Feeling My Age

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Alan John Percivale Taylor (1906-1990) was an English historian who specialised in 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy. His book on the origins of WW1, War by Timetable argued that all the great powers believed the ability to mobilise their armed forces faster than the others, would serve as a sufficient deterrent to avoid war and allow them to achieve their foreign policy.

The great powers developed elaborate timetables to mobilise faster than any of their rivals. So in 1914, although none of the leaders of Europe wanted a world war, the logic of the mobilisation timetables – supposedly a deterrent to war – actually ended up causing one.

The actual trigger, according to Taylor was a weak and stupid Tsar overrriding his generals to make the snap decision to mobilise his army. The Germans were forced to respond by doing the same, and war in Western Europe became inevitable.

So mobilisation timetables were the nuclear deterrent of their day. All the major powers had ’em, and it would only need one weak and stupid leader to hit the button for everyone to be the loser.

Think on.

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