Wednesday, August 27, 2014

1914 And All That...

This is the first of a number of posts dedicated to a CAART-based dissection of the First World War.

To that end, I will begin by quoting Herbert Butterfield, co-progenitor of the English School of "diplomatics" and international relations, on the grave conceptual flaw which underlay the "War to End All Wars":

The struggle which began in 1914...was fought on a basis that was bound to give the maximum scope to the hysterias and frenzies associated with the fury of battle. Precisely because it was conducted as a war "for righteousness", a war "for the destruction of the wicked", that whole conflict was turned into one that could admit of no compromise.
Precisely because of the myth of "the war to end all war", we made it more true than it had been for centuries that war breeds war, provokes revolution, generates new causes of conflict, deepens resentments, and produces those reversions which we call modern barbarism.
The decision to fight an unlimited war, for the vindication of morality as such, amounted to a decision to give war a greatly enhanced role in history, but it did not alter the dreadful character of the role which warfare always plays.  And since we cannot yet say that we have produced a world in which the possibility of war is at all ruled out, it is a question whether the more terrible moral responsibility does not lie upon those who insist on war à outrance than on those who had perhaps only the marginal responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities in the first place.
(Sir Herbert Butterfield, Christianity, Diplomacy and War, 1953, p. 17.)
This is a massively important statement of culpability, not only for The Great War, but for all the major conflicts which have followed.  It allows us to comprehend the threat of nuclear war in its proper perspective, and to see the futility of neo-realistic approaches to conflict resolution which effectively ignore the other side's concerns and interests -- a path we appear to be following right now in Ukraine with regard to the Russian Federation.

More to follow, about 1914 and especially about the implications of Butterfield's work. 

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