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Remembered Today:

Inventing the Schlieffen Plan


Dikke Bertha
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Short Summary

Part 1 of thread

The Schlieffen Plan/German War Planning

There were many plans put together by Schlieffen 1891 to 1905 plus he also left the red herring 1906 memorandum

which has subsequently been labelled THE Schlieffen plan.Most people have been under the impression that this was

the plan Moltke tried to execute in 1914.Terence Zuber is now saying (and I think convincingly) that this is not the case,

the plan used in 1914 was the Moltke Plan which owed something to Schlieffens other plans (not the 1906 impossible to execute memorandum which needed 24 divisons he didn't have) a bit from Moltke the Elder and a bit from his own war games 1906 to 1914.Need detail?-buy the book,(German War Planning by TZ)which to me is fair enough.

Part 2of thread

Who was responsible for starting the war? Who knows,some things are clear,some aren't some we will never know.

Everyone is bad and a varying shade of Grey,some verging on black.TZ has proposed a France-Russia conspiracy to start the war and is involved in an interesting and long running (plus educational) exchange with Terry Duncan.So far for me no convincing motive or evidence is being offered to assert this view,however I await the continued exchanges.Overall the whole question of the responsibility for starting the war is not so easily answered,for me at least.I need to reread this thread plus Albertini plus Strachan's Origins chapter to reach some kind of conclusion.I'll get back to you next year :o

Best/Liam

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OK. What is the acceptable form to make a comprehensible reply to #590?

Terence Zuber

Generally, to pick up on about the most important two or three points in the post and ignore the rest. It's best to try and keep the actual number of exchanges to a minimum, or else discussions can fly to all points of the compass at exponential speeds. I prefer to cut out everything from an excerpt except what I consider the core element to the point I'm responding to. This has its advantages and disadvantages.

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Liam,

Thanks for that summary.

As a late comer to the party I'm frightened about stating something that others have already expounded upon in the previous six hundred posts, but here goes :

Weren't the "powers that be" in Russia scared of war, because, twice within a lifetime, it had been the occasion of drastic social reform - revolution, even ? The Crimean War had demonstrated this, with the Emancipation of the Serfs in its aftermath, and, much more recently, the Russo- Japanese War had ushered in actual revolution.

Is it true that the pan - Germans, who wielded considerable influence, demanded a war in 1913 in order to curb the socialists who had done so well in the polls in 1912 ?

If so, then the German situation is a kind of reversal of the Russian one, with war being actively sought as a means of preserving the socio- political status quo.

Phil (PJA)

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No Great Power had ever cited mobilization as a cause of war.

The French determined internally that their own mobilization meant war in 1870. Recall that during internal discussions within 24 hours of the decision mobilize, Paris interpreted their own act against Prussia to mean war, which precluded any further attempts at a negotiated settlement. Upon this decision an important diplomatic proposal arising within the French government was vetoed on the basis of the fact that any further diplomacy was incomptable with mobilization. Mobilization meant war to France in 1870.

In 1859 the French warned the Prussians that if Prussia concentrated an army on the Rhine frontier the French would attack and smash it. Note that France was threatening war upon Prussia only for doing what Russia tried in 1914.

In 1866 the Austrian mobilization ended all Prussian inclinations to make a negotiated settlement within about two weeks, so antagonising the Prussian king that he gave up in disgust on trying to talk, and leading a few months later to Prussia triggering the inevitable war by attacking Austrian proxies.

In both 1859 and 1866 the Austrians considered their own mobilization to mean hostilities were inevitable. In both cases the Austrians concealed this fact from the French and Prussians in order to gain time for the concentration of their mobilizing forces. This is precisely what Russia was doing in 1914, and for the same reasons – like Austria earlier, Russia had the bigger army but took far longer to collect it. Hence, the decision mirroring Austria in 1859/1866 - to engage in sham negotiations made for no other purpose than to paralyze the enemy while the decisive blow was prepared.

Bottom line is still (1) no Great Power ever called general mobilization between 1815 and 1914 without there being a war and (2) Germany was not obliged to tolerate threats to its national security on the basis of it being theoretically possible Great Powers could arm without war following. Germany's doctrine was that war followed mobilization 100% of the time in the past, so it would follow in the future. Perfectly understandable.

