weapons such as poison, which could be thought underhand or against the spirit of a fair or manly fight, have attracted popular revulsion. The Laws of Manu, the greatest of the ancient Hindu codes, prohibited Hindus from using poisoned arrows. Greeks and Romans customarily refrained from using poison or poisoned weapons, considering them abominable violations of nature and contrary to the laws of the gods. Often when new weapons were introduced, they too generated an outcry against their inhumanity. In 1132, the Lateran Council declared the crossbow and arbalest "un-Christian weapons." In 1139 Pope Innocent II again tried to ban the crossbow as too "murderous for Christian warfare." early three hundred years later the French Chevalier Bayard, usually considered the epitome of the fearless and faultless chivalrous knight, valiant, honorable, and merciful to all, was so incensed by the introduction of the unchivalrous musket that he ordered no quarter to be given to captured musketeers.

The Hague Conference considered in detail three potentially inhumane weapons -- the Dum-Dum bullet, asphyxiating or poison gas, and air-launched projectiles, that is, bombs. The prohibition of the use of the submarine in warfare had been proposed by Count Muraviev on behalf of Russia during the advance discussion of the agenda and was also debated on the sidelines of the conference but was not taken further.

The Dum-Dum or expanding bullet was the only one of the three that had actually been used effectively in warfare. Developed at and named after the British Du m-Du m arsenal near Calcutta, the bullets exploded and expanded within the body of the victim, considerably increasing the damage to surrounding tissue and bone. All nations at the conference were content to ban such bullets except Britain and the United States. The British army delegate, General Sir John Ardagh, told in his instructions from London "you have a difficult hand to play," underlined the distinction still then drawn between "civilised nations" and "barbarians."

The civilised soldier when shot recognises that he is wounded and knows that the sooner he is attended to the sooner he will recover. He lies down on his stretcher and is taken off the field to his ambulance where he is dressed ... by his doctor or his Red Cross Society according to the ... rules of the game as laid down in the Geneva Convention.

Your fanatical barbarian, similarly wounded, continues to rush on, spear or sword in hand; and before you have had time to represent to him that his conduct is a flagrant violation of the understanding relative to the proper course for the wounded man to follow -- he may have cut off your head.

Hence the requirement for the Dum-Dum bullet to knock down the "barbarian" immediately and once and for all. Despite British and American reservations, the other conference members agreed to ban expanding bullets.

Poison gas had never been used effectively in battle although the ancient world had experimented with what might be called "chemical warfare." The Spartans used sulfur fumes while besieging Plataea during the Peloponnesian Wars while in the third century C. E. Sassanian soldiers burned bitumen and sulfur in an attempt to asphyxiate their Roman adversaries. In 1456 the Christian defenders of Belgrade used a toxic cloud said to contain arsenic to repulse the Muslim Ottoman Turks. A commentator writing about it a century later described the event as "a sad business. Christians must never use so murderous a weapon against other Christians. Still it is quite in place against Turks and other miscreants." Leonardo da Vinci suggested throwing "chalk, fine sulphide of arsenic, and powdered verdigris among enemy ships by means of small mangonels" so that "all those who inhale the powder ... will become asphyxiated." The Taino Indians of Hispaniola hurled gourds filled with ashes and ground chili peppers at the invading Spanish conquistadores to create a stinging smoke screen.

In Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, Thomas Cochrane, naval captain later to be admiral, first proposed the use of poison gas. While visiting Sicily -- then the world's major sulfur producer -- he noticed how, as sulfur was heated to separate it from the earth from which it had been dug, hot, toxic gases -- in fact sulfur dioxide -- were created which destroyed surrounding vegetation. People were forbidden to sleep within three miles of the sulfur works. Cochrane speculated about loading "stink ships" with sulfur and coal, anchoring them close to enemy positions and setting them alight to create fumes that would annihilate "every animal function."

The Admiralty eventually dismissed his proposals as impracticable. Many years later, after falling out with the Admiralty, a conviction for fraud, and a remarkable career commanding successively the Beets of Greece, Brazil, and Chile, culminating in a pardon and reinstatement in the British navy, Cochrane returned to the idea of poison gas. In 1846 the Admiralty this time responded that using sulfur gas would not "accord with the feelings and principles of civilised warfare," Furthermore, if Britain deployed it others would surely follow.

In 1854 during the Crimean War, the now near-octogenarian Cochrane tried again, proposing the use of stink ships to expel the Russians from the Baltic port of Kronstadt. Anticipating counterarguments about "civilized war," he put forward an argument often to be used to defend highly destructive new weapons: "No conduct that brought to a speedy termination a war which might otherwise last for years, and be attended by terrible bloodshed ... could be called inhuman." As others would do, he also suggested that advanced weapons such as poison gas would have a deterrent effect: "The most powerful means of averting all future war would be the introduction of a method of fighting which, rendering all vigorous defence impossible, would frighten every nation from running the risk of warfare at all." A secret committee rejected his ideas, some members calling them "so horrible" that "no honourable combatant" could resort to them.

Undaunted, the following year Cochrane urged the use of his "secret weapons" to dislodge the Russians from the Crimean pod of Sevastopol and asked for: "Four or five hundred tons of sulphur and two thousand tons of coke" to vaporize it as well as "a couple of thousand barrels" of tar and a large amount of straw, hay, and firewood to create smoke. He also suggested Boating naphtha near Sevastopol and then "igniting it by means of a ball of potassium." By these means, he assured Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, Sevastopol's outer defenses would be "smoked, sulphured and blown up" and "thousands of lives" saved. Sevastopol fell soon afterward without chemical intervention.

While the Crimean War was still under way, British chemist Lyon Playfair [sic] recommended firing shells filled with toxic cacodyl cyanide at Russian ships since "such a shell going between the decks of a ship would render the atmosphere irrespirable and poison the men if they remained at their guns." When the government suggested this was a low trick akin to poisoning the enemy's water supply Playfair responded with another argument often to be used to defend poison gas: "It is considered a legitimate mode of warfare to fire shells with molten metal which scatters among the enemy, and produces the most frightful modes of death. Why a poisonous vapour which would kill men without suffering is to be considered illegitimate is incomprehensible."

