Category Archives: Musings on history

Idealism and Realism in the Fourteen Points

It often seems as if principles and power politics are at constant odds. Most political decision-makers are driven by both, but they constantly have to weigh one against the other – should they follow their convictions or do the gritty realpolitik that gets them what they want? Another common notion is that idealism holds as long as one is not in a position of power, after which it makes way for realism.[1] I argue, however, that idealism and realism do not have to stand opposed, but in fact, are often intertwined in political decision-making. For that argument, let’s have a look at the “Fourteen Points” Woodrow Wilson suggested at the end of World War I, in his speech to Congress on January 8, 1918. After a quick look at the general ideas of the “Fourteen Points”, we’ll see how they were intended to serve short-term (mostly realist) and long-term (both idealist and realist) goals and what became of them. Continue reading

October Revolution Centennial

What a year! After the quincentennial of the Reformation two weeks ago, we now have the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution.[1] Together with the USA entering World War I earlier in the same year, the October Revolution marked the beginning of a new era – an era that would not be ruled by European empires anymore, an era in which ideologies mattered like never before, an era in which the United States and the Soviet Union would be the two antagonistic models for societal progress.
In this post, we’ll have a look at the roots of the revolution in Russia, the unfolding drama of the 1917 revolutions, Russia under the Bolsheviks and during the Russian Civil War and the legacy of the revolution. As there is – to my knowledge – no game about the revolution proper, the board game section will cover games about the Russian Civil War. Continue reading

What Caused the American Civil War?

It often seems as if history is far away and its study nothing but a curious, but impractical pastime. However, the past has shaped our present. Conversely, the way we look at the past also influences what we make of our times. Therefore, I find it deeply troubling what White House chief of staff John Kelly has recently said about the cause of the American Civil War – that it was the lack of an ability to compromise that led to it. While that is not wrong, it leaves out the important part and sends an unspoken, but no less problematic message. Continue reading