BTW - you'll recall that the only precedent for large-scale mobilization by a Great Power without war following was Germany in 1938 - hardly the example to throw onto the scales while insisting mobilizations were peaceful and diplomatic in nature!

Suggesting Austria follow a legal process to get justice for the assassination rather than opting for a war that would kill thousands at least and ended up killing millions, is somehow lawyerly or wrong in your opinion?

Austria sent Serbia it's legal terms on 23 July and Serbia rejected them. Police procedures are of no use when one of the two countries involved has committed an act of war and is therefore not cooperating. You will notice that the United States and Iran have recently discovered their own version of the Sarajevo crisis, where it is not clear that Iranian officials acted with authority and Washington has already declared Iran will be held accountable.

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Phil,

The contrary view took hold during the Russian deliberations of 1914 ie that war would rally the nation and so preempt any industrial disturbances despite the fact that there were quite a lot of strikes in 1913 and 1914.This was one of several miscalculations by Germany in the July crisis ie their assumption that Russia would be afraid to go to war because of revolution.

As regards the SPD they were effectively a spent force in 1912 precisely because they were in the largest party in the Reichstag

and so effectively had ended their battle with the German state.International socialism had never agreed on a proper response in the event of war and in the end socialist parties in the relevant countries voted for war credits when it came to the crunch.

The 'preventative war' mentality from the German point of view was a lot more to do with external threats than internal ones,at least that's my understanding.

Hew Strachan is very informative in all this area.

Best/Liam

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The French determined internally that their own mobilization meant war in 1870.

No they didnt, and Jon Clarke has already pointed this out to you. They thought war already unavoidable when ordering mobilization, but still did not declare war for almost a week during which negotiations were possible if either side wished to persue that option.

Paris interpreted their own act against Prussia to mean war, which precluded any further attempts at a negotiated settlement.

Actually France concluded it wanted a war before ordering mobilization, not that mobilization committed them to anything more than they had decided upon before they ordered it, and they still declared war before opening hostilities. After all, it they had actually stated that mobilization was the decisive act in itself you would have been posting that and not simply posting you interpretations of events.

In 1866 the Austrian mobilization ended all Prussian inclinations to make a negotiated settlement within about two weeks, so antagonising the Prussian king that he gave up in disgust on trying to talk, and leading a few months later to Prussia triggering the inevitable war by attacking Austrian proxies.

So even your own quote shows that mobilization did not mean war, and certainly not that war must follow directly mobilization is ordered.

In both 1859 and 1866 the Austrians considered their own mobilization to mean hostilities were inevitable.

Again, Austria consided war inevitable before ordering mobilization, not that the act of mobilization made war inevitable.

Bottom line is still (1) no Great Power ever called general mobilization between 1815 and 1914 without there being a war

Ok, post a list of every sinlge mobilization ordered between these dates. Making such a sweeping statement requires supporting evidence.

Germany was not obliged to tolerate threats to its national security on the basis of it being theoretically possible Great Powers could arm without war following.

Germany could do exactly as she wished, but she must also take the consequences of her actions - I believe these words borrowed from Bismarck sum it up nicely. Germany could move to war, and other nations could blame Germany for starting the war.

Germany's doctrine was that war followed mobilization 100% of the time in the past

Germany's doctrine said nothing of the sort. Their doctrine was that mobilization committed them to war, it did not come with historical qualifications to provide justification for that action, as Germany could have acted either offensively or defensively.

BTW - you'll recall that the only precedent for large-scale mobilization by a Great Power without war following was Germany in 1938

As noted before, you have a strange understanding of the term 'precedent'.

Austria sent Serbia it's legal terms on 23 July and Serbia rejected them.

No. Austria sent terms that violated the Serbian constitution - almost certainly intentionally - and made no effort to consider legal process.

Police procedures are of no use when one of the two countries involved has committed an act of war and is therefore not cooperating.

