In the spring of 1918, the Germans launched Operation Michael, a well designed offensive against the Allies, specifically designed to knockout the British Expeditionary Force in France. It was assumed, correctly, that the British were exhausted from the previous year’s battles. The Germans had close to a million fresh troops from the Eastern Front to throw at the British. The plan was to punch a hole in the lines and then surround the BEF in Flanders.
After the war, historians would call the German offensive the “final card” in the story of the Great War. The Germans had run out of options for winning the war. This was their last card they could play in order to go to the peace table as an equal. This spring offensive was going to be the great last gamble to force the Allies to the peace table and get a good deal from the process. If it failed, then all would be lost as the German people, as well as the German army, were close to collapse.
The funny thing about this phase of the war is that in retrospect, there was no way this could work as the Germans imagined. They had developed new tactics for punching through the lines and avoiding the meat grinder offensives of the past, but they lacked the mobility to exploit it. The role of cavalry had yet to be replaced by tanks and and armored personnel carriers. A retreating Allied army would have to be chased on foot and the German Army was starving.
One of the great things about the First World War is it has something for everyone. The Marxists had their take. The fascists, of course, had their interpretation. Americans have largely forgotten about it because we have been taught that history started in 1938. The lesson I have always thought most important is that old ideas, old ways of doing things and old systems for organizing people do not go away quietly. They have to be broken on the wheel of reality, before they are consigned to the past.
By the Battle of the Frontiers, the military planners on both sides should have known there would be no quick end to the war as the technology had outstripped their military strategies. Machine guns made cavalry useless. Barbed wire and trenches made infantry useless. The only result from an attack would be thousands instantly killed or wounded, with maybe a small advance into enemy territory. Yet, they continued doing what they were doing, battle after battle for four years.
Another lesson of the Great War is that as the old system or organizing Europe murdered itself, it often looked strong, when it was crumbling. The Russian Czar appeared to be fully in control of his country, at least to outsiders, until the moment his train to Petrograd was stopped by a group of disloyal troops. The German offensive in 1918 had General Haig, the commander of the BEF, convinced they should sue for peace as the Germans were too strong to resist. Six months later, the German Army was broken at the Second Battle of the Marne in August 1918.
All of this came to mind reading this story about how Brussels is ordering the British press to stop reporting Muslim terrorism. They issued a report basically ordering the British government to pass new laws to control the press. They make “23 recommendations for changes to criminal law, the freedom of the press, crime reporting and equality law.” It’s as if they are unaware that Brexit happened. Instead, they are just going about their business as if the events happening outside their windows are not happening at all.
The EU, of course, is a solution to the past. More precisely, it is what the Europeans wish they had done before the Great War, believing it would have prevented all of it. Like all solutions to past mistakes, it is wildly miscast for the present. That does not bother the Eurocrats. They are convinced their way is correct and they run forward, head down, into the block wall of reality. It is precisely this sort of stuff that led a majority of Brits to vote their nation out of the project, but facts and events play no role in EU thinking.
Like the military planners during the Great War, the modern Eurocrats have no compassion for their people. They are just resources to be used for the project. The reason the press reports on Muslim terrorism, is because Europe now has a serious exploding Mohamed problem. That problem was created by the EU and its member governments, specifically the Germans. That’s of no concern to the EU. The project must continue, regardless of the body count.
I like comparing the present to the period before the Great War because the points of comparison are many, even if we live in a technological age that feels like a world away. The people in charge of the world a century ago were just as certain as today’s rulers. They clung just as hard to their modes of thought, their plans for the future and their organizational methods. They were wrong about most everything and they murdered 17 million people learning this lesson, not including what came next as a result of their errors.
That of course is why stories like that one out of Brussels gets my attention. The utter lack of regard for the people, the blind fidelity to a way of viewing the world, is always at the core of large scale human suffering. Whether it is the French Revolution or the Great War, the story is always the same. The people in charge were wildly mistaken and it is their people who paid the price. Looking around at our callous and detached rulers, one can’t help but feel a sense of foreboding.
It will not end well.