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Remembered Today:

Inventing the Schlieffen Plan


Dikke Bertha
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But the Austrians were in no position to come anywhere near Belgrade until they had mobilized, deployed and attacked:

So Jagow pushing them to declare war quickly between 25th and 27th July was very counter-productive for the Central Powers.

The irony of it all. Kaiser Bill was the only guy who had his head screwed on straight.

Yes. A shame Bethmann sidelined him for most of the crisis, and then deliberately delayed doing as he was told. The words of the Kaiser when he met Bethmann at the station and the latter offered his resignation - 'You have cooked this broth, now you will have to eat it' - show he felt that Bethmann had not been acting in a way the Kaiser approved of. The Kaiser, for all his war-like talk and posturing, had always ended up opting for peace when it came to it.

Terry

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Terry, Terence, I'm really struggling to understand your coming together of minds i.e. Kaiser Bill was the only "good-guy" in all of this?

He has the audacity to tell Bethmann that "You have cooked this broth, now you will have to eat it"? Passing the buck would be a gross understatement when it comes to describing this assertion. Kaiser Bill was the head-chef, the head-chef who started the preparation of this particular broth almost three decades previously; from virtually the moment he became "King of the German Kitchen" this ultimately geo-political mish-mash of a soup was starting its slow coming to the boil. Bethmann may well have helped with the final stir, but the ingredients and most of the stirrings were pure Wilhelmine. Even Bismarck, some thirteen years earlier, when Bethmann was nowhere near being appointed Chancellor, warned that this German geo-political broth was a recipe for disaster, "if things go on like this".

Cheers-salesie.

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Terry, Terence, I'm really struggling to understand your coming together of minds i.e. Kaiser Bill was the only "good-guy" in all of this?

He has the audacity to tell Bethmann that "You have cooked this broth, now you will have to eat it"? Passing the buck would be a gross understatement when it comes to describing this assertion. Kaiser Bill was the head-chef, the head-chef who started the preparation of this particular broth almost three decades previously; from virtually the moment he became "King of the German Kitchen" this ultimately geo-political mish-mash of a soup was starting its slow coming to the boil. Bethmann may well have helped with the final stir, but the ingredients and most of the stirrings were pure Wilhelmine. Even Bismarck, some thirteen years earlier, when Bethmann was nowhere near being appointed Chancellor, warned that this German geo-political broth was a recipe for disaster, "if things go on like this".

Cheers-salesie.

The Kaiser ruled for 25 years without going to war. If he was really a warmonger, he had a great opportunity in 1904-05, while the Russians were up to their necks in Manchuria, to attack either the Russians or the French - and he didn't take it.

Terence Zuber

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If I could interject: regardless of what mobilization meant, by the fourth or fifth day of mobilization (depending on who's counting), that is, before mobilization had even been completed, everybody had declared war on their enemies, and war means nothing else but war, "a continuation of politics by other means".

I agree, but there was nothing to be lost by talking if it did not harm operations, unless a peaceful settlement had ceased to be the desirable outcome. Both Russia and Germany acted precipitously, and Austria was the most unco-operative of all powers, but there was still the option of turning off the crisis until declarations of war had been issued.

German doctrine was that the act of mobilization was the termination of negotiations.

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It is sufficient to dismiss the claim that 'mobilization was itself casus belli' by pointing out that France had mobilized prior to Germany declaring war upon her, but the Germans actually lied and put invented incursions by planes on bombing missions into their declaration of war as their casus belli, something absolutely insane if they could have legitimately cited French mobilization as being just that.

The German decision to mobilize at France was taken independent of French mobilization at Germany and was excuted before Germany had knowledge it had occurred. If Germany cites French mobilization as the casus belli, then Germany was lying because the French decision to mobilize was not, in fact, the German casus belli against France.

No, I am saying you cannot expect the other nations to work to a doctrine Germany has concocted herself and told nobody about.

It was up to Germany, not other nations, to find or not find the casus belli in other Powers' menacing gestures. You argue, apparently, that Germany required some form of permission - or something - from some vague world body concensus to act in defence of its national security. Which non-existent international body? Whose permission?

Moltke's memorandum makes it prefectly clear that all that was needed was for Austria herself to declare mobilization to invoke the casus foederis clause in the Dual Alliance and Germany would be compelled to act.

Moltke stated that a Russian mobilization at Austria would be the casus foederis.

Maybe you would like to explain why Germany only said Russian mobilization would force Germany to do likewise in the ultimatum? No mention of inevitable war, that war would then be inescapable, nothing at all to indicate you are correct.

The Germans will have refrained because bullying language along the lines you suggest would have decreased any chances that Russia would comply.

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But the Austrians were in no position to come anywhere near Belgrade until they had mobilized, deployed and attacked: say two-three weeks. This was no secret. No mass army could have moved any faster, and the Austrian mass army was the worst of the bunch.

The irony of it all. Kaiser Bill was the only guy who had his head screwed on straight.

Terence Zuber

Both Austria and Russia had rejected the core premises of Halt in Belgrade by 31 July 1914; Austria had refused point-blank to refrain on their advance and Russia had refused point blank to refrain from attacking if Austria crossed the Serbian frontier and had also refused point-blank to cease mobilization.

