Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Rule of Funny Hats

I am currently reading two books on Germany and Austria in World War I: Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire by Geoffrey Wawro, and The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 by Holger H. Herwig. And they offer nice, logical, academic explanations for their failure in World War I (two-front war, rebellious nationalities in Austria-Hungary, the incredible deterioration of the Austro-Hungarian army: arrogant, abusive, backstabbing Magyars running Hungary, etc.) And all these explanations are probably correct. But perhaps they can be summed up in two pictures:

Uh, Kaiser Franz Josef and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, do you realize that entire flocks of birds do not have as many feathers as you do on your hats?
Someone in the Prussian-dominated German Empire managed to convince all these powerful grown men, including Kaiser Wilhelm II and Field Marshal August von Mackensen, to wear helmets with big spikes on top. This particular helmet was called the pickelhaube. Apparently realizing how stupid the pickelhaube looked, during the war the Germans began to switch to the (in)famous stahlhelm, but by then the damage was done.

There should be established a general rule of thumb for wars and military conflicts that, all things being equal, the side most likely to lose is the one wearing the funniest hats.

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