World War 1 Simple Essay

Academic historians have a penchant for tagging simple things with fancy titles.

World War 1 Simple Essay-25World War 1 Simple Essay-77

To anyone interested in World War I or military history or historical memory this book comes as nothing short of an epiphany.When I first read this book I felt the way John Keats did when he first looked at Chapman’s translation of Homer: Just as Chapman enabled Keats to overcome his lack of knowledge of Greek, Fussell enabled me to see World War I and how it has resonated through people’s consciousness ever since in ways that I could not have done before.In all honesty, I have to confess that Fussell’s lengthy treatments of British poets, fascinating as they are, did not capture my fancy as much as other things in the book.But among academics it is customary to disdain such speculation as “iffy history”—customary, that is, unless the practice goes under the fashionable rubric of “counterfactualism.” Another favorite academic term is “discursive,” which usually means rambling or meandering.Called by any name, this is the best way to approach the subject of what World War I has meant in American memory.The ensuing havoc and confusion almost enabled the British to break through the German lines.Only their own disorganization and lack of initiative prevented them from exploiting their breakthrough.True, before 1917 both sides had tried to make mischief for their adversaries by fomenting nationalist revolts among the other side’s subject peoples or encouraging radical dissent in their homelands and borderlands.In 1917, two German ploys—their attempt to entice Mexico into the war against the United States with the Zimmermann telegram and their repatriation of Lenin to Russia by means of a sealed train—would become the most famous examples of such strategic and ideological guerrilla raiding.Taken together, the massiveness of the operation, the force of the technology, the persistent ineptitude of the commanders, and the long-running aftereffects seemed to me to furnish a compelling metaphor for the meaning to this war, called by whichever name.What I wish to do is bring this war home to America.

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