Tuesday


IE of A

Message of Felicitation of Amir-ul-Momineen (may Allah protect him) on the Auspicious Eve of Eid-ul-fitr

It’s that time of year again! Muslims all over the world are celebrating the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr, and Amir-ul-Momineen Mullah Mohammed Omar has issued his traditional statement for the holiday, which I have previously called the “state of the union address” for the Afghan Taliban. The address can be read in is entirety at the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) website: Message of Felicitation of Amir-ul-Momineen (may Allah protect him) on the Auspicious Eve of Eid-ul-fitr.

My past posts on Mullah Omar’s past Eid al-Fitr statements:

The Graveyard of Empires (2009)

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2010

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2011

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2012

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2013

This year’s statement is shorter than many of the previous statements, at only a little over 2,000 words. This message is not as well translated as previous messages. Past statements have been both systematic and comprehensive, and I guess I expected that, with the US scheduled to pull of Afghanistan this year, there would be another similarly comprehensive message to the people of Afghanistan outlining the principles and practices by which the Taliban expected to seize and hold power. And more than the US pullout, there is the big news of continuing instability in the region and the proclamation of a Caliphate by ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — certainly a development of some importance that touches upon regional dynamics that must affect the Taliban and their efforts in Afghanistan.

I have observed in previous posts that the Afghan Taliban are tightly focused on Afghanistan and have not associated themselves closely with radical Jihadist groups with transnational ambitions, which orientation seems to clearly be the case with ISIS and its concern to abrogate the Sykes-Picot borders that have defined the nation-states of the region since the agreement was struck (in secret) in 1916. The Taliban concern with specifically Afghan concerns comes across again in this most recent statement by Mullah Omar, who repeats assurances from previous statements that the IEA would respect established international borders and would not interfere in the internal affairs of other governments. That this point should be repeated at a time when ISIS is making a point of abrogating established borders is significant; it is as much as saying, “We are not ISIS.”

In line with this continuing theme of “Afghanistan for the Afghans” (as we may call it) is a particular interest in the official recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Thus Mullah Omar states: “Exchange of the detainees with America as a result of the efforts of the representatives of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate is a spectacular achievement.” Nothing else in the address is similarly celebrated as spectacular. Mullah Omar is especially concerned to de-legitimize the political process in Afghanistan, and shows a little lack of confidence in going over this ground a little more thoroughly than would have been necessary for a government-in-exile that expected to step into power almost unopposed upon the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. In particular, there is a concern that young people in Afghanistan will be drawn into the political processes, legitimizing through their participation. They are, after all, Afghans whom the Taliban claim to represent. If Afghans participate in elections, government, police, or security institutions, that demonstrates the ethnic legitimacy of these non-Taliban institutions.

By contrast, the other internal references to current events, i.e., current events outside Afghanistan — of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he says, “swift steps should be taken to prevent these gruesome brutalities” (which sounds positively western in its banality and moderation), while of other “events and developments of the Middle East” Mullah Omar is even more opaque — are not nearly as spectacular as implicit recognition of the Taliban by the US.

While previous statements have been a grab-bag of ideological references and predictable rhetoric, this statement is much simpler and straight-forward. It is about establishing the Taliban as the ruling regime of the IEA, and that’s about it. The ambitious program of nation-building outlined in previous messages is here reduced to some passing exhortations and the mention of Taliban institutions of their presumptive government-in-waiting.

The Taliban are not quite seizing the opportunity expected to fall into their lap later this year when US forces are reduced or entirely withdrawn. The real enemy now becomes those Afghans who want a political order not of the Taliban. Once US forces are gone, or nearly gone, attacks on the institutions left in the wake of the US presence will be attacks on Afghans and their newly adopted institutions. This puts the Taliban in a difficult position, since they are not about transnational Jihadism or pan-Islamism, but only about a Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar is aware of this difficult at some level, and this may account for this year’s more modest message.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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Monday


A Century of Industrialized Warfare:

The declaration of war against Serbia came across Bucharest with regular mail in the form of an open telegram. Written in French (which was the official language at the time), it was handed over to Nikola Pašić who had withdrawn to Niš with the entire goverment the previous day. On July 28th, at one o’clock in the afternoon, in the garden of the Hotel “Orijent,” Nikola Pašić received a dispatch by which Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. (from Serbia.com)

The declaration of war against Serbia came across Bucharest with regular mail in the form of an open telegram. Written in French (which was the official language at the time), it was handed over to Nikola Pašić who had withdrawn to Niš with the entire goverment the previous day. On July 28th, at one o’clock in the afternoon, in the garden of the Hotel “Orijent,” Nikola Pašić received a dispatch by which Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. (from Serbia.com)

Austria-Hungary’s Declaration of War on Serbia


Tuesday 28 July 1914

Three days after Serbia ordered a general mobilization, and Austria-Hungary authorized mobilization by the signature of Emperor Franz Josef, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Two days before, Russia had entered a state of pre-mobilization, and the day before France issued standby mobilization orders. Also the day before, the Kaiser finally cut short his yachting vacation and returned to Germany. Now Europe was poised and quivering on the brink of war, with the largest military powers beginning their mobilization.

Just as modern technologies meant that there were headlines around the world the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, modern communications technology again made a unique appearance on the diplomatic scene: Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia came as a telegram exactly one month after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Some thought the message was a hoax, but that it was in deadly earnest was made plain later the same day when Austrian artillery shelled Belgrade from across the Danube.

