The guns of August: the reason for WWI

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RF
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:14 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:
However we must address the Schlieffen Plan. Germany, trapped amongst two enemies, devised this plan in order to try to survive, just as that. The plan considered an attack on France before this nation will be ready to fight and, at the same time, try to invade Germany at the same time that Russia was attacking from the East, which is something not mentioned: the Russians were invading the German Empire, which is why the Battle of Tannenberg took place. Again: the overall allied plan was offensive in natura and the Schlieffen was a counter measure to that. I am not going to say that it was merely "defensive" measure, it was highly offensive in a Clausewitzianian way, but the allies' plan were that same too and with the fact that they spilled the first blood.

Regards,


The point about the Schlieffen Plan is that it offered a wrong solution to the problem of a two front war.

Germany had only a short border with France, stretching across Alsace-Lorraine. It could be easily fortified and held with relatively small forces, as the failure of the French Plan 17 in August 1914 demonstrated. Had I been Alfred von Schlieffen I would have reversed the Schlieffen Plan to target Russia first and block the French attacking from the west to a stanstill of attrition that only the Germans could eventually win. The trump card in such an alternative strategy is that Britain (and Belguim) are kept out of the conflict with Germany, so there are no British (or Belgain) forces fighting with the French, and no British blockade of Germany.
Russia, facing Austria as well as Germany, would collapse fairly quickly, but providing the German defence in the west holds there is no pressure of time for this to happen. Both Russia and then France go down eventually, and a politically savvy Kaiser could buy British support by offering lenient peace settlements that still cripple France and Russia militarily but at the same time didn't offer any detriment to the British position.

But the Kaiser was not politically savvy. He was an egotitical bully with no real understanding of grand strategy and logistics. That was the charaCter that started and eventually lost WW1.
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Fri Jul 30, 2010 8:47 pm

RF:

It is clear Germany started WW1 as the prime mover of the military action. France, Belguim and Britain had to respond to it, to defend their interests and territorial integrity. The Kaiser could have prevented the war - had he wanted to. He didn't. The blame lies with him.


Wrong!

1. Germany DID NOT killed Franz Ferdinand
2. Germany DID NOT backed up the archduke murderers
3. Germany DID NOT mobilize first: it was Russia.

What do you expect that Germany would do if their two enemies, France and Russia are already mobilizing and getting prepared to attack?

Now: the issue of the starting of the military actions:

1. Russia mobilized first drawing Germany in an uncontrolled twister of events.
2. Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia, not to France.
3. France sent an ultimatum to Germany.
4. Having their two enemies already under mobilization the Schliefen Plan came into action. The plan, thus offensive against France was the result of that of a trapped animal.

I agree with you that the Kaiser could have stopped the flood of events to war. but also Poincare or the British or the Czar. As I see it there were more leaders on the Allied side that could have stop the war than from the Central Powers one, which is not as important as the point that the war could have been stopped by any of those.

In the best case it was a comunal and shared responsability that of starting WWI. But, if being so then it has to be stated that way and it is not.

Now: if Germany started the war (which by no means is the starting of the Schliefen Plan)I would like to see the evidence of it. In 40 plus years no one has provided me with that evidence.

Regards,
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby Byron Angel » Sat Jul 31, 2010 12:38 am

To lay the blame for the commencement of the First World War upon Germany is disingenuous. Germany was bound every bit as diabolically by the web of interlocking defence treaties as all the other nations that chose to enter the war. As I recall -

Russia declared war against Austria-Hungary as a consequence of its defence treaty with Serbia.

Germany entered the war against Russia, only after striving to deter Russian intervention, as a consequence of its defence treaty with Austria-Hungary. With respect to the actual ignition of the conflict, Germany arguably stands as the least culpable and the most diplomatically energetic in attempting to defuse the crisis. Germany's decision to violate Belgian neutrality is, of course, another matter altogether.

France gleefully entered the war as a consequence of its treaty with Russia with visions of "Revanche" for 1870 dancing in its head.

Great Britain had perhaps the least compelling diplomatic motive of all to enter the war. As Niall Ferguson points out in "The Pity of War", Great Britain had no formal treaty with Belgium and justified its intervention on grounds of "historical precedent" as guarantor of an unaligned status for Belgium and the Low Countries. IMHO, Great Britain's entry into the war was founded upon calculated global economic self-interest. Germany's trespass into Belgium was merely the convenient fig leaf.

