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The Treaty of Versailles Was Unjust

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Started: 7/5/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,077 times Debate No: 58550
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TUF actually suggested this as a topic to me awhile ago, and I liked it. I am happy to now have the chance to debate it! Thanks to Oro for agreeing to take me on :)

Full Topic

The Treaty of Versailles (WWI) was unjust.


1. No forfeits
2. All citations must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1: Acceptance
R2: Constructive Cases
R3: Rebuttals
R4: Rebuttals
R5: Rebuttals, Final Focus


...again to Oro for accepting this debate! :)


I accept this debate in accordance with the terms set in R1. My thanks to bsh1 for setting up the debate and for offering a thought-provoking topic. I look forward to his argument in R2.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks once again to Oro for this debate. I am sure it will be enlightening. In this round, I will define key terms in the resolution, provide a brief but necessary intro into the conditions that led to the onset of WWI, and then I will launch into my arguments.


All of the following definitions are from Merriam Webster: [1]

Unjust - "not fair or deserved: not just"
Fair - (1) "agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable" and (2) "not too harsh"
Deserve - "to be worthy, fit, or suitable for some reward or requital"

Thus, I can show that the Treaty of Versailles--which I may refer to as TOV--is unjust in a variety of way: (1) I can show that the terms of the treaty are not right or acceptable, (2) that the terms of the treaty are too harsh, and/or (3) that Central Powers did not deserve the terms of the treaty.

I may periodically reference these way in which I can affirm the resolution throughout the debate.


I will confine the discussion regarding the causes for WWI to what I feel are the two main points: the geopolitical ties that made the war an inevitability and the straw the broke the camel's back. Keep in mind that there were other issues at the time, including trade policy, militarization, colonial expansionism, etc. that increased tensions bringing them to such a point where even small provocations risked war, but I lack the character space to review any of these points sufficiently. Suffice it to say that the second of the two things I am about to address opened the floodgates and catalyzed all of these hostile influences into an urge for war.

So, first things first. During this time it was generally thought that treaties were the answer to peace, i.e. that via a network of treaties, a nation could secure a stable geopolitical situation with a network of allies (or at least ensure neighbors' neutrality.) It made intuitive sense; consider, if you are country X, and you're enemies with nation Z and it's ally, nation Q, and you sign mutual defense pacts with neighboring states F, G, and R and a nonaggression deal with nation Q, you are safe. There is no way nation Z will attack you if three other nations come to your defense--it's outnumbered 4:1. And, because nation Q has signed a nonaggression deal, nation Z cannot rely on its assistance in the conflict.

Now, this logic is all reliant on the idea that everyone abides by the terms of their treaties, but as long as nation Z thinks there is a chance, even a small one, that nations F, G, and R will abide by their agreements and defend nation X, it will think twice about attacking. There is a strong deterrent effect; it was the MAD of it's day.

Eventually, treaties and alliances became so intricate that they were only truly understood by an elite few, one of those being the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who exited power before the start of WWI. He was the primary champion of this web of intricate treaties. Unfortunately, with his death, the web began to unravel, and alliances shifted and changed in a way that disadvantaged Germany (e.g. it lost key connections with Russia,).

While the treaty system did establish peaceful relations for several decades, it did have some important downsides. Chief among these blemishes was the fact that if any nation went to war, every nation did. It would cause an instant escalation. For example, there are 6 nations: A, B, and C on one side, and X, Y, and Z on the other. Each set of three is bound together by a mutual defense pact. Now, X gets into a spat with B, and X declares war on B. A and C are treaty-bound to defend B, and so they declare war in sympathy. Now, X is under attack. If X is defeated, Y and Z will be at a disadvantage, because instead of being 3 against 3, it will be three against 2. Balance is lost. Therefore, they cannot allow X to lose and jeopardize their geostrategic safety; they enter that war on X's side. So, what started out as a 1-on-1 conflict, escalated into a 3-on-3 conflict. There were no such things as proxy wars, because even proxies were involved in this massive web of treaties. Any war, anywhere on the European continent, would eventually drag in every major power and their colonies. We can therefore credit this treaty system with making WWI truly a "world" war.

The second key thing to observe here is the actual incident that initiated the war. Certainly, other tensions were contributing factors to the war, but this event was what brought everything to a head. It was the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at the hand of Slavic nationalist Gavrilo Princip. It was widely reported that Princip's plot was known about or assisted by Serbia. Serbia's collusion in the assassination is doubted by some scholars today, but many also recognize the credibility of the claims that Belgrade was involved.

Vienna issued a series of unreasonable demands to Belgrade in response, most of which Belgrade agreed to meet to avoid war. However, incensed by the fact that Serbia refused to agree to ALL of the demands, Austro-Hungry declared war. This, in turn, activated the cascade effect discussed earlier, whereby Russia mobilized in support of its ally Serbia, and France mobilized in defense of its ally Russia. Britain also mobilized in defense of its allies Belgium (invaded by Germany) and Russia. Germany, of course, invaded France via Belgium to preempt the seemingly inevitable French invasion of Germany. Italy was bribed by the allies (who offered it portions of Austro-Hungary) to join the Entente Powers (the allies). Later, the Ottomans, who were rivals with Russia in the North and Italy on the Mediterranean, and whose Sultan was a friend of the Kaiser, joined the Central Powers (Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.)

And that is a very brief synopsis of the onset of WWI. It should provide sufficient understanding to conduct the debate, but Con is free to expand should he feel necessary. In terms of sources, this is all from memory; I am an aficionado of early WWI history, and can provide sources if Con wishes.


C1: Germany was wrongfully forced to accept responsibility for WWI

To quote Germany's representative at Versailles, Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau: "We know the full brunt of hate that confronts us here. You demand from us to confess we were the only guilty party of war; such a confession in my mouth would be a lie." [2] This is, essentially, the main thrust of the argument I'm about to make.

Article 231, commonly known as the "War Guilt Clause" reads: "The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies." [3]

As you can see from my brief history section, Austro-Hungary was the agent that started the war; it drew first blood. Germany was merely upholding it's treaty obligations, as were France, Russia, and Britain. Therefore, Germany was no more guilty for the war than any of these other powers, yet it is saddled with the brunt of the culpability. Arguably, this misattribution of guilt is itself unjust, because it unfairly marks Germany as the agent primarily responsible for the war, when, as a matter of fact, it was not.

C2: A Carthaginian Peace

The TOV certainly imposed a Carthaginian Peace, or "very brutal 'peace'" which involves "completely crushing the enemy." [4] The idea of such a peace is to so utterly decimate the loser that they could never again pose a threat. There are various issues at play here that illustrate that the TOV went too far. Germany's actions arose not out of some inherent aggressive desire, but rather out of a system of complex treaty obligations that also dragged in France, Russia, and Britain. Surely, none of these other nations would've gone to war had not Serbia and Austro-Hungary gotten into a spat. Therefore, it is a mistake to view Germany as some war-mongering super-villain right on your doorstep. New sets of peace accords, giving Germany financial stakes in the success of the allies, or creating a more effective League of Nations to deal with conflict resolution all might've helped reduced the risk of Germany's entering into another war--and that risk was low regardless.

Instead, the TOV set out to totally humiliate Germany, imposing a series of vindictive and harsh punishments. Germany would have to pay, by itself. 132 billion Marks, or $442 billion in today's money. [2] The expenses nearly bankrupted Germany, and were a major contributing factor to its subsequent economic collapse. No other Central Power nations were assessed damages. Why? Because the allies broke them up. Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were dissolved and reformed into myriad smaller states. Since they no longer existed, they couldn't be billed. Germany was paying for damages it wasn't fully responsible for. Germany was forced to give up land, it's armed forces were crippled, and it was occupied. [2]

This is unjust because it is too harsh, because it is not equitable, and because Germany did not deserve the punishments it received.

