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  #1  
Old 01-27-2012, 02:07 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Was World War I avoidable?

In another thread, somebody said that if they could travel back in time, they'd stop Gavril Princip from assassinating Franz Ferdinand and thereby prevent World War I (and by extension a lot of subsequent history).

Do you think this was a realistic plan (other than the time travel part obviously)? My personal opinion is that a war was pretty much inevitable. Europe was divided into two camps, each of which had reasons to look for a war. While they was some maneuvering around to try to have it on the most advantageous terms, I don't see how war could have been avoided entirely. Eventually some incident was going to lead to a general war.
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  #2  
Old 01-27-2012, 02:17 PM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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If I remember my Barbara Tuchman (The Guns of August) correctly, WWI was inevitable. The heads of most of the nations were practically family members, who didn't get along, and they had so many double secret alliances that all it took was a spark.
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Old 01-27-2012, 02:37 PM
Eve Eve is offline
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I know Germany had been building up its Navy and spoiling for a fight since at least 1900, so yes, I agree, some excuse or another would have been used.
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Old 01-27-2012, 02:59 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Originally Posted by shiftless View Post
If I remember my Barbara Tuchman (The Guns of August) correctly, WWI was inevitable. The heads of most of the nations were practically family members, who didn't get along, and they had so many double secret alliances that all it took was a spark.
While there's some truth to what you say (Kaiser Wilhelm was Queen Victoria's grandson, for instance, and often feuded with his English cousins), most of the monarchs of Europe wielded little real power by 1914.

Tsar Nicholas II (who was married to a German princess) was about the only European monarch who truly ruled over his land and who could make military decisions personally.

Last edited by astorian; 01-27-2012 at 03:00 PM..
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Old 01-27-2012, 03:19 PM
colonial colonial is offline
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Robert Massie's book Dreadnought provides an excellent account of the
20 years leading up to the first World War.

The two strongest nations were the UK and Germany, and neither one
had any legitimate reason to look for war.

The UK traditionally kept out of continental affairs unless one power
became a threat to obtain hegemony. Germany was probably as strong
as any two other continental powers on land and sea, and so had nothing
to fear if it could count on the support or neutrality of any of the three
other strongest; in the actual event Austria-Hungary was an ally, and the
duo France+Russia would have had no chance of prevailing against Germany+A/H.

What destabalized the scene was Germany's irrational naval challenge
vs the UK, its irrational support of A/H aggression in the Balkans, and its
irrational quest for another victorious military enounter with France, all
enabled by a paranoid Army General Staff, and an emotioallly unstable Kaiser.
It may be true that Serbia shared blame for inciting the Sarajevo crisis,
and that Russia shared blame supporting Serbia after the crisis begain.
However, Germany's security in no way depended on Sebian submission
to A/H, and because it encouraging A/H to attack Serbia, which was sure
to lead to a general war, Germany should be considered the most fundamentally
guilty party.
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Old 01-27-2012, 03:19 PM
spifflog spifflog is offline
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The issues that let to WWI were far more complex than indicated here (rprior the colonial's post that is). If it wasn't for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, it would have been something else. There was too much competition, too much testosterone and too much bad blood to avoid the war.

And I concur, Dreadnought was an outstanding book. A must read if one is interested in this.

Last edited by spifflog; 01-27-2012 at 03:21 PM..
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Old 01-27-2012, 03:26 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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I've read more histories of WWI than I can count and and subject is still baffling. It's extraordinarily difficult to determine just why so many countries elected to commit mass suicide.

One of the reasons it's so hard to to figure it out, though, is that in truth there WASN'T any sort of overall plan. As much emphasis as history has put on the inflexibility of the initial battle plans, the truth is that none of the major powers involved actually went through the war with a coherent long term strategic plan; they were changing direction from month to month based on whatever the most recent battlefield results, political pressure, or random bullshit was. AJP Taylor notes that over and over, a major power would make a huge change in strategic intent based on the optics of the most recent battle result, many of which were of limited actual importance. There was NO major power that even had a logical manner of making strategic decisions; military leaders, even in the democratic powers, had far too much influence on political decisions and fought with each other incessantly.

It's hard to imagine the pile of ineptitude and military avarice that was 1914 Europe somehow would NOT have resulted in war, if not in 1914 then soon after. These countries weren't building giant armies just for parades.
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Old 01-27-2012, 04:25 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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The instability & inept leadership of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire contributed to it all.
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  #9  
Old 01-27-2012, 04:37 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colonial View Post
The two strongest nations were the UK and Germany, and neither one had any legitimate reason to look for war.
As you pointed out, the United Kingdom was worried about Germany's growing navy. They felt that forcing Germany to back down on its naval expansion was a legitimate cause for war.