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Terry, Terence, I'm really struggling to understand your coming together of minds i.e. Kaiser Bill was the only "good-guy" in all of this?

He has the audacity to tell Bethmann that "You have cooked this broth, now you will have to eat it"? Passing the buck would be a gross understatement when it comes to describing this assertion. Kaiser Bill was the head-chef, the head-chef who started the preparation of this particular broth almost three decades previously; from virtually the moment he became "King of the German Kitchen" this ultimately geo-political mish-mash of a soup was starting its slow coming to the boil. Bethmann may well have helped with the final stir, but the ingredients and most of the stirrings were pure Wilhelmine. Even Bismarck, some thirteen years earlier, when Bethmann was nowhere near being appointed Chancellor, warned that this German geo-political broth was a recipe for disaster, "if things go on like this".

Cheers-salesie.

World war was likely, or inevitable at the moment that the two competing alliances evolved overlapping obligations in an unstable area of vital interest to a Great Power. The territory in question was the Balkans, the vital interest was Austria's and the upheaval was the strife experienced in the wake of the collapse of Ottoman rule in 1912.

Germany and Austria had identified Balkans affairs as a potential trigger to the alliance as early as 1878; remember Bismarck's famous comment that some damn fool thing in the Balkans would drag Germany in. There was no magical evolution of Austro-German security policy in the last years, and the original evaluation was also not of the Kaiser's making.

The Entente only discovered an obligation to Russia in this area in 1912. The act of this amazing discovery, (apparently Anglo-French strategists prior to 1909 had completely overlooked their vital interests!) placed voliatile Serbia into the position of overlapping war obligations in both the CP and Entente camps. You will find, however, that it was not the Kaiser Wilhelm that went to Paris and beat his fist on the table demanding of the French that they extend their obligations into the Balkans; the French made this decision all on their own.

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The Kaiser ruled for 25 years without going to war. If he was really a warmonger, he had a great opportunity in 1904-05, while the Russians were up to their necks in Manchuria, to attack either the Russians or the French - and he didn't take it.

Terence Zuber

I agree, Terence, that Kaiser Bill was probably not a warmonger per se, but I certainly don't agree that the "proof" of this is a failure to attack in 1904/05. The "proof" lies in the absolute geo-political disaster that his mind-set brought to the rule of Germany. The man was clearly not a warmonger per se, he was much worse than that; he was a self-deluded demagogue, an absolute geo-political incompetent who had no geo-political foresight at all stemming from his almost complete lack of historical geo-political understanding, but he firmly believed that he was the ring-master who would lead Germany to its "place in the sun".

And who could tell him otherwise? He was, after all, the supreme monarch of a country where both legislative & executive high political office went to men who enjoyed his patronage; the Kaiser appointed the whole government. Bismarck, an undoubted geo-political genius, tried to point out the folly of Kaiser Bill's approach, and attempted to put a brake on his excesses, but within two years Bismarck was involuntarily retired.

All of Kaiser Bill’s pre-war geo-political failures came to a head in the summer of 1914 – the catalyst being the assassination of the Kaiser’s great friend, the Austrian Arch-Duke. And I believe that German failure to understand its own geo-political folly of the previous two decades or so was the prime cause of WW1. In my opinion, from the moment Kaiser Bill came to power, a delusion of the invincibility of German skill-at-arms grew to a point in 1914 where the German nation came to believe, almost as an act of collective faith, that it could pretty much do whatever it felt was right for Germany whenever it wanted, with very little regard for the capabilities of those who would stand against it. And I would argue that this grand delusion (by 1914) stemmed from a complete misunderstanding of its own rise to European pre-eminence.

The powers that be in Germany, after Bismarck's fall from grace with the new Kaiser, could only see the military victories of Prussia as being the reason for 1) Prussia's rise to power and 2) The willingness of the other German states to unify under Prussia. They either could not, or would not, understand that it was Bismarck's undoubted geo-political guile, not Prussian military prowess per se, that saw a German rise to European pre-eminence; they could not see that it was in fact the geo-political genius of Bismarck who simply used Prussian military prowess as a means to a geo-political end and not as an end in itself.

By 1914, the German militaristic mind-set was locked into a self-fulfilling delusion all of its own making - despite the dire warnings of the true architect of Germany's rise to power i.e. Bismarck strongly warned of the dire consequences to Germany of entering into a pan-European war. How one of Bismarck’s last warnings before his death in 1898 must have rang loud in the Kaiser’s mind when fleeing to Holland in 1918 i.e. “Jena, twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this”.

Kaiser Bill's succession, followed by Bismarck’s fall from grace, started the chain of German geo-political disasters that ended with it having ambitions much bigger than its wallet, being almost diplomatically isolated with very few friends, being hemmed-in on land, outgunned at sea, and chained to a corpse. Then Germany had the gall to claim that it had no choice but to invade a neutral country, despite being a guarantor of said neutrality, on the grounds of self-defence.

