Danger in Optimism

An August 1918 article said it was completely unrealistic for WWI to be won by the end of the year. The war would end on November 11, less than three months later.

An example was given of a Midwest manufacturer who believe the war would be over by spring 1919, about 6-9 months after this article.

He held this idea so strongly that it had begun to affect his plans for the near future; instead of seeing a greater effort ahead, he saw a lessening effort, and, of course, those with whom he came in contact, especially his employees, were similarly affected, to a greater or less degree. The man was ardently loyal; little had he realized, in optimistically spreading an idea that was without logical foundation, that he was following a course which would have received the enthusiastic approval of German propagandists.

Why was that considered so unrealistic? Because the official projections of how many soldiers it would take to win the war kept rising considerably higher.

Our popular estimate that it would require 1,000,000 men to defeat the Germans, in addition to what the French and English had, was all wrong. Later we calculated that 3,000,000 would be required. Now the plans, in a clearer conception of the reality of the situation, have risen to an army of 5,000,000, and it may be necessary to go higher. It is evident that only the foolish optimist now arrives at an overestimation of the damage inflicted on the enemy by the present allied success and infers that anything like a vital blow has been dealt to the Germans, or is to be dealt in the immediate future.

A little cynicism is a good thing, but it’s possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction and become too cynical.

 

Danger in Optimism: Senator New Reflects Opinion of Official Washington in Deploring Prophecies that War Will End Soon (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 18, 1918

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Written by Jesse

August 18th, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Politics,War

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