A declaration of war by telegram in 1914 would be something like a declaration of war in 2014 by Twitter or Facebook or by text message. Given the number of armed conflicts in the world today, I would not be at all surprised to hear that one or another of them had been declared via some social media platform. We already know that social media has played a significant role in wars, revolutions, and social unrest over the past few years. A telegram was the social media of 1914, and Austria-Hungary used this innovative technology to declare war on Serbia.

The shooting war that had now begun in the Balkans between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, ostensibly to punish Serbia for the action of the Black Hand terrorist organization for its assassination of Franz Ferdinand, would be the first dominoes to fall in the global conflict to come, which would in turn trigger the participation of the larger powers, already in the process of mobilization, due to the network of alliances, ironically constructed for the purpose of maintaining the balance of power.

One of the problems with balance of power politics is that, when you get it wrong, there is a politically-charged imbalance in the international system, and when others pile into the conflict they escalate rather than calm the crisis. But at this point, although the July Crisis had erupted into a hot war, it was still of the same scope as the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913. Further events and escalation would be required to transform this local Balkan war into a global industrialized war.

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A map of Belgrade from 1905, showing the city bounded by the Danube and Sava rivers.

A map of Belgrade from 1905, showing the city bounded by the Danube and Sava rivers.

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1914 to 2014

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A Century of Industrialized Warfare

0. A Century of Industrialized Warfare

1. Assassination in Sarajevo

2. Headlines around the World

3. The July Crisis

4. A Blank Check for Austria-Hungary

5. Serbia and Austria-Hungary Mobilize

6. Austria-Hungary Declares War on Serbia

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twentieth century war collage

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Grand Strategy Annex

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Friday


A Century of Industrialized Warfare:

Nikola P. Pašić, several times Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Serbia, including the period 1912-1918.

Nikola P. Pašić, several times Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Serbia, including the period 1912-1918.

Serbia Orders General Mobilization


Saturday 25 July 1914

As the July Crisis slowly progressed from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand through a labyrinthine diplomatic process that finally delivered Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia on Thursday 23 July 1914, very little happened other than consultations, warnings, drafting of documents, and the like. The day after the ultimatum from Austria-Hungary was delivered to Serbia, Serbia made the ultimatum public. The ultimatum had been crafted purposefully to be unacceptable. One could argue that the war already started with the writing of an intentionally unacceptable ultimatum, but the actual military wheels of the conflict began to turn with mobilization.

Due to the nature of the ultimatum, it was already clear that whatever response Serbia gave to Austria-Hungary would be unacceptable. Knowing this, Serbia ordered general mobilization at 3:00 pm on Saturday 25 July 1914. An official response was given to the ultimatum at 5:55 pm — five minutes before the deadline for a response would pass. Emperor Franz Josef signed the mobilization order for Austria-Hungary at 7:23 pm the same day, although it would not begin to take effect for another two days on “Alarm Day” — a preparatory day to give troops time to get ready — with troop movements scheduled to begin on the following day. From this point forward, events would begin to move much more rapidly, pushed along by “boots on the ground.”

In Carte blanche for Austria-Hungary I discussed the continuum of escalations that led to the outbreak of the First World War as an unprecedented global industrialized conflict, any one of which episodes of escalation could be identified as the beginning of the First World War. Certainly the mobilization of Serbia and Austria-Hungary could be identified as the unique moment when the war “really” began, but there are many other contenders for that claim. For a war as catastrophic as the First World War, a sequence of escalations is necessary to pass from an assassination to a global war.

What I find particularly interesting about the mobilizations of Serbia and Austria-Hungary on 25 July 1914, and the many mobilizations that would follow — Russia on 30 July, France on 31 July, Germany on 01 August — was the role played by mobilization in the First World War. On the eve of the First World War, Europe was an armed camp that had been preparing for the next war for decades, and with particular intensity during the immediately previous years. Mobilization plans were a central fact of the war that was expected by everyone.

Planning a major war for years entails a major effort, and for the growing, industrialized nation-states of Europe, with their cities expanding with industrial workers, the grandiose plans for war had to be executed with grandiose means, and this meant the full mobilization for war of an entire society. While in classical antiquity entire societies had been mobilized for war, this took place under very different socioeconomic conditions — the city-state, i.e., the polis, rather than the nation-state was the locus of political and military power. During the medieval and early modern periods, Europe’s wars had largely been fought between professional armies and only rarely with conscripts. When conscripts were used, they were used only in so far as their fighting did not interrupt the centrality of agriculture in agrarian-ecclesiastical civilization. Peasants would plant in the spring, go to war as conscripts in the summer, and then had to return to their fields in time to harvest. If they failed to do so, everyone would starve.

All of this changed with the industrial revolution and the advent of industrial-technological civilization. The First World War was the first great armed conflict of industrial-technological civilization, and that is why I have been calling it the first global industrialized war in this series of posts. Not only was the new technology of weaponry produced by new industries, but the social organization of war changed radically. Professional armies were seen as the nucleus of a much larger force that could be rapidly expanded on demand. This is the efflorescence of the idea of every man a soldier — i.e., the idea that any citizen of the nation-state could be called away from their plow, lathe, hammer, or desk, put into a uniform, given a rifle, and sent to war to defend the nation.

In order to implement the idea of every man a soldier, it was necessary to mobilize the whole of society for war. This is exactly what all the nation-states of Europe had been planning and preparing to do. Men left their occupations, showed up at a depot where they were issued uniform and arms, given their orders where to report, and the whole of the mobilization for war became an extension of war plans on the battlefield that reached back to the homefront and into the lives of the people. Mobilization, like the war plans of the time, were planned to elapse like clockwork — once put into action, they were widely believed to be irrevocable and unalterable, so that a formal mobilization order was almost equivalent to a declaration of war.