The American Civil War saw several proposals for the use of poison gas but again none were taken up. Chemist William C. Tilden contacted Union general Ulysses S. Grant with "a scheme for producing chemically a means of settling wars quickly by making them terribly destructive." Grant responded, as the British Admiralty had to Cochrane, that "such a terrific agency for destroying human life should not be permitted ... by the civilized nations of the world." In 1862, New Yorker John Doughty sent the U.S. War Department his proposal for a projectile to clear Confederate troops from fortified positions. For the first time it suggested the use of the chlorine gas that was to be used so destructively on April 22, 1915: "Chlorine is a gas so irritating in its effects upon the respiratory system, that a small quantity diffused in the atmosphere produces incessant and uncontrollably violent coughing -- It is 2 -1/2 times heavier than the atmosphere and when subjected to a pressure of 60 pounds to the inch it is condensed into a liquid, its volume being reduced many hundred times. A shell holding two or three quarts would therefore contain many cubic feet of the gas."

The Hague Conference agreed to a ban on asphyxiating gases that in its detailed clauses was framed against projectiles containing them. The only dissent came from the United States at the urging of Captain Mahan who argued that not enough was known about the potential use of gas as a weapon to ban it and thus to place restrictions on the "genius" of U.S. citizens "in inventing and producing new weapons of war" was not justified. Besides, he said, being asphyxiated by gas could be no worse than four or five hundred sailors choking on seawater with only the remotest chance of rescue after their ships had been torpedoed by a submarine.

The proposal to ban projectiles or explosives launched from the air also proved contentious. As early as the seventeenth century an Italian Jesuit, Francesco Lana de Terzi, had imagined a diabolical air machine that would fly over helpless civilian populations, lobbing flaming and explosive weapons upon their heads. A century later, in his book The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, the lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson asked: "What would be the security of the good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them from the sky? Against an army sailing through the clouds neither walls, nor mountains, nor sea, could afford security. A flight of northern savages might hover in the wind, and light with irrepressible violence upon the capital of a fruitful region."

The first major breakthrough in making such flying machines reality came in 1783 when a fashionable crowd in France watched a manned hot air balloon, built by the Montgolfier brothers and powered by a wood fire, take off and fly some five miles. Among the spectators was Benjamin Franklin who, when a French officer derided the balloon as a mere toy, amusing but useless, replied, "Of what use is a new-born baby?" The same year, another Frenchman, Jacques Charles, piloted the world's first manned hydrogen-filled balloon which traveled over twenty miles in two hours. A few years later, during the Napoleonic Wars, people in southern England scanned the skies, alarmed by rumors of giant balloons crossing the Channel to deposit French soldiers, guns, and even horses on British soil.

That never happened, but balloons found uses in warfare. During the American Civil War, a Union army Balloon Corps used tethered balloons for observation. A young German officer, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, took his first flight in a balloon in 1863, courtesy of the Union army. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) the French used balloons to convey people and mail out of a besieged Paris. By the time of the Hague Conference a more sophisticated "lighter than air" flying machine -- the powered airship -- was under development, pioneered by von Zeppelin who would give his name to it. By 1874 he had already decided that his craft "must have the dimensions of a big ship. The gas-chambers so calculated as to carry the machine ... Elevation will then be obtained by starting the engine."

Von Zeppelin regarded war "as the main study of [his] life" and had pleaded with the German army to help fund his research into "dirigible balloons" as "a very important instrument in modern warfare" but had no success until 1896 when the endorsement of the Union of German Engineers persuaded the authorities to finance his building of a prototype on the shores of Lake Constance. On July 2, 1900 -- barely nine months after the end of the Hague Conference -- the "mad count," as the locals called him, would reveal his gargantuan creation to the world.

Though delegates at the first Hague Conference were mostly skeptical about airships -- and the even more embryonic airplanes -- many were reluctant to restrict their countries' options by agreeing to a ban on launching projectiles from the skies. Captain William Crozier, the U.S. Army's representative, on Mahan's advice objected to a prohibition unlimited by time, arguing that such weapons were untried and that the further development of dirigible airships or aircraft might make them valuable in warfare and in the long run shorten conflicts and spare lives. As a result, the conference agreed unanimously to ban the launching of weapons from the air but for five years only.

As they concluded their ten weeks of discussions, The Hague delegates expressed a wish that a further conference should be held in due course.



i. The delegates acknowledged the importance of Grotius's contribution to their task when they visited his grave in nearby Delft one day to lay wreaths on his tomb.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That

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CHAPTER THREE: "The Law of Facts"

THE AGREEMENTS AT The Hague had little immediate practical effect. Shortly after the conference, in October 1899 the Boer War broke out between the British and the Boer republics of South Africa. The cause was partly lights for non-Boers in the Boer republics but perhaps more about the control over the diamond fields of the Rand. When the British in due course won, Life summed up, "A small boy with diamonds is no match for a large burglar with experience." The British initially suffered a series of heavy defeats but eventually began to win set-piece battles, causing the Boers to adopt guerrilla tactics. To combat these and prevent supplies and assistance reaching the Boer fighters, the British burned down Boer farms, confiscated their Hocks and crops, and interned Boer women, children, and old men in what were to become known as "concentration camps." Although the intention of the camps was only to isolate the Boer guerrilla fighters from the support of their families, conditions were poor and disease was rampant so that twenty-five thousand internees died.

Reports on the conditions by an Englishwoman, Emily Hobhouse, prompted an outcry in Britain. Although one British civil servant described Hobhouse's campaign as "agitation ... raised by a few un sexed and hysterical women ... prepared to sacrifice everything for notoriety," the British parliamentary opposition led by the Liberal Henry Campbell-Bannerman took up the cause. "When," he asked, "is a war not a war?" "When it is carried out by methods of barbarism," he answered himself. Conditions in the camps were quickly improved. Nevertheless at home and abroad the British continued to be accused of imprisoning and ill-treating civilians contrary to the customs and usages of war. What the camps showed for certain was the difficulty of deciding who was a civilian and true noncombatant, rather than an active guerrilla (the Boers did not wear uniforms) or supplier of assistance to the fighting Boers, as well as the limits on the means of stopping such supplies.