Wilhelmine, post-Bismarck, Germany came to regard treaties as "mere scraps of paper" to be thrown into history's rubbish bin when they no longer suited German self-interest. German policies in the two decades prior to 1914 were woefully lacking in geo-political nous; the powers-that-be in Germany had an unerring knack of painting themselves into a geo-political corner. Through it own policies, by 1914 Germany felt threatened militarily (by an encirclement all of its own making), felt threatened economically (for all its industrial power, it had financial problems stemming from its massive investment in growth over the previous few decades, and its liquidity was in dire straits - in other words, its ambitions were far bigger than its wallet by 1911), felt threatened politically (its policy of Weltpolitik was failing because of cost and thus causing internal political strife - and, as in all countries, heavy socialist sentiment began to spring from the industrialised cities).

Consequently, in my opinion, when the July crisis arose in 1914, Germany was totally incapable of dealing with it with any geo-political insight/foresight at all, and by late July it had convinced itself that it had no choice but follow its militaristic instincts - and just like many of those who fall prey to their own failings, it didn't take much to convince itself that it was in fact the victim, and had no choice but to attack before being attacked (a sentiment that even to this day still seems to hold sway in some quarters).

The prime cause of WW1? Kaiser Bill's Germany - lemming like, or over-ambitious victim of its own folly? Take your pick!

And, Kaiser Bill was the "head-chef", whose final ingredient in the geo-political broth of war was the issuing of the German “blank-cheque”, the final ingredient that turned all the bad ingredients included over the previous twenty-odd years into a deadly soup. He was an absolute ruler who perhaps demonstrates more than any other in history the sheer folly of a Head of State allowing the military far more political power than their "trade" warrants (by 1914, under Kaiser Bill's patronage, the military virtually became the de-facto rulers of Germany, and by 1916 completely so). He was probably not a warmonger per se; but his self-deluded incompetence when concocting a recipe in a “five-star restaurant” when only having one-star skills produced exactly the same end-result that any warmonger seeks to achieve - Total War!

Bismarck himself had the foresight to clearly see this end-result, but even with twenty-twenty hindsight it seems that some of us in this day and age cannot, or simply refuse, to see the wood for the trees.

Kaiser Bill, "the only good-guy in all of this"? Do me a favour, guys - please cut the crap!

Cheers-salesie.

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World war was likely, or inevitable at the moment that the two competing alliances evolved overlapping obligations in an unstable area of vital interest to a Great Power. The territory in question was the Balkans, the vital interest was Austria's and the upheaval was the strife experienced in the wake of the collapse of Ottoman rule in 1912.

Germany and Austria had identified Balkans affairs as a potential trigger to the alliance as early as 1878; remember Bismarck's famous comment that some damn fool thing in the Balkans would drag Germany in. There was no magical evolution of Austro-German security policy in the last years, and the original evaluation was also not of the Kaiser's making.

The Entente only discovered an obligation to Russia in this area in 1912. The act of this amazing discovery, (apparently Anglo-French strategists prior to 1909 had completely overlooked their vital interests!) placed voliatile Serbia into the position of overlapping war obligations in both the CP and Entente camps. You will find, however, that it was not the Kaiser Wilhelm that went to Paris and beat his fist on the table demanding of the French that they extend their obligations into the Balkans; the French made this decision all on their own.

You don't seem to be aware of the Reinsurance treaty between Germany and Russia, Glen239, which pre-dated the Franco-Russian alliance? Here's what I said about it in another thread:

"As for Germany's refusal to renew the Reinsurance treaty, and whether or not a Russian/French alliance could have been foreseen as a consequence of this refusal by Germany? I would say, yes - and "proof" of this is two-fold:

1) Bismarck certainly foresaw the possibility, otherwise why enter into such a treaty? This treaty must tell us that Bismarck viewed the possibility of Russian influence in the Balkans as being less of a threat (to Germany) than any Russian alliance with France. Indeed, this particular treaty came about after the collapse of the League of Three Emperors (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia) following the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885, a war which, ironically, saw Austro-Hungary warning Bulgaria that if Bulgaria did not cease hostilities (when it had clearly won) then Austro-Hungary would intervene on Serbia's side.

The Reinsurance treaty was, of course, a secret treaty - why was it kept secret? I would say that such a treaty, if made public, would have alarmed both Britain and Austria-Hungary because it risked Russia expanding its influence towards the Mediterranean - but, nonetheless, Bismarck must have also seen this as less of a threat to Germany than Russia allying with France.

2) The actual wording of the treaty shows that Russia was more inclined towards France than is commonly believed possible i.e.

"Article 1 (of 6)

In case one of the High Contracting Parties should find itself at war with a third Great Power, the other would maintain benevolent neutrality towards it, and would devote its efforts to the localisation of the conflict. This provision would not apply to a war against Austria or France in case this war should result from an attack directed against one of these two latter Powers by one of the High Contracting Parties."

The other articles discussed the Dardanelles passage, Russia's right to defend its Black Sea interests and Bulgarian autonomy.

It is easy to understand why Germany would stipulate any Russian attack on Austria-Hungary as negating its agreement to remain neutral, but why would Russia stipulate any German attack on France as being of equal importance? Russia must have clearly recognised and understood the strategic importance to itself of France remaining independent (not least because it was after cheap loans floated on the Paris Bourse, which a diplomatically isolated France was only too willing to supply, starting in 1888, to the Great Bear on t'other side of the enemy who had devastated it in 1870/71) - and Bismarck must also have recognised and understood its importance to Russia. And both must have recognised and understood the strategic perils to Germany of France and Russia coming together in alliance.