In closing, I will say this. It is Wilhelm II who must at the end of the day bear the true responsibility for creating the troubled and suspicious diplomatic atmosphere that ultimately spawned the cataclysm that was WW1. It was he who so disdainfully discarded both Bismarck and his carefully constructed European diplomatic strategy and framework that had provided thirty-plus years of peace in Europe in the arrogant belief that he could better guide the diplomatic affairs of Germany on his own. The results, sadly, speak all too eloquently to the contrary.


Byron

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby mike1880 » Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:40 pm

Byron Angel wrote:To lay the blame for the commencement of the First World War upon Germany is disingenuous...As I recall...


Your memory leads you astray. The chronology was:

28/07: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia and Russia.
01/08: Germany declares war on Russia.
02/08: Germany invades Luxemburg.
03/08: Germany declares war on France.
04/08: Germany declares war on Belgium.

No nation is ever bound more tightly by its treaty obligations than it chooses. It may be unfashionable to say so, but the reason that WW1 took the scale and form it did is due to Germany's institutional inability to contemplate adapting its mobilisation plans far more than its zealous care for its international treaty obligations - which it certainly managed to overlook with complete equanimity in the case of (say) Belgium.

Mike

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby Byron Angel » Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:16 pm

mike1880 wrote:
Byron Angel wrote:To lay the blame for the commencement of the First World War upon Germany is disingenuous...As I recall...


Your memory leads you astray. The chronology was:

28/07: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia and Russia.
01/08: Germany declares war on Russia.
02/08: Germany invades Luxemburg.
03/08: Germany declares war on France.
04/08: Germany declares war on Belgium.

No nation is ever bound more tightly by its treaty obligations than it chooses. It may be unfashionable to say so, but the reason that WW1 took the scale and form it did is due to Germany's institutional inability to contemplate adapting its mobilisation plans far more than its zealous care for its international treaty obligations - which it certainly managed to overlook with complete equanimity in the case of (say) Belgium.

Mike



..... Correct as far as you selectively take it. But Germany first extended diplomatic demands to both Russia and France to cease their army mobilizations. Neither nation bothered to respond.

As for France, consider the fact that - "on July 29, after he had returned from the summit in St. Petersburg, President Poincaré was asked if war could be avoided. He is reported to have replied: "It would be a great pity. We should never again find conditions better".' France actually invaded German territory at a week or more before the first German soldier set foot in France.

Don't get me wrong here. No nation in this debacle came away with perfectly clean hands. Wilhelm was an arrogant fool and Germany's fate was largely sealed by his inept diplomacy that left Germany effectively isolated. Had Wilhelm been the beneficiary of a moment of timely intellectual clarity, Germany could probably have pressured Austria-Hungary to submit to one of the various international arbitration proposals proposed by Great Britain and others and the crisis might have been defused or had its ultimate ignition into open warfare delayed to some later date. They did not do so.

On the other hand, Russia could well have insisted that the Serbs to accept the Austro-Hungarian demands in full which would have guaranteed an end to the crisis; instead they encouraged Serbia to resist certain of the A/H demands, knowing full well that it would likely provoke war.

England had the least compelling diplomatic reasons to become embroiled in what was clearly a continental European crisis. As you mentioned in your post - "No nation is ever bound more tightly by its treaty obligations than it chooses". In England's case, it was a matter of choosing war on the grounds of the very loosest imaginable diplomatic bonds.

IMO, the entire "German War Guilt" argument, portraying Germany as the sole villain in that lamentable war, was simply a cynical propaganda construct to justify the crushing and (at that time) diplomatically unprecedented reparations levied against Germany after the war. The kindest thing one can say is that it was a team effort.

Byron

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:56 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:
1. Germany DID NOT killed Franz Ferdinand
2. Germany DID NOT backed up the archduke murderers
3. Germany DID NOT mobilize first: it was Russia.



Lets be clear on this. The murder of Franz Ferdinand was a criminal terrorist act. The Austro-Hungarian government had every right to pursue the perpetrators of this act, by internationally agreed legal means, and to try them in its courts.

But Franz Josef allowed his government to go beyond international judicial means. Without proper investigation Serbia was condemned by the Austro-Hungarian leadership, who used this crime to further their own agenda to annexe Serbia, as they had wanted to do since they annexed Bosnia-Hercegovinia in 1907. That is where Franz Josef is culpable.

Franz Josef was given a clear ''blank cheque'' of military support by Wilhelm II. It was on that guarantee of German support that the Austro-Hungarians delivered an ultimatum that they knew Serbia could never reasonably accept. That is where Wilhelm II starts to be culpable.

In the face of the unreasonable and peremptory demands made on Serbia the Russians quite reasonably mobilised to back up Serbia against Austria-Hungary. Now up to this point Germany was not openly involved. Austria-Hungary was acting as the aggressor, accusing a whole country for the crimes of a few terrorists. Germany was in an alliance to back Austria-Hungary if that country was attacked; it did not oblige Germany to back Austro-Hungarian aggression.