The United States was then fighting its own war in the Philippines against a guerrilla rebellion demanding independence after the recent American seizure of the country from the Spanish. The Americans faced the same difficulties in distinguishing insurgents from civilians. Both sides committed atrocities. The Americans used expanding bullets. On occasion, in direct contravention of the Hague principles, they gave orders that no quarter should be given. When an American soldier was found with his throat cut villages were burned down and every inhabitant killed. American troops used the "water cure" and other torture to secure information. Although the United States, like Britain in South Africa, emerged victorious, neither country could look with any satisfaction on the conduct of their campaigns, their fiercest critics coming from within. Among the leaders of the opposition in the United States to the Philippine war, and an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1900, was William Jennings Bryan, who would be American secretary of state when the First World War broke out in 1914.

In 1900, the world had also seen the assembly of its first international force. In some ways a forerunner of UN and NATO police actions, its purpose was to relieve the foreign legations besieged in Beijing by Boxer rebels enjoying the support, at least for a time, of the Chinese court and the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi. The force consisted of contingents from the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Japan, and Germany under a German commander. When the kaiser addressed his own troops leaving for China he departed from his prepared text: "My men, you are about to meet a crafty, well-armed foe! Meet him and beat him! Give him no quarter! Take no prisoners! Kill him when he falls into your hands! Even as a thousand years ago the Huns under their King Attila made such a name for themselves as still resounds in terror through legend and fable, so may the name of Germany resound through Chinese history ... that never again will a Chinese dare to so much as look askance at a German." As a consequence, his future opponents would frequently dub German troops "Huns."

When the international army eventually relieved the Beijing legations and captured the city, the majority of the foreigners indulged in an orgy of looting. But that was not the worst. A British officer described how "Every Chinaman ... was treated as a Boxer by the Russian and French troops and the slaughter of men women and children ... was revolting." The French commander, General Henri Frey, when challenged about "the frequent occurrence of disgraceful outrages upon women" by his men, responded dismissively: "It is impossible to restrain the gallantry of the French soldier."

In February 1904, without any declaration of war Japan attacked Russia in a dispute over their competing ambitions in Korea and Chinese Manchuria. In the fighting that followed, the Japanese navy, with its modem guns, torpedoes, and mines, first destroyed the Russian Far East Fleet and then at Tsushima -- the greatest sea battle since Trafalgar in 1805 -- the Russian Baltic Fleet, which had sailed halfway around the world to its doom. Early in its voyage to the Far East, the Baltic Fleet had at the Dogger Bank in the North Sea fired on British trawlers, sinking one of them and killing two fishermen under the fanciful impression that the Japanese were confronting them. The incident produced a major crisis with Britain, only resolved when the two countries put the dispute to arbitration in The Hague. On land, in fighting that saw the first extensive use of barbed wire to defend positions, the Japanese defeated the Russians and captured Port Arthur in Manchuria -- Russia's prized and recently occupied only eastern warm-water port. Captured Russian soldiers suffered greatly at Japanese hands.

In July 1905 U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt offered to mediate between the Russians and the Japanese, both of whom were nearly exhausted militarily and economically. At a meeting under his chairmanship at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, they agreed to a peace treaty. Soon afterward the United States also played a leading role in persuading the kaiser to agree to a peace conference to resolve a crisis between Germany and France over Morocco. In 1906 Roosevelt, the advocate of speaking softly but carrying a big stick, was awarded the fifth Nobel Prize.

Although his inventions had produced major advances in weapons technology, Alfred Nobel had been an advocate of arbitration and deeply interested in the peace movement. (The peace activist Bertha von Suttner had briefly been his secretary.) On his death in 1896 he left most of his fortune to establish five prizes to be awarded irrespective of nationality or sex for eminence in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace promotion. The first peace prize in 1901 had gone to Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, rehabilitating his reputation. [i]

Politics were also changing in Europe. Shaken by its poor military performance in the Boer War and feeling threatened by the pace of German armament, Britain in 1904 concluded an informal alliance or "entente" with the French. King Edward VII had prepared the ground for the alliance by a royal visit to Paris. As Prince of Wales he had always been a lover of all things French, in particular the food and the women. A Parisian brothel owner proudly displayed the chair where he had habitually sat to select his woman for the evening. Now, as king, he showed himself a tactful diplomat. Following the entente with France, Britain moved toward a similar understanding with Russia, allied with France since 1892 in a marriage of convenience between autocracy and republicanism. The negotiations were protracted, fraught with long-standing suspicions and antagonisms on both sides, particularly about conflicting ambitions in Persia, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, but in 1907 an entente was finally agreed.

In 1904, the new Conservative British prime minister, Arthur Balfour, appointed Admiral Jacky Fisher as First Sea Lord, the professional head of the Royal Navy. The following year Fisher revolutionized the naval arms race by ordering the first of a new generation of battleships, the steam-turbine- driven, eighteen-thou sand-ton HMS Dreadnought, which carried ten twelve-inch guns and rendered all other battleships obsolete at a stroke. Germany immediately set out to build similar ships of its own and to widen the Kiel Canal to allow them a swift and secure transit from their Baltic bases to the North Sea. Whether by coincidence or not, the work on the canal was finally completed on July 23, 1914, barely two weeks before the outbreak of war with Britain.

In the midst of these developments Theodore Roosevelt, pressed by U.S. peace campaigners, used his and the United States' emerging prestige to promote the convening of a second Hague Conference. Although none of the nations rushed to accept Roosevelt's proposal, just as in the case of the first conference none felt able to refuse and so on June 15, 1907, delegates assembled again at The Hague. This time 256 men represented forty-four countries.

By then Great Britain had a new Liberal government led by Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Roosevelt, becoming convinced that "aggressive" Germany "despises the Hague Conference and the whole Hague idea," was concerned lest Campbell-Bannerman and his colleagues be "carried away by sentimental ideas" and so "go to any maudlin extreme at the Hague Conference." He need not have worried. Although to please their Liberal supporters Campbell- Bannerman's government proposed placing disarmament on the agenda, supported by Roosevelt for the sake of U.S. public opinion, Germany, Austro-Hungary, and this time Russia protested. When the British did raise disarmament at the conference itself, they did so very briefly and the topic was quickly disposed of, all agreeing that it was for the future when it would merit "further serious study."