In summary, Russia was able to ensure as far as possible its "bankers" independence as well being given some free rein in the Balkans and assurances regarding the Black Sea - Bismarck was able to ensure as far as possible that Germany would not be hemmed in on two sides.

The treaty came up for renewal in 1890, and despite repeated requests by Russia for renewal, a post-Bismarck Germany refused, and within two years Russia came to an "understanding" with France. Wilhelmine Germany obviously decided that the Balkans were more important to them, more important to them than the risk of being hemmed-in on two sides – surely subsequent events show the Kaiser’s lack of foresight to be crucial?

This refusal to renew by Germany did not start WW1, of course, but it did start the post-Bismarck chain of German geo-political disasters."

Cheers-salesie.

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Salesie,

Terry, Terence, I'm really struggling to understand your coming together of minds i.e. Kaiser Bill was the only "good-guy" in all of this?

Not really what I have said. The Kaiser was sidelines on his cruise as Bethmann followed a deeply flawed policy with regards to the idea the conflict might be localized, when he returned his instinct was still to look for a settlement that avoided the major war that was looming. Even them Bethmann delayed sending the Halt in Belgrade proposal until it was too late to prevent war being declared, something the Kaiser can hardly be blamed for. You can certainly blame the Kaiser for having a good deal of responsibility for creating the situation in which Germany found herself during the July Crisis, but that is not the same as being responsible for the final outbreak of war. Was he a 'good-guy'? No, probably not, but then they were all varying shades of grey really, and none were really good.

German doctrine was that the act of mobilization was the termination of negotiations.

And the rest of the world holds to the doctrine that says the nation declaring war is responsible for the outbreak of hostilities. That is why they blame Germany and Austria.

If Germany cites French mobilization as the casus belli, then Germany was lying because the French decision to mobilize was not, in fact, the German casus belli against France.

Germany lied anyway, so that is not exactly a reason to say they could not act in this way. They also gave an ultimatum to France after deciding to mobilize, so presumably you are now saying that this was an entirely dishonest sham as they were already decided on attacking France irrespective of the reply? As France had mobilized before Germany wrote her declaration of war, Germany could certainly have cited it as casus belli.

You argue, apparently, that Germany required some form of permission - or something

Not at all. Germany could do exactly as she wished, but by doing so she had to accept that people would balme her for her actions.

Moltke stated that a Russian mobilization at Austria would be the casus foederis.

Once Austria mobilized her entire army, however, a clash between Austria and Russia would become unavoidable. This, in turn, would imply the casus foederis for Germany.

This part is clear enough. Any action or threat of action that causes Austria to mobilize her army will invoke the casus foederis. Have a look at the alliance terms.

ARTICLE 2. Should one of the High Contracting Parties be attacked by another Power, the other High Contracting Party binds itself hereby, not only not to support the aggressor against its high Ally, but to observe at least a benevolent neutral attitude towards its fellow Contracting Party.

Should, however, the attacking party in such a case be supported by Russia, either by an active cooperation or by military measures which constitute a menace to the Party attacked, then the obligation stipulated in Article 1 of this Treaty, for reciprocal assistance with the whole fighting force, becomes equally operative, and the conduct of the war by the two High Contracting Parties shall in this case also be in common until the conclusion of a common peace.

Austria had already named Serbia as effectively 'attacking' her, therefore any Russian cooperation or any military measure constituting a menace - please note, not mobilization - is enough to invoke the casus foederis clause.

The Germans will have refrained because bullying language along the lines you suggest would have decreased any chances that Russia would comply.

So it was alright to tell the rest of Europe that they had threatened Russia with war in the 'copies' of the ultimatum, but such laguage was too strong to use towards the nation being threatened - the very one where making the seriousness of the situation clear could have made a difference! That Russia would find out Germany was telling the rest of Europe she was forcing Russia into an humiliating retreat is apparently something you have never considered in trying to invent these excuses. This excuse can best be described as ill-thought out BS.

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Salesie,

Terry, Terence, I'm really struggling to understand your coming together of minds i.e. Kaiser Bill was the only "good-guy" in all of this?

Not really what I have said. The Kaiser was sidelines on his cruise as Bethmann followed a deeply flawed policy with regards to the idea the conflict might be localized, when he returned his instinct was still to look for a settlement that avoided the major war that was looming. Even them Bethmann delayed sending the Halt in Belgrade proposal until it was too late to prevent war being declared, something the Kaiser can hardly be blamed for. You can certainly blame the Kaiser for having a good deal of responsibility for creating the situation in which Germany found herself during the July Crisis, but that is not the same as being responsible for the final outbreak of war. Was he a 'good-guy'? No, probably not, but then they were all varying shades of grey really, and none were really good.

The July crisis did not operate in a vacuum, Terry, it didn't suddenly spring-up from nowhere (despite appearances), and its intensity was not a direct causal effect of the assassination per se; its causal links go back much further than the events in Sarajevo in June 1914. The July crisis, if viewed in the extremely narrow focus of June/July 1914 attains a misleading significance - it only becomes truly significant when viewed in the light of the policy of "Weltpolitik" that Germany pursued from the 1890's and the subsequent aims she strove for during the war.

