The Almighty Turtle
OK, I am getting SICK of the Littlewoodizing of history here.
Firstly, let me say that the myth of the invincible Germans is wearing more than a little thin, considering the grievous tactical and strategic maulings they recieved almost everywhere they fought on the Western Front.
The simple fact is that no, the Germans did NOT develop the "winning strategy" of the war early while the Western Allies plodded along far behind.
If they had, they probably would have USED it.
The simple fact is that the German military, for whatever its strong suits, simply began to loose whatever advantages it possessed at the outbreak of the war VERY quickly.
The "Grand Offensive?"
Kaput at the Marne
The "Prussian Superiority in training and tactics?"
Even if we DO accept the idea that they possessed it at one time, three or so years of continuous batterings pretty much put an end to that, and the rate of casualties meant that the dedicated NCO cadres that Germany needed simply could not form on the Western Front (there is a reason they transported most of the German military in Eastern Europe to the Western Fronts in 1917 other then the reason that they could: the armies in the East represented the relatively "elite" units the German military still had, and even THEN those reserves largely were a one-shot deal, after they suffered through the offensives of early 1918).
The "Superior Military Thinking?"
They certainly had their share of bright leaders, yes, but the fact remains that by the end of the war, Haig, Plumer, Foch, Petain, etc. had proven more than the equal of the best the Germans could offer.
The bottom line is that the German military and those of her allies squandered their chances at rates that would have made the Germans standing outside Dunkirk, St. Malo, and countless other French ports in 1940 feel justifiably superior (after all, the later at least were ordered to stop by higher command as opposed to squandering the high command they held). And as a result, the German military in the field was pretty much destroyed in the later months of 1918, and the few fanatical enough to resist into 1919 and 1920 were swept aside quite decisively, even though they often were well armed and suprisingly well organized (and far more numerous than one may think: the Western Allies spent more than four years sweeping up around a quarter of a million holdouts in the old occupied territories and in the Rhineland).
Ok, now that we know that the Germans were hardly the superior force in the fight,
The best British General is a tought one, but for those from the Heartland (ie the UK proper), I would have to say it is a flip between Haig (yes, Haig), Plumer, or Allenby.
Currie. No doubt.
Best French General? Foch or Joffre, with Petain as a dark horse.
Best Italian General? Armando Diaz hands down no contest. This was a man who managed to reorganize the Italian military that Cadorna had systematically wrecked while hundreds of thousands of Austro-Hungarians and Germans were bearing down on Venice, and afterwards litterally wrecking the Austro-Hungarians and the handful of remaining Germans in the Mont Grappa-to-Vittorio campaign at a time when the enemy was quite confident (the Austro-Hungarians were hardly the demoralized SOBs that much contemporary history paints them as during this point in time, as they were- if nothing else- still "high" off the victory over Russia and at Caporetto and still rather well equiped from Romanian, Russian, and Italian war stocks) is quite amazing when you examine it.
Best Belgian General?
With lack of a better option, I'm going to have to go with King Albert, whose career ranged from Brussels to the final offensive to liberate Flanders, and who by all accounts was quite competent.
Best German General?
Ludendorff, Hindenburg, or Vorbeck.
Best Austrian (read: Hapsburg Imperial) general?
For lack of many options, I'll go with Boroevic.
Best Turkish General?
I'll have to go (belatedly) with Kemal Mufasta: the man's accomplishments may have been magnified out of all proportion (coughcoughGallipolicoughcough) and his failures mysteriously deemphasized (the 1917-18 Palestinian Campaign comes to mind, though to be fair generals far more competent than he would have had difficulty riding that particular pony), that doesn't make either any less real, and those coupled with the distinct lack of truly independent Turkish high commanders forces me to go with him.
Not much of a choice here, is there?
The bottom line is that WWI almost always was bloody and messy, but the idea that it was entirely like Littlewood's fantasies is... foolish, to say the least. It is true that many mistakes were made and battles lost and young men and a few women killed by the hundreds of thousands.
But that does not change reality.
And the reality is that WWI was far less of a series of futile disasters than it was a series of missed oppertunities between two strong antagonists that tried desperately to be the first to come up with a game-winning plan. Hell, even battles that are often considered futile and ill-concieved massacres like Loos, the Somme, and Chemin de Dames often had the chance to be the decisive victory the attack wanted them to be (hell, Loos almost was save for the fact that, when the critical moment arrived and it was time to charge through the enemy gaps into the rear- whoops, no reserves, they were all used up creating the gaps).
But, ultimately, it was the Western Allies- not the Germans, not the Armenians, not the Poles, and CERTAINLY not the Turks, Austrians, or Russians- who came up with a game-winning strategy first, while Germany's bold and frequently innovative strategies ultimately fell flat on their face for many of the same reasons the Western Allied and Russian strategies did. But unlike the Central powers or Slavic allies (and Romania), the Western Allies finally got it as close to right as humanly possible. And the result can be seen all too clearly on the fields of Amiens, in the hills of Vittorio-Veneto, and in the desert sands around Megiddo.
To pretend otherwise is to ignore history and to insult the hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides: the Allied dead (particularly the Western Allied dead) by denigrating their genuine accomplishments, and the Central dead by acting like some of the most imposing war machines in history were destroyed by idiots who were more of a danger to themselves than to the enemy.