The Great War
By Arnold Kling
The names of Asquith, Bethmann-Hollweg, Berchtold and Poincare are barely remembered, yet on any reasonable accounting they belong among the great criminals of history. Not only did they create the conditions for war, and rush (eagerly in most cases) into it, they carried on even as the death toll mounted into the hundreds of thousands and beyond. Even as the original grounds for war became utterly irrelevant, they continued to intrigue for trivial postwar benefits, carving up imagined conquests among themselves. Eventually, most were displaced by leaders who were marginally less mediocre, and more determined to win at all costs (Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Ludendorff, Hindenburg and others).
Thanks to Will Wilkinson for the pointer.
The first World War is one of the topics in history that interests me the most. I really think that if more people focused on leadership during that war, the concerns over “market failure” and the faith in political leadership would decline. I challenge anyone to come up with a group of business villains who caused as much death and suffering as the “legitimate” political leaders of 1914.
My proposal for Veterans’ Day observances is that they should include a re-telling of the history of World War I along the lines of the Passover re-telling of the Exodus. My goal would be to help innoculate people from believing in the wisdom of the ruling class.