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History Argumentative Essay

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Hew Strachan described the interface between tactics and technology that conditioned what he called "modern" war referring to the First World War as follows:

Men dug deep: trenches saved Soldiers' lives, another way in which they rendered war less "total". The weapons that this troglodyte existence demanded were those of 18th century siege warfare, mortars and grenades, and even earlier forms of combat, clubs and axes. Primitivism, not modernism, was the first reaction to industrialized war.1

According to MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, three major military revolutions had transpired prior to the onset of the war: the creation of the modern nation-state in the 17th century, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. Simultaneously and collectively smaller Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) were also occurring, the result of which was not just the effects of new technologies and weapons, but how they were implemented and incorporated by the military and nation-states to increase their capability to conduct warfare. The destructive effects and ramifications of all these revolutions were prominently on display or experienced in part or in sum by all the great powers in the Crimean War, United States Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Second Anglo-Boer War, and Russo-Japanese War. However the failure of the great powers of Europe to comprehend the convergence of and apply the lessons learned from Knox and Murray's three military revolutions ascribed above, ultimately led to the costly stalemate during the first three years of World War I.

If war is an extension of politics as Clausewitz stated, the emergence of the modern nation state, born of necessity to administer more disciplined and larger militaries, would presume a sense of militarism drove politics. This seems to have been the case in the years leading up to the First World War, as the great powers of Europe tried to either expand their empires overseas or maintain the status quo. The military organizations that formed the backbones for these modern nation states also led to the militarism and nationalism which fomented a general lack of distrust and arrogance on the part of their part towards each other, which resulted in the formation of a system of unhealthy alliances, i.e. the Triple Alliance, Franco-Russian Alliance, etc., between nations that had no shared or individual strategic interests other than they had a common perceived foe. These detrimental systems of alliances would ultimately dissipate the focus and unity of efforts of the great powers throughout the war.

All these cases have shown what an enormous contribution the heart and temper of a nation can make to the sum total of its politics, war potential, and fighting strength. Now that governments have become conscious of these resources, we cannot expect them to remain unused in the future, whether war is fought in self-defense or in order to satisfy intense ambition.2

This general lack of operational focus on the part of the Alliances rarely allowed for concerted, decisive operations in order to force one side to capitulate. Additionally, these same military organizations dwelled in the past glory of 19th century warfare, preaching Clausewitzian and Jominian theories in their officer academies and general staffs, with a disregard for the lessons learned from several RMAs that had transpired. The result was that on the eve of war the overconfident great powers all thought that the war would be over within a year, brought about by the antiquated tactics of flanking or envelopment by the maneuvering infantry and cavalry supported by direct fire artillery.

If the great powers were already overconfident of the supremacy of their military doctrine and grand strategies, then their abilities to raise armies on a grand scale to implement those strategies would only exacerbate their arrogance. The French Revolution was the second military revolution that contributed to the early stalemate of the war with its ideas of politically charged masses, infused nationalism "Élan" and levee en masse conscription, which was subsequently copied by the other great powers.

Compulsory military service in the late 18th century had a clear political and social purpose. The army became the "the school of the nation," introducing young men to the responsibilities of citizenship and the prevailing patriotic ideals. 3

Armies were not fielded

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