THE GUNS OF AUGUST 1
TheGuns of August
Wordcount: 1723 words
by Barbara W. Tuchman captures the eventsthat led to the World War I, and it provides a proper analysis aswell. More important, it reveals the tension between the French andthe Germans that were focused on defending their dominance in Europe.In fact, egoism and the need for superiority were the main reasonsthat led to the war. Tuchman also illustrates how Russia and Britainwere involved in the entire scenario as well. The beginning of thewar saw the different European nations take sides, and Germany endedup suffering because of their unpreparedness and irrational attackplans. This paper will illustrate how the Germans were blinded bytheir ego and irrational decisions that led to their loss in theWorld War I since the French used trench warfare to prevent theirmovement to Paris.
Before the First World War began, various nations experienced tensionthat made them prepare for a confrontation between them. First,Tuchman uses the funeral of Edward VII of England to describe some ofthe issues that the different leaders had. The scenario at thefuneral convinced Theodore Roosevelt that war was imminent in Europesince most of the leaders did not agree on various issues. The Germanleader Kaiser Wilhelm believed that Europe had united to destroy themas a nation. Hence, the idea made them cringe with fear, and theywanted to prepare themselves for an attack that the rest of Europemight have planned1.Edward’s alliance with France also showed that Germany was supposedto reassess its objectives. At the same time, Wilhelm wanted tocreate a non-violent treaty with Russia, but, would have interferedwith the pact that the USSR had made with the French2.As a result, the czar ignored the plea to form an alliance with theGermans. The way that the other nations were uniting against themshowed a huge problem, and they had to find a solution before thingsescalated. By 1906, Wilhelm had already created a two-foldtechnique that will handle any of the European nations that wouldhave tried to attack Germany3.In particular, he had already built a navy that protected its waterbodies while the land had another stronger force that will ambush theFrench when they attack them. The leader insisted that the attackwill be in succession to ensure that the Russian side will not haveenough time to assist the French based on the agreement that they hadcreated earlier4.The German side knew that a two-front war was suicidal and morelikely to cause more harm to its forces.
Belgium which was situated between Germany and French prevented thetwo nations from engaging in any military confrontation. Hence, theyhad to devise a way of attacking each other without interfering withthe neutral Belgians. Back in 1839, the European nations had decidedthat Belgium was a neutral state and none of them was expected toattack it5.Even Britain had supported that Belgium was a defenseless country andno one should attack them. As a result, Germany and France did notuse the Belgians in any of their evil plans because of the pact. Tomake it worse, the French had heavily fortified the Alsace/ Lorainefront, and that reduced the likelihood of the Germans waging afrontal attack on their enemies6.In the process, they were left with the option of using Belgium toattack France even if it meant violating the neutrality treaty7.They also planned on tricking the French to believe that they willattack them through the Alsace/ Lorraine. The Germans also wanted tomarch through the Southern Belgium as they entered France. Wilhelmalso thought that the approach would assist them in capturing Pariswithin a period of 39 days8.Their technique insisted on entering France through a semi-circleshape and controls its strategic points as well. It would have alsohelped them in focusing on the eastern front where the Russian forceswill be coming from. The France-Russian pact meant that they had tointervene when their counterparts were attacked9.As a result, the Germans were also supposed to place such factorsinto consideration. It is clear that the Germans knew that the entireEurope was against them and they had to devise the appropriatemeasures to prevent the other states from defeating them.
Schlieffen was the General that devised the attack plan, and he hadborrowed the idea from other German philosophers that believed thatthey were supposed to control the world. In particular, Fichte is onethe philosophers that insisted how the Germans will occupy a supremeposition in the world10.Hence, they believed that they had to attack the other nations inorder to earn respect from the other states. In fact, Tuchman revealsthat the attack plan was a result of egoism and the belief that theywill rule the world11.Hegel is also another one that asserted Germans would rule everyonein the world. Treitschke even showed that they were above the controlof the ordinary man that did not have enough power to defeat them. Asa result, the German philosophers had focused on creating a feelingof superiority that blinded them from facing reality. For instance,they knew that they had the capability to handle the French andRussian forces without any difficulties. They were even ready toattack the neutral Belgium just because they wanted to get France12.They forgot that the approach could have created more enemies insteadof finding allies. To some extent, the technique was suicidal, and itcould have resulted in self-destruction rather than the victory thatthey had in their minds13.The desperate delusion showed various weaknesses in their ideologyand attack plan. They had been unable to ascertain the ability oftheir forces in facing the French that could have sought support fromother states such as Britain and USSR14.More important, Tuchman captures the tension, differences andspecific factors that intensified the conflict between the twonations. The description also captures the strength and weaknessesthat each side portrayed.
