Ed Driscoll

Tales from the European Civil War

“Maria Miller said the Government would not take a judgemental position on the cause of WWI, as this is the job of historians,” the London Telegraph reports. Miller is Britain’s “Culture Secretary;” at Ricochet, Andrew Stuttaford dubs it a case of “World War One Explained (Not):”

As the country limbers up to commemorate the start of the Great War, the Daily Telegraph is reporting that the British government will not be putting the blame for starting the conflict on any country or countries, something that has given rise to the suspicion that it is worried about offending the Germans (nobody seems to be worried about hurt feelings in Austria-Hungary).

That’s irritating enough , but Ms. Miller’s stumbling approach to the rather more genuinely difficult question of whether Britain should have gone to war at all (the answer , by the way, is a carefully qualified no), is not much better:

 “The reasons why it was necessary are there for everybody to see,” [Miller] told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. “I think it’s important that you set out the facts and it’s clear that at that point in Britain’s history, it was important that there was a war that ensured that Europe could continue to be a set of countries which were strong and could be working together rather than in any other way.”

I think I know what she means (that the objective of the war was to stop Europe being dominated by Germany), but it is wrapped up in language of so much EU-friendly sanctimony that it is impossible to avoid the sneaking suspicion that Ms. Miller does not really know what she is talking about.

The first commenter to Stuttaford’s post replies, “After reading her comments, I’m afraid Whig history is about to be replaced by EU history.”

Actually, it already has, if this London Daily Mail story that Bryan Preston linked to at the PJ Tatler last year is true:

Today we learn that the European Union (our real ruler) is opening a £44m museum that will be a House of European History. This vanity project in and of itself is an offensive waste of money as governments and peoples tighten belts across Europe.

But what I found most offensive of all is that World War II is to be described as “the European Civil War”.

That’s a rather provincial attitude to take, regarding a conflict that saw action from Guam to Alaska and the Philippines to North Africa. For a continental civil war, it was a very far-flung conflict. I’ve personally stood atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, and walked the streets of Paris, France. They’re…pretty far apart.

If this is to be Europe’s revisionist attitude going forward, then on behalf of everyone outside Europe, I ask the continentals from now on to keep their “civil wars” to themselves.

As I wrote at the time, “In the 1990s, the Smithsonian went out of its way to warp Hiroshima through the PC Play-Doh Fun Factory; we shouldn’t be too surprised when the Europeans, who invented PC, really go to town with the concept.”

To steal from a post I wrote in April, in his 2011 book, The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism, Theodore Dalrymple explored how the meaning of World War One morphed among European intellectuals from the late teens to the 1920s:

At least to the victors, the war did not seem self-evidently senseless, and disillusionment was not immediate. The war memorials to be found everywhere in France are tributes to loss, but not to meaninglessness. The soldiers really did die for France, or so almost everyone supposed; in Britain, my next-door neighbor, who collects coins and medals, showed me some First World War service medals for those who survived the war, with an athletic (and naked) young man upon a horse, wielding a sword as if he were a latter-day St. George about to slay a dragon. One of the medals bore the inscription “The War to Save Civilization.” I doubt that these medals were greeted solely by hollow laughter; for one thing, they would hardly have been preserved so carefully if they had been. And browsing in a bookshop recently, I found a book published in 1918 with the title The Romance of War Inventions. It was an attempt to interest boys in science by explaining how shells, mortars, tanks, and so forth had been developed and how they worked. By the time of its publication, millions had already been killed, and surely no one in Britain could by that time not have known someone who had been killed or at least someone whose child or brother or parent had been killed. It seems to me unlikely that such a publication would have seen the light of day in an atmosphere of generalized cynicism about the war.

“The version of the First World War that is now almost universally accepted as ‘true’ is that of the disillusioned writers, male and female, of the late 1920s and 1930s. The war, according this version, was about nothing at all and was caused by blundering politicians, prolonged by stupid generals and lauded by patriotic fools,” Dalrymple adds.

A century later, it’s not at all surprising to see both World Wars undergoing further historical revisionism by European elites, perhaps auditioning for their own MSNBC shows.