Germany feared for its future. Italy and Austria-Hungary were weak and undependable allies and would be likely to become weaker and more undependable as time went on. Looking at the opposition, Germany could see that the alliance between Britain and France was growing stronger and Russia was starting a major economic and military reform program which would make it a more powerful enemy. So Germany felt pressure to fight what appeared to be an inevitable war as soon as possible before the odds against it grew worse.
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Old 01-27-2012, 05:01 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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I've read (forget where) that historians now believe, based on Kaiser Wilhelm's correspondence and diaries, that for years before 1914 he fully intended to force a war at some point on some pretext. He was sure Germany would win as it always had won its wars since unification, show Britain its place, and win Germany's place in the sun, maybe a few more African or Asian colonies and respect as a leading member of the colonial-imperialist community, at least equal to Britain. When the war came he had second thoughts, but as a general told him, "Once the troop trains left the stations there was no going back."

Well, all Germany's military success had been under Bismarck, whose policy it was for Germany always to be on good terms with France whenever it was on bad terms with Russia, and vice-versa, because Germany could not be sure of winning a two-front war. Wilhelm forgot that bit.

Last edited by BrainGlutton; 01-27-2012 at 05:05 PM..
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Old 01-27-2012, 05:05 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton View Post
I've read (forget where) that historians now believe, based on Kaiser Wilhelm's correspondence and diaries, that for years before 1914 he fully intended to force a war at some point on some pretext. He was sure Germany would win as it always had won its wars since unification, show Britain its place, and win Germany's place in the sun, maybe a few more African or Asian colonies and respect as a leading member of the colonial-imperialist community, at least equal to Britain. When the war came he had second thoughts, but as a general told him, "Once the troop trains left the stations there was no going back."
But it was the Austrio-Hungarian Empire that started the War.
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  #12  
Old 01-27-2012, 05:13 PM
colonial colonial is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
As you pointed out, the United Kingdom was worried about Germany's growing navy. They felt that forcing Germany to back down on its naval expansion was a legitimate cause for war.
No, the UK did not try to force Germany to back down on its naval expansion.
The UK addressed the problem by increasing the size of its own Navy.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Germany feared for its future. Italy and Austria-Hungary were weak and undependable allies and would be likely to become weaker and more undependable as time went on.
Germany did not need to fear for its future unless the UK got involved,
and it was crazy of the Kaiser and the military to antagonize the UK as
they did. With the UK out my point was that all Germany needed was for
one of the three other strongest powers to be neutral. Having A/H as an
ally was even better, and as events proved A/H was in for the duration
on Germany's side. Also, Italy was a paper ally of Germany whose activity
would have to be taken into account by anyone wishing to start something
with Germany.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Looking at the opposition, Germany could see that the alliance between Britain and France was growing stronger
The reason the UK and France were drawing closer was Germany's unreasonably
aggressive behavior toward France in the form of bullying for its own sake.
See Tangier and Agadir on that note.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
and Russia was starting a major economic and military reform program which would make it a more powerful enemy. So Germany felt pressure to fight what appeared to be an inevitable war as soon as possible before the odds against it grew worse.
There was virtually no possibity that any power would care to take aggressive
inmitiative against a country as mighty as Germany, especially when it had alliances
with A/H and Italy which might be of significant wartime value.
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Old 01-27-2012, 05:15 PM
Giles Giles is online now
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
But it was the Austrio-Hungarian Empire that started the War.
But whatever Austria-Hungary was doing to Serbia hardly required Germany to invade Belgium and France, did it? How did that help Austria-Hungary?
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Old 01-27-2012, 05:29 PM
colonial colonial is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton View Post
I've read (forget where) that historians now believe, based on Kaiser Wilhelm's correspondence and diaries, that for years before 1914 he fully intended to force a war at some point on some pretext. He was sure Germany would win as it always had won its wars since unification, show Britain its place, and win Germany's place in the sun, maybe a few more African or Asian colonies and respect as a leading member of the colonial-imperialist community, at least equal to Britain. When the war came he had second thoughts, but as a general told him, "Once the troop trains left the stations there was no going back."

Well, all Germany's military success had been under Bismarck, whose policy it was for Germany always to be on good terms with France whenever it was on bad terms with Russia, and vice-versa, because Germany could not be sure of winning a two-front war. Wilhelm forgot that bit.
This is a bit garbled. Germany had not fought any wars since official
unification took place while the Franco-Prussian war was in progress,
However, the was no doubt in anyone's mind, including Germany's own,
that Germany had the strongest army in the world.