Terrorist acts by individuals are not acts of war committed by the state. The Serbian reply to the Note was cooperative, it simply needed Austria to discuss matters unless Austria's only desire was war. The Kaiser concluded the reply 'removed all cause for war' didnt he, but sadly Bethmann and Berchtold were too stupid to accept the political victory and persisted in trying to settle matters with war.

Liam,

International socialism had never agreed on a proper response in the event of war and in the end socialist parties in the relevant countries voted for war credits when it came to the crunch.

It is interesting to note that the most outspoked socialists at the recent Internationale were the German delegation, and they and others had called for the workers in all nations to refuse a call to war. When it came the government in each nation said their nation was being attacked so the socialists almost all voted for war.

The 'preventative war' mentality from the German point of view was a lot more to do with external threats than internal ones,at least that's my understanding.

There have been a few claims in the past about this, from a need to go to war to prevent socialism taking over, to war being desirable to the Prussian elite within Germany to ensure they retained their position. They seem to be rather far fetched and too little connected to events in 1914, and rather too much to do with sensationalism and political dogma such as Lenin's claim that capitalism had caused the war. Some individuals may well have thought along all these lines, but none of the key people making the decisions seem to have been influenced by such factors. A cynic could say these theories are simply arrived at to sell books.

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Phil,

The 'preventative war' mentality from the German point of view was a lot more to do with external threats than internal ones,at least that's my understanding.

Best/Liam

The Germans were prepared for either eventuality - if Russia backed down then this was the best result, but if Russia didn't back down, better war now then later.

Preventative war within the context of existing doctrine - if Russia mobilized, then war. If Russia didn't mobilize, then no war. Germany's responsibility for helping cause the war lies in encouraging Austria towards behaviour that increased the odds of a Russian mobilization. Germany could have taken a slower, more cautious approach and still remained consistent to its alliance obligation.

The doctrinal hiccup was the unexpected Russian partial mobilization of 28/29 July. Moltke wanted this to be treated as if it were a general mobilization, the Chancellor did not wish to. Moltke then sent his infamous telegram to Vienna behind the Chancellor's back, causing Berchtold to wonder who ruled in Berlin.

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Again, Austria consided war inevitable before ordering mobilization, not that the act of mobilization made war inevitable.

You just bombed your own fort.

No they didn't, and Jon Clarke has already pointed this out to you.

Jon's point then was that the Prussian state was not decided in 1870 that the French mobilization meant war at the point that France declared it. Specifically, Moltke and Bismarck were of that mind, but still trying to coax a reluctant king. My point – then and now - was that France (which is not Prussia) had decided of its own accord during internal deliberations in July 1870 that the French mobilization meant war. You've recently argued no other Great Power ever saw mobilization as an act of war. But this is not true; in 1870 France arrived at that conclusion, as had Austria in 1859 and 1866.

Also - I forgot one Power general mobilization example – in 1904 Russia’s only warning of Japan’s impending surprise attack was the just-declared Japanese general mobilization. Perhaps Japan’s DOW go lost in the mail?

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No. Austria sent terms that violated the Serbian constitution - almost certainly intentionally - and made no effort to consider legal process.

Austria was not obliged to account for Serbian sensitivities when stating their minimal diplomatic terms; Serbia meets the terms or Serbia does not.

Terrorist acts by individuals are not acts of war committed by the state.

You should alert President Obama immediately; the State Department just recently announced Iran will be held responsible for the acts of one (or more) of its officials in plotting an attack in Washington, for which there is yet no proof of state sanction.

No time to waste - get on the phone to the White House!

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You just bombed your own fort.

You clearly need to learn to read better. Austria decided it was going to war, then ordered mobilization, the act did not commit Austria to anything that she had not already decided upon. It is utterly idiotic to say that no state could order mobilization under different circumstances unless is had the same intention as Austria in 1866.

Jon's point then was that the Prussian state was not decided in 1870 that the French mobilization meant war at the point that France declared it.

No. Jon pointed out that France had decided it wished to go to war prior to ordering mobilization. Prussia did not conclude the French act meant war, but was not the point I was making. Trying to pretend the name Prussia is somehow different is amusing, as Prussia controlled Germany with respect to declarations of war in 1914 as this was a right reserved only for the Kaiser.

