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Britain Should Have Fought in the First World War (poll) Watch

  • View Poll Results: Britain Should Have Fought in the First World War
    Yes, Britian should have fought the First World War
    16
    61.54%
    No, Britian should not have fought the First World War
    9
    34.62%
    Undecided
    1
    3.85%

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    Was recently watching this debate:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA


    I was just wondering what people think? (regarding the title)

    Personally, I believe we should have got involved. It was a just war, Germany had invaded Belgium and was a serious threat on the European mainland, despite the revisionists who *claim* that Germany was a nice social democratic country. It was in our interests to fight the war if we are looking at the conflict on the eve on August 3rd 1914 and not 2016.

    Think, as British statesmen did at the time, about what a German victory might have meant. German demands would have been drastic: France would lose part of its northern coast, and Belgium and Luxembourg would have been gobbled up.
    A Europe dominated by such a Germany would have been an unhappy place: it would have been disastrous for Britain economically and in every other way. So, yes, I think Britain was probably right to enter the war.

    British foreign policy had long been worked out based on the necessity of maintaining the status quo on mainland Europe by acting to contain the expansion of any wayward power appearing to be threatening domination. Traditionally, this had involved creating coalitions while contributing only a small army on the continent. Meanwhile, as an aggressive imperial power, Britain had used its naval strength to harvest new colonies, protect maritime trade and concentrate troops at key locations.

    Since its defeat of France in 1871, Germany had threatened domination of Europe while also challenging the supremacy of the Royal Navy through a provocative naval race. During the July Crisis of 1914, Britain was not central to events and initially favoured a negotiated settlement. Yet the invasion of Belgium, the possibility of outright defeat for France and the threat to the Channel ports were challenges that, given the sensibilities of the age, could only be answered by war.

    Britain was perfectly well equipped for the traditional maritime role that had served it well. Unfortunately, the war would demand an enormous British military commitment on the western front, for which the army was ill-prepared. This tragedy is one that we cannot seem to forgive or forget.





    The poll is not on how we should fight the war, it is not if our activities during the war were good/ bad and should not be looked in the simple prism of hindsight.
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    Imperial Germany was not in the habit of being oppressive to its subjects or violating their human rights - at least, no more than any other state of the period. It was certainly nothing like Nazi Germany. A Europe dominated by Germany would have been less democratic and somewhat weaker economically, but it would hardly be unbearable for anyone living in one of the German client states.

    Germany's only mistake, once war was inevitable, was in seeking to gain an early military advantage by attacking first, rather than waiting and allowing France and Russia to be the aggressors. Had it done so, nobody in Britain (or Belgium for that matter) could have complained if German troops then demanded to cross peacefully through Belgium to strike back at France. Instead, Germany chose to force its way through without provocation, which made it more or less impossible for Britain not to get involved.
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    This was a time when not everyone could vote in "free" Britain. All of the reasons you give of why we should have gone to war are not good enough. It's a a bunch of giant meat grinders that grind their pawns into the dust for the sake of the rival Queens. I care about the pawns universally over the interests of the rival Queens.

    As to how that translates onto "what is to be done"... I dunno. But at best WWI is one massive tragedy and the result of the awful order of the world. I wouldn't ever call it a just war even if it were unavoidable for UK to avoid entering into.
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    Was recently watching this debate:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA


    I was just wondering what people think? (regarding the title)

    Personally, I believe we should have got involved. It was a just war, Germany had invaded Poland...
    I think you are about 25 years early with that one...

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    (Original post by ageshallnot)
    I think you are about 25 years early with that one...

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    Well spotted. I meant Belgium of course.
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    (Original post by ChaoticButterfly)
    This was a time when not everyone could vote in "free" Britain. All of the reasons you give of why we should have gone to war are not good enough. It's a a bunch of giant meat grinders that grind their pawns into the dust for the sake of the rival Queens. I care about the pawns universally over the interests of the rival Queens.

    As to how that translates onto "what is to be done"... I dunno. But at best WWI is one massive strategy and the result of the awful order of the world. I wouldn't ever call it a just war.
    Thats a very revisionist understanding, one that has been rebutted and largely abandoned by even modern day revisionists like niall Ferguson.