C3: Germany was Excluded form Negotiations

Germany was not even allowed to speak for itself as the TOV was being drawn up. The TOV was presented to it as an ultimatum. [2] It is not fair to completely shut out the voice of one of the signatories to the treaty. They should be able to defend themselves in the proceedings. It is certainly not right, nor is it acceptable, to do so.


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Thanks! Over to Pro...


I. The Myth of Versailles

Pro has fairly outlined the conventional political judgement regarding the Treaty of Versailles, a political judgement that unfortunately does not generally align with the analysis of historians. Popular revisionists like diplomat George Kennan have preached for decades that the vindictiveness of terms, "the very silly and humiliating punitive peace," paved the way for the rise of Nazism and the Second World War. [1] The popularity of the myth is understandable. Nobody likes to think that the apex of human malevolence which was Hitler's fascist regime might be the responsibility of a single nationality or a single line of political choices. Like the psychopath whose murders must be in some part the fault of a weak or wicked society, we tell ourselves that many acts of evil result from a complex environment of mistakes and misunderstanding. By allotting every person some little portion of fault we make the monsters seem less monstrous and convince ourselves that those terrors might be prevented by reason and perhaps sometimes this is so. But we can also be duped by that plausible narrative. We are tempted to accept the popular narrative without a critical examination of the facts. Such is the case with Versailles.

II. The Mythmakers

A. Germany

The truth is that few defeated nations are permitted to walk away from war with as little harm as was Germany's blessing in 1919. For the most part, this young, aggressive upstart nation emerged from a unnecessary war of her own making with her cities unburnt and her farmland unflattened, more than could be said for France and Belgium. No army had invaded her borders or forced the mass starvation of her children, more than might be said for Russia and Poland. Although she lost territory, Germany did not suffer the implosive collapse of her allies, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires- empires that were lost forever.

The truth is that in spite of Versailles (and in some ways because of Versailles), Germany emerged from the Great War with better potential for economic growth than she enjoyed before the war. She had divested herself of her idiot Kaiser, Wilhelm II. She was the unrivaled economic and military master of Eastern Europe. Her ancient rival Russia was in revolutionary disarray. All Austrian competition had dissolved and the fragments of that empire looked to Weimar for leadership. Germany had lost a few petty colonies but had gained the pole position in rebuilding Europe. How unfortuate it is that the German people could never appreciate their advantage. If Germany felt humiliated, it was certainly not because France and Russia and Britain ceased to fear her. If Germany felt weak, it was not because her neighbors were not weaker. If Germany felt punished, it was not because the Allies felt vindicated.

We can understand why any nation so defeated might resent the terms of peace and define those term "unjust," but we need not accept the judgement of those so biased.

B. The United States

Nowhere was the promulgation of the myth of the unfairness of Versailles more political than in the US. Congress never ratified the Treaty of Versailles. Very much like today, Republicans controlled half of Congress during the second term of a Democratic President. Foreign interventions were traditionally unpopular with the relatively isolated and prosperous American mainstream. Further, Republicans exploited the traditionally Democratic voting blocks of German and Irish immigrants to prevent ratification. In spite of Wilson's successes in making war and making peace, Republicans were able to gain political ground by denouncing the Treaty as Pro-British and Anti-German. [2]

C. Britain and Keynes

As much as to any single individual, the myth of Versailles may be attributed to the renown economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes' motivation is well understood: as the representative of the British Treasury and a man whose reputation depended on the health of the British economy, Keynes was primarily interested in maintaining Germany as the economic powerhouse of mainland Europe. By the 1910's, England imported more goods from Germany and exported more goods to Germany than any other country. Hence, the German Blockade during the Great War by itself caused grave harm to the British economy. Keynes was not so much interested in any perceived injustice against Germany. Rather, he felt an urgent need to restore Britain's favorite customer to good credit. [3]

By 1922, Keynes was not so much opposed to amount of the reparations he was the rate of repayment. Keynes advocated a 3% annual payment for 60 years and opposed the official British position of 7% repayment rate. Nevertheless, his moderation in public policy did not prevent him from making political hay from Versailles' unpopularity when it came time to write his book on the subject.

Unlike Keynes, British negotiators had to consider British opinion during negotiations. With 800,000 dead men and boys, the British masses were demanding the dismantling of Germany and the public execution of Kaiser Wilhelm. In retrospect, the balance between Keynes' liberalism and the British electorate's calls for blood, the Treaty's actual demands appear not just moderate, but acutally in favor of Keynes.

III. Germany's Option

A large part of the Versailles myth depends on the notion that Germany was not consulted during negotiations and was not offered alternatives to acceptance of terms. One need only examine the history of peacemaking to conclude that the losers of wars are seldom invited to discuss the terms of their surrender. Almost always, the choice is to accept the terms of surrender or to continue the war and so it was with Germany. At the end of the day, The Treaty of Versailles was a contract like any other. Germany could sign or they could continue the war. That Germany preferred accepting full responsibility for the war to renewed fighting is as strong an indicator as any that the Treaty of Versailles was more just than any offer of peace the Allies might offer down the road.

IV. Comparative Justice

Any assessment for the relative justness of any peace treaty must include a comparison to like treaties.

Was the Treaty of Versailles less just, for example, than the Armistice of Versailles in 1871?

Then, German victors demanded French a smaller French reparation (Germany suffered few damages in the Franco-Prussian War) but larger territories and those territories were permanent annexations. When one considers that the war was brought about by Bismarck's fraudulent publication of invented French diplomatic insults and aggressive exploitation of France's post-revolutionary weakness, the conclusion must be no.

Was the TofV less just than the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk?

Clearly not. This was Germany's 1918 peace offering to the newly Bolshevik state of Russia and while reparations were relatively small (the new government was penniless), that treaty stripped Russia of one-fourth of her population, 1.3 million sq miles of land including Poland and the Ukraine, 9/10ths of her mineral resources and a third of her factories. Considering that most of Germany's concessions at Versailles came from these Russian conquests and that one of the main reasons Germany lost was because she took more territory from Russia than she could possibly defend, Brest-Litovsk was far less just.

Was the TofV less just than Germany's 1940 Armistice with France?

Just 21 years after the TofV, Germany again invaded France. This time, the terms were more than half of the French Republic including her capital, Paris. Comparatively, the TofV was a slap on the wrist compared to Germany's unjust treaty-making.

Was the TofV less just than the terms the Allies offered the Axis in 1945?

No again. Considering that the terms offered to both Germany and Japan were essentially unconditional surrender, the TofV seems particularly moderate by comparison.

V. Germany ignored most of the Treaty

Claims of an unjust treaty seem particularly pale when one considers just how few of the conditions were ever actually met by Germany and how flexible the Allies were were in the re-negotiations of 1922, 1925, and 1929. Stephen Schuker points out that since Germany's paltry repayments were all pulled from US loans and since Germany was always behind in repayments to the US until defaulting, the US essentially paid for all and any of Germany's actual repayments. [7]

VI. Impacts were exaggerated

Considering that the true cost of reparations was less in terms of %GDP than the adjusted US Debt today, Germany's burden hardly seems insurmountable. Especially when one considers that Germany was free of military threat and required to divest herself of most of her military expenditures. Further, considers Germany's enviable economic position in Europe at the end of the war. We must conclude that the real economic impact to Germany was entirely negotiable by a competent government. That Germany lacked such competence in no way reflects on the TofV.

VII. Germany Was Responsible

I lack the space to complete this arguments and I have more to say regarding V and VI, so I'll detail at the top of Round 3.







[7] American "Reparations" to Germany, 1919-33: Implications for the Third-World Debt Crisis. (Princeton: Princeton Studies in International Finance, 1988).

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks to Oro! I will no address Con's case.

I. The Myth of Versailles

A very eloquent introduction on the part of Con, and largely lacking in substantive arguments. Rhetorical flourishes do not arguments make. I shall, however, address the notion of the contested "punitive" nature of the TOV in this round at a later point.