Also, it was impossible for Germany to be on good terms with France as
long as Germany possessed Alsace-Lorraine, and in fact Germany never
bothered to try to be on good terms with France. It did, under Bismarck,
try to be in good terms with A/H and Russia (See Dvaikiaserbund and
Reinsurance Treaty). After Bismarck was forced from office the Kaiser
and the German foreign Office foolishly let lapse all friendly association
with Russia, preferring to back A/H more or less uncondtionally in the Balkans,
thus driving Russia into the arms of France.
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  #15  
Old 01-27-2012, 05:51 PM
Scholar Beardpig Scholar Beardpig is offline
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As somebody who spends no small time educating my unwilling friends about these things, I did a little research, and this is my understanding of the whole scenario. The truth is that it's a great deal more complicated than this, but IAGTU that this is all essentially true.

1) Archduke Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated in Sarajevo by the Black Hand. Sarajevo is a part of the geographical region of Bosnia, which was home not only to ethnic Bosnians but also to ethnic Serbs, to which Gavrilo Princep and the other members of the Black Hand belonged. Austria had only recently won Bosnia in a war against the Ottoman Turks, but the Black Hand wanted it and other parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to become part of some greater Serbia or Yugoslavia.

2) Russia took a tremendous interest in Serbia, for a number of reasons. Serbs are Slavic people, like the Russians; they are also Orthodox Christians. Add in their growing sense of nationalism and they seemed like a ripe opportunity for the Russians to expand their influence in the region - a victory they desperately needed after the fiasco of the Russo-Japanese War.

3) The Austrians also wanted war; they gave the July Ultimatum to Serbia in the hopes of intimidating the Serbs into abandoning their interests in Bosnia. The Ultimatum was designed to be humiliating; the Serbs were not supposed to accept it. They didn't, or rather, they accepted 8 of its 10 provisions. Austria replied with war. Russia, intent on keeping its influence in the Balkans, declared war on Austria in reply.

4) The Germans then mobilized in response, preparing to make war on Russia and Serbia (though they thought the Austrians could handle tiny Serbia on their own). The Germans had no specific territorial gains in mind for the war; their goal was to find for Germany 'a place in the sun,' and to establish themselves once and for all as the dominant superpower on the continent. Germany had become extremely powerful in the field of science, military might, and especially industry, but it was a latecomer to the colonial scene and the Kaiser - a man trying to deal with complicated emotional issues stemming from the premature death of his father - wanted Germany to become a true world superpower, like France and England.

5) Under the provisions of the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1892, the French entered the war on the side of the Russians. Of all the powers (except perhaps Serbia, which was fighting for its life against a superior enemy and still somehow winning), France had perhaps the most clear-cut reason for entering the war - to take advantage of Germany's distraction against Russia and to not only smash its neighbor and rival, but to retake the border territories of Alsace-Lorraigne.

6) For 200 years, the diplomatic and military goal of England had been simple - to support the weak against the strong and to ensure that no continental power would ever become strong enough to challenge England's control of the Channel and the North Sea. As Germany was becoming the strongest continental power, it behooved England to support France and Russia in beating it down. This was especially important seeing as how Germany had so quickly expanded its naval capacity.

7) The Ottoman Empire had been secretly aligned with Germany since before the war began. The Turks had been defeated decisively several times by the Russians, most lately in the Balkan Wars that forced the Ottoman Empire to give up virtually all of its territories in Europe (including, hmm-hmm, Bosnia). It was vital to the Germans that the Turks enter the war, so as to pin the British forces in Africa and to threaten the all-important Suez Canal. Also, the Turks were hoping to maybe take back some of the soil they'd lost three years prior in the Balkan War, particularly in what is now Bulgaria.

8) The Italians joined the war late, but when they saw how well the Allies invaded Turkey, they decided to act on some old grudges with the Austrians, dating back all the way to the Battle of Solferino and Italian unification, and enter the war. They spent most of it fighting Austria.

9) The Romanians were supposed to join the Central Powers, but the Allies made them a better deal so they joined up with the Allies, and were richly rewarded for it later on.

10) The Bulgarians owed much of their existence as an independent state to Austrian and German assistance in the Balkan War, so they joined up with the Central Powers. It proved to be a very poor idea.

11) The Japanese also joined in on the side of the Allies, because they saw lots of delicious German colonies in China and the Pacific and thought, 'yeah, I bet we could take these without a problem.' After the war, they got to keep them. The Japanese are one of the three countries that changed sides between WWI and WWII, along with Romania and Italy.

12) We Americans liked the French and British very much, so we sent them arms and supplies. Even if we didn't (though we totally did, though we said we didn't), we were still shocked and appalled by the sinking of the American ship Lusitania by a German submarine. We didn't help much, but it's the thought that counted.

There were very few pivotal battles in World War I. For the most part, it was just an endless, grimy war of attrition.
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Old 01-27-2012, 07:46 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
But it was the Austrio-Hungarian Empire that started the War.
They wouldn't have done so if they hadn't had Germany's backing.
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Old 01-27-2012, 08:09 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Austria-Hungary was looking for a foreign war for domestic reasons.

