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11-08-2015, 16:14

The Strains of the War Appear

Beyond shifting personalities at the top, the third year of fighting brought more ominous developments. Verdun had, in fact, drained most of the fighting spirit from the French army; if it remained apparently intact, its cohesiveness was shaky. The discipline and organization of the vast Russian army were equally fragile. The fighting forces of Italy and Austria-Hungary showed signs that they could not bear their share of the bloodshed much longer. Political figures on both sides of the battle lines accepted the idea of a negotiated peace. Emperor Charles, the new monarch of Austria-Hungary, worked behind the scenes for a settlement. In France, Minister of the Interior Louis Malvy, Radical party leader Joseph Caillaux, and their coterie seemed prone not only to compromise but to defeatism. A different kind of desperation in Germany led to renewed discussion of unlimited submarine warfare. If the land offensive at Verdun had failed of results, only a new wave of attacks at sea offered the prospect of victory. The strains on the home front in some participating countries approached the breaking point. Strikes in Germany and Russia were one sign of cracks in the determination of the warring nations' civilian population. In Petrograd, talk spread of a coup of some kind, perhaps by military leaders, to put an end to the gross incompetence of the nation's political leaders.