II. The Myth-Makers

A. Germany

It is interesting that Con writes of Germany, that "this young, aggressive upstart nation emerged from a unnecessary war of her own making." There are two falsehoods in this single line alone, firstly, the idea that Germany was "aggressive" and that the war was somehow of Germany's own making. Notice here that Con is assigning to Germany blame for the war--in other words, he is saying that Germany is guilty of starting the war. This point was already thoroughly debunked in my earlier round. The Franco-Russian Alliance, the Triple Entente agreement, the Dual Alliance, and the Treaty of London (1839), created an interlocking web of alliances that would drag all major powers into nearly any war that erupted on the continent or in the colonies. To put it succinctly, "Russia got involved to defend Serbia. Germany seeing Russia mobilizing, declared war on Russia. France was then drawn in against Germany and Austria-Hungary." [1, 2] This web is aptly demonstrated by this image:
click="document.location='/bsh1/photos/album/3486/22711/'" src="../../../photos/albums/1/4/3486/92604-3486-ugpd5-a.jpg" alt="WWI: Web of Alliances" />
Additional causes for the war can be identified, but it certainly is unfair to blame Germany for the war. I would be interested to see Con actually warrant this assertion with analysis. Neither was Germany esp. aggressive--certainly no more so that other powers at the time, e.g. Britain--nor was it guilty of beginning the war.

Con then launches into a discussion of Germany's intact industrial might. While it is indisputable that Germany's economic heartland was less damaged than that of other allied nations, particularly France or Russia, this certainly does not substantiate the claim that Germany was left better off by the treaty.

Germany had financed the war through borrowing; the of which was that "the exchange rate of the Mark against the US dollar fell steadily throughout the war from 4.2 to 8.91 Marks per dollar. The Treaty of Versailles, further accelerated the decline in the value of the Mark, so that by the end of 1919 more than 6.7 paper Marks were required to buy one US dollar...German currency was relatively stable at about 60 Marks per US Dollar during the first half of 1921...The first [reparation] payment was made when due in June 1921...Because reparations were required to be repaid in hard currency and not the rapidly depreciating Papiermark, one strategy Germany employed was the mass printing of bank notes to buy foreign currency which was in turn used to pay reparations. This greatly exacerbated the inflation rates of the paper mark...That was the beginning of an increasingly rapid devaluation of the Mark which fell to less than one third of a cent by November 1921." [3] This, along with Germany's inability to ultimately culminated in a horrific case of hyperinflation where by "November 1923, the American dollar was worth 4,210,500,000,000 German marks." [3]

Ultimately, the conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the hyperinflation caused largely by the TOV led to severe economic harms for Germany, that extended far beyond the conclusion of wartime hostilities. To summarize (sorry for the large quote): "The Treaty of Versailles imposed a huge debt on Germany that could be paid only in gold or foreign currency. With its gold depleted, the German government attempted to buy foreign currency with German currency, an action equivalent to selling German currency in exchange for payment in foreign currency, but the resulting increase in the supply of German marks on the market caused the German Mark to fall rapidly in value, which greatly increased the number of Marks needed to buy more foreign currency. This caused German prices of goods to rise rapidly, increasing the cost of operating the German government, which could not be financed by raising taxes because those taxes would be payable in the ever-less-valuable German currency. The alternative was some combination of running a budget deficit and simply creating more money, each of which increased the supply of German currency on the market and reduced that currency's price. When the German people realized that their money was rapidly losing value, they tried to spend it quickly. This increase in monetary velocity caused still more rapid increase in prices, creating a vicious cycle. This placed the government and banks between two unacceptable alternatives: if they stopped the inflation this would cause immediate bankruptcies, unemployment, strikes, hunger, violence, collapse of civil order, insurrection, and revolution. If they continued the inflation they would default on their foreign debt. The attempts to avoid both unemployment and insolvency ultimately failed when Germany had both." [3]

B. The U.S.

Con has failed to draw any connection between U.S. rejection of the Treaty and the question of the treaty's justness or lack thereof. What relevance does this have in regards to the resolution? I would appreciate it if Con could clarify.

C. Britain

Certainly Keynes's bias is well-known, but that does not mean his arguments are without merit or that they should be eschewed entirely. Surely every economist of the era, even many of today, write with a bias in mind. If finding an objective source were our objective, we would fail miserably.

Moreover, since I have not cited Keynes in this round as of yet, it seems Con is largely attacking a strawman, reducing my arguments to those of Keynes. That is neither fair, nor appropriate.

Furthermore, a simple Ctrl+F search for the word "Keynes" in Con's cited source produce scant hit--no substantiation for Con's claims, which seem to undermine the strength with which Con attempts to impeach Keynes's analysis.

III. Germany's Option

We are not questioning historical trend here. I can agree that generally the vanquished are not included in the peace process by the victors, yet, what is generally the case is not in question. The question before us is what is "just." If it is not just to exclude any relevant party, even if doing so is common practice, it is still grounds for a Pro vote. Since Con has drawn no link from this argument to the resolution, specifically the concept of "justness," I fail to see what relevance this has on the debate. Again, I would appreciate it if Con could clarify.

IV. Comparative Justice

This resolution is not about comparative justice; the resolution does not ask whether the TOV was "more just" than something else. Rather, the resolution asks whether the TOV was "just," implying an absolutist evaluation, not a comparative one. Moreover, to have a comparative evaluation, we must have something to compare the TOV to. In this case, the resolution provides us with no such counterpoint; it does not say "The TOV was more unjust than X." Again, the topic simply reads, "The TOV was unjust." Therefore, if it was unjust in anyway, even if it was less or more so than some other point of comparison, a Pro ballot is in order.

To put it more bluntly, perhaps, it is not my job to show that the TOV was more unjust than the Armistice of Versailles, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, or the Armistice with France. Any attempt to force me to do so would be abusive burden-shifting on Con's part.

V. Germany Ignored the TOV

Again, what happen after the treaty was sign is immaterial to this debate. This debate is about whether the terms of the TOV were unjust, not whether the enforcement thereof was just or not.

VII. Responsibility

I await Con's remarks, reminding him that he should also respond to my case next round.


Con has strung together an interesting narrative predicated on the idea of the "myth" of vindictiveness surrounding the TOV. Yet, it seems that many of his claims have little to do with the central question of this debate, that is, the justness of the TOV, and, even more, many of his claims are simply inaccurate. I look forward to continuing this debate! Thanks :)


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Although Pro's argument thus far has comprised 3 injustices perceived in the ToV, we can see that his second and third contentions depend heavily on the first.

That is, Germany's C3 exclusion from negotiation, as well as the C2 fairness of terms depend heavily on Pro's contention that Germany "was no more guilty for the war than any...other powers, yet [was] saddled with the brunt of the culpability." Just as a prosecutor will seldom consult the accused regarding charges or a judge will seldom negotiate sentencing with a criminal, so too would the later contentions only seem unfair if guilt were not determined.

Since by signing the TofV, Germany has already effectively pled guilty to charges, the necessities of international law have already been satisfied. We need only satisfy our individual sense of justice.

If we can determine, therefore, that Germany acted correctly when she accepted principle responsibility for the Great War, then Pro is left only with some minor complaints about the proportion of reparation in relation to that apocalypse which Germany forced upon Europe.

In as much as my final contention serves to directly refute the core of Pro's argument, let's proceed.

VII. Germany Was Responsible

A. Little War, Big War

Let's note one inaccuracy in Pro's "Brief History" that may in part explain his misapprehension regarding German intentions. Pro states "There were no such things as proxy wars, because even proxies were involved in this massive web of treaties. Any war, anywhere on the European continent, would eventually drag in every major power..."

This is incorrect. Pro seems unaware of the First Balkan War 1912-13 [1] or the subsequent Second Balkan War of 1913 [2] or the essential context these conflicts lend to 1914 motivations.
These were little wars compared to the apocalypse of the following summesr, but both conflicts were at least comparable in size to the 2003 Iraq War in terms of troop deployments and casualties. Both wars are accurately seen today as proxy wars between Russian backed Serbs, Austro-German backed Greeks and the rotten remnants of the Ottoman Empire.

