Life

The Great Flood of World War I, the Beginning of this Era

In every era, a great flood begins and ends with a great flood.

Far away, the collapse of the Roman Empire was the Great Flood, which led to the beginning of the Medieval Era. Slightly more recently, Napoleon swept across Europe, which was also a great flood, followed by a hundred years of relatively stable Vienna international system.

So the beginning of this era is World War I, a standard World War I flood. Before World War I, the world was basically able to live and work in peace and contentment, with relatively little turmoil and few refugees running around. After World War I, the system was broken, and all kinds of pain, numbness, and war came one after another.

I don’t know what kind of great flood will happen at the end of this era. Today, let’s talk about the great flood at the beginning.

The First World War also had its origin, which was the unification of the German Empire.

Before the unification of the German Empire, the German-speaking nation was fragmented. I can list a lot of political entities in the German-speaking world without looking up information. Austria, Bavaria, Prussia, Saxony, Puerfatz, Hesse… there are many princes of all sizes in this small territory, which was very weak in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Especially after the rise of nation-states, the German-speaking people saw that Britain and France were so powerful and were envious of them. They also wanted to live a good life like the British, so reunification gradually became the aspiration of the Germans.

The harbinger of unification was that in 1818, Prussia took the lead in abolishing inland tariffs. Following the establishment of the North German Customs Union in 1826, two years later, two customs unions of the Central German and South German states were established. In 1834, 18 states united to form the German Customs Union with Prussia as the leader. Since then, this alliance has been further expanded to include all German-speaking areas and became the All-German Customs Union.

Then, through the Austro-Prussian War, Prussia won the dominance of the German-speaking nation, and through the Franco-Prussian War, Prussia cleared the final barrier to unification.

It can be said that as long as Germany is unified, it will be difficult to avoid a war. Some people say that Bismarck’s cleverness can avoid a war. In fact, it cannot. Even if Bismarck keeps doing it, a war will be inevitable.

Why? Because once Germany was unified, a superpower emerged in Central Europe. The surrounding powers are extremely afraid, including France and Russia.

After the reunification of Germany, Bismarck had three tasks. The first was to ensure Germany’s security. The second was to ensure that the balance of power in Europe could not be broken. The third was to ensure that France and Russia were not aligned.

This is tantamount to a game of walking on the edge of a knife. Some people say that it is Wilhelm II’s fault. It would be much better if Bismarck was on stage. Let me tell you clearly, it is impossible!

Because after the reunification of the Germans, their national sentiments became stronger. They wanted to live a better life than the British. They wanted a navy, they wanted colonies, they wanted…

This kind of emotion can only be suppressed for a while, not forever! Besides, Germany also has a pig teammate, the Austro-Hungarian Empire!

The Austro-Hungarian Empire claimed rights in the Balkans, and the Slavs in the Balkans regarded the Russian Empire as their suzerainty. Although Germany strives to balance the two, it will eventually have to make a choice.

Is it okay to choose Russia and abandon Austria? Impossible, we know that the German Empire was pieced together, and its members came from various states. If they choose to abandon Austria, a large number of pro-Austrian factions among the members will immediately abandon the German Empire, and may even cause the disintegration of the German Empire.

Then the only choice is Austria and becoming Russia’s enemy. Being Russia’s enemy cannot prevent France and Russia from forming an alliance. Domestic sentiment demanded that Germany compete for colonies, and conflict with Britain was inevitable.

Can the outbreak of World War I be avoided? Totally impossible! Even if Bismarck continues to be prime minister, he can’t stop it! Simply put, as long as a unified power like the German Empire appears in Central Europe, war will be inevitable.

The outbreak of World War I stunned these countries. They never expected that modern war would be so cruel and ruthless.

Britain, which entered the war, set a record for the deaths of alumni from Harrow, Eton, Oxford, Cambridge and other schools in one day! France suffered a heavy blow like the Chang Ping style, and its young people were almost wiped out…Germany was not much better. Halfway through the fight, they forgot why they were fighting, and just wanted to win and get some compensation… .Not to mention the Russians, they are miserable.

So why did the diplomats before the war not expect such serious consequences? This has to do with the political changes in various countries at the beginning of the 20th century.

Since the French Revolution, European politics has gradually become civilian-oriented. The 19th century was the end of aristocratic diplomacy. Those tacit and unspeakable aristocratic diplomacy were gradually replaced by civilian diplomacy. The characteristics of national politics have many similarities with dictatorships, that is, they are unable to engage in complex and sophisticated diplomacy and can only act in accordance with the popular will.

Here’s a little anecdote that illustrates how old-school diplomacy works.

It is said that before World War I, Churchill was not favored by the Conservative Party. They thought he was too liberal. Once, Churchill went to see the Conservative Prime Minister to discuss matters. The Prime Minister did not stand up to greet him when he entered. Churchill sat down to chat.

After Churchill left, the old Prime Minister was very unhappy because he had already expressed his attitude of rejecting Churchill’s request without getting up when Churchill came in. Unexpectedly, Churchill did not understand this hint and wanted to talk to him. Very rude.

Think about it, even Mr. Churchill, the descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, does not understand the tacit knowledge of these nobles. Can a diplomat from a civilian background understand it?

People-to-people diplomacy caused by people-to-people politics has lost its sophistication and flexibility. Diplomats submit to politicians, and politicians submit to public opinion. However, they have no idea that modern war can be so cruel.

The biggest massacre in the Western world has begun. This was the biggest flood in Europe in the last century….

Now that I think about it, it is really a meaningless war. What the two sides are fighting for is completely different from what they have lost.

What about Germany? When Germany was founded, there was a strong sense of insecurity, and their politics were more Machiavellian. Germany started a typical revolutionary diplomacy towards neighboring countries. For example, allowing and funding Lenin to go to Russia through Germany was a typical Machiavellian politics.

Conceptually speaking, Germany was ruled by a royal family and it was impossible to have any private deals with the revolutionaries. But not only did they do it, they did it thoroughly. It can be said that before Germany was defeated, it spread the seeds that could kill its opponents.

Nothing that happened after that could be undone by manpower, including the establishment of the Soviet Union and World War II, as well as a series of major changes in the 20th century, all started by World War I.

This era was the era started by World War I. What major events will happen at the end of this era? This requires everyone to wait patiently.

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