France (which is not Prussia) had decided of its own accord during internal deliberations in July 1870 that the French mobilization meant war.

Absurd nonsense, and after this reply I will not bother to respond further. France decided it wanted to go to war before it ordered mobilization, it was committed to war prior to ordering it, the act itself did not commit France to anything France was not already committed to. This does not mean all nations must respond to this model, and in 1914 there is a total absense of any discussions or orders suggesting they had decided to go to war at the point they ordered mobilization. If they had done so, you would have posted it and not tried to rely on some incorrect and dated mantra.

You've recently argued no other Great Power ever saw mobilization as an act of war.

I said that no nation had ever cited mobilization as meaning war. This is clearly so, as prior to 1914 no nation had done so. You seem to be having almost child-like problems with understanding the difference between a nation deciding IT wanted war and therefore mobilizing, and a state citing the mobilization of another state as meaning war between the two.

But this is not true; in 1870 France arrived at that conclusion, as had Austria in 1859 and 1866.

The only thing worth saying about this comment is that it is totally lacking in all honesty.

Also - I forgot one Power general mobilization example – in 1904 Russia’s only warning of Japan’s impending surprise attack was the just-declared Japanese general mobilization. Perhaps Japan’s DOW go lost in the mail?

Russia did not cite Japanese mobilization as meaning war, so your point is further undermined by your own feeble attempt at trying to find something to support your case. You cannot cite a single instance of a nation citing mobilization as meaning war prior to the claim by Germany in 1914.

Austria was not obliged to account for Serbian sensitivities when stating their minimal diplomatic terms; Serbia meets the terms or Serbia does not.

Or Serbia replies offering concession on every point possible within the Serbian state's laws and appeals to Russia for support, exactly as Austria had always expected. Austria is not obliged to do anything, but she has to take the consequences for her actions, and in this case that is starting WWI by her stupid policy towards Serbia.

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In a letter to the Editor of (The Scotsman - Tuesday, 12th April 1949, page 4 ) (by George Crosbie Glendevon House Lesmahagow 8/4/1949)

It was not only the British and the French who were preparing for war in 1911. The Germans, a methodical people, were taking a hand too. Not to be outdistanced by the quick witted democracies of the west, they had even started somewhat earlier. Graf von Schlieffen, appointed chief of the Great General Staff in 1891, had as a technician. to meet the political contingency ( so long feared by Bismarck) of the Franco-Russian alliance). His famous plan, that tragic blueprint for 20th Century Europe, was evolving by 1900, completed in essentials by the time of his retirement in 1906, applied with unforgotten modifications

(Schlieffen with water ) in 1914, and exploited with brilliant success-and new tactical weapons in 1940. ( My authority for most of this sentence is General von Kuhl's Der deutsche Generalstab, & c., 1920 )

I'm not sure if he means the " Schlieffen with water/soda " quote comes from the book?

Der deutsche Generalstab in Vorbereitung und Durchführung des Weltkrieges (1920)

Mike

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You clearly need to learn to read better.

Whilst attempting to split a hair so finely as to require a microscope, you’ve accidentally taken your opponents’ position. Yes Terry, Austria indeed mobilized after a point it viewed war as inevitable. Russia did likewise in 1914; it did not do so as a diplomatic gesture, or any other such nonsense, but because war was considered inevitable.

France decided it wanted to go to war before it ordered mobilization, it was committed to war prior to ordering it

The diplomatic proposal to take France’s grievances before a world body was made after France had ordered mobilization, not before it.

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Whilst attempting to split a hair so finely as to require a microscope, you’ve accidentally taken your opponents’ position.

No, you nead to learn to read properly.

Yes Terry, Austria indeed mobilized after a point it viewed war as inevitable.

Austria decided she wished to go to war and therefore mobilized. Prussia did not cite the act as meaning war.

Russia did likewise in 1914

Russia mobilized, there is no evidence to support that she had decided to go to war if Austria had ceased the war with Serbia. Trying to say all nations must conform to one pattern is absure. Austria went to war with Serbia without mobilizing. Maybe by your standards she somehow did not mean war?

it did not do so as a diplomatic gesture, or any other such nonsense, but because war was considered inevitable.