Serbia was the important victor in both conflicts and it was Serbian success that most concerned Austria following Ferdinand's 1914 assassination. The war Vienna sought was a war with Serbia; a war that might firmly establish her sovereignty over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Austria felt confident that they could take on the Serbs so long as Russian support was minimized. Thus she sought support from the largest and most modern army in Europe, Germany.

Austria, the Ottomans and Russia all anticipated a short war, a war in the Balkans fought mostly by Balkan soldiers. Each power saw an opportunity for gain by such engagement. Unfortunately for these three, the conflict sought by the German military was on an altogether larger scale, a scale for which none of these power was prepared. Four years later Germany would capitualte but these three powers would be gone.

B German Military Plans

In the 25 years since Kaiser Wilhelm had removed the supremely competent Bismarck, the German military had been preparing for a two-front war against France and Russia, believing that such a war was inevitable and necessary to establish Europe's youngest nation as the supreme mainland power.

In reaction, both France and Russia increased spending and loosened draft requirements. In 1913, Russia embarked on her 4 year "Great Program" of military modernization and expansion that the German high command feared would be forever forbid German ambitions eastward.

Hawks like Moltke and Falkenhayn insisted to the Kaiser that however Russia reacted to Vienna's declaration of war, Russia must be invaded in 1914. Failure to attack would almost certainly provoke a Russian invasion after 1917, felt the hawks. Further, because France would almost certainly use any invasion of Russia as pretext for recovering her losses in Alsace-Lorraine, France must also be attacked. [3] Germany correctly assessed that if France and Russia were both permitted to fully mobilize at their borders, Germany would be outnumbered and drawn into a war of attrition.

Therefore, France must be attacked first with overwhelming force, Paris occupied and surrender assured the few short weeks it would take Russia to bring her massive army into Poland. The military put most of their popular support behind an opening invasion of their neutral, friendly, and defenseless neighbors, Luxembourg and Belgium.

France believed that Germany would not dare invade Belgium as their neutrality was guaranteed by the UK and a declaration by that island nation would open the German flank to British sea power. As the former Queen Victoria's oldest grandson, Wilhelm was confident that Britain would back away from a general war. When on Aug 1st it became clear to the Kaiser that Britain would defend Belgium and the Kaiser advised that Belgium neutrality should be respected, Chief of Staff Moltke lied and said that the invasion had already begun. [4]

Much more ougt to be said regarding German patriotism and the near ecstatic romanticism with which the German ruling class beheld warfare in this era, but we haven't the space here. For the purposes of understanding Germany's responsibilities we do better to focus on Germany's agression.

C. First Blood

August 1- Germany declares war on Russia

August 2- Germany invades Luxembourg. German reconnaissance forces in France and Russia.

August 3- Germany declares war on France

August 4- Germany invades Belgium- UK declares war on Germany

August 6- Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia

On all fronts, Germany was the aggressor: first to declare war, first to invade. In spite of Pro's resignation regarding the inevitability of the network of alliances, we should note that both Italy and Romania refused to join in war with their Entente allies, because all of these treaties were defensive- they were only invoked by invasion of foreign power. Since Germany was the clear aggressor, Italy and Romania were able to withhold without breaking the treaty terms.

D. Last Blood

Now let's take a look at Germany's position on the Western Front in Nov 1918, when they finally sought armistice after 100 days of retreat:

History Map #164 WWI The Western Front 1918
After four years of bloody war on the Western Front, Germany was still the only nation doing any invading.

Here's the Eastern Front-

And here are those portions of the sea over which Germany declared her right to sink any ship at will:

Including, famously, American Cruise ships like the Lusitania.

E. Allies against Aggression

Nor were Belgium and Luxembourg and the United States and Italy the only nations who tried hard to remain neutral but were compelled to war by German aggression: by 1918, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Japan, Liberia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Siam, and Uruguay had all been compelled to go to war against far away Germany.

F. The conclusions are inescapable. Only Germany actively sought general war in 1914. France and Russia knew they weren't ready. Austria and Turkey hoped only for a limited third Balkan War. The UK and the US foresaw terrible economic damage for no political gain. Germany was the only invader in Europe and the first to make war Indeed, Russia would have gladly made peace at any virtually any point after the Battle of Tannenberg, 30 days into the war, but Germany wanted more. From beginning to end only Germany controlled the pace and the conduct of the Great War. Germany alone began WWI and Germany ended it because Germany was the only political body who wished to continue until domination could be achieved.

VIII. Rebuttals

As we have shown and as Germany conceded at Versailles, World War I was Germany's war and she was rightfully accorded the bulk of reparations at the end of her disastrous adventures. In this light, France and Russia's position (as well as the US and UK proletariat) that Germany must be dismantled and her military leaders executed is certainly understandable and perhaps the only rational prophylactic against Germany's foreseeable re-emergence twenty years later like some Hollywood villain.

If readers are convinced as I am that Germany's only honorable option was reparation, then Pro's C1 argument must be stand refuted. Likewise, if readers are convinced that Germany was the aggressor, then Pro's C3 argument that Germany was not consulted regarding the terms of her reparation seem paltry and not in keeping with our usual sense about how justice is determined. It is still possible to see Germany as the guilty party but nevertheless consider the sentence unduly harsh, but I don't see the TofV as such. Let's remember that Keynes "Carthaginian Peace" also describes Rome's failure to contain Carthage after defeating them in the first and second Punic Wars. After Rome's third victory, she killed or enslaved every survivor, burned the entire state to bedrock and salted the earth so that nothing might ever grow there again.

Germany 1919 was not Carthage. She was allowed to live and keep her lands and her wealth and dominion in Eastern Europe. She was stripped of her massive armies and made to redirect a portion of the miltiary spending to the victors charged with rebuilding their fallen provinces, but this seems like a fair precaution. Germany gave up most of her colonies, but these were small and their unequalness to French and English holdings was a large contributor to that inadequacy that compelled Germany to war in 1914. She returned the lands she'd conquered in Eastern Europe, but that seem fair. That Germany might liken such rational conditions to Punic genocide seems histrionic at best.


Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to Con for this debate! I shall now defend my case.


Con asserts that my second two contentions are premised on the accuracy of the first. This is not accurate. My C2's scope is impacted by whether Germany was to blame, but certainly not all of its impact re: fairness are contingent upon that. As for my C3, it certainly has nothing to do with whether Germany is to blame.

Consider, that everyone should have the right to defend themselves in a court, yet Germany was denied the chance to defend and represent itself when the treaty passed sentence on it. Even if the sentence is fair, the process is not, and thus the sentence is tainted. Contentions 1 and 2 of my case deal with whether the sentence is fair, whereas C3 deals with whether the process is fair. There is a clear distinction here, and Con cannot say that my C3 in any way hinges on the validity of the preceding arguments.

Additionally, Germany did not so much "plead guilty" as it acknowledged that it could no longer afford to fight on, in terms of human and economic costs, as well as under the full knowledge that further violence would like lead to their total defeat. Germany did not agree that it was guilty. It was presented an ultimatum that it had no choice but to accept, or face total destruction. Most rational agents under those conditions would sign the treaty, whether or not they accepted guilt or agreed with/acknowledged the validity of the terms.

Note that, because Con is essentially just responding to my C1, is rebuttals are largely non-responsive to my other assertions.

With these points clarified, I will now proceed to defend the bulk of my case. Con frames his rebuttals as an extension of his case; so I will treat it as such.


A. Little War, Big War

As it stands, I would amend my original statement to this: "Any war, anywhere on the European continent, risked dragging in every major power..." Ultimately, Con's arguments don't do much damage here, because they don't undermine the cascading treaties arguments among the larger powers. As soon as Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia, Russia's hand was forced, and thus the cascade began.

I would also like to take the chance to underline Con's own terminology here: "The war Vienna sought was a war with Serbia." Vienna sought the war, not Berlin. And, Con has offered little evidence to pin the start of the war to Berlin, so let's move on to discussing Germany's precise role in initiating the war.