    Essentially, you have fallen into the trap in imposing modern day standards. They didn't fight for freedom, or social democracy. They did however fight for empire, British interests and to stop Britian being invaded "like plucky little Belgium". Dont get confused and don't apply modern morality tothe decision, that is not what the question asks. The "poets war" (Wilfred Owen etc) didn't happen and nobody had ever heard of these people till after the war, and even if they did, people like Owen still believed that Britain was right to enter the war. I mean for gods sake after writing dulce et decorum, he VOLUNTEERED to go back to the front and won an MC.

    Your second paragraph is similar to max hasting point, who however takes it in a different direction and says that because of this indecisiveness, Britain had no choice
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    Thats a very revisionist understanding, one that has been rebutted and largely abandoned by even modern day revisionists like niall Ferguson.

    Essentially, you have fallen into the trap in imposing modern day standards. They didn't fight for freedom, or social democracy. They did however fight for empire, British interests and to stop Britian being invaded "like plucky little Belgium". Dont get confused and don't apply modern morality tothe decision, that is not what the question asks. The "poets war" (Wilfred Owen etc) didn't happen and nobody had ever heard of these people till after the war, and even if they did, people like Owen still believed that Britain was right to enter the war. I mean for gods sake after writing dulce et decorum, he VOLUNTEERED to go back to the front and won an MC.

    Your second paragraph is similar to max hasting point, who however takes it in a different direction and says that because of this indecisiveness, Britain had no choice
    That's like saying the real reason NATO went to war in Iraq was nothing to do with WMDs or deposing a tyrant, but instead to get easier access to cheap oil. It may well be true, but this does not invalidate the official reason or exclude it from being considered in the justness or otherwise of the war.

    Whatever Britain's reasons for entering WWI, the reason it presented to the world was that it had to protect little countries like Belgium from the depredations of the brutal and bloodthirsty German war machine. If this were true then it would be a good justification, but the fact is that it wasn't and the government knew very well it wasn't. Britain knew that "to preserve the balance of power" was not an acceptable excuse according to the traditional just war theories, even if diplomats and politicians on both sides privately understood that to be the case, hence why it had to come up with a more heroic official version for the general public and potential allies like America.
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    (Original post by Arbolus)
    That's like saying the real reason NATO went to war in Iraq was nothing to do with WMDs or deposing a tyrant, but instead to get easier access to cheap oil. It may well be true, but this does not invalidate the official reason or exclude it from being considered in the justness or otherwise of the war.

    Whatever Britain's reasons for entering WWI, the reason it presented to the world was that it had to protect little countries like Belgium from the depredations of the brutal and bloodthirsty German war machine. If this were true then it would be a good justification, but the fact is that it wasn't and the government knew very well it wasn't. Britain knew that "to preserve the balance of power" was not an acceptable excuse according to the traditional just war theories, even if diplomats and politicians on both sides privately understood that to be the case, hence why it had to come up with a more heroic official version for the general public and potential allies like America.
    Your first paragraph was the point I was trying to make. And that reason (both the official one and the reasons that were withheld from the public at the time) were right in their reasoning and circumstance.

    Britian did go to war on behalf of the Belgians, but also to preserve the European balance of power. This was the right thing to do. Lets not pretend that Germany was a nice social democracy. It may have had more of its population being able to vote than the British, but it wasn't progressive and it certainly wasn't 'liberal'. The democratic government was still dominated by the Kaiser, and whilst he wasn't Hitler, he certainly wasn't a nice man. The power of the German government still lay in the hands of the Kaiser, not the German people.
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    Was recently watching this debate:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA


    I was just wondering what people think? (regarding the title)

    Personally, I believe we should have got involved. It was a just war, Germany had invaded Belgium and was a serious threat on the European mainland, despite the revisionists who *claim* that Germany was a nice social democratic country. It was in our interests to fight the war if we are looking at the conflict on the eve on August 3rd 1914 and not 2016.

    Think, as British statesmen did at the time, about what a German victory might have meant. German demands would have been drastic: France would lose part of its northern coast, and Belgium and Luxembourg would have been gobbled up.
    A Europe dominated by such a Germany would have been an unhappy place: it would have been disastrous for Britain economically and in every other way. So, yes, I think Britain was probably right to enter the war.