It is possible that the role of mobilization was larger in the First World War than in any war before or after, though it is arguable that at the height of the Cold War the whole of society was continually mobilized for war, as with the famous readiness of the Strategic Air Command. In this instance, mobilization has ceased to disrupt society because mobilization is the social order around which society is constructed. However, this level of readiness is impossible to maintain indefinitely, and is likely to deteriorate. The mobilization of the First World War had the virtue of signaling society at large of a radical shift from business as usual; to this end, disruption served a purpose.

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1914 to 2014

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A Century of Industrialized Warfare

0. A Century of Industrialized Warfare

1. Assassination in Sarajevo

2. Headlines around the World

3. The July Crisis

4. A Blank Check for Austria-Hungary

5. Serbia and Austria-Hungary Mobilize

6. Austria-Hungary Declares War on Serbia

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twentieth century war collage

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signature

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Grand Strategy Annex

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Thursday


Leopold von Ranke (1795 - 1886)

Leopold von Ranke (1795 – 1886)

In George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four there occurs a well known passage that presents a frightening totalitarian vision of history:

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.”

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part One, Chapter 3

What Orwell called, “…an unending series of victories over your own memory,” is something anticipated by Nietzsche, who, however, placed it in the context of pride rather than dissimulation:

“I have done that,” says my memory. “I cannot have done that,” says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually — memory yields.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, section 68

The phrase above identified as the “party slogan” — Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past — is often quoted out of context to give the misleading impression that this was asserted by Orwell as his own position. This is, rather, the Orwellian formulation of the Stalinist position. (Stalin reportedly hated both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.) The protagonist of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, is himself part of the totalitarian machinery, rewriting past newspaper articles so that they conform to current party doctrine, and re-touching photographs to erase individuals who had fallen out of favor — both of which Stalin presided over in fact.

The idea that the control over history entails control over the future, and the control over history is a function of control in the present, constitutes a political dimension to history. Winston Churchill (who is said to have enjoyed Nineteen Eighty-Four as much as Stalin loathed it) himself came close to this when he said that, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” This political dimension to history is one of which Orwell and other authors have repeatedly made us aware. There is another political dimension to history that is more difficult to fully appreciate, because it requires much more knowledge of the past to understand.

More than mere knowledge of the past, which seems empirically unproblematic, it also requires an understanding of the theoretical context of historiography in order to fully appreciate the political dimension of history. The name of Leopold von Ranke is not well known outside historiography, but Ranke has had an enormous influence in historiography and this influence continues today even among those who have never heard his name. Here is the passage that made Ranke’s historiographical orientation — the idea of objective and neutral history that we all recognize today — the definitive expression of a tradition of historiographical thought:

“History has had assigned to it the office of judging the past and of instructing the account for the benefit of future ages. To show high offices the present work does not presume; it seeks only to show what actually happened.”

Leopold von Ranke, History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations

The deceptively simple phrase, what actually happened (in German: wie es eigentlich gewesen — became a slogan if not a rallying cry among historians. The whole of the growth of scientific historiography, to which I have referred in many recent posts — Scientific Historiography and the Future of Science and Addendum on Big History as the Science of Time among them — is entirely predicated upon the idea of showing what actually happened.

Sometimes, however, there is a dispute about what actually happened, and the historical record is incomplete or ambiguous, so that to get the whole story we must attempt to fill in the ellipses employing what R. G. Collingwood called the historical a priori imagination (cf. The A Priori Futurist Imagination). Historical extrapolation, placed in this Collingwoodian context, makes it clear that the differing ways in which the historical record is filled in and filled out is due to the use of different a priori principles of extrapolation.

I have noted that diachronic extrapolation is a particular problem in futurism, since it develops historical trends in isolation and thereby marginalizes the synchrony of events. So, too, diachronic extrapolation is a problem in historiography, as it fills in the ellipses of history by a straight-forward parsimonious extrapolation — as though one could unproblematically apply Ochkam’s razor to history. (The symmetry of diachronic extrapolation in history and futurism nicely reveals how futurism is the history of the future and history the futurism of the past.) The political dimension of history is one of the synchronic forces that represents interaction among contemporaneous events, and this is the dimension of history that is lost when we lose sight of contemporaneous events.

There were always contemporaneous socio-political conflicts that defined the terms and the parameters of past debates; in many cases, we have lost sight of these past political conflicts, and we read the record of the debate on a level of abstraction and generality that it did not have as it occurred. In a sense, we read a sanitized version of history — not purposefully santitized (although this is sometimes the case), not sanitized for propagandistic effect, but sanitized only due to our limited knowledge, our ignorance, our forgetfulness (at times, a Nietzschean forgetfulness).

Many historical conflicts that come down to us, while formulated in the most abstract and formal terms, were at the time political “hot button” issues. We remember the principles today, and sometimes we continue to debate them, but the local (if not provincial) political pressures that created these conflicts has often all but disappeared and considerable effort is required to return to these debates and to recover the motivating forces. I have noted in many posts that particular civilizations are associated with particular problem sets, and following the dissolution of a particular civilization, the problems, too, are not resolved but simply become irrelevant — as, for example, the Investiture Controversy, which was important to agrarian-ecclesiastical civilization, but which has no parallel in industrial-technological civilization.

Some of these debates (like that of the Investiture Controversy) are fairly well known, and extensive scholarly research has gone into elucidating the political conflicts of the time that contributed to these debates. However, the fact that many of these past ideas — defunct ideas — are no longer relevant to the civilization in which we live makes is difficult to fully appreciate them as visceral motives in the conduct of public policy.