It was not a very solid country. Besides the Austrians and Hungarians (who didn't like each other all that much) there were a bunch of other ethnic groups in the Empire: Croats, Czechs, Italians, Poles, Romanians, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and some very confused Cherokees.

Franz Joseph, the Emperor, was holding things together almost by himself. He'd been around for decades (he'd been crowned in 1848) and everyone was used to him. The problem was most people didn't like the heir very much, Franz Joseph's nephew, Franz Ferdinand.

So there was a big concern that when Franz Joseph died and Franz Ferdinand took over, the Empire would fall apart. Some people thought they had a solution. A short victorious war against a foreign enemy would unite all of the various internal groups in the Empire.

So when Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, it seemed like an opportunity. For the record, the Serbian government really was guilty and Austria-Hungary had a legitimate cause for war. But it was a cause for war that was convenient for what some people in Vienna wanted anyway.
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Old 01-27-2012, 08:20 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by colonial View Post
No, the UK did not try to force Germany to back down on its naval expansion.

The UK addressed the problem by increasing the size of its own Navy.

Germany did not need to fear for its future unless the UK got involved,
and it was crazy of the Kaiser and the military to antagonize the UK as
they did.
I agree that there was no need for Germany and Britain to be enemies. Historically, the two countries had been close and there was no real grounds for disagreement between them.

But Britain saw its naval supremacy as a vital interest. And Germany would not accept naval inferiority. Which was, quite frankly, stupid. Germany had no real need for a major navy and had nothing to gain from having such a navy. Germany basically made an enemy out of Britain for no reason (and paid a fortune to do it).

Britain was not happy about German naval expansion. They joined in a naval race to stay ahead of Germany but only because, as I said, they saw their naval supremacy as a vital interest. Even so, it was a controversial program. Britain would have been much happier if there had been no need to expand its navy.
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Old 01-27-2012, 08:22 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scholar Beardpig View Post
12) We Americans liked the French and British very much, so we sent them arms and supplies. Even if we didn't (though we totally did, though we said we didn't), we were still shocked and appalled by the sinking of the American ship Lusitania by a German submarine. We didn't help much, but it's the thought that counted.
Two nitpicks:

1. Lusitania was a British ship. It was built in Britain, owned by Britons, operated by Britons, sailed under the British flag, and its port of call was Portsmouth. As it happened, some Americans died when it was sunk, and in any event there was worldwide outrage over the sinking, not just in the USA.

2. It's underselling the American contribution to dismiss it as "we didn't help much." For one thing, the sinking of Lusitania, and resulting American hostility, caused Germany to cease unrestricted submarine warfare for two years, which was obviously to Britain's benefit.

More importantly, though, the astounding buildup of American forces in Europe forced Germany's hand in 1918; they either had to attack and win or, it was obvious, they would be hopelessly outnumbered. At one point the U.S. was sending the equivalent of a new division to France every two days, troops that forced Germany to play its cards and that would end up helping drive the German army out in the 100 Days' Offensive.
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Old 01-27-2012, 08:31 PM
colonial colonial is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Austria-Hungary was looking for a foreign war for domestic reasons.

It was not a very solid country. Besides the Austrians and Hungarians (who didn't like each other all that much) there were a bunch of other ethnic groups in the Empire: Croats, Czechs, Italians, Poles, Romanians, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and some very confused Cherokees.

Franz Joseph, the Emperor, was holding things together almost by himself. He'd been around for decades (he'd been crowned in 1848) and everyone was used to him. The problem was most people didn't like the heir very much, Franz Joseph's nephew, Franz Ferdinand.

So there was a big concern that when Franz Joseph died and Franz Ferdinand took over, the Empire would fall apart. Some people thought they had a solution. A short victorious war against a foreign enemy would unite all of the various internal groups in the Empire.

So when Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, it seemed like an opportunity. For the record, the Serbian government really was guilty and Austria-Hungary had a legitimate cause for war. But it was a cause for war that was convenient for what some people in Vienna wanted anyway.
Craots and Serbs apparently hated each other, so perhaps the Croats might
have been drawn closer to the federal government by a war against Serbia,
but I have my doubts about the reality of expecting any of the others to react
in the same way. For example, union with Italy was surely overriding in the
minds of the Italian minority, and independence or autonomy would have
been so in the minds of the Polish minority. Austria's relatively poor military
performance may have been partly the result of the lack of enthusiasm of
its non-German/Hungarian conscripts.

