Completely non-gay historian Niall Ferguson, a man who we can be sure would never be caught at a ballet or a poetry reading, informs us that the British decision to enter the first world war on the side of France and Belgium was “the biggest error in modern history.”
Ummm, here are a few bigger errors:
The German decision to invade Russia in 1941.
The Japanese decision to attack America in 1941.
Oh yeah, the German decision to invade Belgium in 1914.
The Russian decision to invade Afghanistan in 1981 doesn’t look like such a great decision either.
And it wasn’t so smart for Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, but maybe the countries involved were too small for this to count as “the biggest error in modern history.”
It’s striking that, in considering the biggest error in modern history, Ferguson omits all these notorious acts of aggression (bombing Pearl Harbor, leading to the destruction of much of your country, that was pretty bad, huh?), and decides that the worst, the absolute worst, was Britain’s defensive an act of defense. Ferguson appears to agree with the Kaiser that starting a war is no big whoop, but defending your country or your allies is a crime.
The London Independent, in reporting this, characterizes Ferguson as “a most surprising peacenik,” but I don’t think it’s peaceable at all to Britain’s move to aid an attacked ally as a bigger error than Germany invading Russia or Japan attacking the U.S. Rather, Ferguson just seems to be on the side of offense. It’s almost like he opposes British involvement in World War 1 because it ruins the pretty story by which Germany’s invasion of Belgium was a smart move, rather than a ruinous mistake that plunged a continent into war. Ugh. I wish he’d just go back to taunting dead economists.
P.S. Thoughtful reflections from Dave Brockington here. Also 99 comments. Hey—there seem to be blogs out there that get more readers than Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science! Who’d a thunk it?