Curiously Strachan noted that Russia did act with mobilization as a diplomatic gesture. Now lets see who should we all believe, the worlds generally accepted foremost expert on WWI, or you who offer nothing more than your opinion and some pathetic attempts to shoehorn all nations into a pattern that fails to even meet your own 'mobilization means war claims. I think I will go with Strachan.

Any closer to telling us all who Belgium had decided to go to war with when she mobilized?

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Russia mobilized, there is no evidence to support that she had decided to go to war if Austria had ceased the war with Serbia.

Russia’s intentions are irrelevant since there’s no possible way we now or Germany then could know them, and setting aside your ideas on future Russian behavior as personal opinions. You’ve agreed that mobilizing Powers previous to 1914 did so only after the point they already considered war to be unavoidable. We can end the discussion in agreement on what is the key point.

The disgusting conduct of one particular poster appears to have cooled Mr. Zuber’s eagerness to participate. His participation was the interesting facet to the thread.

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Russia’s intentions are irrelevant since there’s no possible way we now or Germany then could know them, and setting aside your ideas on future Russian behavior as personal opinions.

Russian intentions are not irrelevent, your position is that she could only possibly mobilize if she had already decided to go to war, so I wish you to prove that this is what Russia intended in 1914. The German knowledge of them matters little as you insist that war must have been decided when Russia mobilzed. My position is that Germany used the Russian mobilization as a excuse to go to war, and that the act of mobilizing itself did not mean war. Unless you can offer something sensible I shall not bother to reply to this point as repetition is pointless.

You’ve agreed that mobilizing Powers previous to 1914 did so only after the point they already considered war to be unavoidable.

I have agreed nothing of the sort. I have noted that in 1866 Austria, and in 1870 France, decided to mobilize because THEY had decided they were going to declare war. This does not mean all powers would act in this same manner, and it is interesting Prussia did not interpret mobilization in Austria or France as meaning war or anything close to it.

We can end the discussion in agreement on what is the key point.

We are not in agreement, and that is rather obvious.

The disgusting conduct of one particular poster appears to have cooled Mr. Zuber’s eagerness to participate.

Where? I had not noticed anything disgusting? Was it removed? I would be interested to know what was said that qualifies as disgusting in this discussion if it is still here.

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Can we avoid getting into discussing posts that have been removed. Let us just settle for saying that some were edited or removed because they clearly breached forum rules, not least about respecting other members.

Thats the MOD bit.

Now the interested observer to the debate.

As a reader of the thread, I find posts that argue a position more convincing when they are supported by reference to evidence.

I know there are some repeated themes in the thread, but to develop a case, it needs evidence. That is aiming at no particular contributors, just a heartfelt comment. The better supported a viewpoint is by evidence, the more likely it is to convince. I think we have, over 25 pages, a number of posts supported by reference to sources, and quite a large number amount just to assertion or contradiction. To take a case forward, or to add anything to the earlier posts, surely we need a consistent combination of logic and supporting evidence.

Please carry on

Keith

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Can we avoid getting into discussing posts that have been removed. Let us just settle for saying that some were edited or removed because they clearly breached forum rules, not least about respecting other members.

Thats the MOD bit.

I wasnt intending for Glenn to post any details here, he has both my personal email and the ability to do so on another site where I perform the Mod function. It did seem an unusual comment though as I had not noticed anything unusual in frequent visits, but it is a shame when people go too far.

I know there are some repeated themes in the thread, but to develop a case, it needs evidence. That is aiming at no particular contributors, just a heartfelt comment. The better supported a viewpoint is by evidence, the more likely it is to convince.

There is a degree of difficulty with a lot of the issues of the July Crisis in providing support to some claim, and most especially the one that 'mobilization means war' that is advanced here. No state had ever cited the mobilization of another as a cause for war, nor had anyone actually declared war on this basis. Certainly the military men in various nations made comments about how they would go to war when they mobilized, but they did not run the nations involved and it would seem they did not intend to overthrow their government in order to force a war if they did mobilize. The idea rests primarily on what had been decided in Russia by the point Germany declared war, and nobody has yet shown they had made any such decision if Austria had shown any inclination to talk.