None of that matters, however, because Austria would not have risked war
against Russia without wholehearted German support, and Germany delivered.
Germany was the key player, and it was the neurosis of the German royal
and military leadership which brought about a general war. If the Kaiser's much
more stable and liberal father (b. 1869) and survived until 1914 there would
likely have been no war.
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Scholar Beardpig View Post
As somebody who spends no small time educating my unwilling friends about these things...
(followed by an endless post)

Kid, you are going to fit right in here. Welcome aboard!
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:17 PM
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...and some very confused Cherokees.
In twelve years, this might be the funniest thing I've read on this board.
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:30 PM
etv78 etv78 is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton View Post
I've read (forget where) that historians now believe, based on Kaiser Wilhelm's correspondence and diaries, that for years before 1914 he fully intended to force a war at some point on some pretext. He was sure Germany would win as it always had won its wars since unification, show Britain its place, and win Germany's place in the sun, maybe a few more African or Asian colonies and respect as a leading member of the colonial-imperialist community, at least equal to Britain. When the war came he had second thoughts, but as a general told him, "Once the troop trains left the stations there was no going back."

Well, all Germany's military success had been under Bismarck, whose policy it was for Germany always to be on good terms with France whenever it was on bad terms with Russia, and vice-versa, because Germany could not be sure of winning a two-front war. Wilhelm forgot that bit.
So did Hitler.
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:38 PM
Slithy Tove Slithy Tove is offline
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If I can go back in time to Summer 1914, and inhabit the Kaiser's body:

1. Instead of issuing the Austrians a blank check and then sailing off on my yacht, I call all the Powers together. I show up in civilian clothing.
2. I tell the French they can have Alsance Lorraine back; all they have to do is dump Russia.
3. That done, the Czar isn't so sure of an easy win. But I allow him to save face by opposing reggicide; not supporting fellow Slavs. Technically, Slavs had killed his grandfather, too.
4. Tell the Austrians they can have a war of revenge for six months. They better have an exit strategy. After that, I'm taking the phone off the hook, and if every Slav in your empire wants to start their own country while your army is killing Serbs, don't ask for my help.
5. Start naval-reductions talks with the British. I don't want to make battleships. I want to make cars. Lots and lots of really nice cars.
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:40 PM
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Bismarck's dying advice to Wilhelm was, 'Don't challenge Britain for the seas and don't anger Russia'. Wilhelm was a spoiled punk who grew into a foolish emperor, he was a colossal failure of a leader at a moment the power balance of the world was changing.

However, regardless of who was in charge of all the nations involved Germany's population and industrial strength was surpassing the old arbiters of power on the continent, conflict was coming sooner or later. That's what made the conflcit inevitable.

What made it the horror that was 'WWI' inevitable was the careful status quo maintained in the past when power grew and shrank came to an end with the advancements of the 19th century.

Last edited by Sitnam; 01-27-2012 at 09:41 PM..
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:45 PM
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So did Hitler.
How did that affect WWI?
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:54 PM
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How did that affect WWI?
It didn't. Just pointing out Hitler also ignored the "no two-front war" advice.
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Old 01-27-2012, 10:57 PM
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It didn't. Just pointing out Hitler also ignored the "no two-front war" advice.
Irrelevant. Please leave the thread to those who are educating us on the arguments about the OP.
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:10 PM
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/hijack

Paths of Glory is one of the best board games crafted by man.

hijack off/
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:43 PM
colonial colonial is offline
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Originally Posted by colonial View Post
Croats and Serbs apparently hated each other, so perhaps the Croats might
have been drawn closer to the federal government by a war against Serbia,
but I have my doubts about the reality of expecting any of the others to react
in the same way. For example, union with Italy was surely overriding in the
minds of the Italian minority, and independence or autonomy would have
been so in the minds of the Polish minority. Austria's relatively poor military
performance may have been partly the result of the lack of enthusiasm of
its non-German/Hungarian conscripts.

None of that matters, however, because Austria would not have risked war
against Russia without wholehearted German support, and Germany delivered.
Germany was the key player, and it was the neurosis of the German royal
and military leadership which brought about a general war. If the Kaiser's much
more stable and liberal father (b. 1869) and survived until 1914 there would
likely have been no war.
Correction, sorry- Kaiser Wilhelm's father was born in 1839.

He reigned for only 98 days in 1888 as before dying of throat cancer.
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  #31  
Old 01-28-2012, 06:09 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
They wouldn't have done so if they hadn't had Germany's backing.
I disagree--their Royals were so inept & backwards-looking that they would have moved irregardless.
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Old 01-28-2012, 07:01 AM
Cicero Cicero is offline
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I remember the post the OP is talking about and I made the comment at the time it would have been better to assassinate Kaiser Wilhelm as he gave Austria a blank cheque.

I have read Dreadnought and Castles of Steel and still have the same view- peace would have been possible without his dictatorship.

Put simply he was an idiot with visions of glory and his own importance. For 20 years he meddled in world affairs with no real concept of outcomes or his own impacts. His diplomacy was a disaster.