The Hague Arbitration Tribunal had since 1899 successfully resolved a number of international disputes voluntarily submitted to it, the first being between the United States and Mexico over church property and another the Anglo-Russian dispute over the sinking of the British trawlers in the North Sea. During the 1907 conference, Andrew Carnegie laid the foundation stone for the new Peace Palace, which was to house Hague arbitration proceedings and for whose construction he had donated $1,250,000. Although at the conference every delegation expressed support for arbitration, they could not agree about what should appear on a list defining subjects to be compulsorily submitted to the process.

With gas not having been used as a weapon and no significant research done on such use, the agreement prohibiting the use of asphyxiating gases remained in force with little debate. The development of airships and airplanes had, however, progressed considerably since the earlier conference. On July 2, 1900, spectators at Friedrichshafen on the shore of Lake Constance in southern Germany watched Count von Zeppelin's cylindrical 420-foot-long Luftschiff 1 (LZI ) -- the world's first rigid dirigible airship with a frame of aluminum girders encased by fabric -- as it was moved from the floating shed on the lake in which it had been built and ascended into the air where seventeen gas bags holding four hundred thousand cubic feet of hydrogen and contained within the fabric envelope held it aloft. Two gondolas suspended beneath the keel each held one of the two 8so-pound Daimler petrol engines that powered her two four-bladed propellers. Each engine only produced fifteen horsepower, driving the airship forward at a mere sixteen miles per hour. In 1906, a year before the second Hague Conference, von Zeppelin produced the larger, stronger, speedier LZ2, however a storm destroyed the craft at its moorings after its second flight. Using the last of his personal fortune he constructed a third airship -- the LZ3 -- capable of eight hours of sustained flight, which he would soon demonstrate to a hitherto skeptical kaiser.

On December 17,1903, American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright became the first to solve the technical problems of constructing and operating a heavier-than-air flying machine. Taking turns as pilot they completed four flights aboard their biplane Flyer I from the sandy beach near Kitty Hawk on one of the barrier islands off North Carolina. The brothers, who had developed the craft at their own expense, saw the military forces of "a great government" as the only market for their invention.

Recognizing the airplane's potential, which the U.S. government then did not, the British War Office dispatched Lieutenant Colonel John Capper to meet them at their new base at Dayton, Ohio. They demonstrated to him their new plane, Flyer II, capable of flying at thirty-five miles per hour for more than three miles. Impressed by this "wonderful advance," after a series of discussions over the next year Capper invited the Wrights to Britain. However, when they asked for twenty thousand pounds for four years work including supplying an airplane, training a pilot, and granting the British government a license to build its own craft, the British balked, partly because the brothers, doubtless fearing industrial espionage, would not allow their planes to be inspected, partly because they were beginning to believe they could develop their own machines as the French were said to be doing. The Wrights therefore remained in America, refining their designs and setting new records. Unsure of where the next developments in aircraft and airships might lead, the Hague delegates, after some discussion, felt it prudent only to renew the prohibition on launching projectiles and explosives from the air for another five years.

Japan had opened its war against Russia in 1904 by surprise attack, and the second Hague Conference agreed to a prohibition against countries acting in this way in the future. Instead they were required first to issue an ultimatum or a declaration of war. Another convention, agreed to unanimously with strong support from Belgium, concerned neutral rights. The first of its twenty-five articles stated that "the territory of neutral Powers is inviolable," the second that, "Belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war or supplies across the territory of a neutral Power." The convention on land warfare was revised while maintaining the key principles such as that in Article 23 which began "In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden: a. To employ poison or poisoned weapons"; or in Article 25 forbidding "the attack or bombardment by whatever means" of "undefended" areas. Article 3 of the same convention made belligerent states responsible for the acts of their armed forces and "liable to pay compensation" for violations. However neither of the Hague Conferences gave any thought to an international court either to punish those who broke the rules of the various conventions or to set the level of compensation.

Discussions on maritime matters were for the most part inconclusive. The chief German delegate, Baron Marschall, warned against the stupidity of making laws for naval combat that might be rendered useless "by the law of facts." Although the delegates agreed to ban the use of unanchored submarine contact mines that remained armed for more than an hour after release, the major issues of Cruiser Rules, contraband, and neutral rights were deferred to a meeting of naval powers to be held in London the following year, 1908.

Ironically, the second Hague Conference ended by adopting a resolution calling for a third in 1915.



i. In 1906 the winner of the physics prize was J. J. Thomson, discoverer of the electron. Marie Curie, her husband Pierre, Henri Becquerel, and Wilhelm Rontgen had all earlier received prizes for their work on radiation. Then considered pure science with its results openly published and internationally discussed, it would lead to the development of the atomic bomb -- a weapon many times more powerful than any contemplated at The Hague.
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Re: A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That

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CHAPTER FOUR: "A Scrap of Paper"

WHEN THE CONFERENCE on marine matters convened in London in 1908, Britain was the dominant maritime power in both naval and commercial terms. Engaged in a naval race with Germany, Britain's philosophy was that its navy should be equal in strength to any two others. (The U.S. Navy was omitted from such calculations indicating the growing closeness between the two countries and the consequent improbability of war between them.) Britain's merchant fleet made up 48 percent of the world's shipping and transported more than half the world's total seaborne trade.

Despite Jacky Fisher's introduction of the dreadnought battleship, some naval strategists saw the torpedo-armed submarine as the greatest threat to Britain's maritime hegemony. Fisher himself called them "the battleships of the future." The concept of underwater warfare was not new. Thucydides described divers acting as underwater saboteurs during the Roman siege of Syracuse. Leonardo da Vinci sketched a form of diving suit. In 1578 an Englishman, William Bourne, designed a submersible that could rise and sink by filling or emptying ballast tanks on either side-a key characteristic of modern submarines. Early next century Dutchman Cornelius Van Drebbel reputedly demonstrated a vessel based on Bourne's design on the river Thames.