    British foreign policy had long been worked out based on the necessity of maintaining the status quo on mainland Europe by acting to contain the expansion of any wayward power appearing to be threatening domination. Traditionally, this had involved creating coalitions while contributing only a small army on the continent. Meanwhile, as an aggressive imperial power, Britain had used its naval strength to harvest new colonies, protect maritime trade and concentrate troops at key locations.

    Since its defeat of France in 1871, Germany had threatened domination of Europe while also challenging the supremacy of the Royal Navy through a provocative naval race. During the July Crisis of 1914, Britain was not central to events and initially favoured a negotiated settlement. Yet the invasion of Belgium, the possibility of outright defeat for France and the threat to the Channel ports were challenges that, given the sensibilities of the age, could only be answered by war.

    Britain was perfectly well equipped for the traditional maritime role that had served it well. Unfortunately, the war would demand an enormous British military commitment on the western front, for which the army was ill-prepared. This tragedy is one that we cannot seem to forgive or forget.





    The poll is not on how we should fight the war, it is not if our activities during the war were good/ bad and should not be looked in the simple prism of hindsight.
    No, we should not have fought in the First World War. Germany had extended the vote to a greater proportion of its population than Britain had, and we were "defending" Belgium, a country which had just committed mass genocide in the Congo.

    There were no good guys or bad guys in the First World War: it was a devastating war between imperial powers over land, territory and other resources. It wasn't about "freedom or democracy", despite what the jingoists try to claim today.
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    (Original post by ChaoticButterfly)
    This was a time when not everyone could vote in "free" Britain. All of the reasons you give of why we should have gone to war are not good enough. It's a a bunch of giant meat grinders that grind their pawns into the dust for the sake of the rival Queens. I care about the pawns universally over the interests of the rival Queens.

    As to how that translates onto "what is to be done"... I dunno. But at best WWI is one massive tragedy and the result of the awful order of the world. I wouldn't ever call it a just war even if it were unavoidable for UK to avoid entering into.
    I miss the times when most people couldn't vote...
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    No, we should not have fought in the First World War. Germany had extended the vote to a greater proportion of its population than Britain had, and we were "defending" Belgium, a country which had just committed mass genocide in the Congo.
    It wasn't Belgium, it was King Leopold in his own capacity as a private citizen who committed that atrocity. Please do not blacken the name of an entire country because of what their King did.

    Oh, and it may be true that a greater proportion of Germans were able to vote as opposed to Brits, but certainly the vote of a Briton counted for much more...the Kaiser retained significant constitutional powers in Imperial Germany.
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    Think, as British statesmen did at the time, about what a German victory might have meant.
    Like Winston who believed everything was a German conspiracy!

    But seriously, I don't see any moral difference between a German dominated Europe and a British dominated Europe in the early 20th c. Remember that in the long term the war caused more harm than good, even in the UK.

    It's not talked about much because it doesn't fit with the "glorious victory", but there were many riots, strikes and mutinies following the war.
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    Your first paragraph was the point I was trying to make. And that reason (both the official one and the reasons that were withheld from the public at the time) were right in their reasoning and circumstance.

    Britian did go to war on behalf of the Belgians, but also to preserve the European balance of power. This was the right thing to do. Lets not pretend that Germany was a nice social democracy. It may have had more of its population being able to vote than the British, but it wasn't progressive and it certainly wasn't 'liberal'. The democratic government was still dominated by the Kaiser, and whilst he wasn't Hitler, he certainly wasn't a nice man. The power of the German government still lay in the hands of the Kaiser, not the German people.
    The German Empire was definitely no liberal social democracy, but nor was it an outright autocracy like Russia. The Kaiser may have played an active role in government, but he was still bound by the constitution which, unlike in many other countries, was taken seriously. Germany's minorities such as the Jews, the Poles in Poznań and the Danes in Schleswig were encouraged to Germanise but otherwise were not mistreated.

    In general, I would compare the situation in Germany in 1914 to that of Britain in the early 18th century. The other European states thought no worse of Germany for not being fully democratic, and were for decades happy to deal with it as an equal.

    Hence why the idea that the Britain was motivated by concern for a German threat to liberty makes no sense. If the Danes and Poles were managing well enough under German rule, why shouldn't the Belgians? The balance of power was always about ensuring no state could ever become overpowered in the manner of Napoleonic France, but if, like France, a country that did so was relatively free and progressive by the standards of the day, then would it really be so dreadful if that country succeeded?
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    (Original post by Cato the Elder)
    I miss the times when most people couldn't vote...
    Edgy.
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    (Original post by viddy9)
    No, we should not have fought in the First World War. Germany had extended the vote to a greater proportion of its population than Britain had, and we were "defending" Belgium, a country which had just committed mass genocide in the Congo.