B. German Military Plans

Con insinuates that Germany was the aggressive one, the one planning for a highly destructive war that would "establish Europe's youngest nation as the supreme mainland power." Yet, as a matter of fact, "all the major powers were preparing for a large-scale war...Britain focused on building up its Royal Navy, already stronger than the next two navies combined. Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Russia, and some smaller countries, set up conscription systems whereby young men would serve from 1 to three years in the army, then spend the next 20 years or so in the reserves with annual summer training...Each country devised a mobilisation system whereby the reserves could be called up quickly and sent to key points by rail. Every year the plans were updated and expanded in terms of complexity. Each country stockpiled arms and supplies for an army that ran into the millions. Germany in 1874 had a regular professional army of 420,000 with an additional 1.3 million reserves. By 1897 the regular army was 545,000 strong and the reserves 3.4 million. The French in 1897 had 3.4 million reservists, Austria 2.6 million, and Russia 4.0 million. The various national war plans had been perfected by 1914, albeit with Russia and Austria trailing in effectiveness." [1]

Thus, Con's claims are disingenuous. It was not just Germany that was militarizing and planning for war--most of the continent was. Con says that France and Russia militarized in reaction to Germany's actions, yet ignores that Russia also wanted to recapture Constantinople and annex the province of Galicia. France was engaging in revanchism of it's own, and it's desires to reacquire Alsace-Lorraine was no secret. Even Con agrees to this when he notes: "France would almost certainly use any invasion of Russia as pretext for recovering her losses in Alsace-Lorraine." Certainly, Germany was not the only war-mongering nation involved, and certainly it wasn't alone in taking bellicose actions.

Note that Russia did end up responding with force to Austria's actions. Germany's ally was threatened, and it was treaty-bound to come to her aid. Con claims that "hawks...insisted to the Kaiser that however Russia reacted to Vienna's declaration of war, Russia must be invaded in 1914." However, we cannot blame Germany for what it considered doing, but only what it did actually do. And what it did was obey the terms of its agreements with Austria by coming to its aid. Once Russia began to mobilize in defense of Serbia, Germany's hand was forced.

Again, invading Belgium does not make Germany responsible for the war itself, and this point cannot be overemphasized. The war had already started by that point, and the momentum was un-arrestable. Certainly, Britain would likely have entered the war whether or not Germany had invaded Belgium, given their maritime rivalry with Berlin and London's participation in the Triple Entente.

C. First Blood

Con implies that first Blood occurred when Germany declared war on Russia (August 1). In fact, First Blood was drawn on July 28th, when Vienna declares war on Serbia. The next day, July 29th, Russia orders a general mobilization of its army. On July 31st, Germany mobilizes and sends a missive to Russia, demanding they halt their military actions within 12 hours; that same day, Germany asks France if it will remain neutral in a conflict between Russia and Germany. Germany gets its answer from Paris when, on August first, Paris orders a general mobilization for war. [1]

What we can see from this fuller timeline is the following: (1) Austro-Hungary was the first nation to take aggressive action (declaration of war); (2) Russia was the second nation to take aggressive action (mobilization); (3) Germany attempted to dissuade Russia from escalating the conflict and tried to get France to remain neutral. Germany attempts to prevent the conflict from blowing out of proportion, and is the third, not the first, nation to take aggressive action.

It was obvious to Berlin that Russia and France were mobilizing and would fight against it's ally Autro-Hungary, and so it was forced to take preemptive action in order to ensure that Vienna was not crushed instantaneously. This is not aggressive; it's defensive in nature.

We can also say that the treaty did bind Italy to support it's central power allies, namely because the assassination of the Archduke could've been considered, legally, the first act of aggression in the war, and that Austro-Hungary's response was merely defensive. Also, Italy was bribed by the Entente powers (France, Russia, Britain) with promises of land as well, and that also contributed to how it interpreted events.

But really, that isn't so vital. What is vital is the implication behind the Italy argument; i.e. that Germany could've backed out. I've already suggested how Germany could've seen Vienna's actions as defensive, but let's also consider this froma geopolitical POV. If Vienna fell, Berlin would have no major allies in the region. France, with it's sights set on Alsace-Lorraine, and Russia, with it's desires set upon Galicia, may have turned on Berlin afterword, leaving Berlin in an untenable position. In a continent filled with rivals, it is not smart to be without allies; from the Kaiser's viewpoint, there may have been no other choice but to support its ally. Surely, this is not the action of an aggressor, but of a nation desperate to maintain its integrity.

D. Last Blood

Just because Germany pushed farther into any country than any other participant in the war does not make it guilty for starting the war, nor does it make it responsible for the war. Certainly though, Austro-Hungary pushed into Italy, and vice versa, and Con's own map shows that France did occupy some parts of Germany. But really, I fail to see the relevance of this argument.

The U.S. was forewarned of these zones, and there is evidence that the Lusitania was smuggling war supplies. But again, this does not make Germany either guilty of initiating the war or responsible for the war.

E. Allies Against Aggression

I like how Con attempts to blame all of these nation's entries into the war on Germany. Certainly, these nations had their own interests in the war as well. Japan, for instance, joined the war due to a Treaty in had with Britain, and because "the Treaty also made possible the Japanese seizure of German possessions in the Pacific north of the equator during WWI, a huge boon to Japan's imperial interests." [2]

F. Conclusion

Clearly, Con's inescapable conclusions aren't has airtight as Con has made out. Germany, as I have maintained throughout this debate, was neither guilty of starting, nor responsible for the conflict, tragic as it was. The need to have a scapegoat has made Germany an unnecessary victim in this crises, and that is equally tragic.


This functions merely as an extension of Section VII, Subsection F--it is an extended conclusion. Con again asserts that his claims have rebutted all of my contentions, no just my first. I succinctly addressed this erroneous notion in my overview.

As for the claims about a Carthaginian Peace, those will be discussed more next round, I'm sure. I've already covered them in this debate too.


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Con asserts that my second two contentions are premised on the accuracy of the first. This is not accurate.

An odd statement. Obviously, we can't determine whether the punishment was fair without first asking whether the punished was guilty. Let's remember that Pro's C1 is the question of responsibility for WW1 and our topic is whether Germany was treated unjustly. C2 is whether the punishment was fair and C3 is whether Germany should have been in on the negotiations. If Germany (by invading first on every front, by violating peace in neutral countries, by pursuing war long after every other nation begged for peace) was responsible then the TofV's punishment and Germany's exclusion almost certainly seem just. If Germany was innocent, a hapless friend who really had no choice about invading France and Luxembourg and Belgium and Russia because his ally was about to invade Serbia and Germany wanted to honor her alliance, then the potential injustice of non-participation or excess punishment might be on the table.

I'm not sure why Pro would pretend that Germany's guilt is not essential to the question of German punishment.

Pro argues that everyone has the right to defend themselves in court but the field of war is not a courtroom. Pro forgets that a homeowner has the right to kill or disable a home invader without first consulting the invader's rights. A soldier has the right to kill or disable a combatant without any effort to ascertain guilt. Such was Versailles: Nations at war, an invader finally disabled in the field. The only reason the question of justice arises at all is because the victors were more merciful than most: they broke the invader's arm and sent him back home. If the invader was killed outright, as most invaders are, there would be far fewer cries of injustice down the road (and of course, the invader would not have returned twenty years later to try a second time).

I'll take exception to Pro's claim that I have only responded to C1. Pro has failed to discern although I'm certain our readers have not how points III and IV serve to counter C3. If Germany felt the TofV unjust, they should not have signed. Germany did sign because the TofV was far more merciful than Germany expected, far more merciful than any German victor past, present, or future offered to any of those vanquished by Germany.

Pro has failed to discern although I'm certain our readers have not how points IV, V, and VI invalidate C2. Complaints of a Carthaginian Peace, of terms so harsh that Germany was essentially destroyed, are made a lie by history and by common sense.

