PDF READ Absolute Destruction Military Culture And the Practices of War in Imperial Germany ✓ Isabel V. Hull
Great work should be reuired reading for military historians or historians in general and frankly I think this book should be studied by military officers certainly those in high command positions and politicians with a voice in military matters Great study of military culture in general but argues for how in Imperial Germany institutional inertia resulting from particular socio political factors including an important study of colonialism in Africa created a military culture that tended toward radical excesses of violence including mass atrocity and self destruction culminating in WW1 Incredibly relevant in 2020 as well This one isn t just a very good book its a very important one She gives a nice framework and a new angle to explain what people vaguely stereotype about German soldiers It is interesting because her argument especially the implicit stickiness of German military culture is politically s A very interesting take on Germany before and during the First World War Highly Recommended This was largely a solid history with a thesis about continuities in German military culture that led to its practices in WWI I generally agree with her thesis although some of her evidence is weak and I felt on some matters she wasn t entirely up to date on when discussing the Allies she uotes on Tim Travers who occupies one extreme of the learning curve and Haig debates and her comparisons to the Allies tend to be a bit weak and mainly in the end as even she herself states that no one had really looked at the military culture of the Allies Part one about the Herero and Nama Genocide is especially important easily the strongest part of the bookI don t agree that she had a thesis first and tried to fit evidence to it as one other reviewer stated but I do feel that her evidence wasn t always the strongest Absolute Destruction is the most compelling work I have read about military practice which typically bores me to tears Hull unexpectedly relies on some anthropologicalsociological concepts to support her work which I found fascinating Her writing style kept me involved she is the only historian I have seen utilize lists throughout their work for brevity and clarity Hull is extremely concise et her thesis is well supported Her writing style should be looked to as a historical standard IMO A look at the German army and how it s experiences in South Western Africa and the primacy of military reasoning resulted in brutal behaviour by German forces in WWI and disregard for the needs of the civilian population at home Absolute Destruction Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany by Isabel Hull is a problematic and contradictory book It is a good example of what happens when a historian begins with a thesis and then shoehorns data to fit that thesis Hull s core argument is that the Imperial German military between the ears 1904 and 1918 practiced instituti. In a book that is at once a major contribution to modern European history and a cautionary tale for today Isabel V Hull argues that the routines and practices of the Imperial German Army unchecked by effective civilian institutions increasingly sought the absolute destruction of its enemies as the only guarantee of the nation's security So deeply embedded were the assumptions and procedures of this distinctively German military culture that the Army in its drive to annihilate the enemy military did not shrink from the utter destruction of civilian property and lives Carried to its extreme the logic of military necessity found real security only in extremities of destruction in the silence of the graveyardHull begins with a dramatic ac.
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Onal extremism which led to the unchecked extermination of civilian populations in Africa and Europe The unlimited application of violence defined that extremism This made the German military uniue among the militaries of other European powers She set out to show how and why the institution designed to wield controlled violence exceeded the reasonable effective or goal oriented limits of its use According to Hull there were three reasons Isabel Hull uses Part 1 of her book on military culture in the Imperial German Army to show their military culture in practice in the colony of Southwest Africa SWA Hull describes the German response to the Herero Revolts from 1904 1907 as escalating towards genocide because of German military culture In the rebellion s early stages the Germans failed to achieve their institutional concept of victory defined as a total and decisive crushing of the opponent by military means or Vernichtungssieg Although the Herero resistance was essentially broken the failure to achieve Vernichtungssieg meant from the German perspective that the Herero still viewed them as weak which would encourage further rebellion This mentality led the Germans to rapidly escalate their methods from battle to a host of increasingly violent practices pursuit of the entire Herero population into the desert massacres prisoner abuse and deliberate starvation Hull emphasizes that these practices actually preceded the orders of SWA s military governor to exterminate the Herero showing how military culture set the expectationsthat suffused operations 91 After providing a sense of German military culture in action in Part 1 in Part 2 Hull thoroughly identifies the origins and major traits of German military culture Hull argues that German military culture emerged from the social and political position of the German Army The Army had virtually no oversight