The situation that Germany found herself in during the July crisis was a direct result of twenty-odd years of its own geo-political mismanagement, and German actions during July 1914 were the actions of a "prisoner" shackled by a situation created by Germany herself (Germany didn't see herself as a "prisoner" of her own previous actions, of course, she self-delusionally saw herself as being in control of events). There may well just be some kind of an excuse for the Kaiser in what Bethmann did or didn't do, but that looks a pretty lame one in the light of the July crisis' wider context.

And let's not forget, Kaiser Bill was an absolute monarch and, as such, would only have needed to assert his authority if he'd really wanted to pursue a peaceful settlement (even at the 11th hour) but he didn't. Maybe because he was as much a "prisoner" of his own flawed policies as Germany was?

Cheers-salesie.

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You have touched upon a valid point, Salesie. Officials in the Prussian and Imperial Government owed their position to the Kaiser. The Chancellor could be and was replaced at his whim. These officials knew what would please the Kaiser and what wouldn't. No decision would be taken which went against the Kaiser's known aims.

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But the Austrians were in no position to come anywhere near Belgrade until they had mobilized, deployed and attacked:

So Jagow pushing them to declare war quickly between 25th and 27th July was very counter-productive for the Central Powers.

Terry

Declare war on Serbia, not Russia. What's counter-productive about that?

It was obvious to every army in Europe that militarily (regardless of what the politicians might say) the Austrian attack was going to be lucky to get to Belgrade quickly, even if the Austrians had the luxury of using both the two Minimalgruppe Balkan armies and the third Group B army. The Austrian attack starts with the crossing of an unfordable river - Group B gets to cross the Danube. Then an attack that intends to conquer Serbia proceeds through 200 miles of mountainous terrain. Not gonna happen before winter. In the event, the Austrians did not enter Belgrade until 2 December.

Plenty of time for negotiations, unless the Russians mobilize and set off a world war.

Terence Zuber

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Terry,thanks for the info on Russian intentions re Dardanelles etc,it would still seem a minor war aim ie I can't see why Russia would want to start a European conflict just to gain the straits.If that was her aim surely a war with Turkey would be more appropriate.

I suppose what I am saying is I can't buy France-Russia starting the war as there doesn't seem to be anything 'in it' for Russia.I rechecked Strachan and he points out that one of the vital mobilisation districts was deliberately not mobilised for fear of angering Germany,hardly fits in with Russia wanting war.

Best/Liam

Not sure describing Russia's interest in the Dardenelles, etc. as minor is very accurate. The Czar, by certain folks, was considered the direct and rightful successor to the Imperial Roman Caeser. He was the figurehead of the "True" i.e. Eastern Orthodox Christian faith. To certain Russians, the eastern Roman Empire, and particularly it's capital Byzantium sic., belonged to them. There'd been war, on and off, between the Ottoman and Russian Empires for roughly a thousand years going into WW1.

So, apart from the concrete matters, ice free ports, etc... there was some previous (to say the least) between those two.

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Salesie and truthergw,

The July crisis did not operate in a vacuum, Terry,...

I have argued this myself many times, but the Kaiser cannot be blamed for everything that led to war, and his active input in the July Crisis was minimal to certain others. I am not saying he has no responsibility, only that others took a greater role that did ensure war broke out.

And let's not forget, Kaiser Bill was an absolute monarch and, as such, would only have needed to assert his authority if he'd really wanted to pursue a peaceful settlement (even at the 11th hour) but he didn't. Maybe because he was as much a "prisoner" of his own flawed policies as Germany was?

And;

These officials knew what would please the Kaiser and what wouldn't. No decision would be taken which went against the Kaiser's known aims.

Bethmann directly disobeyed the Kaiser over sending the Halt in Belgrade suggestion to Berlin, showing the Kaiser had certainly not got full control of his ministers. Was he a prisoner of his own policies? Maybe, he had certainly lost a lot of respect from many in the military over the years, so maybe it was beyond him to assert his authority properly by this point? He cannot be held responsible for decisions taken in Vienna and St Petersburg though, and a lot of the responsibility rests in those places too.

Terence,

Declare war on Serbia, not Russia. What's counter-productive about that?

It brings about a direct clash with Russia, as predicted by the Austrian Crown Council on 7th July. With Austria not ready to act fully, a declaration of war served no purpose at all unless the intention was to provoke a response from Russia.

Not gonna happen before winter. In the event, the Austrians did not enter Belgrade until 2 December.

I agree, but as Austria planned to do nothing until 12th August a declaration of war served no purpose at this point.

Plenty of time for negotiations, unless the Russians mobilize and set off a world war.

But therein rests the problem. Austria was not talking to anyone by this point. Couple the 'not talking' mode Austria had put herself into with the declaration of war and Russia was bound to act as she did, and this was exactly as she had been expected to react from the outset. Austria showed not the slightest surprise Russia acted as she did, Austria simply expected Germany to pick up that fight for her. Maybe if Austria had shown the slightest interest in talking then Russia might have not acted as she did.