The German Govt. spent 170 billion marks in 1916, of which 91% was military spending. The TofV broke down reparations into 3 bond schedules of which Germany only had to two amounting to 50 billion marks: the last was really just a fiction to convince US and UK citizens that Germany was being punished more harshly than the fact). Total German reparations were less than 1/3 of Germany 1916 budget to be paid over a space of 20 years. (A 7% rate of repayment. Keynes argued for 3% and it was this difference of opinion that prompted his "Carthaginian" evaluation). [2]

Although German failures to pay prompted to reductions and rescheduled payment plans in 1921, 1923, and 1929, the total reparation paid by Germany before 1932 (when they defaulted altogether) was 19 billion marks (or roughly $18.5 billion in 2013 US dollars- less than the US spends on air conditioning for overseas soldiers [3]). Worse, all German repayments were made using money from US loans to Germany, which were defaulted in 1934. In effect, Germany never paid a dime for reparations, how then could reparations still be judged as unjustly harsh?

If Germany had apportioned in 1920 only one-third of what it spent on the military in 1916 (remembering that the German military had been sharply curtailed and that money was no longer required) the reparations might have been paid in a single year.

When France tried to force German re-payments by military investment in the Ruhr, the German nation preferred to go on strike rather than repay, tanking German productivity to such a profound degree that inflation began to eat away at the German economy. Although the German mythology in years to come would be that TofV payment caused Germany's crash, the opposite is true: the German people were so stubborn about refusing to pay that they brought their nation to a disastrous standstill.

So yes, our evaluation of C2 and C3 must depend on our conclusions regarding German guilt but no, such dependency does not excuse Pro's failure to address the debunking of C2 and C3 via arguments III thru VI.

IX. Defenses

As soon as Austro-Hungary attacked Serbia, Russia's hand was forced, and thus the cascade began.

But Vienna did not seek World War and in fact feared one, correctly predicting that Austro-Hungary could not last long against any major power. Of the 7 major combatants only Germany desired a World war and only Germany ignored all bids for peace negotiations made during the July Crisis. Vienna no more began WWI by declaring against Serbia in 1914 then did Bulgaria or the Ottomans by declaring war against Serbia in 1913. All sought a much smaller engagement which was exploited by Germany to achieve a larger war against unrelated combatants, albeit absorbing the Balkan contest in the process.

Con insinuates that Germany was the aggressive one

No insinuation is required. The fact that Germany invaded first on all fronts, invaded 3 non-participants in the Balkan crisis and violated the neutrality of 2 of those non-participants makes an irrefutable demonstration of German intent.

It was not just Germany that was militarizing and planning for war--most of the continent was.

Yes, all the major players were preparing for war. Only Germany was getting ready for war on the scale of the one they precipitated:

"It is also important to take notice of the fact that from 1910 to 1914, while France increased her defence expenditure by 10%, Britain by 13%, Russia by 39%, and Germany was the most militaristic as she increased by 73%"

Already the richest nation and largest military in Europe by 1900, Germany continued to outspend her neighbors by 2 and 3 times because she anticipated, even hoped for, the chance to take them all on at once. Yes, France wished to regain Alsace-Lorraine. Yes, Russia had their eye on Constantinople. Neither had a plan to do so in 1914, knowing they were no match for Germany. Germany attacked first, that makes Germany the aggressor.

However, we cannot blame Germany for what it considered doing, but only what it did actually do.

Agreed, let's hold each nation to that standard, shall we?

Once Russia began to mobilize in defense of Serbia, Germany's hand was forced.

Nonsense. Nations have the right to deploy troops within their borders as they see fit. Mobilization is not an invasion nor even an act of war. Ukraine and Russia are fully mobilized against each other today, but if either nation's troops began to cross the border today that nation would be seen as the aggressor and instigator of war. Poland fully mobilized against Germany on Aug 30, 1939. Does that mean Germany had no choice but to invade Poland on Sept. 1st? Of course it doesn't.

And what it did was obey the terms of its agreements with Austria by coming to its aid.

Pro forgets that the 1879 Dual Alliance, like all of the alliances under discussion, were defensive alliances. [5] Germany was only under obligation if Austria were under attack. Since the Empire was not attacked until after its collapse against Serbia in the fall of 1914, Germany may not use that treaty as an excuse for her warmaking.

Also, what about all of Germany's other treaties? Germany had peace treaties with France and Russia. Why weren't they equally honor bound to respect those contracts? Much worse, Germany was a signatory to the 1839 Treaty of London, guaranteeing Belgian neutrality and acknowledging a violation as an act of World War. [6] When the UK honored that agreement on Aug 4, German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg that he could not believe the UK would go to war over a mere "scrap of paper." Why would Germany feel compelled by the Dual Alliance when no terms of that treaty had been violated but also feel that they could violate another treaty without cause? The obvious answer is the network of alliances were half-promises at best, and nations will do what they think is best in the moment regardless of treaties or alliances.

First Blood was drawn on July 28th, when Vienna declares war on Serbia. The next day, July 29th, Russia orders a general mobilization of its army.

The first person shot was a French Corporal Jules-Andre Puegot, attacked by German calvary on French soil while he was eating breakfast on the morning of Aug 2nd. A full day before Germany declared war on France, German soldiers were killing French soldiers in France.

The U.S. was forewarned of these zones, and there is evidence that the Lusitania was smuggling war supplies.

Well it certainly makes Germany responsible for the war with United States unless Pro wishes to contend that the US did not have the right to sell what the US liked to whom the US liked, wartime or no. Just because Germany declared large portions of the Atlantic no-go zones did not give the Germans the right to destroy who they like within those zones.

[1] Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914–1918 (2004)

Debate Round No. 4


Thanks, Oro! I will defend Pro's case, then address Con's case, and finally provide some reasons to vote Pro.



Con states that we cannot determine whether the punishment was fair unless we first ask whether the punished was guilty. However, as I said earlier: "Consider, that everyone should have the right to defend themselves in a court, yet Germany was denied the chance to defend and represent itself when the treaty passed sentence on it. Even if the sentence is fair, the process is not, and thus the sentence is tainted." We cannot exclude the defendant from trial as Con would suggest--they have a right to speak up on their own behalf before judgement and sentencing is handed down. Germany was never given that chance. Even if Germany is guilty, if the process itself was unfair, then the result of the process cannot be considered so. Con DROPS this assertion. Therefore, my C3 is not reliant on my C1.

As for my C2, perhaps the scope of the impact of my C2 is reliant on Germany's guilt, but it is not wholly contingent upon it. If Germany was guilty, then perhaps it deserved some punishment, but that does not mean it deserved the severity of the punishment it did wind up receiving.

Con claims that the field of war is not a courtroom, but the TOV was not decided on a field of war. Germany was no longer a combatant that needed to be disarmed; it had already capitulated. Con's example of the soldier with the right to disabled a combatant therefore fails because in this case, the combatant was already on his knees. You do not punish someone who has already, for all intents and purposes, surrendered and punish them without court martial. The TOV assigned Germany guilt and then sought to punish it; reparations were just as much about allied rebuilding as vengeance. Certainly, this resembles a court in relevant aspects; Con himself even used these legalistic analogies, suggesting that Berlin "plead guilty to the charges." Germany--at the very least--should have been permitted to attend the kangaroo court that was the TOV and speak on its own behalf.

Germany did not sign the TOV because it was merciful; in fact, the head of the Germany government resigned rather than sign because he thought it was just the opposite. In the end, Germany was forced to sign because it had no other choice--further conflict would have led to it's total collapse and occupation. It's allies had crumbled, and further prolonging the conflict would have been pointless. As I said earlier: "Germany did not so much 'plead guilty' as it acknowledged that it could no longer afford to fight on...Most rational agents under those conditions would sign the treaty, whether or not they accepted guilt."