Wilhelm II did back Austro-Hungarian aggression - by implementing the Schlieffen Plan, after raising impossible demands on Russia to stop mobilising, which the German Foreign Office knew full well the Russians couldn't. My conclusion is that Wilhelm II wanted war - and got it. That is the basis that I submit is Wilhelm's responsibility for starting WW1.
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:08 pm

Byron Angel wrote:
As for France, consider the fact that - "on July 29, after he had returned from the summit in St. Petersburg, President Poincaré was asked if war could be avoided. He is reported to have replied: "It would be a great pity. We should never again find conditions better".' France actually invaded German territory at a week or more before the first German soldier set foot in France.

Byron


There is no doubt that the French wanted an opportunity to take back Alsace-Lorraine. But the record is that Germany commenced hostilities by declaring war in order to invade Belguim and Luxembourg, as required under the Schlieffen Plan. It is my view that the Schlieffen Plan, involving the invasion of up to three neutral countries who wanted no part in any European conflict, was equally a criminal action as the murder of Franz Ferdinand, and a criminal action on a far vaster scale in terms of devastation and loss of life.

I have outlined in a post above what Germany could and should have done in response to aggression launched by Russia and France. It could have dealt with Germany's two enemies without involving Britain or the Belgians.

You are correct in saying that French troops crossed into Germany (actually it was Alsace, and not Germany proper) first before the Germans crossed into France. But that was a week into hostilities, and it took the Germans some two weeks to cross Belguim before they reached the Belgian border with France.
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby mike1880 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:58 am

Byron Angel wrote:IMO, the entire "German War Guilt" argument, portraying Germany as the sole villain in that lamentable war, was simply a cynical propaganda construct to justify the crushing and (at that time) diplomatically unprecedented reparations levied against Germany after the war. The kindest thing one can say is that it was a team effort.


I agree insofar as "war guilt" is concerned; however, I consider Germany worthy of the lion's share of the blame, if free of guilt. There's an interesting and IMHO fairly even handed summary here which probably agrees with none of us:

http://www.docshare.com/doc/194345/World-War-1-German-Guilt

Although personally I believe it underplays the significance of the line "Germany was the only country where mobilisation did equate to war". This point appears not to have been understood by Germany's own leaders, never mind those of France or Russia, and hopelessly confounded all parties' response to the crisis. To my mind, then, blame (rather than guilt) lies with the German General Staff who fashioned a weapon quite stunningly ill-suited to their country's needs.

Mike

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:05 pm

The article quoted states that Germany cannot be blamed for planning a war, but that its two principal civilian and army drivers of policy were incompetant and their actions caused the hostilities to happen.

The article misses an essential truth. If Germany did not plan a war, then what exactly do they call the Schlieffen Plan?

This plan for war straightjacketed Germany into dealing with any military threat from Russia by attacking France through Belguim and Luxembourg, ignoring any British response. This pre-emptive strike against France, whether France was helping Russia or not, would make a certainty that conflict couild not possibly be contained. My conclusion from that is that the German leadership wanted war. Incompetant they certainly were - but the intent on war was there.
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby Bgile » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:05 pm

RF wrote:The article quoted states that Germany cannot be blamed for planning a war, but that its two principal civilian and army drivers of policy were incompetant and their actions caused the hostilities to happen.

The article misses an essential truth. If Germany did not plan a war, then what exactly do they call the Schlieffen Plan?

This plan for war straightjacketed Germany into dealing with any military threat from Russia by attacking France through Belguim and Luxembourg, ignoring any British response. This pre-emptive strike against France, whether France was helping Russia or not, would make a certainty that conflict couild not possibly be contained. My conclusion from that is that the German leadership wanted war. Incompetant they certainly were - but the intent on war was there.


I don't know enough about this topic to be very useful, but don't all militaries have plans to fight their adjacent neighbors? Isn't that one of the jobs of a competent military? Having a plan doesn't mean you plan to carry it out.

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby mike1880 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:42 pm

The problem is not that they had a plan to fight their immediate neighbours, but that that's the ONLY plan they had - and that their response to just about any foreign policy crisis would inevitably be the invasion of France. In other words, in 1914 the German government found that they had only two options: abject capitulation in the face of Austria-Hungary's humiliation at the hands of Russia and Serbia, or the launching of total war across the length and breadth of Europe - irrespective of whether France, Belgium or Britain intended to remain neutral or not.

I don't believe it's proven that the German government realised that its army had painted it into this corner until it was too late to avoid the consequences; I'm open to correction.