This does not mean the Russian action was not extreme, but it was very predictable - and indeed was predicted - and the situation should have been played very differently.

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Salesie and truthergw,

The July crisis did not operate in a vacuum, Terry,...

I have argued this myself many times, but the Kaiser cannot be blamed for everything that led to war, and his active input in the July Crisis was minimal to certain others. I am not saying he has no responsibility, only that others took a greater role that did ensure war broke out.

And let's not forget, Kaiser Bill was an absolute monarch and, as such, would only have needed to assert his authority if he'd really wanted to pursue a peaceful settlement (even at the 11th hour) but he didn't. Maybe because he was as much a "prisoner" of his own flawed policies as Germany was?

And;

These officials knew what would please the Kaiser and what wouldn't. No decision would be taken which went against the Kaiser's known aims.

Bethmann directly disobeyed the Kaiser over sending the Halt in Belgrade suggestion to Berlin, showing the Kaiser had certainly not got full control of his ministers. Was he a prisoner of his own policies? Maybe, he had certainly lost a lot of respect from many in the military over the years, so maybe it was beyond him to assert his authority properly by this point? He cannot be held responsible for decisions taken in Vienna and St Petersburg though, and a lot of the responsibility rests in those places too.

My whole line of argument on Kaiser Bill's culpability, Terry, is (in the context of this thread) a direct response to Terence's assertion, and your agreement with it, that "Kaiser Bill was the only guy who had his head screwed on straight". To that end, I've always been careful to include words such as "prime" when summing-up the Kaiser's and/or Germany's culpability - and words such as "prime", by definition, mean by far the main one but not the only one.

In all of the circular, massed back and forth posts about who mobilised first, who declared war first, who was to blame etc. it seems to me that apart from wrongly treating the July crisis as if it operated in a vacuum, as if the antecedents only began with the Arch-Duke's assassination, I find it strange that no one has even briefly mentioned Kaiser Bill's issuing of his "Blank-Cheque" to Austria as early as 6th July; Bethmann certainly didn't disobey the Kaiser when sending this little gem of a geo-political time-bomb to Austria.

My whole take on this can be summed-up thus; Kaiser Bill, and thus Germany, reaped by the end of July 1914 what they'd been sowing, by a combination of deliberate intent and sheer incompetence, for almost three decades prior to, and including, that fateful month.

Consequently, in my opinion, to truly believe that Kaiser Bill was "the only guy with his head screwed on straight" in July 1914 is, in my opinion, akin to believing that no one is responsible for their own actions. Indeed, it seems to be similar to saying that George III’s Government’s previous actions did not bear prime responsibility for starting the American War Of Independence; similar to saying that in 1776 George III was the only guy with his head screwed on straight!

Cheers-salesie.

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Salesie and truthergw,

The July crisis did not operate in a vacuum, Terry,...

I have argued this myself many times, but the Kaiser cannot be blamed for everything that led to war, and his active input in the July Crisis was minimal to certain others. I am not saying he has no responsibility, only that others took a greater role that did ensure war broke out.

And let's not forget, Kaiser Bill was an absolute monarch and, as such, would only have needed to assert his authority if he'd really wanted to pursue a peaceful settlement (even at the 11th hour) but he didn't. Maybe because he was as much a "prisoner" of his own flawed policies as Germany was?

And;

These officials knew what would please the Kaiser and what wouldn't. No decision would be taken which went against the Kaiser's known aims.

Bethmann directly disobeyed the Kaiser over sending the Halt in Belgrade suggestion to Berlin, showing the Kaiser had certainly not got full control of his ministers. Was he a prisoner of his own policies? Maybe, he had certainly lost a lot of respect from many in the military over the years, so maybe it was beyond him to assert his authority properly by this point? He cannot be held responsible for decisions taken in Vienna and St Petersburg though, and a lot of the responsibility rests in those places too.

Terence,

Declare war on Serbia, not Russia. What's counter-productive about that?

It brings about a direct clash with Russia, as predicted by the Austrian Crown Council on 7th July. With Austria not ready to act fully, a declaration of war served no purpose at all unless the intention was to provoke a response from Russia.

Not gonna happen before winter. In the event, the Austrians did not enter Belgrade until 2 December.

I agree, but as Austria planned to do nothing until 12th August a declaration of war served no purpose at this point.

Plenty of time for negotiations, unless the Russians mobilize and set off a world war.

But therein rests the problem. Austria was not talking to anyone by this point. Couple the 'not talking' mode Austria had put herself into with the declaration of war and Russia was bound to act as she did, and this was exactly as she had been expected to react from the outset. Austria showed not the slightest surprise Russia acted as she did, Austria simply expected Germany to pick up that fight for her. Maybe if Austria had shown the slightest interest in talking then Russia might have not acted as she did.

This does not mean the Russian action was not extreme, but it was very predictable - and indeed was predicted - and the situation should have been played very differently.

The Russians were not interested in talking, they were interested in mobilizing. From the time that the Russians learn of the Austrian note and discuss it with the French, the only topic is how to start the war - by attacking Germany. Serbia was a petext.

