Monday, August 04, 2014

Today -100: August 4, 1914: Let every man look into his own heart and feelings and construe the obligations for himself

Czar Nicholas says “Russians will rise like one man and will repulse the insolent attack of the enemy.” Insolent attacks are the worst kind.

Belgium rejects Germany’s ultimatum.

Switzerland is fully mobilized, with every mountain pass and railway bridge guarded, and every means of locomotion seized by the government, down to bicycles. No apology by the Times for its story yesterday that Germany had invaded.

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: 1) German authorities supposedly captured a French doctor and two assistants trying to poison the wells near Metz with cholera. The doctor is court-martialled and shot. Supposedly. 2) Germany invades the Netherlands. Or not.

Germany publishes the Willy-Nicky telegrams to “prove” that Russia never negotiated in good faith because it was mobilizing its army at the same time.

Germany’s incursions into France have been limited to small sorties evidently intended to provoke France into being the first to declare war, because they’re still playing that game. The French government issues a declaration of a state of siege, which it says will continue for the duration of the war – so it is using the word war, just not declaring it.

Germany claims that while its soldiers have refrained from crossing the border at all, the French have made full-scale attacks on border posts – without having the common decency to declare war first. They also claim France has violated Belgium’s neutrality by its aeroplanes overflying Belgium to bomb railroad lines in Germany. “In this way France has opened the attack upon us and has established a state of war which has compelled the German Empire to take defensive measures for the security of its territory.” Germany claims that 80 French soldiers tried to sneak into Germany wearing Prussian uniforms.

British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey, in a tour de force speech to Parliament, admits that Britain is not bound by the Entente to join France in war, “but for years we have had a friendship with France. But how far that friendship entails obligation, let every man look into his own heart and feelings and construe the obligations for himself.” He says that Entente military cooperation in the past has created a moral obligation, because France removed its fleet from the western coast to the Mediterranean, trusting in the UK to have its back: “the friendship which had grown up between the two countries has given them a sense of security that there was nothing to be feared from us. The French coasts are absolutely undefended.” It was an argument that had persuaded some of the holdouts in the Cabinet, except for John Burns (president of the Local Government Board) and Viscount John Morley (Lord President of the Council), who have resigned. Morley was the last Liberal in office who had held office under Gladstone (whose massive biography he wrote). Britain is waiting for a couple of red lines (which haven’t been stated publicly, or communicated explicitly to Germany) to be crossed before entering the war: 1) German naval attacks on the French coast, or 2) violation of Belgian neutrality.

“Brave little Belgium” has gone down in myth as the reason Britain was morally obligated to enter WW I, because under the Treaty of London (1839) all the European powers, including the German Confederation, agreed to maintain the new country’s neutrality. This is not what the British Cabinet thought just a few days ago, when after discussion it concluded that the treaty did not create an obligation on individual signatories to go to war to defend Belgian neutrality, but was a collective obligation. But that was then. In his last talk with the British ambassador, on this date, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg asked why Britain would go to war over a mere “scrap of paper.” For the next four years Britain will spin endless propaganda out of that one.

In his speech Grey went on to say, “It is said we might stand aside and husband our resources in order to intervene in the end and put things right. If in a crisis of this kind we ran away from our obligations of honour and interest with regard to the Belgian treaty, I doubt whether whatever material force we might possess at the end would be of much value in face of the respect we should have lost. If we engaged in war we should suffer but little more than if we stood aside. We are going to suffer terribly in this war whether this country is at peace or war, for foreign trade is going to stop.”

John Redmond, leader of the Irish Nationalists, assures Parliament that all those soldiers currently in Ireland can now safely be removed because, hey, the Nationalists and the Loyalists have all these guns now and can be trusted to defend Ireland against invasion.

The US will act in the interests of German and Austrian subjects in countries with which they are at war.

The US Senate passes a resolution that “deeply deprecates the war between certain European powers”.

Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times): “‘Be Calm!’ Says Wilson.” Woodrow Wilson tells reporters, “the European world is in a highly excited state of mind, but the excitement ought not to spread to the United States. So far as we are concerned, there is no cause for excitement.”

Headline of the Day -100 again (LA Times): “Some Do Not Care For It. Many Aliens Seek to Dodge War By Naturalization.” Many Europeans in Los Angeles are taking out naturalization papers. Especially Austrians and Russians. Because they don’t care for war.

Mobs attack stores which raised prices in Brussels and Paris.

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1 comment:

David Chappell said...

I think we need a spoiler alert here: it definitely won't be over by Christmas.