Monday, February 22, 2010

The Post in Which I Compare Texas to France

I am about two-thirds of the way through Paris 1919, so naturally, it's time for more tortured historical analogies.

With the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Versailles firmly in the front part of my brain, I read Dr. Saturday's post last week on conference expansion and immediately thought of France pushing its hand too hard after WWI. Margaret MacMillan doesn't mean to do so, but she certainly makes the French out to be incredibly shortsighted. In many instance, the U.S. and Great Britain were arguing with France and trying to restrain the latter from following through on unreasonable positions. One can understand the French wanting to impose a punitive peace on Germany and Austria-Hungary after losing hundreds of thousands of casualties and seeing its countryside and coal mines ripped to shreds. Still, with the benefit of hindsight, specifically the knowledge of how Germany would react to Versailles and how they would take their vengeance against the French, Clemenceau and Foch made major mistakes. They pushed for serious reparations against Germany. They neutered the German military to such a degree that paramilitary groups (like, say, the Nazis) became important for maintaining order in Germany in the economic chaos that followed the war. They lopped off German-speaking populations in the east and west, thus leading to another source of resentment. In sum, the French took a hardline position that seemed to be in their interests at the time, but ended up being a colossal mistake that led to blowback from their historical rivals to the east.

I mention this because Texas may have made a similar mistake in the formation of the Big XII. Most articles that discuss the motivations for Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri potentially leaving the conference discuss the unequal sharing of revenue. Because the Big XII doles out revenue based on TV appearances, the marquee programs in the conference - most notably Texas - do far better in terms of income. When one adds the revenue and recruiting advantages that Texas already has with an unequal distribution of TV money, you have a situation where the northern members of the conference are going to feel a good deal of resentment. Going from memory, Tom Osborne expressed these concerns when Nebraska decided to join the Big XII. He was worried about the Huskers being left behind in a Texas-dominated conference. Thus, it was not at all surprising to read Osborne express interest in Nebraska joining the Big Ten, a league that has a more redistributionist revenue scheme. Thus the conclusion that Texas may have made the same mistake that France did: pushing for an arrangement that benefits it, but in doing so, planting the seeds for future problems.

The problem with this analogy is that Texas may not suffer the same blowback that France did because it is in a better position. France imposed a punitive resolution on Germany because Germany was bigger and more economically powerful after unification. In short, France was scared of Germany, so it acted to weaken the Germans. Texas, on the other hand, is much stronger than Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri. Let's say that Colorado went to the Pac Ten and Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas joined the Big Ten. At first glance, that would leave Texas in an eviscerated Big XII. However, the Horns would still have options. One suspects that the SEC would jump at the chance to add Texas along with Texas A&M or Oklahoma, as would the Pac Ten. Thus, as fun as it is to insult Texans with an analogy to cheese-eating surrender monkeys, we don't have a perfect fit.


Farsider said...

What a topic.

Unlike postwar Germany circa 1919, 2010 Tejas can take on all comers in the college football world. A virtual entity unto themselves.

Good book, BTW. My take is that Versailles failed because Allies did not crush the Germans before granting them peace. A large number of German elites never truly considered themselves beaten and that's why the punitive treaty had such tragic consequences.

Interesting how some of the foul-ups made at that conference live with us today--especially the Middle East.

Michael said...

I used to agree with the position that our failure in WWI was that we didn't march to Berlin, but I think it's more complicated than that. Reconstruction after WWII worked in Germany and Japan because: (1) both countries knew that they were beaten (your point); (2) we spent billions rebuilding the countries (as opposed to destroying what was left of the German economy after WWI); and (3) both countries were terrified of the Soviet Union and thus clung to us. Germans were desperate to surrender to the Americans as opposed to the Red Army. That sentiment gave us a lot of power after the war.

I haven't gotten to the section on the Middle East yet, but I'm looking forward to a detailed description of how the English broke all of the promises that T.E. Lawrence made to get the Arabs to fight the Ottomans.