There is an interesting note to this in Terence Zuber's The Real German War plan, where he notes thatvia various methods such as retaining troops after exercises instead of releasing them, calling up the next years recruits early etc, the Germans considered Russia had completed several such mobilizations in the previous years, notably in the Balkan Crisis. None had been cited as cause for war. At the point Germany declared war in 1914 it would be interesting to see how many people had already reported to depots and units when compared to these previous incidents - my feeling is that it would be lower as only a few days had passed, but who knows.

The other point would be that whilst mobilization may well have meant war for Germany, it does not mean other powers worked to the same pattern as Germany, possibly only because of their strategic position - as was pointed out in 1914, Russia could mobilize and keep her armies back from her frontiers indefinately if required. That would mean mobilization for Russia did not mean war, whilst for Germany mobilization did mean that.

An interesting point arose from my discussion with Terence Zuber here over what the politicians in Germany knew in 1914, as from later claims it appears they were not aware that even their own mobilization meant war, whilst it is of course entirely possible that they did know this and later attempted to shift the blame.

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There is a degree of difficulty with a lot of the issues of the July Crisis in providing support to some claim, and most especially the one that 'mobilization means war' that is advanced here.

The doctrine ‘certainly applied to Germany in 1914. Whether this was applicable to other Great Powers in 1914 is debatable. For example, Mr. Zuber mentions (as we ourselves have discussed endlessly elsewhere) that the Franco-Russian war plan – ratified by both governments - called for concentric attacks based only upon mobilization dates, with no reservation about DOW’s at all. Did that mean France and Russia jointly considered the date of mobilization to automatically set the date for war? I would say ‘yes’, you would say ‘no’.

The impression I get is that a Power’s view of the timing delay between mobilization and war was linked to its conclusions on whether the quick onset of hostilities benefited itself or its enemies. Germany saw no gain in a delay between mobilization and initial operations, so the German army wrote it out of their playbook decades before the war.

There is an interesting note to this in Terence Zuber's The Real German War plan, where he notes that via various methods such as retaining troops after exercises instead of releasing them, calling up the next years recruits early etc, the Germans considered Russia had completed several such mobilizations in the previous years.

A ‘mobilization’ is where a Power publishes decrees for one or many of its armies or military districts, that all reservists in civilian life, and all active duty personnel, would immediately report for duty and from there be entrained to their war stations at the front. For mobilization to occur in 1914, there had to be posted the brightly coloured government notifications calling the reservists to active duty. Moltke’s proof of Russian mobilization was for one of his officers to rip down one of these scarlet posters and bring it across the border into Germany.

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The doctrine ‘certainly applied to Germany in 1914. Whether this was applicable to other Great Powers in 1914 is debatable.

If by 'debatable' you mean that none had any provision to automatically procede to war after ordering mobilization you would be correct.

For example, Mr. Zuber mentions (as we ourselves have discussed endlessly elsewhere) that the Franco-Russian war plan – ratified by both governments - called for concentric attacks based only upon mobilization dates, with no reservation about DOW’s at all.

1.

Do you really believe that if France or Russia ordered mobilization but then all their demands were met, they would still have to procede to war irrespective of the fact all need for war had now been removed?

2. Do you admit that in the 15 days between ordering mobilization and any attack taking place, there was the opportunity to halt the process if this was desired?

3. Is your contention that after ordering mobilization that the military in either nation would suddenly replace the legitimate government and take over foreign policy?

Germany saw no gain in a delay between mobilization and initial operations, so the German army wrote it out of their playbook decades before the war.

That would still not mean Russia was to blame for triggering a German doctrine she was unaware of, nor would it mean Russia had decided on war simply because the German doctrine said Germany must go to war if Germany mobilized.

A ‘mobilization’ is where a Power publishes decrees for one or many of its armies or military districts, that all reservists in civilian life, and all active duty personnel, would immediately report for duty and from there be entrained to their war stations at the front.