On the other hand, the French had their ideologies that also madethem feel superior to any other state. In fact, they knew that noneof the European nations had the ability to defeat them in a militaryconfrontation. More important, they had a wild optimism that gavethem enough courage to believe that they will win any war they willengage in15.They even heard about the German’s attack plan, yet, they did notdo anything about it since they knew that they would overcome anynation. Furthermore, they did not see the need to defend their borderfrom the Western Belgium or even the northern part. Instead, theywanted to use the Alsace/ Lorraine border in attacking the Germans.They wanted to use the same route in encircling Germany andcontrolling some of the most important parts of the nation.Shockingly, they even knew that they would interrupt the lines thatthe Germans used to get supply and weaken their forces. As a result,they will prevent them from reaching Paris using the 39-day plan thatthey had created earlier16.At the same time, Tuchman reveals that the French underestimated theeffort of the British in handling a war. Hence, they were reluctantin having joint military plans to assist each other during anystandoff. However, when General Henry Wilson took control, theoutlook of the British army changed, and he was a friend to Gen.Ferdinand Foch that led the French forces17.They ended up discussing and understanding what they are supposed toimplement while facing an enemy18.Russia had a poor performance against Japan in the war, and they wereready to reclaim their glory in that area. The scenario showed thatFrance was able to find support to assist them in dealing with theGermans.
Instead, the World War I ended up beginning with the assassination ofArchduke Franz Ferdinand by the Serbian militants. The scenario ledto the Germans heading to the war unprepared since they had plannedto attack France in September, yet, the war began June. At thatparticular time, Austria attacked Serbia while Germany joined the warand insisted that it will deal with France and Russia19.At the same time, Russia waged war on Austria and the Germans yet,the British were a bit reluctant in joining them. The scenario endedleading to the war, and Tuchman does a good job in illustrating thedetailed events that led up to the same war. In fact, most peoplecannot understand the factors behind the war and what the events thatshaped the final occasion were20.However, Tuchman remembers to capture every aspect to make sure thatthe reader gets a chance to understand the tension and the reasonsfor the enmity between the Germans and the French forces. She alsoreveals how the Western Front of the war was. It is evident that theFrench forces were able to stop the Germans from heading to Paris byturning the scenario into trench warfare21.In this case, the Germans spent a huge amount of time to defendrather than moving forward towards Paris. Shockingly, Belgium endedup being a problem with the German’s attack plan since the Belgiansresisted the French troops and that interfered with the time thatthey were required to move towards France22.The trench warfare undermined their advances and revealed how theGermans were blinded by egoism and they were unable to analyze theirmovement and get any alternatives. Instead, they were stuck, and theyhad to taste defeat because of their simple mistakes.
In conclusion, the book is a worthy addition to the history about theFirst World War. In fact, it reveals the various factors that createdthe unions and the enemies during the war. For instance, egoism ledto the Germans believing that they were more superior and they wantedto attack the French to prove it. On the other hand, the French hadrelied on the support of Russia and Britain in countering any foreignattacks. In reality, the book captures all these issues in a properway that is quite enlightening as well.
Tuchman, Barbara W. The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the WorldBefore the War, 1890-1914 Barbara W. Tuchman`s Great War Series.Random House, 2011.
Goemans, Hein Erich. War and punishment: The causes of wartermination and the First World War. Princeton University Press,2012.
Levy, Jack S. "The diversionary theory of war: A critique."Handbook of war studies 1 (1989): 259-288.
Cooper, Sandi E. "The guns of August and the doves of Italy:intervention and internationalism." Peace & Change 7,no. 1‐2 (1981): 29-44.
Rich, Frank. "Theguns of August." New York Times (2009): 8.
STANFIELD, R. "Looking Beyond the Guns of August."Nationaljournal, August 11 (1990): 1959-1960.
Nettleship, Martin A., and Dale Givens, eds. War, its causes andcorrelates. Walter de Gruyter, 1975
Tuchman, BarbaraWertheim. : August 1914. New EnglishLibrary, 1964.
1 Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim. : August 1914. New English Library, 1964.
2 Tuchman, Barbara W. The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 Barbara W. Tuchman`s Great War Series. Random House, 2011.
3 Ibid, 1.
4 Ibid, 1.
5 Goemans, Hein Erich. War and punishment: The causes of war termination and the First World War. Princeton University Press, 2012.
6 Ibid, 5.
7 Levy, Jack S. "The diversionary theory of war: A critique." Handbook of war studies 1 (1989): 259-288.
8 Ibid, 1.
9 Ibid, 7.
10 Cooper, Sandi E. "The guns of August and the doves of Italy: intervention and internationalism." Peace & Change 7, no. 1‐2 (1981): 29-44.
11 Ibid, 7.
12 Ibid, 10.
13 Ibid, 7.
14 Ibid, 10.
15 Rich, Frank. "The guns of August." New York Times (2009): 8.
16 Ibid, 15.
17 Ibid, 1.
18 Ibid, 10.
19 STANFIELD, R. "Looking Beyond the Guns of August." Nationaljournal, August 11 (1990): 1959-1960.
20 Ibid, 10.
21 Nettleship, Martin A., and Dale Givens, eds. War, its causes and correlates. Walter de Gruyter, 1975
22 Ibid, 15.