VII. Eastern School Fallacies
All the schemes of our Easterners, so far as I have been privileged to study them, have been devoid of a military basis. They have been purely political in scope; and when policy neglects to take military conditions into account, history usually describes such policy as bad and is damning in its judgments.
Let Americans of intelligence study, for example, the proposed march to the Danube from Saloniki, and the march by Laibach on Vienna. In the first case, they will find few carriageable roads, one miserable railway of a mountain type and easily destroyed, a sea of mountains, few supplies, and every conceivable difficulty in the way of the march of a large army which, had it reached the Danube, would surely have found an Austro-German army of superior strength across its path.
The march by Laibach on Vienna would have had only two railways at its disposal in Northeastern Italy, and again, difficult country beyond, and inadequate railway facilities to support a large army, which would have been met on the road to Vienna by superior forces of the Central powers. These latter had and have such good means of concentrating on the Danube or round Vienna, that we could not wisely have undertaken either adventure with less than a million men, and no administrative officer has yet been able to guarantee that such an army, in such country, could be either lodged, fed, or supplied on the lines of communication proposed.
All these schemes, which were inherently inept, fell to the ground in June, 1917, when the Russian armies refused any longer to fight. But the underlying idea of our Easterners, of surrounding the Central Empires, with their 115,000,000 inhabitants, was always preposterous. We can put hurdles round sheep, but to pen in wolves with hurdles in labor lost. The Easterners talked each other into folly after folly. They took our higher political councils of defense by storm. But military support for their dreamings there was none. The touch of the enemy’s sword at St. Quentin caused the crazy façade of the Eastern school to collapse like a house of cards. It is now discredited, and as discredited people always rate others for their faults, I am not surprised that they should rate me, whose unpleasant but necessary duty it has been to expose their errors throughout the war.
VIII. The Case for the West
The strategy which regarded the West as the principal front could not in my opinion be gainsaid. Germany was our chief enemy, and her fall would bring down her allies; while the converse was not true, and no disasters to Turkey would produce a decision. In the West the main armies of our chief enemy stand, and have always stood, even in 1915. If we won in the West, we won everywhere, and if we failed in the West, we lost everywhere, so far as the Continental phase of the war was concerned.