His dumping of Bismark only accelerated the problem. Bismark, with great foresight remarked that 20 years after he was gone all would be lost for Germany. he was very accurate.

If Kaiser Wilhelms father had survived I suspect peace would have been maintained- or at least prolonged.
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Old 01-28-2012, 07:33 AM
AK84 AK84 is offline
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I think that its easy to blame Kaiser Bill (not that he does not deserve a lot of the blame). Lot of the other powers are equally blameworthy, the Russians (having Nicky as Czar is bad enough) mobilising, the French, for being too egar to go to war again, and the British, for not being British and staying the hell out of it.

I think I will be the contrarian and say that war was not inevitable. There have (and indeed in the previous 50 years had) been many occasions when it seemed so, yet the powers pulled back. If the summer of 1914 had passed, I think cooler heads could have prevailed.

I also disagree on whether its fair to blame Germany for the naval arms race. The British were going to be enemies of the Germans after 1871 for the simple reason that the Germans were now the power on the continent and the British always allied against the present power. The Germans knew that they could dominate the mainland and British sea power would make it irrelevant over the long run, as it did for Napoleon and Louis XIV and in the seven years war. Yes the Kaiser wanted the large shiny ships to satisfy him, but Tirpitz and others, when they embarked on their projects realised they had to at least neutralise the RN. This is exactly what happened when war came, the RN played a secondary role.
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Old 01-28-2012, 07:39 AM
Cicero Cicero is offline
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Whoa- I will disagree totally with the last sentence- the Royal Navy probably played a larger role in the defeat of germany than any other military branch.

Although there was really only the one large scale clash between the navies (Jutland) the RN enforced a blockade of Germany that eventually ensured victory. There was no imports of crucial raw elements, food or even things like fertilizer. It was inevitable that Germany would find it difficult to sustain a war effort with that imposed.

It is likely that the blockade was not entirely legal, but it went ahead.
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Old 01-28-2012, 07:55 AM
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Germany was defeated on land. Her collapse was caused by the defeats in the 100 days. The RN had an important role, but it was not the primary one is in earlier wars.
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  #36  
Old 01-28-2012, 08:02 AM
Cicero Cicero is offline
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I'm not getting through. Their defeat on land wasnot only because of war weariness, but lack of vital supplies.

Aircraft were limited in their missions due to lack of fuel. There was no rubber- they canabilized whatever they could get from trench raids. There was no coffee, no fertilizer for food production- the population was starving.

Read a few books about it and get back to me.
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Old 01-28-2012, 08:23 AM
AK84 AK84 is offline
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Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
I'm not getting through. Their defeat on land wasnot only because of war weariness, but lack of vital supplies.

Aircraft were limited in their missions due to lack of fuel. There was no rubber- they canabilized whatever they could get from trench raids. There was no coffee, no fertilizer for food production- the population was starving.

Read a few books about it and get back to me.
I have. I am not discounting the effects of the blockade, my mere point is that while important the naval theater was not where Germany was going to win or lose the war. A continental power like the Germans are going to be defeated on land. It turned British startegy of about 300 years on its head, the British for about the first (and with the exception of the summer of 1944) and the only time in their history took the leas against a Continental power. The Germans compelled the British to fight on terms that were at least favourable to the Germans. The German fleet was big enough that the British could not employ their Naval assets to the optimum.
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Old 01-28-2012, 10:27 AM
Sitnam Sitnam is online now
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Austria-Hungary was looking for a foreign war for domestic reasons.

It was not a very solid country. Besides the Austrians and Hungarians (who didn't like each other all that much) there were a bunch of other ethnic groups in the Empire: Croats, Czechs, Italians, Poles, Romanians, Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and some very confused Cherokees.
Strangely enough AH didn't have a problem with ethnic insurrection that, say, even Britain did. The Balkans had been breaking up for 30 years with small nations battling ancient power bases and winning, many expected the minorities in AH to take their first breaths of self determination in the middle of the war, (Russian minorities too) but it just didn't happen. The common explanation I've read is Germans, Hungarians and minorities alike felt attacked and that brought unity, the concept 'you don't need to respect the man but respect the office' I'm sure also played a role.

That said, they were not without their problems. The language barriers were often a problem as the officers were overwhelmingly German speakers. Equipment was also uneven and unreliable in the best of circumstances. Strategically they had the issue of the small war they wanted to pursue and could easy handle (fighting Serbia) and the war they couldn't (Russia) and so decided on leaving the 2nd to 'back up' both fronts, the worst possible solution. Belgium had a standing order for heavy Krupp guns, but the deliveries got delayed.

Fun Fact: Krupp hadn't finished their soon-to-be famous guns in time for the start of WWI, the early Belgian forts were taken with Skoda guns, built in AH.

