Four things we get wrong about World War I

The record shows that the war was brought about very largely by design, and among those that designed it there was realistic foresight of the scale, scope, character, duration, and even outcome of the war. The spirit of those that gave the orders is usefully defined as “rational pessimism”: they feared their enemies, but they feared the future more.

Another myth characterises most fighting in the war as a pointless waste of life. In fact there was no other way to defeat the enemy, and attrition became a calculated strategy on both sides.

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It was not until the hammer blow of the Great Depression that conditions were laid for violent polarization and the breakthrough of the radical right to national significance and power. The dark forces unleashed at this point were engendered long before World War I. Let loose by the war, they were caged by the German defeat and Weimar democracy put them into a coma. Were it not for the Great Depression, Hitler and his infamous co?conspirators would have lived to the 1960s and died in obscurity in their beds.

Four things we get wrong about World War I