Among the most well-known examples of politicized historiography is what came to be called the Black Legend, which characterized the Spanish in the worst possible light. In fact, the Spanish were cruel and harsh masters, but that does not mean that every horrible thing said about them was true. But it is all too easy to believe the worst about people whom one has a reason to believe the worst, and to embroider stories with imagined details that become darker and more menacing over time. During the period of time in which the Black Legend originates, Spain was a world empire with no parallel, enforcing its writ in the New World, across Europe, and even in Asia (notably in the Philippines, named for Spanish Monarch Philip II). As the superpower of its day, Spain was inevitably going to be the target of smears, which only intensified as Spain become the leading Catholic power in the religious wars that so devastated Europe in the early modern period. Catholics called Protestants heretics, and Protestants called the Pope the Antichrist; in this context, political demonization was literal.

There are many Black Legends in history, often the result of conscious and purposeful propagandistic effort. There are also, it should be noted, white legends, also the work of intentional propaganda. White legends whitewash a chequered history — exactly the task that Stalin set for Soviet civilization and which Winston Smith undertook for Oceania.

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Philip II of Spain (1527-1598)

Philip II of Spain (1527-1598)

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Burnt by the Sun

15 July 2014

Tuesday


On the plane home, looking tired after Sardinia and the Camargue.

On the plane home, looking tired after Sardinia and the Camargue.

There is a fascinating Russian film titled Burnt by the Sun, which manages to put an interesting spin on the most repressive Stalinist period of Soviet history. The analogy here is that Russian society was “burnt by the sun” of the revolution, which like the summer sun that leaves us burnt, was so brilliant that some were “burned” by its energy. One could consign this to mere apologetics that fails to take the victims of Stalinism seriously, but it is a good film, and a morally serious film, that is not so easily dismissed.

On the plane home from Lima, looking tired.

On the plane home from Lima, looking tired.

In a literal, rather than a metaphorical sense, I often feel burnt by the sun after one of my touring holidays. At home, I lead a primarily nocturnal life, working mostly at night, and so am little exposed to the sun. It is different on holiday. Sightseeing can be surprisingly hard work if you take it seriously — and I do take it seriously. There is nothing else that has taught me as much as travel. So I push myself pretty hard, walking hour after hour through towns and museums in the heat of the day when such sights are open and available to the public. And I am part of that sightseeing public.

Another time flying home from Lima, and looking tired again.

Another time flying home from Lima, and looking tired again.

On the flight back to Portland I watched the (relatively recent) film The Grand Budapest Hotel, which centers on the life of a concierge at a famous hotel in a fictional eastern European country. In reciting a litany of the duties of a concierge, the protagonist mentions in passing the acquisition of private showings of art for guests, and I immediately wondered who merits such special access — something I have mentioned before in my book Variations on the Theme of Life:

“A dozen years after I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, I read Auden’s poem, Musée de Beaux Arts, and realized that I had stood in the same room of Bruegel’s paintings, as have thousands before me and thousands after, from the famous to the unknown. I thought of another room filled with Bruegel’s images, where I have also been, at the Kunsthistorisches in Vienna, where tourists with glazed eyes file past while students take notes, and where, no doubt, royalty and the fabulously wealthy receive private showings outside regular hours — but all in the same space. At any present moment, space is the principle of individuation that separates us, but, once outside the eternal now, time is the principle of separation — between Bruegel and ourselves, between myself and Auden, between those who enjoy private showings and those of us who shuffle through with the masses. Time and tide, it is said, wait for no man, but while time cannot be stopped, it can be managed — our regime of clocks and calendars compartmentalizes us as effectively as any wall, barricade, fence, or velvet rope.”

J. N. Nielsen, Variations on the Theme of Life, section 57

I have shuffled through with the masses because it was that or nothing — Hobson’s choice in the acquisition of the Western tradition. Like the velvet ropes that restrained my access to the Strahov Monastery library that I mentioned in In Praise of Private Libraries — but which were held aside for others with better connections — these symbolic barriers separate us from another life that is denied us.

Looking tired on my last day in Rome in the fall of 1997.

Looking tired on my last day in Rome in the fall of 1997.

Just so, for ten days or two weeks a working class individual from the industrialized world can live like the one percent, but then the interval passes and we return to our place and position and society, only because we lack the resources to continue. Coming back can be difficult; in fact, for me it seems to get increasingly difficult. Perhaps for others it is different. But now I sit at my desk, burned by the sun, and daydream of Sardinia.

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Monday


Feria du Cheval activities in the streets of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Feria du Cheval activities in the streets of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a charming beach town that, like Aigues-Mortes, is not spoiled by its touristic character. There are many restaurants and hotels, and a lively street life based around the tourist trade. There is also a lot of beach front here, which attracts a lot of families with children, who were taking the sun and playing in the surf. Without planning it, I happened to arrive at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer during the annual Feria du Cheval, with events from morning until late into the night associated with the horse culture of the region.

The pilgrimage church at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is Romaneque in spirit, but has a transitional vault of lancet arches.

The pilgrimage church at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is Romaneque in spirit, but has a transitional vault of lancet arches.

The Camargue is known for its white horses, which are very much in evidence wherever you drive in the region. There are numerous ranches and tourist businesses advertising horse riding. The Feria du Cheval puts the horses at center stage for several days, as well as the strongly Spanish-influenced culture of the region, which seems to go hand-in-hand with equestrian culture. Food, music, dance, and equestrian activities were all influenced by Spanish equestrian culture, though the language was always French.

