The Guns of August
Barbara Tuchman's Pulitzer prize-winning book about the start of World War I is a fascinating and detailed work that delivers the thoughts and actions of the belligerents and their previously mysterious leaders to life on every page. This military history of the first month of the war is written in a way as to keep the reader interested because of the great detail. The author also manages to write about the events in such a manor as the reader sees them as they happened. Despite any previous knowledge about the historical events of the war, the book manages to keep you wondering if the Germans will succeed in its aims.
In Chapters 5 through 9, Tuchman doesn't discuss much about why Germany, France, or Russia progressed toward war, she pretty much describes it as more of an inevitability sparked by Austria's affairs with Serbia. She does manage to chronicle the key events, the people and their decisions of the preceding years and days of the war. Along with the key events of the first few weeks of battle, Tuchman provides a perspective into each of the belligerent's strategic aims and goals. These forces that drive each country into war in 1914 along with a brief discussion of their backgrounds is what follows.
It is possible that with no other country in the twentieth century clearly on the inevitable road to war has there been as much unpreparedness and complete lack of all comprehension than that of Russia prior to World War I. For the few years before 1914 and the start of the war, especially following the embarrassing loss to Japan, Russia recognized its eminent clash with Germany. The way with which it conducted its international relations and internal affairs is puzzling to say the least.
It is amazing when looking back on the events and the Russian leaders complete lack of ability or concern, that revolution took as long as it did. The actions of the Czar were clearly not in the best interest of his country or himself for that matter. The decisions he made clearly appeased his ego and were not made by a man who was experienced in leading a nation through a time of transition. His inability to help in Russian military development by allowing those who understood what needed to be fixed and what plans needed to be made are what eventually led to Russian ineffectiveness in the war and his own downfall.
Russian inability to recognize changing tactics and weapons of modern warfare is inexcusable but sadly explainable. Because the Czar tended to centralize power and surround himself with "yes men," he missed the good advice of those in his country who could have helped guide Russia into war. Some of these choices can also be blamed on misconceptions of Russian capabilities, and of its military identity. The military reforms that were not completely halted by inept leaders were otherwise thwarted by the lack of details with which an army mobilizes and fights. Details were not an important aspect for...