Thursday, April 25, 2013

The apparent mystery of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

If one glances through some of the reportage of the last week on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as I just did, one finds him described by people who knew him as, among other things, "laid back," "nice," "quite studious" and "a pot head." Among people his own age who knew him and among former teachers, there appears to be uniform astonishment and incredulity at his involvement in the Boston bombings. Is this the case of a "normal" 19-year-old who was "corrupted" by his older brother? Or of someone who concealed his views -- and an aspect of his personality -- from people who knew him? Or some of both? There are enough as-yet-unanswered questions here that one can anticipate a small crowd of journalists already gearing up to produce their very-long-articles-based-on-hundreds-of-interviews-shortly-thereafter-to-become-books. (I assume the genre is a familiar one to readers.)   


Anonymous said...

My bet is either The New Yorker or Vanity Fair.

Anonymous said...

Dang, twice now I've done that. 3:50 above is me.

Anonymous said...

Off topic: any idea whether the Joll "Unspoken Assumptions" article you mention @ Crooked Timber is roughly the same as chapter 3, "The Alliance System and the Old Diplomacy," in his book on "The Origins of the First World War"? (The latter being available on Google Scholar.) Thanks!

LFC said...

Sorry for the very late-in-the-day (circa 11 pm EST) reply.

Caveats first: it's been decades since I read the "Unspoken Assumptions" essay, and though I've read some other things by Joll -- e.g. his book Europe Since 1870 -- I've not read his Origins of the First World War. (I recommended it on CT anyway, yes, on the strength of being familiar w some of his other work.)

With those caveats, I would guess that the "Unspoken Assumptions" essay is not the same as ch.3 of his 'Origins'. The cite that I have for the essay is: "1914: The Unspoken Assumptions," in H.W. Koch (ed.), The Origins of the First World War -- this is a collection orig. published in 1972, but it's come out in a second edition since then, I believe.

As I say, it's been decades since I read the essay (for an interminable college paper which was actually quite an awful experience -- for reasons I won't go into -- called "German Power Ambitions and the Origins of the First World War." Thankfully, this work exists only in a typescript -- this was most definitely of the typewriter era -- in a folder in a closet in my study.)

But there is no doubt some overlap among Joll's various writings on WW1, and I wouldn't be surprised if much of the substance of that essay got into both 'Europe since 1870' and his 'Origins,' even if it's not the same text as ch.3 of the latter.

LFC said...

Anyway the msg of that essay, to the limited extent I remember it, is by now prob. fairly familiar: discussion of militarism, chauvinism, 'race' thinking, Social Darwinism, etc. probably takes up a fair chunk of it.
A quote that sticks in mind (and that I just looked up): Moltke in a letter to Conrad (v. Hotzendorf), Oct. 1912: "I still believe that a European war must come sooner or later and that it will be in the long run a struggle between Teutons and Slavs."
(Started to give a longer passage from it and the context, but it gets to be too much for a comment box, esp. at this hour.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I will have to pick up the Joll book at some point.

I've tended to be skeptical of the traditional "the Germans did it, in the drawing room, with a blank check" theory, since it's the CW and associated with the War Guilt Clause and all, but despite the efforts of some writers to point a finger at Russia, it seems to me Germany still bears the brunt of the responsibility. It was at the least reckless enough not to mind a war with Russia, and chose to make that a general European war without waiting to see what the other powers would do.

LFC said...

From what I gather, most though not all historians seem to think that Germany bears more of the responsibility; though I also tend to think that, were it not for the upcoming hundredth anniversary in 2014, the question of responsibility for the outbreak would perhaps not be one that captures a lot of people's attention any more.

And though I think Quiggin's presentation of himself on that CT thread was somewhat self-defeating, his point that Br and Fr shouldn't have allied w Russia is an interesting one. It does raise the counterfactual question: if there had been no Franco-Russian alliance and no Triple Entente, ie if Russia had not been able to ally w Fr and Br, and the other facts are held constant, would Germany have revised its military plans, ie not followed the Schlieffen Plan, and attacked Russia only, and not France? I don't know, and a lot no doubt wd have depended on diplomatic maneuverings etc. Also, the c'factual question may not even make a lot of sense if the Triple Entente is seen mainly as a response to German moves. And of course imperial (in the broad sense) rivalries -- eg German and Russian desire for influence at the Straits and in the Balkans -- factors in too.

Lastly, even if one does end up placing more of the resp. on Germany, pre-WW1 European intl politics does have, or so one cd argue, the classic features of what IR people call a 'security dilemma' -- in which X's moves, even if seen and intended by X as defensive, provoke moves by Y, which, even if intended by Y as defensive, then provoke further moves by X, and ... etc.

Anonymous said...

Good point - heck, I would have thought 1914 would be the textbook example of that kinda thing.

Re: France & the UK, I think JQ was ignoring, among other things, the chronology. France, deemed the premier military power in Europe, gets its butt handed to it in 1870. Bismarck rattles the saber after that when he has domestic crises, and France realizes they can't go it alone, particularly given that the Austrians are now on Team Prussia.

So where does France go? The UK is aloof if not downright hostile due to colonial bickering. Italy? Ha. The logic led to Russia - for what was, after all, a *defensive* treaty. JQ's position comes close to implying that aggression vs. Russia was okay, because Russia was the most tyrannical of the Powers. So yeah, I see what eventually became "the Entente" (significant word itself) as a response to the new German threat. (Insert long digression on Bismarck & the German failure to develop strong gov't institutions.)

The UK's position is sketchier, and IIRC from my last Lloyd George bio I read, it was really touch-and-go whether the UK would go to war ... which makes me think that the Belgian question tipped the scales.

As for Germany's revising its plans, I believe the Kaiser expressly tried to avoid war with Russian and just fight France, and the generals were all, no, that's not the plan. Presumably that worked the other way too. That a general staff was able to bully the gov't into war is such an "only in Germany" thing.

LFC said...

Actually, re your last paragraph: the Kaiser might have sought a one-front war vs France at some pt, but at the very end it was the other way round -- he asked the generals on Aug 1, 1914 whether it wd be possible just to concentrate on Russia, not France, and was "told to his annoyance that it was out of the question to undo the plans elaborated over many years, and that instead of an army ready for war he would have a mass of armed men with no food." (this happens to be a quote from Joll, "Unspoken Assumptions").

But presumably, yes, any revision of the military plans in either direction would have been resisted by the gen'l staff.

LFC said...

[Joll quote taken from the typewritten paper by LFC dated... well, never mind what the date on it is]

Anonymous said...

Oh good - half remembered it the wrong way.

I was looking at "The Sleepwalkers" and "July 1914" in the bookstore - the latter by the McMeekin who had a book on the Russian culpability for the war, and glancing at the conclusion, he's pointing the finger at Russia and France. Worth a read, since I'm dubious.

LFC said...

Thanks for the tip on McMeekin; just looked at its Amazon page. (I don't buy many books these days and sometimes, when I do, prefer to buy from Powells or an ind. bkstore; but Amazon is handy for getting a v quick overview. And the bk happens to be much discounted there, for whatever reason.)

I've long been intending to read properly, and do a post on, a 5-yr-old article in Intl Security on WW1 & IR theory. This discussion has pushed that higher on my to-do list; remains to be seen whether I'll get to it, but will try.