Saturday, August 09, 2014

If Only the Kaiser Had Won

"Imagine, a hundred years from now they'll be celebrating all this."
Stephen Harper might be in a one-man orgy of triumphalism over the First World War, celebrating Canada's grand victory, but a Canadian who actually knows something about military history, Gwynne Dyer, says the world might have been a better place if only our side had lost.

But suppose Germany had somehow managed to win. What would the peace treaty have been like?
Not nearly as bad as the Treaty of Versailles, the peace we imposed. A “victorious” Germany would not have had the power to strip the losers of their colonies, take away parts of their home territory, impose huge reparations and make the losers “admit” that the war was all their fault, the way we did. It would have been a peace treaty that basically restored the prewar status quo.
In the aftermath, having achieved a no-score draw thinly disguised as a victory, Germany likely would have been more or less democratic: no Hitler.
And the losers, Britain and France (and, at a great distance off, Canada), would not have lost so badly that they were at risk of slipping into some sort of dictatorship. Which probably also means that there would not have been a Second World War just 20 years later.
So a German victory wouldn’t have been all that bad a result, really. Certainly no worse than the Allied victory, which led to a second world war that killed far more people than the first, and was effectively won by the Soviet Union.
That in turn led to a 40-year Cold War (which could easily have turned into a Third World War) – and Canada signed up for that as well.
Now that's not going to be music to the ears of our old gosh shucker of a prime minister but reality almost never is.  To Stephen Harper, the First World War, like the War of 1812 and everything else, is so much better as he wishes to believe it was.
Unlike Sideshow Steve, Gwynne Dyer knows a good deal about wars and the people who fight them.  Having served in the armed forces of Canada, the United States and Great Britain, he earned a PhD in war studies at the University of London and went on to be a lecturer at the British Military College, Sandhurst, and serves on the Board of Governors of the Royal Military College of Canada.


Beijing York said...

I heard Gwynne Dyer interviewed on this and I agree with his assessment. Couple that with Margaret MacMillan's excellent "Paris 1919" and you can't help but wonder if the course of World History would have been much better off without the Treaty of Versailles. Even the League of Nations (later morphed into the UN) set out an imbalanced power structure favouring the victors thus betraying the so-called spirit of egalitarianism.

By the by, welcome back Mound!

lorne said...

I always enjoy reading Gwyn Dyer's work, Mound, in that he is not afraid to challenge the conventional thinking that defines so much of the MSM. It was through him, for example, that I learned the truth about the situation in Thailand and that the people who protested and worked for the ouster of the government were essentially the elites who objected to the wealth distribution programs of the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Every other media source only referred to her government as corrupt.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, B.Y. Yes, the Treaty of Versailles was a huge blunder. The Brits and French had herded a generation of their finest young men through a meat grinder and, perhaps out of guilt, demanded revenge. WWII was merely a continuation of WWI only with Italy and Japan switching sides. We're so lucky the Cold War never quite went hot because the death toll would have been a billion or more if we didn't all perish from Nuclear Winter.

Yes, Lorne, he does regularly illustrate how pack journalism seizes upon a narrative that is often hopelessly incomplete and misleading.

Anonymous said...

Things could have easily turned out worse. Germany had democratic institutions, but the old Prussian military estabilishment easily subverted them.

Also don't forget Eastern Europe and Germany's treaty with Russia there. Germany's post-war plans for those territories involved gradual ethnic cleansing. Lebensraum was an endorsed policy of the German goverment at the time.

Imagination can make the grass seem greener, but it could have been a lot worse.