Derbtown

The Legacy of the Mad Kaiser

December 18, 2014

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Kaiser Wilhelm

 

Inevitably there are revisionist and contrarian arguments to the contrary. WWI has been blamed on the British, the Russians, the French, and of course the Jews. Each point of view is defended by fierce partisans.  

To swallow any of these theories, though, you have to believe that Röhl has made up all the innumerable quotations he cites from Wilhelm’s letters, speeches, marginal notes on state papers, and recorded conversations. Even if 90 percent of them are fake, the remainder are quite sufficient to make the prosecution’s case. 

Does this sorry story have any geopolitical lessons for the present day? Possibly.

When post-Mao China got into its economic groove, it became common to compare China’s situation with Wilhelmine Germany’s. A major nation (Germany 1890, China 1990) was finding its feet at last and demanding respect; the world’s dominant power (Britain, the U.S.A.) was losing its grip; a major empire (Turkey, the U.S.S.R.) was moribund and disintegrating …  

I found the analogy persuasive when it first appeared, having been deeply impressed by Barrington Moore’s poli-sci classic Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, which argues that a constitutionally primitive regime can get from feudalism to modernity by enlisting the support of a rising middle class. Now I”€™m not so sure. What present-day nation, in the analogy, plays the part of Tsarist Russia, whose growing strength kept Wilhelm awake at night?

The analogy has anyway fallen from favor, although it’s still brought out for an airing now and then”€”here in American Thinker, for example, by David Archibald (whose recent book I reviewed on Takimag).  

We can at least be glad that modern China has no absolute ruler as crazily stupid as Kaiser Bill.  

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