Last edited by Sitnam; 01-28-2012 at 10:31 AM..
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Old 01-28-2012, 10:32 AM
Sitnam Sitnam is online now
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nm....

Last edited by Sitnam; 01-28-2012 at 10:32 AM..
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  #40  
Old 01-28-2012, 10:36 AM
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*- Damn edit window bites me in the ass again.
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  #41  
Old 01-28-2012, 07:46 PM
Sparrowish Sparrowish is offline
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An iconoclastic synthesis

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
Aircraft were limited in their missions due to lack of fuel.
Reading through the whole thread in search of the word 'petroleum', all I found is the word 'fuel' in the above quote. In my analysis, the black gold should be seen as the major issue that was at stake -- take a chance to check yourself in the light of the following facts:

1) At the end of the 19th century the German railway company Berlin-Bagdad was granted the first oil concession in the region which is now northern Irak.

2) Not only were the contracted petrol resources the world's most abundant at that time, but the oil was of highest quality and, moreover, nearly trickeling through the surface.

3) (Excerpts from Wikipedia on Rudolf Diesel):
"... soon after Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz had invented the motor car in 1887, Diesel published a treatise entitled (...) [Theory and Construction of a Rational Heat-engine to Replace the Steam Engine and Combustion Engines Known Today] and formed the basis for his work on and invention of the diesel engine.
...29 September 1913, Diesel boarded the post office steamer Dresden in Antwerp on his way to a meeting of the Consolidated Diesel Manufacturing company in London. He took dinner on board the ship and then retired to his cabin at about 10 p.m., leaving word for him to be called the next morning at 6:15 a.m. He was never seen alive again. (...).
There are various theories to explain Diesel's death. His biographers, such as Grosser (1978),[3] present a case for suicide, and clearly consider it most likely. Other theories suggest that various people's business or military interests may have provided motives for homicide. Evidence is limited for all explanations."

4) The french version is exactly the same up to the last paragraph which, intriguingly enough, reads differently:
(My translation) "Numerous hypotheses have been put forth on this disappearance, knowing that he was a German engineer, author of an invention already aknowledged as a breakthrough, and leaving for England to work for the British Admiralty, while the international tensions that were to lead to WWI had already become evident.

5) In 1916 (in the midst of WWI) the secret Sykes-Picot agreement between the French and the British governments was concluded, with terms for the sharing of influence in the region roughly comprised between Bagdad and Damascus.
Wikipedia details the following consequences of the deal: "The agreement is seen by many as a turning point in Western/Arab relations. It did negate the promises made to Arabs[28] through T. E. Lawrence for a national Arab homeland in the area of Greater Syria, in exchange for their siding with British forces against the Ottoman Empire."

Got the clue to what WWI was really about?

Small wonder that after the even bigger Saudi oil fields were discovered, the Anglo-Saxons decided that they needed a strategic stronghold as close as possible to this new black gold eldorado, i.e. Israel, which means that Israel was not the consequence of WW2, rather WW2 was the consequence of the decision to create a military fortress near the Saoudian oilfields.

Take again a chance to find out yourself -- yet this time what the Shoah was about.

And today Lybia gives us a clue to what's in the pipeline beyond petroleum: don't think Gaddafi got killed by the French/US-coalition for oil -- it was all about Europe's (and later on the whole world's) future energy source, i.e. solar energy.

Look at a map and find out where the Sahara comes closest to the Mediterranean...
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Old 01-28-2012, 10:06 PM
slowlearner slowlearner is offline
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the combatants had large standing armies and large reserves, large stocks of weaponry and the industry to produce much more, worked constantly demonizing each other and updating their invasion plans. just like here in the USA.
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  #43  
Old 01-28-2012, 10:22 PM
Sitnam Sitnam is online now
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Originally Posted by Sparrowish View Post
Reading through the whole thread in search of the word 'petroleum', all I found is the word 'fuel' in the above quote. In my analysis, the black gold should be seen as the major issue that was at stake -- take a chance to check yourself in the light of the following facts:
Perhaps you'd like to explain why Ploiești, the closest oil fields to Germany and AH, wasn't taken until Romania allied with Russia two years after the war began.

Last edited by Sitnam; 01-28-2012 at 10:26 PM..
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  #44  
Old 01-28-2012, 10:45 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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It's been a long time since I read Dreadnought, I think I'll pick it up at the library this week.
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  #45  
Old 01-28-2012, 11:05 PM
dropzone dropzone is offline
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Generally, WWI and car threads are the ones I read and not skim. However, a Rudolph Diesel conspiracy theory? That takes it to another level! How can I resist? Sparrowish, I welcome you to the SDMB.
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  #46  
Old 01-29-2012, 02:09 AM
BeaMyra BeaMyra is offline
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
But it was the Austrio-Hungarian Empire that started the War.
Technically correct, but Austria-Hungary would not have started it unless it was assured of back up by Germany. If Germany said, "No don't do it," Austria-Hungary would have backed down on almost all it's demands.