Con then brings up that Germany "never paid a dime for the reparations." That is totally irrelevant to this debate. This debate is about the terms of the TOV and how those terms were decided upon; this debate is NOT about the enforcement of those terms. The terms of the TOV were unfair, even if Germany found means of evading those unfair terms; however, I totally dispute the idea that reparations had no ill-effects on Germany, which I shall discuss more later.

Notice: Con offers no evidence to substantiate his claim that the strike in the Ruhr (1920) was the real cause of German inflation.

IX. Defenses

A. Little War, Big War

Con says that Germany ignored all bids for peace--yet it in fact made some: to both Paris and Moscow. As for Vienna, Con is totally incorrect when he states that Austro-Hungary no more started a world war than did the Ottomans earlier. Yet, Vienna knew Russia was apt to respond with force, which it did in fact do. Russia's involvement spurred France's involvement, and so Vienna's declaration did, in effect, pull in the world.

B. German Military Plans

Two points: (1) The scope of Germany's actions in the war do not make it responsible for the war, and (2) simply because Germany increased it's spending most does NOT make it the most militaristic.

Consider, Germany may have increased it's spending the most, but it was still behind most of its adversaries in total military spending per-WWI. For instance, from 1908-1912, Germany trailed both Russia and the UK (except for 1908 where it tied with the UK and trailed Russia). Only in 1913 did Germany take over as the leader in spending. Surely, leading only 1 year out of 6 years in military spending does not make Germany the aggressor. [1]

Certainly, Russia and France saw economic and land-acquisition opportunities in a war with the Central Powers. They may not have had plans pre-war to seize Constantinople or Alsace-Lorraine, but certainly they must have seen the chance to make those inroads when Austro-Hungary and Serbia erupted into conflict. For example, "Although Russia enjoyed a booming economy, growing population, and large armed forces, its strategic position was threatened by an expanding Turkish military trained by German experts using the latest technology. The start of the war renewed attention of old goals: expelling the Turks from Constantinople, extending Russian dominion into eastern Anatolia and Persian Azerbaijan, and annexing Galicia. These conquests would assure Russian predominance in the Black Sea." [2] Also, "The annexation caused widespread resentment in France, giving rise to the desire for revenge, known as revanchism. French sentiments wanted to avenge military and territorial losses, and the displacement of France as the pre-eminent continental military power." [2]

Con then states that nations have the right to deploy troops within their boarded and that this is not an act of war. But it certainly is an act of aggression, esp. when the purpose of that mobilization is very widely known to be to engage in a war. In this case, Russia fully intended to intervene on the side of Serbia is Vienna did not withdraw. Poland's deployment against the Nazi's, however, was defensive, not offensive. Germany gave the Tsar a chance to call off the mobilization, and the Tsar refused; thereby compelling Germany to act in preemptory defense of its ally. Just like the 6 day war where Israel preemptively assailed Egyptian forces, such an action is not aggressive; it is designed to ensure one's one safety and that of one's core allies.

Con DROPPED the following: "the assassination of the Archduke could've been considered, legally, the first act of aggression in the war, and that Austro-Hungary's response was merely defensive." Thus, under that interpretation, the Dual Alliance could've compelled Germany to action.

It's alliances with France and Russia had expired before 1914, and were no longer in force. Surely, the network of alliances were much more that "scraps of paper" as Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, and the Ottoman Empire all entered the war on the sides of their treaty-bound allies.

C. First Blood

Con DROPS all of the following: "(1) Austro-Hungary was the first nation to take aggressive action (declaration of war); (2) Russia was the second nation to take aggressive action (mobilization); (3) Germany attempted to dissuade Russia from escalating the conflict and tried to get France to remain neutral. Germany attempts to prevent the conflict from blowing out of proportion, and is the third, not the first, nation to take aggressive action."

Con also DROPS that Germany could not have backed out of the conflict.

D. Last Blood

Again, Germany involving the U.S. does not make Germany guilty for the war, as the TOV asserts.

E. Allies

Con DROPS these points entirely.


Con drops his entire case. I will point out three key things here: (1) Con drops my arguments about inflation. Perfer these arguments over Con's unsubstantiated alternative explanation of the Ruhr strikes, (2) Germany's non-inclusion in discussions re: the TOV based on historical trends do not make that non-inclusion just, (3) this debate is not about comparative justice.


Firstly, Con cannot discuss points he dropped, as this would be unfair to me (I would have no chance to respond.)


- Germany attempted to prevent war, reaching out to both Paris and Moscow. Con dropped this.
- Austro-Hungary was the one truly responsible; they declared war even before Puegot was killed. They set the ball rolling, reeling in Russia, France, German, and so on.
- Germany had no choice but to help Vienna. As it interpreted events, it was treaty-bound to help, and geopolitically it could not afford to allow it's only reliable European ally to be defeated. Con dropped these points.
- Russia, France, and even Japan were all willing to go to war as part of revanchist or expansionist desires; Con cannot say that Germany was the only war-mongerer.

Impact: The "War Guilt Clause" unfairly attributes blame to Germany. This is unjust. My C1 is affirmed.

Carthaginian Peace

- My explanation of the causation of Germany's inflation was more reliably (supported by sources and analysis) than Con's.
- Germany should not pay for a war it did not start.
- Germany isn't responsible for all the damage of the war--it's allies were too; yet, it was saddled with all the costs of reparations.

Impact: Reparations were unjust. They were too harsh. My C2 is affirmed.


- Germany asked for and "received an armistice on 11 November 1918; in practice it was a surrender." [3] It was not a combatant any longer, but was put on trial by the TOV for the war.
- It had the right to defend itself, even if historically the losers of wars don't. It's a question of absolute justness.

Impact: The process behind the TOV was unjust, tainting the TOV itself. My C3 is affirmed.

Thank you! VOTE PRO!


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X. A Summary of Arguments

A. In this debate, Pro has the responsibility to prove that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were unjust.

1. Pro has argued that Germany was not at the table when the terms of peace were discussed. I have argued that peace talks are the proceedings of soldiers on the field of war, not lawyers at court. Did Saddam Hussein have a right to be in on the conference call between Bush, Baker, Cheney, and Scwarzkopf that discussed the terms of peace for the Persian Gulf War? No. Did Hitler and Hirohito have a right to be at Yalta to discuss the post-war world? Obviously not. Pro seems to think that Germany should have been an exception to thus rule, but has never once explained why.

2. Pro argues that the reparations were too harsh, but he wants to have his cake and eat it too: he wants to argue that Germany was both innocent and punished too harshly for her crimes. Germany lost a little land and had to pay one-third of one year's military budget in reparations. Since she was required to downsize her military this was not just an affordable fine. We have shown that Germany could have, should have paid that fine in one year and moved on. By comparison, when they had the upper hand the year before at Brest-Litovsk, Germany extracted 9/10ths of all Russia's mineral wealth, all of her Eastern European possessions and one quarter of her people. In fact, we have seen that the TofV was far more merciful than any terms Germany has ever offered, in spite of their complaints of unfair treatment, far more merciful than the terms that most vanquished nations are ever offered. So Germany's only possible grounds for complaint was that they were innocent but Germany was not innocent.

3. Pro has argued that Germany was unjustly held responsible for WWI. Because a Balkan terrorist shot a nobleman of a neighboring country on Balkan soil, Pro argues, Germany had no choice except to invade 4 non-Balkan countries. Pro argues that Germany had no choice because of the tangled network of alliances. I have argued this is all mythology. At the end of the war, the only nation that had broken her treaties was Germany. Every other nation upheld her treaty obligations, while Germany violated at least 4 treaties while pretending that the Dual Alliance, a defensive treaty, obliged Germany to invade much of Europe in the name of Austrian friendship. Pro may buy into such patently false propaganda but we need not. Germany invaded first on every front, murdering farmers on foreign soil before war was yet declared. Only Germany prosecuted the war for four years while the France and Russia begged for peace. Only Germany invaded neutral countries and torpedoed neutral ships. As soon as Germany was done the war was over because the Allies did not seek to press their new advantage. WWI was the war that Germany dreamed of and prepared for. But for a few misplaced troops Germany might realistically have taken Paris in the second week of the war and never given it back. But for the German habit of never knowing when to stop while invading Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States might realistically be modern Germany. No other nation went into WWI with such ambition and no allied nation exploited victory, preferring instead to create a series of small democracies. German war guilt is impossible to deny and so Germany's cries about unjust fines become unseemly - German soldiers had killed one half million non-combatants on foreign soil while losing fewer than 800 of her own civilians. Paying out a third of one year's war budget was not just a merciful punishment, it was an insult to the innocent French and Russian and Belgian dead.

