World War I to Iraq
A Theory on the Evolution of Today’s Liberal Politics
By Richard E. Noble
The causes of World War I can be difficult to decipher. Are we talking financially, psychologically, sociologically, historically, politically or otherwise? But certainly, as Winston Churchill points out in his “The Crisis”, the arms race between Germany and England was a major factor. So let us begin with it.
Before World War I, the British were the “superpower” of the era. It was claimed that, “The sun never set on the British empire”. It was the British who started the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution is a major factor. It transformed the economies of the world and the social structure.
Germany decided to challenge the British position and began a massive naval build up. Why would the Germans need a navy if they weren’t intending to invade England or challenge its colonial possessions or its status as master of the seas, thought the British strategists. The British Government decided that for every ship that Germany built, they would build two. The arms race was off and running.
The arms traders and manufactures, later known as “Merchants of Death” by critics, were by this time in heavy competition. All over Western Europe arms manufactures were flourishing. They promoted arms “shows” to display their wares. They petitioned the heads of governments. They solicited the good will of generals and hired retired generals to pedal and promote their products. They advertised, gave out free samples and had head to head competitions, challenging one another and each other’s products.
As the competition became more intense, corruption set in. Bribes and kickbacks to politicians and military leaders were an important part of the tools of the trade. But bribes, kickbacks and “incentives” of that nature were destructive to profits and tended to raise prices. They also tended to produce international scandals. The Merchants of Death then proceeded to develop better methods of sales enhancement. They bought up newspapers and magazines. They hired authors and writers and bought or started their own publishing companies. They used all of these tools to enhance the image of war and to promote the glory of war. They also used these tools to instigate and incite conflict and antagonisms around the world. In one such incident an arms merchant hired mercenaries to mine the harbors of a neighboring country in order to precipitate a conflict. It worked.
These Merchants of Death worked their advertising campaign to incite and stimulate suspicions and mistrust between neighboring countries and aggravate old rivalries and hatreds. A common practice was to inform a country that its neighbor had just purchased a number of cannons or machine guns, or rifles. Then suggest to the potential new “customer” that this neighbor had intentions of conquest or invasion. All of these tactics were successful and the Merchants of Death were able to initiate minor skirmishes and mini wars all over the world. Even if they were unable to get countries to fight one another, they were able to convince them to stockpile weapons. All of the countries of Europe were armed to the teeth. The market for weapons all over the world was flourishing. Business was good. Salesmen like Sir Basil Zarharoff became super wealthy. Arms inventors and manufactures like R. L. Thomson, Hirum Maxim, Alfred Krupp, M. Eugene Schneider and many, many more, became multimillionaires.
The industrial revolution made industrialists super wealthy but it made conditions for millions and millions of other humans desperate, diseased and poverty stricken. These conditions among the poor and working population precipitated a reform movement. This reform movement took on many different causes and was championed by a variety of people from every social class. Most notable and outstanding among this group were a class of people almost unheard from throughout the previous history of mankind. This group of radical reformers and social disturbers of the peace were called ... women.
Women became the leaders and instigators of numerous social causes. They championed the rites of children, women workers, the poor, housewives, the uneducated, organizations of workers, the needy, the blacks, the disenfranchised, the old, the sick, the abused, the beaten, the struggling, prison inmates - in general, the powerless. Women like Mother Jones, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Jane Addams, Anna Goldman, the Claflin sisters, Abba Woolson, Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Marie Stevens Howland, Lillian Harman, Angela Tilton Heywood, Alice B. Stockham, Elmina Slenker, Lois Waisbrooker, and the list goes on. These women were an active part of a movement that set out to reform the social and economic structure of the world. This was a utopian revolution. This revolution stretched from minor government reformers and goo-gooes (good government types), to socialist, communists, anarchists and armed revolutionist. These reformers, though massive and worldwide were the minority. The majority and opposition were those who had jobs, were employed within the industrial structures, or in the government, or in the militaries and were contented with their plight and positions. This is the group from which the industrialists and the governments drew their popular support.
But from the 1840’s and up until the outbreak of the first World War, the positions of all governments throughout the entire industrialized world was in a precarious state. This was a time of serious upheaval. All governments of industrial nations were under attack. In the United States, labor strikes and armed conflicts were constantly erupting. There were revolutions in Germany and France. Conditions in England and Russia had been disruptive for decades. If one is a believer in the notion or political theory that wars are precipitated by unstable governments in an attempt to solidify dissension and pacify political unrest at home, World War I could certainly be a case study.
Another popular theory often referred to when discussing World War I is the entangled web of treaties among the nations of Europe. The notion being that once the first shot was fired in whatever direction, every European nation was tied to one of the disputants. This, in fact, seems to have been the case. But how this tangle of treaties came about, or if the Merchants of Death had an influence in the weaving or manipulating and constructing of this web, I have yet to discover.