from civilian authorities no structural obligation to coordinate policy with civilian agencies like the Foreign Office and a privileged social status as a symbol of the nation Conseuently the Army leadership tended to focus on purely military concerns at the expense of broader political goals and reflexively respond to setbacks by simply escalating the use of violence even to the point of inhumane andor counterproductive policies In addition Hull shows how German military culture influenced doctrine For instance the Schlieffen Plan reflected military cultural values such as the narrow focus on military factors over a broader political context an even narrower focus on operations and tactics the pursuit of total annihilation of enemy forces the view that all wars were existential conflicts and the obsession with the offensiveIn Part 3 Hull discusses how German military culture shaped German strategy and occupation policy during World War I She argues that military culture led the German Army to pursue strategies were need. Count based on fresh archival work of the German Army's slide from administrative murder to genocide in German Southwest Africa 1904 7 The author then moves back to 1870 and the war that inaugurated the Imperial era in German history and analyzes the genesis and nature of this specifically German military culture and its operations in colonial warfare In the First World War the routines perfected in the colonies were visited upon European populations Hull focuses on one set of cases Belgium and northern France in which the transition to total destruction was checked if barely and on another Armenia in which military necessity caused Germany to accept its ally's genocidal policies even after these became militarily counterproductive Sh.
Lessly wasteful and ignorant of broader political factors For example she notes that in the all out offensive of March 1918 the strategic reality of German exhaustion was trumped by the military culture s faith in the superior willpower of their soldiers emphasis on technical solutions such as wonder weapons and bias for the offensive Further Hull finds that military culture pushed occupational policies towards the instrumentalizing of the civilian population because Germans held that civilians in occupied territory owed absolute obedience to the occupying authority could be used for labor and resources in the name of military necessity and could be violently suppressed at the first sign of resistance 248 Hull s thesis is that military culture best explains why the German Army consistently moved towards extremes in these conflicts One crucial implication of this argument is that a military s doctrines habits and basic assumptions the military culture may be enough to generate atrocities without serious ideological motivations like racism 324 The fact that Germans pursued similar scripts of violence against a racial other in Africa and white Belgians in Europe supports her claim that military culture was the essential cause of radicalization Hull a senior German historian at Cornell University successfully supports her argument She uses an impressive set of mostly German sources including communiu s personal accounts and government reports The utility of her choice to use military culture to analyze the German army is that it allows her to look at conscious doctrines and practices and the unexamined assumptions underlying those elements The fact that German soldiers and officers reacted to different conflicts with highly similar mentalities and practices strongly suggests a pervasive military culture Further she bolsters her argument by comparing the German Army to the British Army She shows that the British Army shared many of the practices and assumptions of German military culture Nevertheless civilian oversight of the military often prevented the British Army s behavior from spiraling into extreme violence as exemplified by the amelioration of Britain s harshest policies in the Boer War Overall Hull gives historians an innovative way to understand military atrocities and an excellent account of the power of military culture to shape and ultimately warp the practices of warfareThis is a profoundly interesting and messed up book A little dry but one of those wonderful books that show that what everyone says but can t be true is true in this case that the Imperial German army was unusually bloodthirsty and cruel even by white male standards and that the colonial wars in SW Africa predicted the Hun and the Nazi and their toleration by bien pensant German civilian opinion Too dull It took an interesting topic and dissected it so much that it became too stretched out. E then turns to the Endkampf 1918 the German General Staff's plan to achieve victory in the Great War even if the homeland were destroyed in the process a seemingly insane campaign that completes the logic of this deeply institutionalized set of military routines and practices Hull concludes by speculating on the role of this distinctive military culture in National Socialism's military and racial policies Absolute Destruction has serious implications for the nature of warmaking in any modern power At its heart is a warning about the blindness of bureaucratic routines especially when those bureaucracies command the instruments of mass death John Horne Professor of Modern European History Trinity College Dublin American Historical Revi.
Isabel Virginia Hull is the John Stambaugh Professor of History and the former chair of the history department at Cornell University She specializes in German history from 1700 to 1945 with a focus on sociopolitics political theory and gendersexuality