In Terence's book The Real German War Plan he notes that the German General Staff had concluded Russia had conducted several 'secret mobilizations' over the years and by the methods mentioned in my previous post. These procedures would have significantly boosted the normal strength of the Russian army, yet Germany did not find these measures required Germany or Russia to go to war, yet at the end of the July Crisis Germany decided to go to war because she saw mobilization notices at a point the actual numbers of troops in Russia was below that that in the instances of 'secret mobilizations'!?

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My point – then and now - was that France (which is not Prussia) had decided of its own accord during internal deliberations in July 1870 that the French mobilization meant war. You've recently argued no other Great Power ever saw mobilization as an act of war. But this is not true; in 1870 France arrived at that conclusion, as had Austria in 1859 and 1866.

Without wishing to dwell too much on discussions that are somewhat outside the scope of the original thread topic, it should be pointed out that Glenn is incorrect to suggest that the French decided that their mobilization in 1870 meant war. It is clear from the account of Emile Olliver, the French Prime Minister at the time, that the French did not regardthe decision to recall the reserves as a fait accompli for war. For example he writes in his book The Franco-Prussian War And Its Hidden Causes that the Minister of War, Marshall Le Boeuf, told the meeting of ministers held on the evening of 14 July that :

The Emperor's note had disturbed him ; then he had been informed of the new scheme upon which the Council had determined; he wanted the Council to decide whether this new policy could be reconciled with the recall of the reserves ; he had despatched orders to that end as the result of our earlier decision, but that fact need not influence our deliberations : if we thought it necessary to revoke the order, he alone would assume the responsibility therefor before the country, and would resign.

Clearly if Le Boeuf really believed that their earlier decision to recall the reserves effectively committed the French to war, he could not tell the meeting that it would possible to revoke the order that he had issued. Moreover the subsequent discussions did not, according to Olliver, include any acceptance, or even any mention, of the recall of reserves meaning war but instead centred on the significance of information received from Berne and Munich regarding the Prussian king's alleged refusal to receive the French ambassador. Olliver writes that:

After this slap in the face from Bismarck peace was no longer possible save in weakness, in humiliation, in debasement, for "if a blow does not hurt, it kills !" Thenceforth we were no longer justified in wasting time in fruitless and dangerous sentimentality; we had only to accept the meeting to which we were driven.

The following morning a further meeting was held at which the matter was discussed but again there was no reference to the recall of reserves meaning war but rather as Olliver writes 'our declaration was simply a reply to the blow inflicted by the Ems despatch a reply which Germany herself seemed to advise by awaiting it as inevitable.' Olliver also explains that even this decision was subject to the agreement of the Chamber of Deputies:

Although the Constitution of 1870, like all monarchical constitutions, had reserved to the Emperor alone the right to declare war, I had promised, in the name of the Cabinet, that if at any time we should consider war inevitable, we would not engage in it until we had asked and obtained the consent of the Chambers ; thereupon there would be a discussion, and if they did not share our opinion, it would not be difficult for them to enforce their own by turning us out. True to our promise, we did not propose to commit any act of war beyond recalling the reserves, a measure easily countermanded until the Chambers had discussed and approved our policy [my emphasis]. We accompanied our declaration with a request for a credit of fifty million francs, a quite inadequate sum, but in granting or refusing it the Corps Legislatif and the Senate could express their will by a formal vote, the testimony of which would endure, better than by fleeting expressions of approval or dissent. Hitherto war had been an act of the sovereign's personal power. We proposed that it should be this time the free act of the representatives of the Nation.

It was news of the subsequent debate and vote in the Chambers (and not the earlier news of the recall of the French reserves) that convinced the Prussian King to order the mobilization of the Prussian army. In 1870 neither France or Prussia regarded the French mobilization as meaning war.

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Do you really believe that if France or Russia ordered mobilization but then all their demands were met, they would still have to proceede to war irrespective of the fact all need for war had now been removed?

Yes, Terry, I mean precisely that. In 1870, the French proceeded to war despite the fact the original dispute had been largely resolved. How did this happen? Because real crises were managed by human beings, not C3PO. Human beings are notoriously prone to mass-induced excitment, anger, mob mentalities, war fever, and violence. This is why 1870 turned into war after the dispute was largely taken care of.