David Bushnell produced the first documented precursor of the modern submarine when he launched his submersible Turtle against HMS Eagle during the American Revolution in New York harbor on September 6, 1776. The egg-shaped Turtle was a one-man wooden vessel, seven feet long and four feet wide with four portholes, three sleeved armholes, and an access hatch on top. She was propelled by two hand-operated screws-a horizontal one to propel her up and down and a vertical one to move her backward and forward. A foot-operated valve let water flow in to help her descend, while a foot pump pushed it out again to enable her to rise. Bushnell's plan for the Turtle to attach a 150-pound explosive charge to the Eagle failed because the operator, Sergeant Ezra Lee, could not get the drill bit designed to fit dynamite charges to penetrate the Eagle's metal-reinforced hull.

In May 1801 Robert Fulton of Pennsylvania followed up Bushnell's work, launching the copper-skinned Nautilus -- the first submarine built of metal. He offered his designs first to France and then to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. Both declined. British admiral Earl St. Vincent summed up the general view that they were "a mode of war which we who command the seas do not want, and which, if successful, would deprive us of it."

In February 1864, the USS Housatonic -- a new 1,264-ton frigate serving with the Union squadron blockading the Confederate port of Charleston -- was the first ship sunk by a submarine. On a clear, cold, moonlit night, the CSS Hunley, a slender submersible forty feet long but just forty-two inches in diameter and built of 3/8-inch boiler plate, slunk out of Charleston harbor. Commanded by Lieutenant George E. Dixon, she crept semi-submerged toward the Union fleet. The eight-man crew labored over the hand crank which, connected to the propeller, drove the Hunley forward at four knots. Dixon was standing up since the only way he could navigate was by peering out of the forward hatch.

Just before eight forty-five P.M., the master of the Housatonic saw something resembling a piece of driftwood heading straight for his ship. Realizing that a current or tide could not be propelling it, he took evasive action but too late. Dixon brought the Hunley alongside and detonated the 143 pounds of gunpowder supported on her projecting spar. The Housatonic was flung into the air, settled back, and slowly sank. The Hunley's crew vanished, probably sucked into the gash in the frigate's side.

An Irish emigrant to the United States, John P. Holland, undertook the next crucial developments. Beginning in the late 1870s, over successive prototypes he developed petrol-engine-driven designs with the streamlined porpoise shape of modern submarines. His designs did not ascend or descend by their own weight but tilted their hydroplanes in the appropriate direction and propelled themselves by their engine power.

Holland was not the only man developing submarines. Thorsten Nordenfelt in Sweden and British clergyman the Reverend George William Garrett were creating their own designs. Queen Victoria's chaplain endorsed Garrett's company's prospectus, reassuring investors with familiar arguments: "As to the invention being for murdering people-this is all nonsense. Every contribution made by science to improve instruments of war makes war shorter and, in the end, less terrible to human life and to human progress."

Although Garrett, and in particular Nordenfelt, had some success, Holland maintained his lead. His sixth prototype, the Holland VI, constructed in 18g8 in New Jersey, was nearly fifty-four feet long. Powered by a forty-five horsepower petrol engine for surface cruising and for recharging the batteries of a fifty-horsepower electric motor that drove the craft when submerged, her main weapon was a torpedo launched from an eighteen-inch torpedo tube. She made her first successful dive off Staten Island on Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, 1898. Her formal trials ten days later so impressed then assistant secretary of the navy Theodore Roosevelt that he recommended that the navy purchase the vessel which on April 11, 1900, became the USS Holland (55-1).

A powerful lobby within the British Admiralty continued to dismiss submersibles as "not our concern." In 1900 Lord Goschen, First Lord of the Admiralty, asserted that "submarines were a weapon for Maritime Powers on the defensive." His parliamentary secretary was categoric: "The Admiralty are not prepared to take any steps in regard to submarines because this vessel is only the weapon of the weaker nation." Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, VC, Controller of the Royal Navy, fulminated: "Underwater weapons, they call 'em. I call them underhand, unfair and damned un-English. They'll never be any use in war and I'll tell you why: I'm going to get the First Lord to announce that we intend to treat all submarines as pirate vessels in wartime and that we'll hang all the crews."

Nevertheless with the support of Admiral Jacky Fisher and his belief in "the immense impending revolution which the submarines will effect as offensive weapons of war," in 1901 the British Admiralty ordered five Holland boats to be built in England by Vickers under license. The first was launched at Barrow-in-Furness the same year. The British vessels first introduced the periscope to the submarine -- the U.S. Holland boats had had to surface so that men could look through the glass ports in the conning tower.

In 1901 German secretary of state for the navy Admiral Tirpitz declared that Germany had no need of submarines. In spring 1904 he was still lecturing the Reichstag about his contempt for submarine warfare but that July, reacting to Britain's program, he announced the building of a submarine. The German navy's first Unterseeboot -- the U-1 -- was completed in 1906 at Krupp's plant in Kiel.

The torpedoes which armed all submarines were named after the crampfish or electric ray and pioneered by British engineer Robert Whitehead. While working in Austria for a company supplying the Austro- Hungarian navy, he developed in strict secrecy an "automobile device" driven by compressed air which could travel at eight knots and carry dynamite. Soon after he perfected a depth-keeping mechanism. The Royal Navy invited him home to demonstrate the new weapon and in 1870 concluded that "any maritime nation failing to provide itself with submarine locomotive torpedoes would be neglecting a great source of power both for offence and defence" and paid fifteen thousand pounds for the right to manufacture his torpedoes. Other nations quickly followed suit.

The first torpedoes were designed to be fired from surface vessels and had spectacular success in the Russo-Japanese War. Admiral Fisher predicted the weapon "would playa most important part in future wars" since ships as currently constructed were powerless against them and "the constant dread of sudden destruction" would demoralize seamen. By 1904 the British Holland submarines had a one in two chance of hitting a destroyer from a range of three hundred to four hundred feet with their improved torpedoes.

Perhaps the area where Britain's commercial as distinct from naval maritime supremacy was at the greatest risk as the delegates to the London Maritime Conference assembled was the transatlantic passenger trade -- just as now for airlines one of the most profitable sources of revenue.