    There were no good guys or bad guys in the First World War: it was a devastating war between imperial powers over land, territory and other resources. It wasn't about "freedom or democracy", despite what the jingoists try to claim today.
    Nobody has made that argument (freedom/ democracy) - who are you referring to?

    Belgium did not commit genocide. King Leopold did. Hypothetically, even if it was the Belgium's who did commit genocide, the Germans weren't invading on their behalf or for that injustice in mind.

    Very, very poor reasoning.
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    (Original post by Arbolus)
    The German Empire was definitely no liberal social democracy, but nor was it an outright autocracy like Russia. The Kaiser may have played an active role in government, but he was still bound by the constitution which, unlike in many other countries, was taken seriously. Germany's minorities such as the Jews, the Poles in Poznań and the Danes in Schleswig were encouraged to Germanise but otherwise were not mistreated.

    In general, I would compare the situation in Germany in 1914 to that of Britain in the early 18th century. The other European states thought no worse of Germany for not being fully democratic, and were for decades happy to deal with it as an equal.

    Hence why the idea that the Britain was motivated by concern for a German threat to liberty makes no sense. If the Danes and Poles were managing well enough under German rule, why shouldn't the Belgians? The balance of power was always about ensuring no state could ever become overpowered in the manner of Napoleonic France, but if, like France, a country that did so was relatively free and progressive by the standards of the day, then would it really be so dreadful if that country succeeded?
    I think you need to lay off the Niall Ferguson books. He made that argument, and even went as far to compare it to the EU haha
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    (Original post by ChaoticButterfly)
    This was a time when not everyone could vote in "free" Britain. All of the reasons you give of why we should have gone to war are not good enough. It's a a bunch of giant meat grinders that grind their pawns into the dust for the sake of the rival Queens. I care about the pawns universally over the interests of the rival Queens.

    As to how that translates onto "what is to be done"... I dunno. But at best WWI is one massive tragedy and the result of the awful order of the world. I wouldn't ever call it a just war even if it were unavoidable for UK to avoid entering into.
    Inb4youareirish.
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    I think you need to lay off the Niall Ferguson books. He made that argument, and even went as far to compare it to the EU haha
    I've no idea who Niall Ferguson is; I'm simply speaking from common sense. Britain needed an excuse to justify its own self-interest, therefore it invented one which seems plausible at first but upon closer inspection is nonsense.
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    (Original post by Arbolus)
    I've no idea who Niall Ferguson is; I'm simply speaking from common sense. Britain needed an excuse to justify its own self-interest, therefore it invented one which seems plausible at first but upon closer inspection is nonsense.
    Niall ferguson is a public historian who essentially made that argument in his book "the pity of war", which has largely since been discredited in the past decade. Which is why I said you need to stop reading his books. It's like reading Runciman if you are a Crusader historian (most prominent historian of the Crusades who wrote in the 1950s, but again, has largely been discredited by modern scholars).

    It didn't "event" its own self interest. Germany wasn't a progressive social democracy, and it is naïve to think that they would have even been benevolent dictators on the European continent - explain how it is nonsense?
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    (Original post by AlwaysWatching)
    Nobody has made that argument (freedom/ democracy) - who are you referring to?
    That's the problem with OP, for me anyway. None of the reasons for the war you gave impress me much. If I was a peasant, working class person or a more socially conscience privileged person in an imperial power I would rather just let a regime change happen if it was going to happen as long as it would not be that much different to my current one, as opposed to getting slaughtered defending something I don't care for or actively despise. I'd only ever willingly fight if it was to stop a greater evil trampling all over where I live or for something I considered a positive cause. I would have took up arms against Fascists in Spain and for the organisation like the CNT. But to willingly fight in the big imperialist meat grinder of world war 1? Not so much. I;d probably be the soldiers that sang the international across the trenches. Or when hears of the Russian Revolution considers mutiny.

    You need to make that argument (freedom/ democracy) if you want to convince me. The lack of that argument is the problem.
 
 
 
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