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Thomas Wictor

But MY books are rejected

But MY books are rejected

I just read the silliest article. “What if the Germans had won the First World War?” by Martin Kettle. Who’s Martin Kettle? Why, the son of two prominent communist activists! No idea if that has anything to do with his thinking. Wealthy people who call themselves communists are by definition silly, so it makes sense that silly parents would produce a son who writes silly articles.

Martin Kettle obviously doesn’t know much about the German military. He says “Counterfactual conjecture allows us to see the conflict far more objectively,” but these what-if scenarios have never interested me, especially if they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of coming true. Some Martin Kettle silliness for your perusal.

At present, argument about the war mainly consists of two mutually uncomprehending camps. On the one hand, there are those who, as Margaret MacMillan put it recently, think the war was “an unmitigated catastrophe in a sea of mud”. On the other, there are those who insist that it was nevertheless “about something”.

See how silly that is? The war was an unmitigated catastrophe. Millions died. But it also was about something: containing German expansionist militarism. The Germans had been yapping for years about how they were denied their “place in the sun.” They invaded and occupied their neighbors as part of their goal of taking from others what they wanted for themselves. The Allies stopped them. It’s an extremely simple conflict to understand.

The first world war came to an end in November 1918, when the German armies surrendered near Compiegne. But it could plausibly have ended in a very different way in spring 1918, if Ludendorff’s offensive on Paris and towards the Channel had succeeded. It nearly did so.

No, no, no. The Germans signed an armistice, not a surrender agreement. We learned from that mistake and demanded unconditional surrender from the Nazis in May of 1945. And the Spring Offensives of 1918—called the Kaiser’s Battle (Kaiserschlacht)—consisted of five separate offensives that all failed. The Germans were simply unable to hold the ground they took, supply their fast-moving assault divisions, replace the thousands of elite troops killed, or maintain discipline. They did almost get to Paris, but so what?

By the time that happened, the Germans were spent. Their soldiers were getting plastered on captured rum and wine. They were also demoralized because they’d been eating bread made from sawdust. When they found the mountains of delicious grub in the French, British, and Americans field kitchens, they knew they couldn’t win.

The Allies were simply better fighters with better weapons and many more supplies. Germany couldn’t have won either world war, so speculating about German victories requires that we ignore reality. How does that help us understand the conflicts? If I tell you that my fifteen-year-old niece used karate to put an attacker in the hospital, what do we gain by you saying, “Yes, but let’s imagine what would’ve happened if she didn’t know karate”?

Obviously, [Europe] would have been dominated and shaped by Germany. But what kind of Germany? The militaristic, conservative, repressive Prussian power created by Bismarck? Or the Germany with the largest labour movement in early 20th-century Europe? German history after 1918 would have been a contest between the two – and no one can say which would have won in the end.

Are you kidding? I can say which would’ve won: the militarists. By the end of the war, Erich Ludendorff was virtual dictator of Germany, and he was crazy. If the German military had prevailed, militarism would have been vindicated. Any effort to lessen the power of the military would’ve been dealt with the way Kaiser Wilhelm II demanded immediately prior to his abdication on November 9, 1918. He told his generals to put down the spreading rebellion in Germany with poison gas, bombers, tanks, and flamethrowers.

After World War I, Germany had a civil war that lasted from November of 1918 to 1923. The Germany army joined with loyalist units called Freikorps and battled the communists and socialists with every weapon they’d used in the war. Here’s a Freikorps flamethrower squad preparing to go into action in March of 1919. They turned flamethrowers on unarmed civilians—their own countrymen—simply for striking.

If the Germans were victorious in World War I, Germany would’ve become even more belligerent. Martin Kettle is deluding himself if he thinks that the “labour movement” would’ve prevailed. It’s like the clowns who told us that North Korea would be more peaceful once it had nuclear weapons because now it would feel safe. What did the Norks do after they got their nukes? They sank a South Korean corvette without provocation, and they shelled a city with heavy artillery. North Korea is now issuing threats almost daily.

You know who the Norks haven’t attacked? Israel. On September 6, 2007, Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear-weapons plant, killing ten North Korean nuclear scientists. The Norks never retaliated because the Israeli counterattack would’ve been devastating. South Korea has tried for years to appease the North, and the response has been death and destruction. The Israelis have learned that the best defense is a good offense.

But one can say that a victorious Germany, imposing peace on the defeated allies at the treaty of Potsdam, would not have had the reparations and grievances that were actually inflicted upon it by France at Versailles. As a consequence, the rise of Hitler would have been much less likely. In that case, neither the Holocaust nor the second world war would necessarily have followed.

Baloney. The persecution of the Jews in Germany began in earnest after all the grievances left over from World War I had been redressed. Hitler was elected because the Germans liked his ideas. He was very up-front about his hatred of Jews. And he wasn’t alone. Millions of Germans shared his views. If Germany had defeated the Allies in World War I and created a Germanic Union in western Europe, at some point the Jews would’ve been targeted.

The Prussian aristocracy and monarchy were rabidly antisemitic. In 1907 Kaiser Wilhelm II said to Edward Grey about the Jews, “There are far too many of them in my country. They want stamping out.” He also told his American dentist that he hated having to greet all the “fat Jewesses” in the park. There were several waves of antisemitism that swept modern Germany prior to the rise of Hitler. A German military empire would’ve chosen the same route as the Third Reich. I have no doubt whatsoever.

Meanwhile America, whose entry into the war would have been successfully pre-empted by Germany’s victory, would have become a firmly isolationist power and not the enforcer of international order. Franklin Roosevelt would solve America’s postwar economic problems in the 1930s, but he would never fight a war in Europe – though he might have to fight one against Japan.

Utter hogwash. Roosevelt’s New Deal did nothing to end the Great Depression or lower the rate of unemployment. The only thing that saved the US economy was World War II. Besides, Germany wanted to attack us even prior to World War I. The Germans drew up three different invasion plans between 1897 and 1903. Their intention was to reduce the influence of the US. Eventually Americans would’ve rejected Roosevelt’s economic idées fixe, and the US would’ve become a world power again. Are you telling me that the German Empire wouldn’t view us as a rival in need of being taken down a peg? Or five?

You bet there would’ve been a second world war. The only reason there haven’t been any more than two is because the weapons have gotten too destructive, and we’re too economically intertwined.

Martin Kettle gets to write columns, while my books are rejected. That’s fine. Happy fantasy is always more enjoyable than grim reality. But I’m right and Kettle is wrong. All you have to do is look at the type of soldier Germany produces when it spends only 1.4 percent of its GDP on defense. This is a Panzergrenadier of the German army.

Is there anyone in our entire armed forces who looks that scary or more eager to fight? If the Germans had won the First World War, would they want a whole lot more guys like that or fewer? Still not convinced? Okay, German soldiers hitting targets at 700 meters…shooting from the hip.

I have nothing against Germany today, but if she’d been victorious in World War I, there would’ve been absolute hell to pay. Plus, we all would’ve had to learn words like Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

We’re lucky that current Germans would rather complain than invade.