|Western front, 1915-1916. (Source: U.S. Military Academy.)|
Over on The American Catholic, DarwinCatholic has posted an interesting article on an ongoing reassessment of World War I. The American Catholic has a lot of posts on American history that don’t even begin to reference Christ, the Church or anything specifically Catholic, so I don’t feel so bad about calling this blog a Catholic blog.
The main thrust of Darwin’s post is that post-war revisionism struck early and hard. Most of us who learned anything about the war in school learned that it was a horrendous waste of life, as idiot generals and field marshals hurled frontal attack after useless frontal attack in an obscene homage to Napoleon’s tactics; why, such attacks had become outdated by the end of the American Civil War!
Of course, now that I read this, I realize that the Civil War never dealt with front lines that extend hundreds of miles; with one end fused to the English Channel and the other to the Swiss Alps, the Western front didn’t permit flanking attacks. Just the sheer number of soldiers by itself changed the way the war had to be fought.
The generals of the war, Darwin points out, knew very well Napoleonic tactics wouldn’t work. The problem was finding something that would work. Both sides were fairly evenly matched for inventiveness; as soon as one side found a possible solution, the other side would develop a counter. For instance, gas worked for the Germans only until the French and English started producing their own gas masks. The art of war had to be not just changed but reinvented altogether.
But did the war have to be fought at all?