a short-war illusion?
In August 1914 the generals of continental Europe's great powers led their armies into huge offensives in order to win a decisive strategic advantage over their opponents with one mighty blow. By mid-September, however, all these offensives had failed disastrously. What followed were four years of seemingly endless catastrophic warfare that, particularly since 1916, had turned into something akin to total war. When that war was over there were no real victors, at least as far as Europe was concerned. France and Great Britain, to be sure, could celebrate military victory. But almost like the losers, they had suffered catastrophic economic, financial, and demographic losses. Moreover, in the following decade they had to face political and social unrest as a result of the war effort, and their standings as world powers were mortally damaged. One thing was clear: After the “Great War” Europe would never be the same.
Why did that catastrophe happen? Why were Europe's military leaders, who prior to 1914 regarded themselves as the best professionals in the world, unable to prevent the disaster of a long war? These are questions that from the fall of 1914 up to the present day have been hotly debated among soldiers and historians.
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