Terence Zuber

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The Russians were not interested in talking, they were interested in mobilizing. From the time that the Russians learn of the Austrian note and discuss it with the French, the only topic is how to start the war - by attacking Germany. Serbia was a petext.

Terence Zuber

The last suggestions for peace came from Sazonov, and like the suggestions from everyone else, Austria ignored them. France and Russia, no matter how warlike, cannot be to blame for Austrian decisions, especially the ones where Austria decided to ignore even German advice. To blame one nation or alliance exclusively is too simplistic and ignores all the evidence that each nation was taking its own decisions that forced the pace to war.

Terry

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You don't seem to be aware of the Reinsurance treaty between Germany and Russia, Glen239, which pre-dated the Franco-Russian alliance? Here's what I said about it in another thread:

Cheers-salesie.

The Reinsurance Treaty has no bearing to the point I made.

The war became a virtual dead-lock certainty the moment that the Entente and the Central Powers both possessed mutually overlapping obligations in an unstable area of critical interest to a Great Power. The Austro-German obligation in the Balkans was evident by the 1870's. On the Entente side, there is no evidence that either France or Great Britain viewed themselves obliged to Russia over a Balkans matter until 1909-1912. You state the Kaiser's actions caused the war. But the Kaiser did not order Britain and France to make a war obligation out of the Balkans, so I don't see how you arrive at your conclusion. It was the French themselves under Poincare, no doubt seeking a pretext confrontation, that decided France would march if Russia found herself insulted in the Balkans. The Kaiser was not responsible for the French sifting into uncharted territory looking for pretexts to war. I do not understand why you are blaming the Kaiser for the decisions that the French made; the Kaiser didn't write Poincare and demand he extend the alliance obligation to former Ottoman territories.

If the Kaiser was putting his nose into places it didn't belong - say arming the Irish, or invading Mexico, or annexing Korea, then I can see your reasoning. But you argue to the effect that the Kaiser's response to Sarajevo in 1914 would be different than another Kaiser's response or a 'standard' German policy? I disagree; the casus belli had been given by Serbia and any German Kaiser at any point in the history of the Austro-German alliance would have admitted that if it came to war, the alliance obligation was in effect.

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My whole take on this can be summed-up thus; Kaiser Bill, and thus Germany, reaped by the end of July 1914 what they'd been sowing, by a combination of deliberate intent and sheer incompetence, for almost three decades prior to, and including, that fateful month.

Cheers-salesie.

I would tend to agree more with this if it were the case that Germany actually had initiated any of the crises in the prewar period. Britain provoked the Boer War. The United States arranged the 1898 Spanish-American war. France was the moving party to both the 1905 and 1911 crises in Morocco. Japan and Russia caused the 1904 war. Japan caused the war with China in the 1890's. France caused the 1898 Fashoda Crisis. Italy caused the 1911 Italian-Ottoman war. Austria triggered the 1909 Bosnian annexation crisis. The Balkans Powers caused the 1912 and 1913 wars. Russia initiated the Limon von Saunders crisis. Serbia caused the 1914 crisis with an unprovoked at of war.

Where's all these crises that Germany caused? Ham-fisted or not, incompetent Kaiser or otherwise, in each case someone else started it and Germany reacted to their actions. In fact, the whole pre-war period is a vast exercise in Britain and Germany being dragged into situations caused by third parties, and up until 1914 they managed to keep a lid on it.

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But the Kaiser did not order Britain and France to make a war obligation out of the Balkans, so I don't see how you arrive at your conclusion.

In 1914 it wouldnt have mattered, Germany declared war upon Russia, which in turn invoked the Franco-Russian treaty. The Kaiser was of course ultimately responsible for declaring war on Russia though.

It was the French themselves under Poincare, no doubt seeking a pretext confrontation, that decided France would march if Russia found herself insulted in the Balkans.

As though France would have been incapable of creating her own pretext if she needed one.

The Kaiser was not responsible for the French sifting into uncharted territory looking for pretexts to war.

It was his initial policy to give the blank cheque to Austria.

I disagree; the casus belli had been given by Serbia and any German Kaiser at any point in the history of the Austro-German alliance would have admitted that if it came to war, the alliance obligation was in effect.

The Austro-German alliance does not cover criminal acts by individuals, and you have failed totally over many years to show state responsibility by Serbia, prefering to wander off into fanciful claims about 'precedents' that took place later, and some strange concept of collective responsibility.

I would tend to agree more with this if it were the case that Germany actually had initiated any of the crises in the prewar period.

Maybe you need to look into these matters rather more. We have discussed elsewhere the Agadir Crisis recently, where you strangely decided this was all Britain's fault, and ignored that the French had notified the Germans they intended to act prior to doing so, and Germany said nothing until it was all over and then started threatening France. Maybe looking at the European crisis in your own list and noting where Germany decided to threaten another power, or where Germany tried to exploit the situation for her own ends? The fact her actions rebounded do not somehow remove the fact that Germany had managed to thrust herself into a very central role in almost every possible crisis show well you do not have to initiate something to be one of the common elements.

Where's all these crises that Germany caused?

It was indeed quite often the acts of Germany that made the initial incident a crisis.