The three saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe are the focus of devotions at the pilgrimage church.

The three saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe are the focus of devotions at the pilgrimage church.

In addition to the Feria du Cheval, it is also Bastille Day, symbolically recognized as the anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution, when on 14 July 1789 the Bastille, a prison and symbol of French royal authority, was taken over and occupied by the Bourgeois Militia of Paris (i.e., rioters), which had earlier the same day stormed Les Invalides for firearms, and now wanted the gunpowder stored at the Bastille.

Spectators gathered on the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer waiting for Bastille Day fireworks.

Spectators gathered on the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer waiting for Bastille Day fireworks.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer was packed and busy on Bastille Day, and as evening came people began to assemble on the beach. It seemed pretty obvious that a fireworks display was planned, as I had seen similar expectant crowds on the beach in my childhood at Seaside, Oregon, for the 4th of July fireworks displayed. Given that I began this journey the day after 4th of July, having seen some of the fireworks, I feel that I have come full circle in this particular voyage with the Bastille Day fireworks at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer fireworks display for Bastille Day.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer fireworks display for Bastille Day.

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Summer Vacation

6 July 2014

Sunday


Sardinia 2

One hundred years ago in July, 1914, as the July Crisis slowly gained momentum, much of Europe went on vacation. Like a classic exponential growth curve, the July Crisis began as a gradual and shallow escalation, and it was not until later in the month that the curve of escalation reached its inflection point and began to shoot upward. At the beginning, very little happened.

Sardinia 1

Immediately after giving carte blanche to Austria-Hungary for any actions it might take to punish the Serbs, the Kaiser left Berlin for Kiel to sail for Norwegian waters aboard his yacht, the Hohenzollern. The day before, German Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow left for his honeymoon in Lucerne — it would seem that no great sense of crisis attended the early days of the July Crisis, and no great weight was attached to decisions made at this time, which at least partially explains the Kaiser’s readiness to grant Austria-Hungary carte blanche backing in dealing with Serbia.

Sardinia 3

I, too, have departed for a summer vacation. Though I usually don’t travel in high summer (in the northern hemisphere), and I usually don’t travel to Europe during the season (since it is crowded and expensive), I thought that Sardinia would be sufficiently off the beaten path of tourist traffic to be spared the brunt of the traffic and would be bearable. So far, I have been right. Maybe it is simply because buses can’t drive directly from the continent that reduces the absolute numbers of tourism. There is something about islands that makes them different — and long before buses were an issue. Islands tend to inspire particularism, as well as loyalty to this particularist alternative to nationalism. This is very much in evidence in Sardinia.

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Sardinia 4

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Saturday


A Century of Industrialized Warfare:

Wilhelm II or William II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen; Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia; 27 January 1859 – o4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 09 November 1918. (Wikipedia)

Wilhelm II or William II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen; Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia; 27 January 1859 – o4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 09 November 1918. (Wikipedia)

Germany Signals Support for Austria-Hungary


One hundred years ago this 5th of July, a letter from Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, carried by Count Alexander Hoyos, was delivered to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hoyos, like many Austrians, wanted to see the Serbs punished for the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and is supposed to have said of the ultimatum issued to Serbia by Austria-Hungary, “…the demands were really such as to make it really impossible for a state with any self respect and dignity to accept them…” Franz Josef’s letter was discussed by the Kaiser and the Austrian Ambassador to Germany, Count L. de Szögyény-Marich. No documents survive from this meeting, but this was the occasion of the famous “blank check” given by Germany to Austria-Hungary, that Austria-Hungary could “rely on Germany’s full support” in any actions taken in relation to the “Sarajevo outrage.” Later the same day the Kaiser reviewed his assurances to Austria-Hungary with Bethmann Hollweg, Moritz von Lyncker, chief of Wilhelm’s military cabinet, and Erich von Falkenhayn, Prussian War Minister, who concurred with the Kaiser’s support for Austria-Hungary. This was not a hasty decision taken in isolation, but a matter discussed and reviewed at the highest levels of government.

Kaiser Wilhelm lI, Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918 with Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria from 1848 to 1916.

Kaiser Wilhelm lI, Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918
with Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria from 1848 to 1916.

The next day, a Telegram from the Imperial Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg, was sent to the German Ambassador at Vienna, Heinrich Leonhard von Tschirschky und Bögendorff (15 July 1858 – 15 November 1916), which read as follows:

Berlin, July 6, 1914

Confidential. For Your Excellency’s personal information and guidance

The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador yesterday delivered to the Emperor a confidential personal letter from the Emperor Francis Joseph, which depicts the present situation from the Austro-Hungarian point of view, and describes the measures which Vienna has in view. A copy is now being forwarded to Your Excellency.

I replied to Count Szögyény today on behalf of His Majesty that His Majesty sends his thanks to the Emperor Francis Joseph for his letter and would soon answer it personally. In the meantime His Majesty desires to say that he is not blind to the danger which threatens Austria-Hungary and thus the Triple Alliance as a result of the Russian and Serbian Pan-Slavic agitation. Even though His Majesty is known to feel no unqualified confidence in Bulgaria and her ruler, and naturally inclines more toward our old ally Rumania and her Hohenzollern prince, yet he quite understands that the Emperor Francis Joseph, in view of the attitude of Rumania and of the danger of a new Balkan alliance aimed directly at the Danube Monarchy, is anxious to bring about an understanding between Bulgaria and the Triple alliance [...]. His Majesty will, further more, make an effort at Bucharest, according to the wishes of the Emperor Francis Joseph, to influence King Carol to the fulfilment of the duties of his alliance, to the renunciation of Serbia, and to the suppression of the Rumanian agitations directed against Austria-Hungary.