Mike

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby Byron Angel » Wed Aug 04, 2010 3:46 am

RF wrote:The article quoted states that Germany cannot be blamed for planning a war, but that its two principal civilian and army drivers of policy were incompetant and their actions caused the hostilities to happen.

The article misses an essential truth. If Germany did not plan a war, then what exactly do they call the Schlieffen Plan?

This plan for war straightjacketed Germany into dealing with any military threat from Russia by attacking France through Belguim and Luxembourg, ignoring any British response. This pre-emptive strike against France, whether France was helping Russia or not, would make a certainty that conflict couild not possibly be contained. My conclusion from that is that the German leadership wanted war. Incompetant they certainly were - but the intent on war was there.



..... The Schlieffen Plan was a contingency war plan, just like those developed by the military of every prudent nation; their existence does not promise war. It was developed in 1905 as a response to the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894 which pretty much guaranteed that Germany's next war would have to be fought on two fronts. Germany's situation was quite unpleasantly clear. Victory would have to be very rapidly achieved on one front or the other if Germany was a have a chance of winning the war. Russia's great territorial depth and immense manpower reserves made a quick win highly unlikely. Schlieffen and his staff reasoned that an offensive against France offered the best opportunity for a rapid victory; its fractious internal politics made it vulnerable to moral collapse and its defeat would remove Russia'a principal war financier. Schlieffen's original intention to pass German armies through both Holland and Belgium in clear violation of their neutrality speaks loudly to me of how desperate the German General Staff perceived the German strategic situation to be - an ironic testimonial to the acute stupidity exhibited by Wilhelm in his woeful mismanagement of national diplomacy. Great Britain's informal bonding with France from 1905 only made the German strategic position more difficult.

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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:27 am

mike1880 wrote:The problem is not that they had a plan to fight their immediate neighbours, but that that's the ONLY plan they had - and that their response to just about any foreign policy crisis would inevitably be the invasion of France.

Mike


Agreed.
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:44 am

mike1880 wrote: in 1914 the German government found that they had only two options: abject capitulation in the face of Austria-Hungary's humiliation at the hands of Russia and Serbia, or the launching of total war across the length and breadth of Europe - irrespective of whether France, Belgium or Britain intended to remain neutral or not.
I don't believe it's proven that the German government realised that its army had painted it into this corner until it was too late to avoid the consequences; I'm open to correction.
Mike


I don't agree with this first paragraph. If Austria-Hungary faced humiliation in the face of Serbia and Russia then they are largely to blame themselves, by firstly their clear intent to threaten and annexe Serbia for the previous seven years, and secondly the disproportionate response of the Austro-Hungarian government into the murder of the Arcduke by making it look as if they were using that crime to further its foreign policy agenda rather than the pursuit of justice.
To take an analogy: in the case of the IRA bombings in Britain in the 1970's did the British government seek to pursue the terrorists who planted the bombs and bring them to justice - or did they instead hold the whole country of Eire to blame and issue an ultimatum that that country surrender its independance to Britain, to accept British occupation of Eire and its annexation into Britain, as it was prior to partition?
Austria-Hungary pushed itself into a corner because it was a paper tiger that could only bully with German support. Indeed, some Germans have commented that their country's alliance with Austria-Hungary was ''like being shackled to a corpse.''
Germany was not obliged to back Austria-Hungary, doing so was their mistake.

The second paragraph quoted above is right - but the Kaiser and the German Chancellor are still at fault for failing to realise the consequences of implementing the Schlieffen Plan. My conclusion is that they didn't care - they wanted their war against Russia, they expected it to mean also the defeat of France - yes they wanted their war. Only it got bigger and more serious than they expected.
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Re: The guns of August: the reason for WWI

Postby RF » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:57 am

Bgile wrote:
I don't know enough about this topic to be very useful, but don't all militaries have plans to fight their adjacent neighbors? Isn't that one of the jobs of a competent military? Having a plan doesn't mean you plan to carry it out.


All countries militaries will have contingency plans to deal with actions by those they consider to be hostile, as a defensive response, to contain or deal with a threat. However today the United Nations Charter requires its member countries to renounce aggresive war as an instrument of foreign policy.

The crucial difference between the Schlieffen Plan and the normal defence planning of say NATO countries is that the former placed war as a first instrument of policy, it was motivated by attack and conquest and not purely a defensive measure to deter enemies from attacking. NATO was about detering war - by being as strong as an attacker, so any attack by that attacker would not be worthwhile. NATO never had conquest of the USSR or the Warsaw Pact as its objective - as far as I am aware.
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