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3.0 von 5 Sternen Hastings and Opinions, 13. Oktober 2013
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Catastrophe (Gebundene Ausgabe)
H. states his views clear from the beginning. Interpretations about the cause of WW I are frankly speculative and each writer can only offer his personal view. Nevertheless he embarks on an opinionated theory of his own, that he has given himself permission to speculate about, but only by grossly distorting relevant facts and contradicting himself several times over.
First of all he lays the g round by asserting that the peace by the Central Powers would have been disastrous for Europe. Secondly ‘Britain was forced to intervene, because its interests would have been directly threatened by Germany. Thirdly ‘Sarajewo was a quirky little incident’ that cannot be considered as an authentic cause . Austria seized upon this incident to start a war it had already preconceived and just needed a pretense for.
And so on: Austria persecuted its minorities, whereas in reality Austria tried hard to balance its central interests with its various peoples. He alleges pop-psychology reasons, why Franz Ferdinand (or Austria) annexed Bosnia. He claims that after Fischer remarkably little and persuasive material has since been produced. The contrary is true: with the demise of the Soviet Union the Russian archives have been opened and have radically changed the view of Russia’s and France’s role in the cause of the war.
‘Almost all the leading actors falsified the record of their own role’, but then he goes on to point to Germany as systematically eliminating embarrassing evidence, whereas in reality France and Russia were doing this to obfuscate their own role and attach it to Germany.
Then he proceeds to describe, how important Serbian state actors initiated the murder and made only a halfhearted attempt to inform Austria about the impending attempt. But then he deflects this by stating that ‘in the absence of concrete evidence’ an alternative view is tenable. Serbia was by many considered with good cause a rogue state, but that ‘relies upon circumstantial evidence’. Well, Afghanistan was considered a rogue state by circumstantial evidence and nevertheless was invaded; Iraq likewise upon less than circumstantial evidence. Then: ‘given the hostility between Apis and Pasic it seems unlikely that they would have forged a common front to encompass the death of the Archduke’. Maybe so, but despite their mutual hostility they shared a common goal: a Greater Serbia, except the means to achieve this. New sources tell us that Pasic was under pressure from the Army not to stop the attempt on the Archduke. And Russia was interested in it, because it gave them reason to start a war for its greater goal to destroy the Austrian as well as the Ottoman empire and gain access to the straits.
The amateurish character of the assassination raises for H. the question, if this represented really the best effort of Apis or was it rather an anarchic casual sideswipe at Hapsburg rule? It is not sure, what H. implies with this other than that Apis was really not responsible or didn’t take it seriously (?).
H. minimizes the importance of this event (‘most of Europe received this news with equanimity’), although most political actors understood very well, what was at stake. Thus he can claim that it was ironic that Austria ‘scarcely hesitated to exploit the situation to justify invading Serbia’.
Well, I can only say with him that these are his opinions, entirely personal and of no consequence.
Unfortunately, opinions do matter, especially if they are expressed by a well-regarded person and it is not enough to abdicate his obligations and be so casual and arbitrary. He has the responsibility to check the facts, measure and judge by the best of his abilities. In the later easier parts, where he is only reporting accepted facts, he does better, but the early more difficult parts spoil the broth and I had a hard time recovering my enthusiasm for his work.

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Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War von Max Hastings (Gebundene Ausgabe - 24. September 2013)
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