Finally, as far as concerns Serbia, His Majesty, of course, cannot interfere in the dispute now going on between Austria-Hungary and that country, as it is a matter not within his competence. The Emperor Francis Joseph may, however, rest assured that His Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship.

BETHMANN-HOLLWEG

This isn’t quite the “smoking gun” that we would like to see, but it is clear enough is asserting that the Kaiser, “will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary,” and it also demonstrates a certain degree of prescience in “Serbian Pan-Slavic agitation” — which would, eventually, bring Russia in the fray.

Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I (German: Franz Joseph I., Hungarian: I. Ferenc József, Slovene: Franc Jožef I.,18 August 1830 – 21 November 1916) was Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary from 1848 until his death in 1916.  (Wikipedia)

Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I (German: Franz Joseph I., Hungarian: I. Ferenc József, Slovene: Franc Jožef I.,18 August 1830 – 21 November 1916) was Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary from 1848 until his death in 1916. (Wikipedia)

In the run up to the First World War, this blank check given to Austria-Hungary by Germany was one of the pivotal triggers of the July Crisis. Although I don’t want to undermine the assertion that the assassination in Sarajevo was a trigger of the First World War, I would insist that it was a trigger and not the trigger, and it would be just as profitable, from an historiographical perspective, to consider a sequence of triggers of which the assassination was the first. In other words, there is not single, unique trigger for the First World War, but a sequence of escalating triggers, each contingent upon the preceding the the following trigger for the events of 1914 to eventually pass the threshold of openly declared war and thus to become the first global industrialized war.

Alexander Graf von Hoyos, Freiherr zu Stichsenstein, Chef de cabinet of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, and courier of a request for support from Franz Josef to Wilhelm II.

Alexander Graf von Hoyos, Freiherr zu Stichsenstein, Chef de cabinet of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, and courier of a request for support from Franz Josef to Wilhelm II.

This sequence of triggers might as well be called a continuum of triggers, and we might plausibly select and argue for any arbitrary point along the continuum as the crucial trigger that made the whole of the First World War possible. To recognize a continuum of triggers, one following another, is to understand that the triggers occur in the context of structure forces that make it possible for the trigger to be a trigger. If the structural forces, both local and global, and causes both short-term and long-term, were not already in place, the trigger would have come to nothing. The understand the origins of the First World War, then, one must attempt to understand the whole of the European system on the even of the First World War, because it was the entire military, political, diplomatic, and social system of the time that was ultimately the “cause” of the First World War. Let us, then, consider a little more context in order to make sense of the outbreak of the First World War.

Theobald Theodor Friedrich Alfred von Bethmann Hollweg (29 November 1856 – 1 January 1921) was a German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor of the German Empire from 1909 to 1917. (Wikipedia)

Theobald Theodor Friedrich Alfred von Bethmann Hollweg (29 November 1856 – 01 January 1921) was a German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor of the German Empire from 1909 to 1917. (Wikipedia)

Europe has a long history of descent into shockingly violent fratricidal warfare, followed by a period of reflection, in which social and political measures are taken in an attempt to prevent another similar outbreak in the future. This pattern is not limited to the twentieth century. The Hundred Years’ War witnessed several cycles of political violence followed by uneasy peace, the Thirty Years’ War was a particularly brutal nadir, though the settlement of the Thirty Years’ war resulted in the nation-state international system we have today, and eventually a reaction against superstition and religious absolutism that we call the Enlightenment (which I discussed yesterday in The Right of the People to Alter or to Abolish). After the series of Napoleonic Wars that drew in most of Europe, the victors — or perhaps I should say the survivors — as always sought to construct an international order that would prevent political violence on this scope and scale from again breaking out.

Szőgyény-Marich_László_1890-52

One of the results of the settlement of the Napoleonic Wars was the emergence of Belgium as an independent kingdom. This was a process that began with the Belgian Revolution in 1830, which led to the 1830 London Conference in which Europe’s major powers recognized the independence of Belgium on the condition of strict Belgian neutrality. The Dutch didn’t sign on to the Treaty of London until 1839, so that the formation of Belgium as we know it today required about ten years of political negotiations. Belgium has been called “the crossroads of Europe” as so many armies have marched across its territory — the Battle of Waterloo was fought in what is now Belgium — and it was thought, in the best tradition of European good intentions, that a Kingdom of Belgium formally committed to neutrality would contribute to ongoing balance of power politics that would prevent (or, at least, hamper) any one of the great powers from causing the kind of trouble that Napoleon caused for the other European powers. In fact, German violation of Belgian neutrality in August 1914 became an additional trigger that brought England into the war on the side of France.

Heinrich Leonhard von Tschirschky und Bögendorff (15 July 1858 – 15 November 1916) was a German diplomat and politician, who served as Foreign Secretary and head of the Foreign Office from 24 January 1906 to 25 October 1907. (Wikipedia)

Heinrich Leonhard von Tschirschky und Bögendorff (15 July 1858 – 15 November 1916) was a German diplomat and politician, who served as Foreign Secretary and head of the Foreign Office from 24 January 1906 to 25 October 1907. (Wikipedia)

In 1914, the whole of Europe was predicated upon a war that all the great powers expected, but no one knew exactly when or where or how it would start. Europeans had been expecting and planning for a war between the great powers literally for generations. The attempts to create an international order that would make war less likely ironically created a climate in which the whole of Europe was primed for war, prepared for war, and ready to go to war on a moment’s notice. The international system as it existed in the Europe in 1914 was not, appearances to the contrary, a stable and peaceful equilibrium into which a random and arbitrary trigger brought death, misery and suffering on an unprecedented scale. Rather, the period between the Napoleonic wars and the First World War was more like the Cold War — a peace not worthy of the name, so we call it something else. All through the Cold War we lived in fear of a random, arbitrary trigger that would mean a massive nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. Fortunately, this did not occur, but if it had occurred, it would not have occurred in a vacuum. A match can light a fire only where tinder and fuel are ready to hand.