And this, take note, is granting the Franco-Russians the courtesy of having nothing but good intentions. Note that I believe no such thing to have been true; Poincare's personal attitude towards Germany was already of a character so menacing that he could never be trusted, and Imperial Russia's aggressive adventurism throughout history is a fact.

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Without wishing to dwell too much on discussions that are somewhat outside the scope of the original thread topic, it should be pointed out that Glenn is incorrect to suggest that the French decided that their mobilization in 1870 meant war.

Hey, welcome back Jon.

The conclusion I make is based on a series of internal French deliberations taken after mobilization had occurred – none of your quotes cover the discussions in question. I will have to re-gather the citations and post them again next week, since the original discussion on History is lost.

Clearly if Le Boeuf really believed that their earlier decision to recall the reserves effectively committed the French to war, he could not tell the meeting that it would possible to revoke the order that he had issued.

Well, in the next days I’ll gather and post Le Boeuf’s opinions as he gave them on July 14/15 1870 and then the forum can decide what Le Boeuf believed to be true.

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Do you really believe that if France or Russia ordered mobilization but then all their demands were met, they would still have to proceede to war irrespective of the fact all need for war had now been removed?

Yes, Terry, I mean precisely that.

Lunacy.

A nation has had all of its demands met, mobilization will take another few weeks to complete, but it must still go to war simply because the troops had been told to assemble. Why can this ordernot be revoked, like all other orders, other than because you are desperately trying to justify this absurd fixation?

Moltke conceded that Russia could mobilize and have her armies stay mobilized behine her borders indefinately, he did not say that Russia would have to go to war because she had mobilized. So I ask again, who was Belgium going to fight after she had mobilized in 1914? If Belgium can demobilize without war, then so can all the other powers. Why can Belgium cancel an order if Russia cannot?

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Do you really believe that if France or Russia ordered mobilization but then all their demands were met, they would still have to proceede to war irrespective of the fact all need for war had now been removed?

Yes, Terry, I mean precisely that.

Lunacy.

A nation has had all of its demands met, mobilization will take another few weeks to complete, but it must still go to war simply because the troops had been told to assemble. Why can this ordernot be revoked, like all other orders, other than because you are desperately trying to justify this absurd fixation?

Moltke conceded that Russia could mobilize and have her armies stay mobilized behine her borders indefinately, he did not say that Russia would have to go to war because she had mobilized. So I ask again, who was Belgium going to fight after she had mobilized in 1914? If Belgium can demobilize without war, then so can all the other powers. Why can Belgium cancel an order if Russia cannot?

If Russia and France were to complete their full mobilization during peacetime, then they would have attained a one-off military advantage that neither could reasonably be expected to be gained again. You may imagine that the Franco-Russians would throw such a military opportunity away, but in doing so you ignore the very good reasons that lead them to strike.

You are determined not to admit that when mobilization occurred in Russia there stood a real and tangible chance that war would follow no matter what Germany and Austria subsequently did. Everyone has an opinion, and I think we've gone around on ours on this matter quite enough.

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Olliver also explains that even this decision was subject to the agreement of the Chamber of Deputies:

A Duel of Giants cautions the reader not to invest too much in the Ollivier’s spin on matters,

“Ollivier’s claim that no decision for war was taken at the meeting on the night of 14th July is one that may be taken with a large grain of salt. True, no formal vote was taken because of the absence of some of the ministers, but no one could mistake or doubt the obvious meaning of the ominous decision to call up the reserves. This decision (in addition to those already described), occuring in the relations between two highly armed Great Powers, was the familiar sign, then unfailing sign, of a decision for war – that and nothing else.”

After the decision was made to mobilize on the night of the 14th, but before a full council of ministers convened on the morning of the 15th, Ollivier and Gamont had already composed the declaration of war. The decision to mobilize was considered by the French ministers to mean war. Dupuy in A Genius for War (96) confirms,

“Napoleon after an all night meeting with his council of ministers decided upon war before dawn on July 15 and ordered immediate mobilization. Publication later that day of a parliamentary note to provide funds for war was considered by both sides as a declaration of war.”

Napoleon’s decision to go to war was the decision to mobilize.

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