B. Of course, my main argument has addressed German responsibility since any cry of unjust punishment requires such inquiry. Was the punished guilty of the crime? Does the severity of the punishment match the severity if the offense? I've also argued that Germany re-offends by

1. signing the contract for peace without honoring any of its terms. Pro thinks it is irrelevant that Germany paid no reparations, re-armed in violation of the treaty and went right back to war as soon as she was able. I am confident readers won't agree. How can any party cry unjust punishment if the punishment was never enforced?

2. By whining about the terms of contract while never offering such fair terms themselves in any peace negotiation, and

3. By blaming those ignored terms for all of Germany's mismanaged failures in the years to come.

XI. Dropped arguments

I can't say whether Pro's claims of arguments dropped is due to a failure to read my rebuttals carefully, or a tactic of easy dismissal in reply to cases for which Pro has no adequate response. Readers will forgive the repetition, but Pro's complaint provokes another review.

A. Pro claims I DROPPED his complaint that Germany was denied a fair trial, but I clearly STOPPED that argument by pointing out that Germany was an invader at war. We shoot home invaders, we don't ask them if they brought a lawyer. Pro claims that Germany had already surrendered, but this is false. The TofV was the instrument of peace, the terms of German surrender, like telling an invader to get down on his knees. If the invader fails to meet those terms, runs away or reaches for his gun, he forfeits any expectation of a fair trial.

B. Pro claims that I DROPPED his argument that Yugoslav nationalists started the war by assassination, AND

C. Pro claims that I DROPPED his argument that Austria started WW1 by declaring war on Serbia. Pro, it seems, is uncertain about who started the war just certain it could not have been Germany. Of course, both statements were TOPPED when I showed that only Germany sought a war beyond the Balkans. No Serbians or Austrians had died yet when German troops were marching through Brussels. That is how WW1 started- not because of lone gunman in Sarajevo.

D. Pro claims that I DROPPED his argument that the Allies had their own interests in war, which means he neglecting to read where I agreed with him on this point. Every nation pursues self-interest in the moment. But our agreement here refutes Pro's claim that Germany was compelled to aggression. And so, Pro's point is POPPED.

E. I'll forgive Pro, on the other hand, for dismissing so many of my arguments although I think that my points regarding

* German expectations for a fairer treaty than any Germany has offered to her vanquished,

* Germany's non-compliance with any if the treaty's terms

* Germany's invasion and harsh treatment of neutral countries and violation of treaties regarding neutrality

* Germany's exaggeration of TofV impacts while at the same time hurting their economy via non-compliance

* German, English, and American motivations for myth-making

All deserved a complete response rather than a simple dismissal as irrelevant.

F. I'll also forgive Pro for violation of the "no new arguments in final round," like those regarding German spending and German peace offerings as these seem minor. If Germany made any serious peace offering to France or Russia during the July crisis, he has not substantiated that claim with evidence and I find no evidence to support that claim.

Thanks again to Pro for the classic topic and the keen intellect he has brought to it. My apologies for format errors and typos , I am reduced to updating by some fairly primitive means.

Please vote con!
Debate Round No. 5
28 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
It would be nice if you were able to state why you disagree instead of making this personal.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
Wrich, I just vehemently disagree. We're going to have to leave it at that, since I have no interest in continuing a conversation with you.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
"Consider, that torturing the torture or raping the rapist, under your world, would be just. I think that very concept is abhorrent...And, the state (as represented by the courts) is--purportedly--an impartial actor."

I think you hit upon why we don't expect the state to actually respond in kind when it comes to more serious crimes...because the state, being an impartial actor, may not be privy to all of the relevant details of a case, and may make mistakes and thus may itself commit injustices. If a state responded in kind, an appeals process would become anachronistic except perhaps for things like theft where financial remuneration and recompensation is possible.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
"MAD is not just because thousands of people--innocent people--will have been massacred."

There are no innocent people. Once you accept this concept to be true, then you will be able to conclude that MAD and warfare in general is justifiable. If you cannot accept it to be true, then all war is unjustifiable.


"Consider, that torturing the torture or raping the rapist, under your world, would be just. "

What would also be just is if the person did not torture or rape to begin with, lest they be faced with torture or rape themselves. This is the Golden Rule, after all. Why allow for the initial act of torture or rape to occur, and why not threaten with a response in kind if one does so? This is a core principle of the NAP as well.


"And, the state (as represented by the courts) is--purportedly--an impartial actor. It is not the victim enacting his revenge upon his attacker. So it is not EXACTLY what the government does. In fact, if we allow victims to respond in kind to their assailants, we're justifying vigilantism."

1) We do allow victims to seek justice, and in some cases we do indeed expect a response in kind from the assailant. If they steal, we demand they return the stolen property along with remuneration for the injustice.
2) I take it you're against the death penalty?
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
MAD is not just because thousands of people--innocent people--will have been massacred.

Just because the state does something does not make it just. Consider, that torturing the torture or raping the rapist, under your world, would be just. I think that very concept is abhorrent. Certainly, some rehabilitative punishment is necessary, but that does not mean that we respond "in kind" or to a greater extent. A jail sentence is much less cruel and unusual than torturing the torturer for instance.

And, the state (as represented by the courts) is--purportedly--an impartial actor. It is not the victim enacting his revenge upon his attacker. So it is not EXACTLY what the government does. In fact, if we allow victims to respond in kind to their assailants, we're justifying vigilantism.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
I mean, your arguments seem to essentially boil down to "justice is stupid". For example, the Christian conception of "turn the other cheek" is neither just nor fair, but is certainly appealing. You're more than welcome to advocate such a view, but such a view is the epitome of embracing injustice.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
"Just because one was the victim of violence does not, in turn, justify responding in kind."

Yet this is EXACTLY what any government does that passes a sentence against any criminal, to include even a traffic ticket fine. You do realize this right?

The entire justice system is predicated upon both punitive and remediative action.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
I mean, just to throw in a real-world example, all nuclear powers are currently mobilized for nuclear war, which if one ever occurs will result in MAD.

This is a fair and just precaution against a fair and just outcome.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
It is neither fair nor just. It is stupid. Just because one was the victim of violence does not, in turn, justify responding in kind.

I agree that some sort of response was necessary, however, I just strongly disagree with the scope of our response.
Posted by wrichcirw 2 years ago
So would you instead stand for your own blindness? How is that just?

In the end, if the whole world is blind, that is fair, and just.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: pro, although not really managing to hold up his point concerning German's exclusion from the treaty, had his other two points held up strong and not rebutted very well from con
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 2 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: War is brutal and existential. Wars typically result in the complete and utter destruction of your enemy, however you define "enemy" to be. That Germany was allowed to exist after losing the war is IMHO lenient regarding standards of warfare. I found CON advocating this much more strongly than PRO, and I found PRO to at various points to be at odds with his own advocacy, which made this a rather clear CON victory the more the debate raged on. My end result of PRO"s POV after this debate is that his advocacy would seem to equate war to some sort of civil engagement - it is not. It is the absence of any is the breakdown and failure of any and all efforts at civility. Justice in such an absence of civility will be brutal. In the end, I was mildly PRO at the beginning of this debate, and afterward, I found myself to be completely neutral and interested in reading more about the actual details of such an advocacy, i.e. a clear CON win for this debate had I scored this.
Vote Placed by Raisor 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments