Friday, June 6, 2014
My summer reading has included Geoffrey Wawro's searing indictment of the Austro-Hungarian military at the start of World War I, A Mad Catastrophe. He places a lot of blame on the civilian leaders -- especially the Hungarians who used their unique veto to oppose military modernization and other measures that would have helped the central government's abilities to fight. But the bulk of his book describes the misbehavior, misjudgments, and political jockeying of the senior military. They prepared war plans they knew could not be executed. They misled their German allies about their true plans and capabilities. Immediately after the assassination of the archduke, while arguing that the time had come for war with Serbia, several took preplanned vacations during much of July, 1914. They simultaneously let most soldiers go home in July to help with harvests. And when the war began, the commander divided his forces just enough to guarantee defeat by both Serbia and Russia. No wonder Austria-Hungary lost the war and was dismembered at Versailles.