In any case, the Arch Duke Ferdinand is then assassinated and the web begins to unravel. Due to the hype and conditioning from the past decades everyone in Europe is eager and excited to beat up on somebody. Most historians seem to agree that the governments and the peoples of Europe were all itching for a fight. Adolf Hitler talks of his joy and the general excitement all over Europe in his “Mein Kampf’. The war “hawks”, unfortunately, got more than they bargained for.
There were only two groups, as far as I can see, who emerged from the war profitably. The first and most obvious was the United States.
The United States did not enter the war until it was almost over. If the idea behind World War I was to put down social unrest at home, it was somewhat successful in the United States but certainly not on the battlefields of Europe nor in the warring nations of Europe themselves.
In March of 1917 the Russian Czar Nicholas II was force to abdicate the throne. In April of 1918 Woodrow Wilson went to congress for a declaration of war on Germany.
For some strange reason, these two dates or incidents are never linked in history books - at least not in U.S. history books. We read about the sinking of U.S. merchant ships by German submarines and the infamous Zimmerman note which suggested conspiracy among the Germans, the Mexicans and the Japanese against the U. S. It is never even suggested that the socialist labor revolution in Russia had any influence on Wilson’s decision to suddenly enter World War I. But socialism and revolution were very big in the times of Woodrow Wilson.
It could very well be that the Russian Revolution was the number one reason for Wilson’s deciding to enter the war in Europe. Not only did entering World War I enhance the position of the allies against the Central powers and secure U.S. loans, it gave Wilson the opportunity to put down the socialist revolution here at home.
Numerous groups were organizing massive numbers of radicals, discontents and immigrants all over the U.S. From the mine fields of Colorado to the Textile mills of New England; from railroad workers to lumber jacks, the U.S. was under siege. A new revolutionary upheaval was in the making.
Declaring war put President Wilson in charge here at home. And in charge he was. The days were now numbered for the radicals and discontents. Wilson sent the military to Europe, and the police and the militia to the various troublesome states of the union. He put a crackdown on organized labor which imprisoned thousands and that would be emulated in Germany, decades later by the infamous and pro-Capitalist, Adolf Hitler. The start of the Russian labor and peasant revolt and revolution of 1917 was the beginning of modern world and U.S. History.
The notion that the “workers of the world” could and were about to topple the Russian government and that these workers had led the entire Russian military to walk off the battlefield, set the established Western governments of the world into a state of panic and paranoia. The industrial manufactures, the arms merchants, the governments that they supported, and all those who were currently receiving benefit and security from their reign were horrified. Wilson attacked on the behalf of this group here at home and in Europe.
The second group to benefit from World War I was the Arms Merchants in particular.
After World War I there were investigations into the armament industry. Many companies around the world were accused of profiteering. It was determined that German bodies had been strung along miles of barbed wire sold to the French by German manufactures just weeks before the war. Frenchmen had been slaughtered by bombs and bullets manufactured by French industrialists and sold during the war to their enemies at high profits. British arms merchants had been selling to all combatants under the banner of the “free market” while their patriotic sons were being slaughtered by the millions.
The U.S. had been dealing with arms profiteers all the way back to the American Revolution. The Deanne affair exposed by Tom Paine is infamous. Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, DuPont and others had been accused and investigated at one point or another. The bottom line is that whether legitimate or illegitimate, the arms manufactures, clearly, win with war.
After World War I the armament industry grew and prospered all over the world. Peace advocates had a revival between the wars but not only did they lose the propaganda war, they have since been blamed as a major cause of World War II. It was - claim the war advocates - these “peaceniks” who left the U.S. unprepared and Europe in a state of appeasement.
It was not the peaceniks and the appeasers who via their inaction and cautious, accommodating, peace-loving behavior brought foreword the carnage of World War II, but the exact same group of pro-war advocates who benefit from war, who had brought us World War I. Even Winston Churchill in his “The Gathering Storm” suggests an historical accountable suspicion with regards to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Britain’s upper classes in their avoidance of action in standing up to Hitler’s pre-Poland advances in pre-war Europe.
The Bolsheviks labeled this group as “Capitalists”. The Capitalists in the Bolshevik’s eyes seem to have been all of those who benefited from the First World War, or the industrial revolution. This included almost everyone in the West. The wage earners, common workers, soldiers and the like were not active participants in the war mongering business. They were simply the dupes of the “Capitalist” propaganda, said the Bolsheviks. This theory turned the for-profit Capitalist machine and all of its Capitalist generals dead square against Russia. Russia became public enemy number one.
From 1917 onward Soviet Russia was under the gun. Most wars since that time have been, in reality, against Soviet Russia or anybody under the influence of their ideas and anti-Capitalist propaganda. This includes World War II, the Cold War, The Korean War and the Vietnam War and a multitude of actions in-between.