I agree though, it would've been something else.
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  #47  
Old 01-29-2012, 03:26 PM
Scholar Beardpig Scholar Beardpig is offline
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Originally Posted by Sparrowish View Post

Look at a map and find out where the Sahara comes closest to the Mediterranean...
... Tunisia?
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  #48  
Old 01-29-2012, 05:23 PM
DeptfordX DeptfordX is offline
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Originally Posted by Guinastasia View Post
It's been a long time since I read Dreadnought, I think I'll pick it up at the library this week.
I literally re-read it last week, and am reading Castles of Steel at the moment. There were numerous occasions reading it when you just have to roll your eyes at the Kaisers antics and think "Christ, this guys an idiot".

I'm not saying he gets all the blame but man, pick pretty much anyone off of the german street. Give him a field marshals uniform and start calling him "The All-highest" and it's hard to see how he could have done a worse job.

I'm also curious. Does anyone know how he's treated by German historians writing in German?
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Old 01-29-2012, 05:42 PM
Sparrowish Sparrowish is offline
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Perhaps you'd like to explain why Ploiești, the closest oil fields to Germany and AH, wasn't taken until Romania allied with Russia two years after the war began.
I didn't even know Ploiesti until minutes ago when I looked it up in Wikipedia.

Perhaps, if I had known the complex oil development saga about Poliesty, I would have become a specialist in Romanian oil history, thus possibly missing out completely on the higher-level issue the Germans were probably pursuing with the Berlin-Baghdad railway project in order to conquer the then world's largest Mesopotamian oil reserves, as well as to gain access to the Persian Gulf for exporting this oil to their naval forces, which I guess was their main supply concern at that time.

At the same occasion, I found some confirmation that this German strategy caused the Anglo-Americans to react with WWI. (Excerpts from Wikipedia about the Berlin-Baghdad railway):

"The Germans gained access to and ownership of oil fields in Iraq." (I also learned that the Deutsche Bank held a 40% stake, i.e. the largest, in the project, and got an oil concession in 1911). "The railway became a source of international disputes during the years immediately preceding World War I. (...) ... it has also been argued that the railway was a leading cause of the First World War."

In the bibliography, I found a book-title which seems to summarize my intuitive synthesis on WWI (I haven't read the book): William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. ISBN 0-7453-2310-3
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Old 01-29-2012, 06:03 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by astorian View Post
While there's some truth to what you say (Kaiser Wilhelm was Queen Victoria's grandson, for instance, and often feuded with his English cousins), most of the monarchs of Europe wielded little real power by 1914.

Tsar Nicholas II (who was married to a German princess) was about the only European monarch who truly ruled over his land and who could make military decisions personally.
I'd refute this a bit. You're right about most of Europe, but I'd say the Kaiser also truly ruled his country up until WWI. His father (who reigned for a brief period) and grandfather (who ruled over Prussia and unified Germany for many years) were content to let Bismarck essentially run the affairs of state. Only a few times did the first Kaiser ever seriously disagree with Bismarck, and when he did Bismarck immediately offered to resign. The Kaiser would then relent, because the first Kaiser Wilhelm pretty much felt Bismarck was his best Ace, the best man for the job, and any single policy issue wasn't worth losing Bismarck's abilities over. The constitution of Prussia and later unified Germany was very different from German governments that followed, in that the Chancellor's only power base was the monarch. In fact for many years Bismarck was unable to get budgets passed in the Prussian Diet, so he simply continued operating the government and collecting taxes as necessary, with no formal budget.

There were complicated layers of legislative power as well as a lot of "devolved government" and complicated legislative/monarchical systems for the Kingdoms that made up the German Empire, but at the imperial level the Kaiser really did have all the actual power. However during the brief period that the German Empire existed, that power was mostly wielded by Bismarck, but when Kaiser Wilhelm II ascended to the throne he took the reins himself, and truly ruled his country from the 1890s until 1914 or so. He was nowhere near the governor that Bismarck was, and thus lots of things got delegated that Bismarck traditionally didn't delegate, because while interested in running things the Kaiser wasn't interested in doing the work and had a short attention span. But it's still not fair to say he didn't truly rule his country, the Kaiser really did, even though his focus was short and his goals not always clearly understood. A lot of the foreign policy belligerence and general ineptitude at foreign policy seen from Germany from the late 19th up until WWI was entirely because of the Kaiser's personal control of things.

Once the Great War actually started, the Kaiser essentially became a figure head, by the end of the war figures like Hindenburg were truly running Germany and the Kaiser had virtually no say in anything whatsoever.
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