American Moses Rogers pioneered steam propulsion across the Atlantic when in 1819 he captained the paddle steamer Savannah to Liverpool, although the vessel used steam for only eighty-five hours of the twenty-seven-day voyage and sailed for the rest of the time. The first ship to steam continuously across the Atlantic was the British Sirius in 1838. She was fitted with the recently invented marine surface condensers which prevented her boilers from becoming clogged with salt.

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1787, Samuel Cunard was already a successful businessman when in 1838 the British government invited tenders to carry transatlantic mail by steamer. He hurried to London where he won a contract to carry the mail to and from America twice a month for a fee of fifty-five thousand pounds. In July 1840 the first of Cunard's fleet, the paddle steamer Britannia, made her maiden voyage from Liverpool, reaching Boston in fourteen days.

Charles Dickens never forgot his voyage to America on the Britannia in 1842. He derided his cabin as "an utterly impracticable, thoroughly hopeless, and profoundly preposterous box." The only thing conceivably smaller for sleeping in would be "a coffin" and the flat quilt that covered him was "like a surgical plaster [bandage]." Furthermore, there was as much chance of accommodating his wife's luggage as of persuading a giraffe "into a flower pot." Bad weather forced him to spend a great deal of time in the cabin and he felt seasick. "Read in bed (but to this hour I don't know what) ... ; and reeled on deck a little; drank cold brandy and water with unspeakable disgust and ate hard biscuits perseveringly," he wrote. "Not ill, but going to be."

British and American lines dominated the transatlantic route, using more and more sophisticated ships, until in 1889 the kaiser, impressed by a new British White Star Line vessel he saw at a British naval review, decided "we must have some of these." By 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the huge 14,350-ton Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was the fastest liner on the Atlantic with a top speed of over twenty-one knots, taking the Blue Riband for the Atlantic crossing on her maiden voyage. By 1903, German companies owned the four fastest ships crossing the Atlantic.

In 1902 the American banker John Pierpont Morgan bought the White Star Line for twenty-five million dollars for the new shipping conglomerate he was building -- International Mercantile Marine (IMM). Having negotiated an alliance with the two main German lines. Hamburg- Amerika and North German Lloyd, he approached Cunard, the only major line still in British ownership, with an offer for the company's shares at 80 percent above the market value.

The British press railed against the" 'Morganization' of the Atlantic" and warned of the consequences of losing "the great north Atlantic trade, the only trade which can support ships of great speed and tonnage so essential as cruisers in time of war." The British government feared that Germany would soon have a fleet of nine liners, all of which could outstrip the fastest British steamers. Its stark choice lay between acquiescing in the acquisition of Cunard by IMM or rescuing Cunard "for the nation" through a large government subsidy. While the debate ebbed and flowed an aging Cunard liner broke down in mid-Atlantic and had to be towed to the Azores by an IMM tramp steamer. The press highlighted the disturbing symbolism.

In July 1903 the British government agreed to lend Cunard £2,600,000 to build two new ships, subsequently named the Lusitania and the Mauretania, that with a top speed of at least twenty-four-and-a-half knots could outstrip the upstart German liners and whose specifications the Admiralty would approve. It also agreed to pay Cunard an annual subsidy of £150,000 for maintaining both vessels in a state of war readiness, together with £68,000 for carrying the mail. In return, the Admiralty had the right to commandeer the ships for use as auxiliary merchant cruisers, troopships, or hospital ships.

The Lusitania was the first of the two ships to enter service, making her maiden transatlantic voyage in September 1907 during the second Hague Conference. She was half the size again of any vessel yet built, and three quarters more powerful. Novel features included high-tensile steel in her hull for additional strength and electric controls for steering, for closing her 175 watertight compartments, and for detecting fire. On her first arrival in New York the American newspapers hailed the luxury of a ship that was "more beautiful than Solomon's Temple and big enough to hold all his wives." On her second westbound crossing she won back the Blue Riband.

At the conference of the ten leading maritime nations in London in 1908, Britain's commercial interests as a supplier and transporter of much of the world's trade dominated the policy of Campbell-Bannerman and his Liberal Party government rather than what might become its naval interests if it became involved in a war. Other delegations too emphasized the importance of trade and freedom of the seas. Consequently, no change was made to the old Cruiser Rules to allow for new, modem technologies such as the submarine. Merchant ships still could not be sunk without warning; rather, they had to be stopped and searched for contraband and, if it was found, the crew given the time to take to the boats before the vessel was sunk or seized as a prize. Tight definitions were drawn up of what constituted "contraband," differentiating between goods clearly intended for military use such as weapons and those for civilian use. Some goods such as blankets or cloth were defined as "conditional contraband," which could be used for either military or civil purposes. Before they could be seized and destroyed their use and destination had to be established. Close blockades of an enemy's ports by warships at the edge of territorial waters remained acceptable.

Mahan -- now an admiral -- was a frustrated American delegate at the conference, unable to make his sterner views on the need to allow greater freedom of action by navies toward their enemies prevail even within his own U.S. delegation. However, after the conference ended he continued to voice his concerns. They were taken up by some of his followers in Britain who argued that by ratifying the conference decisions, Britain would forfeit its naval supremacy. A heated debate followed in Britain further fueled by the 1909 "naval scare" resulting from a German decision to accelerate its battleship-building program. As a consequence, Britain never ratified the revised rules agreed to in London. Neither, under renewed pressure from Mahan, did the United States. Without the signature of two of the leading maritime nations the new provisions never came into force. First Sea Lord Jacky Fisher took little part in the debates about the British attitude, either cynically content to disregard the rules if Britain ever went to war or more likely too preoccupied with the feuding over new training procedures and gunnery practice with more hidebound colleagues which would soon precipitate his retirement in January 1910.