World War II was not precipitated by appeasers and peaceniks; nor was it brought about by Adolf Hitler. It began in 1917. It was financed and actively pursued by those who feared the spread of the working-man, Bolshevik (man with family) mentality. Bolshevism, as Winston Churchill stated, would destroy his kind - the wealthy, the super wealthy, and the privileged.
Karl Marx’s cry to the working man to unite and lose his chains was not heeded by the working class, but it did unite its enemies. The Capitalists, the bankers, the wealthy and the super wealthy not only put their heads together, but they put their money where their mouths were.
The Russian Revolution seemed to be a disaster for everyone, including the Russians. Their basic premise was that the “rich” were the cause of all of the world’s problems and that they should be destroyed, imprisoned, exiled, enslaved or “re-educated”. It followed from this premise that the rich should lose any property they possessed, and all of their money and valuables should be confiscated. The Bolsheviks were the most radical of all the Russian discontents. Any other group would have probably proved a better choice. Russia certainly needed reform but this Bolshevik reform almost destroyed all hope of success. But succeed it did!
To the Russian Bolshevik and peasant, anyone who possessed more than what he possessed, he considered “rich”. Consequently in dethroning the “rich” they alienated everybody who knew how to do anything or had any money. Secretaries, clerks at the corner bank, store managers etc., had to be led at gun point back to their positions.
The Germans had a good idea. They would pay the Russian, exiled intellectual and dissident, Lenin to return to the Russian capital. He would support the revolution but not the war with Germany. Lenin was successful on both counts. He pretty much scrapped the Bolshevik revolutionary, democratic principles and set up a dictatorship. First he would establish law and order and then he would deal with the will of the people and democratic principles.
The French revolution had gone pretty much the same way. The lowest most unqualified level of the society had succeeded in gaining power only to be usurped by a dictator, Napoleon.
The American Revolution was the only revolution of the three not to follow this course. We can thank George Washington for that twist of revolutionary fate.
The Russian Revolution went on until 1921. All of the nations of the free world tried to influence its outcome with money, men and arms. At one point the U.S. even had troops on Russian soil - “5000 American soldiers who had been unwisely diverted to Archangel”. Khrushchev mentioned this fact when he came to visit America during the Eisenhower administration.
The American troops for the most part refused to fight their Russian allies. Many American soldiers had fought on picket lines and supported socialist and radical causes themselves at home in the U.S. In any case, the American soldiers wanted to come home. They were not interested in pursuing another war or in interfering in Russian politics. The Wilson administration and its wealthy backers could not convince the American soldiers to get involved directly in this Russian political dilemma. The Germans had capitulated and now the American soldiers wanted to go home. They would settle for nothing less. They were sick of war.
In World War I the Allies had 42 million soldiers. Half of them ended up dead, wounded or missing. The Central Powers had 65 million soldiers. Approximately half of them ended up dead, wounded or missing. The Americans had four million soldiers involved and only 500,000 ended up dead, wounded or missing. The war’s direct costs were estimated at approximately 208 billion, indirect cost at 151 billion. And these estimates did not include interest payments, veteran’s care and pensions and similar type expenses.
After the war a number of strange things started taking place. The U.S. was now the wealthiest nation in the world. It possessed nearly all of the gold in the world. All the allies were in our debt and the U.S. demanded payment. The Germans had reparations to pay and the allies had debts to pay. Everybody was paying the U.S. Europe, for the most part, was in a shambles. While England and our other allies were trying to pay off their debts, for some reason the U.S. was loaning large sums of money to Germany. Winston Churchill makes the comment in “The Gathering Storm”, that he could never understand why Hitler complained so about the Treaty of Versailles. The American government was loaning Germany more than enough money to not only make their reparations payments but also to rebuild their country, in his opinion. Winston also pointed out that America now had all the money on its side of the board. If it didn’t somehow redistribute this money the international “Monopoly” money game would be over because no one else was left with enough money to play. Eventually most of the European war debts were canceled. But one must ask oneself why the U.S was loaning so much money to Germany - its World War I enemy? One might also asks how war debts of such monumental proportions could simply be canceled without any consequences.
1“Merchants of Death”, H. C. Engelbrecht and F. C. Hanighen. Dodd, Mead & Company 1934.
2 “Merchants of Death, H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanighen.
3 “Rise of Industrial America”, A People’s History of the Post-Reconstruction Era, by Page Smith, Volume Six, Chapter 15.
4“Roughneck”, The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, by Peter Carlson.
5“The Gathering Storm”, Winston Churchill, Houghton Muffin Company Boston, pp. 346.
6 “Red Victory” A History of the Russian Civil War, by W. Bruce Lincoln, Simon & Schuster.
7“The Arms of Krupp”, William Manchester, page 299.
8 “Merchants of Death”, same as above.
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