In fact, the whole pre-war period is a vast exercise in Britain and Germany being dragged into situations caused by third parties, and up until 1914 they managed to keep a lid on it.

And in 1914 it was Bethmann that sabotaged the British attempt to 'keep a lid on it' this time, and Germany made none of her own until war was already underway, and they were at best half-hearted.

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And the rest of the world holds to the doctrine that says the nation declaring war is responsible for the outbreak of hostilities. That is why they blame Germany and Austria.

The world has no such policy. Posters inclined to the Entente viewpoint blame Germany and Austria because the choices after that for blame are unpalatable to them, not because the accusation is accurate.

The world can take the view that menacing a Power's security is an act of war. Article I and II of the 1939 Anglo-Polish treaty run,

ARTICLE I.

(1) Should one of the Contracting Parties become engaged in hostilities with a European Power in consequence of aggression by the latter against that Contracting Party, the other Contracting Party will at once give the Contracting Party engaged in hostilities all the support and assistance in its power.

(2) Should one of the Contracting Parties become engaged in hostilities with a European Power in consequence of action by that Power which threatened the independence or neutrality of another European State in such a way as to constitute a clear menace to the security of that Contracting Party, the provisions of Article I will apply, without prejudice, however, to the rights of the other European State concerned.

ARTICLE 2.

(1) The provisions of Article I will also apply in the event of any action by a European Power which clearly threatened, directly or indirectly, the independence of one of the Contracting Parties, and was of such a nature that the Party in question considered it vital to resist it with its armed forces.

Calling Chamberlain an aggressor would be absurd. But Great Britain in 1939 admitted that its obligation to Poland existed if Hitler did something, "as to constitute a clear menace to the security <of Poland>". Why? Because your assumption on how the world views aggression is wrong; it is quite possible to provoke a Power into war through actions designed to menace their security. In 1914 the Russian mobilization was the menace to German security, (or under Article II, it threatened Germany's independence). Had in 1914 Britain and Germany a treaty with this 1939 clause, the British would have been obliged to declare war upon Russia for mobilizing at Germany on 30 July 1914.

Germany lied anyway, so that is not exactly a reason to say they could not act in this way.

The German allegations against France were false, but this does not mean Bethmann and Jagow "lied"; they simply repeated verbatim a bunch of allegations that they had not bothered to independently confirm.

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The world has no such policy.

I think you will find that it does. Hence the general verdicts of most people even today blaming Germany and Austria for war in 1914.

The world can take the view that menacing a Power's security is an act of war.

The word 'can' being very important. However the side to issue the declaration of war leaves no room for doubt.

Article I and II of the 1939 Anglo-Polish treaty run

I suggest you re-read them as they do not say what you think they do, and nowhere is there a mention of mobilization even then.

The German allegations against France were false, but this does not mean Bethmann and Jagow "lied";

I never noted Jagow and Bethmann. They both lied quite a lot over the last few days of the July Crisis, it was not at all impossible for them to simply check if a named town had indeed been bombed, so prior to issuing the declaration of war they had the responsibility to check any doubts they could have had. I believe Albertini covers this in detail.

they simply repeated verbatim a bunch of allegations that they had not bothered to independently confirm.

So presumably you imagine they didnt check the ultimatum to Belgium prior to sending it? Or would it be that they were somehow perfectly happy to lie to Belgium, but thought better of it to France? Maybe they lied to both. We cannot be certain, but they certainly lied rather a lot at that time.

I simply noted Germany was perfectly happy to lie in a declaration of war, when if mobilization had been regarded as you insist they could have simply cited that alone.

Any advance on who Beglium had decided to declare war on when she mobilized yet?

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Well, chaps, I've said my bit about the fanciful assertion that in 1914 Kaiser Bill was the only guy with his head screwed on straight, and I've no intention now of getting into a game of Forum-tennis with Glen239. Not least because his last three posts adequately show that he's on a quest not only to turn non-fiction into fiction but to also insult our intelligence with his obviously addictive use of Whatifs in his desperation to make yet more lame-excuses for German aggression.

I'm happy to leave his latest posts unanswered; they're so desperately lame, an answer may just give them respect they don't deserve - for example, how on earth do you answer a man who introduces the precise wording of the 1939 treaty between Britain and Poland after saying repeatedly that the legalities are irrelevant, but that these legalities will "prove" his point about Britain's obligations in 1914, if only Britain and Germany had in 1914 a treaty containing those precise 1939 British/Polish treaty words?

Don't get me wrong, I have unbounded energy when it comes to answering the ramblings of those who seek to excuse German aggression, but there are no definitive answers to any Whatif, and when those Whatifs get increasingly desperate and bizarre (as the example given) one just has to laugh out loud at the sheer Monty Pythonesque madness of it all.

I have to be careful that I don't break forum rules here - but would saying that I get a strong feeling that I'm being invited to get involved in a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest be so unreasonable as to get me barred from the forum?

Cheers-salesie.

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one just has to laugh out loud at the sheer Monty Pythonesque madness of it all.

I believe the similarity has been commented on elsewhere, though Arthur 'Two Excuses' Jackson would be a mere beginner in comparison to some. I can only agree that it does indeed seem very far fetched at times, and the finding of excuses can often require the very selective reading of evidence too.

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