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1914 to 2014

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A Century of Industrialized Warfare

0. A Century of Industrialized Warfare

1. Assassination in Sarajevo

2. Headlines around the World

3. The July Crisis

4. A Blank Check for Austria-Hungary

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Grand Strategy Annex

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Friday


Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were named to a committee to prepare a declaration of independence. Jefferson (standing) did the actual writing because he was known as a good writer. Congress deleted Jefferson's most extravagant rhetoric and accusations. (Virginia Historical Society)

“Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were named to a committee to prepare a declaration of independence. Jefferson (standing) did the actual writing because he was known as a good writer. Congress deleted Jefferson’s most extravagant rhetoric and accusations.” (Virginia Historical Society)

On this, the 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I would like to recall what is perhaps the centerpiece of the document: a ringing affirmation of what would later, during the French Revolution, be called “The Rights of Man,” and how and why a people with “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” should go about securing these rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

The famous litany of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness names certain specific instances, we note, among the unalienable rights of human beings (a partial, and not an exhaustive list of such rights), and in the very same paragraph the founders have mentioned the Right of the People to alter or to abolish any form of government that becomes destructive to these ends. This is significant; the right of the people to alter or abolish a government that is destructive of unalienable rights is itself an unalienable right, though qualified by the condition that established governments should not be lightly overthrown. The Founders did not say that long established governments should never be overthrown, since they were in the process of overthrowing the government of one of the oldest kingdoms in Europe, but that such an action should not be undertaken lightly.

In keeping with with a prioristic language of self-evident truths, the Founders have formulated the right to alter or to abolish in terms of forms of government. In other words, the right to alter or abolish is framed not in terms of particular tyrannical or corrupt regimes, but on the form of the regime. This is political platonism, pure and simple. The Founders are here recognizing that there are a few distinct forms of government, just as there are a few distinct unalienable rights. For the political platonism of the Anglophone Englightenment, forms of government and unalienable rights are part of the furniture of the universe (a phrase I previously employed in Defunct Ideas and some other posts).

It has always been the work of revolutions to alter or to abolish forms of government, and this is still true today, although we are much less likely to think in these platonistic terms about the forms of governments and unalienable rights. To be sure, the idea of rights has become absolutized to a certain extent in the contemporary world, but it is a conflicted absolute idea, because it is an absolute idea stranded in a society that no longer believes in absolute ideas. In just the same way, the governmental tradition of the US is a “stranded asset” of history — an anachronistic relic of the Enlightenment that has survived through several post-Enlightenment periods of history and still survives today. The language of the Enlightenment can still speak to us today — it has a perennial resonance with human nature — but if you can get a typical representative of our age to engage in a detailed conversation about political ideals, you will not find many proponents of Enlightenment ideals, such as the perfectibility of man, throwing off past superstitions, the belief in progress, the dawning of a new world, and a universalist conception of human nature. These are, now, by-and-large, defunct ideas. But not entirely.

If you do find these Enlightenment ideals, you will find them in a very different form than the form that they took among the Enlightenment Founders of the American republic — and note here my use of “form” and again the platonism that implies. Those today who most passionately believe in the Enlightenment ideals of progress, perfectibility, and a new world on the horizon are, by and large, transhumanists and singulatarians. They believe (often enthusiastically) in an optimistic vision of a better future, although the future they envision would be, for some among us, a paradigm of moral horror — human beings altered beyond all recognition and leading lives that have little or no relationship to human lives as they have been lived since the beginning of civilization.

Transhumanists and singulatarians also believe in the right of the people to alter or to abolish institutions that have become destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — but the institutions they seek to alter or abolish are none other than the institutions of the human body and the human mind (or, platonistically, the form of the human body and the form of the human mind), far older than any form of government, and presumably not to be lightly altered or abolished. Looking at the contemporary literature on transhumanism, with some arguing for and some arguing against, it is obvious that one of the great moral conflicts in the coming century (and perhaps for some time after, until some settlement is reached, or until we and our civilization are so transformed that the question loses its meaning) is going to be that over transhumanism, which is, essentially, a platonistic question about what it means to be human (and the attempt to define the distinction between the human and the non-human, which I recently wrote about). For some, what it means to be human is already fixed for all time and eternity; for others, what it means to be human is not fixed, but is subject to continual change and revision, taking in the whole of human prehistory and what we were before we were human.

It is likely that the coming moral conflict over transhumanism (both the conflict and transhumanism itself have already started, but they remain at the shallow end of an exponential growth curve) will eventually make itself felt as social and political conflict. The ethico-religious conflict in Europe from the advent of the Reformation to the end of the Thirty Years’ War brought into being the political institution of the nation-state and even created the conditions for the Enlightenment, as a reaction against the religious excesses the Reformation and its consequences. Similarly, the ethico-social conflict that will follow from divisions over transhumanism (and related technological developments that will blur the distinction between the human and the non-human) may in their turn be the occasion of the emergence of revolutionary changes in social and political institutions. Retaining the right of the people to alter or abolish their institutions means remaining open to such revolutionary change.

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Happy 4th of July!