By NOW THE Balkans were the most likely source of conflict. In 1908-9, a prolonged confrontation stopping short of war flared up between Serbia -- backed by Russia -- and Austro-Hungary after the latter took Bosnia-Herzegovina from the crumbling Ottoman Turkish Empire. In 1912-13, the independent Balkan states, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece, first combined to defeat the Ottoman Turks and seize from them nearly all their remaining European territory and then fell out among themselves about the division of the spoils. Serbia was the principal winner, emerging with a doubling of its territory and increased national self-confidence. Austro-Hungary, since 1879 bound in tight alliance to Germany, felt it had lost out by not intervening in the 1912-13 conflicts and saw inherent problems for its diverse empire if pan-Slavism, and with it Russian influence, grew further.

Many observers comforted themselves that the Balkan conflicts had been confined to that region. Nevertheless the European arms buildup continued. In 1911, thirty-six-year-old Winston Churchill, then a member of the Liberal Party, had been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty -- the overall head of the organization to whom the professional head, the First Sea Lord, reported. The First Lord of the Admiralty in turn reported to Parliament and the cabinet, and was a member of both. Churchill, described in his early years in Parliament by an opponent as "restless, egotistical, bumptious, shallow-minded and reactionary but with a certain personal magnetism, great pluck and some originality," had in 1911-12 headed inconclusive discussions with Germany about a pause in the naval arms race. The British naval budget, with its emphasis on high technology had, at more than forty-five million pounds, quadrupled over the last quarter of a century and was taking an increasing proportion of the rising national defense budget. Churchill tried again in 1913, contacting the German naval attache in London, but he was thwarted by the response of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz who suggested that the approach was a mere ploy to delay Germany's naval program.

The kaiser had appointed Tirpitz -- then still to earn his ennobling 'von' -- Germany's secretary of state for the navy in June 1897. Nine days later, Tirpitz had written in a memorandum: "For Germany at the moment the most dangerous naval enemy is England ... The strategy against England demands battleships in as great a number as possible." Thereafter he had been the inspiration and architect for Germany's naval expansion, his views on naval matters mirroring those of Fisher and Mahan. Just as the latter two could not always effectively control their changing political masters, he could never be certain of the febrile, inconsistent kaiser's reactions, writing: "'I could never discover how to ward off the frequent interference of the Emperor whose imagination, once it had fixed on shipbuilding, was fed by all manner of impressions ... Suggestions are cheap in the Navy and change like a kaleidoscope."

Despite the troubles in the Balkans and the continuing arms race, in the golden summer of 1914 few saw reason to worry unduly about an impending war. Then the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his morganatic wife Sophie, in the Bosnian-Herzegovinan city of Sarajevo, changed everything. It happened on June 28, their wedding anniversary, and also the day Serbs commemorated the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 when their troops had been heavily defeated by the Ottoman Turks but a single Serb had penetrated Ottoman lines and killed their sultan. Austro-Hungarian interrogation of captured members of the assassination team revealed that although subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire they had been trained and armed in Serbia and were part of an organization that wanted to incorporate Bosnia-Herzegovina into Serbia. The Austro-Hungarian authorities demanded but failed to secure guarantees from the Serbian government that it would move against anti-Austrian nationalist and terrorist groups in its territory and accept on-the-spot Austro-Hungarian oversight of its compliance. Therefore, having satisfied itself of German support, Austro- Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28.

Governments across Europe ordered the mobilization of their armies to ensure they were not disadvantaged should a more general war break out. The German general staff alone time-tabled eleven thousand train movements. Despite further diplomatic maneuverings during which, for a brief period, arbitration to solve the conflict seemed possible, Germany -- concerned to preserve the advantage its speed of mobilization gave -- declared war on August 1 on Russia and on August 3 on France in the latter case with only the most sketchy pretense of justification. The day before, Germany had sent an ultimatum to neutral Belgium demanding to use its territory in operations against France and stating that if Belgium resisted it would be considered an enemy. Britain had previously refused to commit itself in the buildup to war. However, the intended violation of neutral Belgium's rights in direct contravention of the 1907 Hague Convention on neutral rights, and even more specifically of the Treaty of London signed by the European powers, including Prussia, in 1839 guaranteeing Belgian neutrality, left Britain no room for maneuver.

At three P.M. on August 4,1914, the tall distinguished-looking German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg rose to address a packed Reichstag. German troops, he announced, were advancing on France, had occupied Luxembourg, and were "already in Belgium." "Our invasion of Belgium is contrary to international law but the wrong -- I speak openly -- that we are committing we will make good as soon as our military goal has been reached." His words handed the Allies the moral high ground and an unassailable propaganda advantage.

That evening the British ambassador to Berlin, Sir Edward Goschen, called on van Bethmann Hollweg to present a British ultimatum: leave Belgium or face Britain's entry into the war. Germany had until midnight to decide. Goschen found the chancellor, a habitual chain smoker, "excited" and "very agitated"; he complained that Britain was committing an "unthinkable" act, "like striking a man from behind while he was fighting for his life against two assailants." Britain, the chancellor said, would be responsible for everything dreadful that must follow "just for a word -- neutrality," a word which in war time had so often been disregarded -- all just for a scrap of paper Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation." Sir Edward replied stiffly that if it was strategically a matter of life or death for Germany to advance through Belgium, it was equally a matter of life or death for Britain to keep its solemn compact.

Some hours before midnight and the expiry of the ultimatum, according to a British diplomat within, a mob "of quite well-dressed individuals, including a number of women," stoned the British embassy, smashing many windows. The crowd "seemed mad with rage ... howling 'Death to the English pedlar nation!' " "that was guilty of Rassen-verrat!" -- "race treason."

Von Bethmann Hollweg later complained: "My blood boiled at his [Goschen's] hypocritical harping on Belgian neutrality, which was not the thing that had driven England into the war." British hypocrisy would soon become a familiar German charge. The kaiser too was nonplussed at Britain's decision. His relationship with Great Britain had always been one of his most complex, emotional, and ambiguous. Her first grandchild, he adored his grandmother Queen Victoria and is said to have held her in his arms as she died in 1901. He had cordially loathed her successor, his uncle Edward VII. After one of Edward's royal visits to France to cement the Anglo-French entente, the kaiser told three hundred guests at a Berlin dinner "He is Satan. You can hardly believe what a Satan he is." When Edward died in 1910, the kaiser advised Theodore Roosevelt that the forty-five- year-old George V was "a very nice boy ... He is a thorough Englishman and hates all foreigners but I do not mind that as long as he does not hate Germans more than other foreigners."