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Grand Strategy Annex

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The July Crisis

1 July 2014

Tuesday


A Century of Industrialized Warfare:

July 18 fleet

The Escalating Crisis of July 1914


One hundred years ago the month of July became the “July Crisis.” We know in hindsight that the July Crisis culminated in the outbreak of what would become the First World War, but it was not at all clear at the time that the July Crisis would result in anything out of the ordinary. For much of July 1914, it was an open question whether the July Crisis would be just another crisis in the long sequence of crises (and small wars) that had punctuated the long peace since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. A hundred years of European peace is enough to make even the most suspicious and edgy among us complacent.

And there were many crises of the international system, especially after the Franco-Prussian War:

● 1885-1888 Bulgarian Crisis

● 1898 Fashoda Incident

● 1905-1906 Tangier Crisis (First Moroccan Crisis)

● 1908–1909 Bosnian Crisis (First Balkan Crisis)

● 1911 Agadir Crisis (Second Moroccan Crisis)

● 1912 First Balkan War

● 1913 Second Balkan War

From a contemporaneous perspective, there was no particular reason to suppose that the July Crisis of 1914 should have been any different from the almost annual series of crises that preceded it.

Moreover, these continual crises did not occur in a vacuum, but were punctuations in the dynamics of great power politics: the Ottoman Empire was the “Sick Man of Europe,” there was the “scramble for Africa,” and the naval arms race between Britain and Germany to see who could build the most Dreadnaught class battleships raged. Europeans nevertheless found a way to go about the ordinary business of life. Indeed, it seemed to be a July like any other July. There is a now-famous quote from Stephan Zweig that attributes a unique quality to that portentous summer:

“The summer of 1914 would have been memorable for us even without the doom which it spread over the European earth. I had rarely experienced one more luxuriant, more beautiful and, I am tempted to say, more summery. Throughout the days and nights the heavens were a silky blue, the air soft yet not sultry, the meadows fragrant and warm, the forests dark and profuse in their tender green…”

Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday, Chapter IX, “The First Hours of the War of 1914″

When Stefan Zweig was enjoying, “…those radiant July days which I spent in Baden near Vienna,” it was, incidentally, the July that my maternal grandmother turned 18. I mention my grandmother here because she is my personal link to the past. Being born in the 19th century, she was old enough to remember the war in its entirety, the dancing in the streets when the armistice took effect, and the Spanish flu that followed, which took one of her close friends. I often imagine what my grandmother was doing as these events unfolded in order to anchor myself in past that I know and which has personal significance to me. You could dismiss this as sentimentalism, or, if charitable, call it a thought experiment.

In 1914 a thought experiment would have been a luxury, as the events were unfolding in the real world, but in early July, still at a slow pace. Keep in mind, however, that, of these many crises that preceded the First World War, many of them did in fact erupt into wars — though these wars were short, limited, and local. Europe had not seen a continental wide war since the Napoleonic wars, and arguably the international system had not seen a global conflict since the Seven Years’ War.

From the perspective of contemporaries, even if the July Crisis erupted into a war involving one or several of the great powers, there was no reason to suppose that this war would differ qualitatively from any of the last dozen or so wars. Even when France and Germany last went to war, this too was short, limited, and local. The Franco-Prussian war perfectly conformed to “the dogma of a short war,” and even once the First World War got underway, most expected it, too, to be a short, sharp war that would either rapidly confirm Germany’s preeminence on the continent, or which would return Alsace and Lorraine to France while checking (if not humiliating) the ambitions of growing Germany.

What John Maurer (among others) has called “The Short War Dogma” was a pervasive presupposition of war planners at the time. Here is how Maurer described the outlook:

“The dogmas of political economy that then held sway — the interdependence of great power economies, the seemingly prohibitive cost of waging a modern war, the supposed limited ability of the state to intervene in a country’s economic life, and the fear of social revolution — appeared to dictate the necessity of short wars in the modern era.”

John H. Maurer, The Outbreak of the First World War: Strategic Planning, Crisis Decision Making, and Deterrence Failure, p. 3

…and…

“…military planners could not provide a neat operational solution to the strategic problems posed by a protracted conflict. Instead of dwelling on contingencies that seemed problematical, war planners before 1914 concentrated on the task of securing a knockout blow to the enemy’s armies in the first round — the decisive battle or battle of annihilation. This ‘decisive battle of annihilation’ would overwhelmingly dictate the outcome of the wars fought between continental European states. Bereft of its army, a continental state would have no alternative but to seek an armistice and negotiate for the best terms it could obtain to end the war. The essential component of the short war dogma, then, was the climactic battle of annihilation.”

John H. Maurer, The Outbreak of the First World War: Strategic Planning, Crisis Decision Making, and Deterrence Failure, p. 4

The coming four years were to send the Europeans to the school of Thucydides, in which war, “proves a rough master, that brings most men’s characters to a level with their fortunes.” However, even while war brings most men’s characters to a level with their fortunes, the character of newly industrialized nation-states was to prove that the presumed insuperable difficulties of economic interdependence, the cost of modern war, and the possibility of social revolution (which latter was in fact realized in Russia, as well as in the French trenches) could be borne, though at a cost. The cost was staggering, but the fact that nation-states could and did bear a staggering cost in blood and treasure had the consequence of the scope and scale of the First World War, which definitively demonstrated the falsity of the short war dogma.

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1914 to 2014

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A Century of Industrialized Warfare

0. A Century of Industrialized Warfare

1. Assassination in Sarajevo

2. Headlines around the World

3. The July Crisis

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twentury century war collage small

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signature

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Grand Strategy Annex

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