As an autocrat the kaiser overestimated the power of the monarchy in the British democracy. In late July 1914, on the eve of war, he placed great credence in an account from his brother Henry, then yachting in England, of a conversation with George V in which the latter said that Britain would remain neutral. He told a skeptical von Tirpitz that "I have the word of a King and that is sufficient for me." When Britain declared war he complained, '·to think that Nicholas [the czar of Russia] and Georgie should have played me false! If my grandmother had been alive she would never have allowed it ... Only among the ruins of London will I forgive Georgie."

The ambiguity of the kaiser's feelings toward Britain extended far beyond its royal family. He admired much about the country and its culture, including its capital's fine architecture. His enthusiasm for battleships and Atlantic liners had been roused in British ports. He was proud not only of being a Knight of the Garter but also an honorary British Admiral of the Fleet and Field Marshal. Initially he had wanted an alliance between what he thought of as "the two Teutonic nations," commenting in 1901 that "with such an alliance not a mouse could stir in Europe without our permission and the nations would in time come to see the necessity of reducing their armaments." Such an alliance would be a defense against the encirclement of Germany, which he feared.

Subsequently, he had simply wanted Britain to stand aside and allow Germany a free hand in Europe and in so doing recognize in political terms its real and rising economic strength. Germany had become the dominant force in European steel and chemical production as well as coal mining. In 1870 Britain had 32 percent of the world's manufacturing capacity, but by 1910 its share had fallen to less than 15 percent, while Germany's had risen to 16 percent. (The United States by then had 35 percent.) [i] Thereafter the kaiser had come to believe that Britain still treated Germany too lightly, undervaluing both him and his nation, and to share his mentor Bismarck's view of the British: "I have had all through my life sympathy for England and its inhabitants but these people do not want to let themselves be liked by us."

It is easy to portray the kaiser -- sensitive about his withered arm, early at odds with his parents, and alternately looking for love or bullying to gain attention -- as a sad, somewhat comic, deluded figure. However, his ambitions and his views of Britain reflected those of most of his cabinet and much of his nation as is evident from von Bethmann Hollweg's comments to Goschen about a "kindred nation" and shouts of "race treason" by the mob attacking the British embassy. Von Tirpitz too had been something of an Anglophile, speaking fluent English and reading English books like the kaiser, sending his daughters to Cheltenham Ladies' College and admiring the Brtish navy wholeheartedly. But he too had come to feel slighted and patronized, complaining that "the English believed that they could treat us like Portugal." Nevertheless, when von Bethmann Hollweg told the German cabinet on August 3 that with the German invasion of Belgium Britain's entry into the war was inevitable, von Tirpitz cried out, "All is then lost." James Gerard, U.S. ambassador to Berlin, described how: "The army and all Germany believed ... that Great Britain would remain neutral, and that Germany would consequently become, if not the actual owner, at least dictator of the world."

The kaiser would have happily included the United States in a Teutonic alliance between Germany and Britain. In January 1914, he told Colonel Edward Mandell House, U.S. president Woodrow Wilson's main confidant and frequent envoy to Europe, that the Russians as Slavs and the French as Latins would never be suitable allies for the English. Only an English, American, and German alliance based on their common Anglo-Saxon racial heritage would withstand the challenges of the new century. As Gerard later remarked as the war progressed, Germany and its people would be even more ready to include the United States with Britain in their charges of hypocrisy.

The war had popular support in each of the belligerent countries. In France an officer described how as his troop train left a Paris station at six A. M. he saw a huge crowd and "quite spontaneously, like a smouldering fire suddenly erupted into roaring flames, an immense clam our arose as the Marsellaise burst from a thousand throats. All the men were standing at the train's windows waving their kepis ... The women were throwing kisses and heaped flowers on our convoy." In Saint Petersburg the French ambassador saw an enormous crowd in front of the Winter Palace "with flags, banners, icons and portraits of the Tsar. The Emperor appeared on the balcony. The entire crowd at once knelt and sang the Russian national anthem. To those thousands of men on their knees ... the Tsar was really the autocrat appointed of God, the military, political and religious leader of his people, the absolute master of their bodies and souls."

In Munich, an Austrian eking out a living as a painter -- Adolf Hitler -- witnessed a vast crowd gathered in the Odeonsplatz acclaim the proclamation of mobilization. He was "not ashamed to acknowledge that I was carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment ... and ... sank down upon my knees and thanked heaven out of the fullness of my heart for the favour of having been permitted to live in such times." Almost immediately he petitioned for permission to join a Bavarian regiment even though he was an Austrian subject. It was speedily given.

Religious leaders backed their countries. In Berlin, the kaiser's pastor led a vast congregation in its prayers for victory while at the Oranienstrasse synagogue the rabbi prayed for a German triumph. A German newspaper proclaimed this is "a holy war: Germany cannot and is not allowed to lose ... if she loses so, too, does the world lose its light, its home of justice." On the opposing side, the bishop of London insisted, "The Church can best help the nation first of all by making it realise that it is engaged in a holy war."

On a much more personal level, a British girl, then seven years old, recalled how her grandmother summoned her from the garden telling her, " 'I have got something very serious to tell you. The Germans are fighting the British, there is a war on and all sorts of people will be killed by these wicked Germans. And therefore there must be no playing, no singing and no running about.' And then she took from us all our toys that were made in Germany, amongst them a camel of which I was very fond."

Soldiers marching off to the conflict believed it would not last long. A Russian officer worried about packing his dress uniform for a triumphal entry into Berlin. German officers talked of being in Paris in a few weeks. The crowds waving French troops off called "Au revoir. A bientot," expecting to see them again soon. In Britain a Cambridge University undergraduate enlisted with some friends, recalling, "We were quite clear that Germany would be defeated by the 7th of October when we would go back to Cambridge [for the beginning of term]." The kaiser told his departing troops, "You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees."



i. Key population statistics in 1914 were approximately: United Kingdom, 46 million; Germany, 68 million; United States, 99 million; France, 40 million; Austro-Hungary, 51 million; Russia, 166 million.
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