World War 1 Essay, Research Paper
The critical factor in the development of World War One from an Austrian-Serbian conflict lay in the German military strategy. German military action, based on the von Schlieffen Plan, allowed no flexibility for military mobilization of other powers without war. The Bosnian Crisis, along with the massive arms race of previous years and the competitiveness of the European powers, should have indicated to Germany the tense international relations of the time required much leeway for countries to retain diplomatic prestige while diverting war. The von Schlieffen plan allotted no time for negotiations.Behind the von Schlieffen plan lay the fundamental idea of utilizing Germany’s ability to mobilize quickly in order to outmaneuver France and Russia. France needed six weeks to mobilize, Russia three months, and Germany only three weeks. Germany would attack France through Belgium, capture Paris, and then turn her attentions toward Russia, all before her two foes fully mobilized. Although this plan seemed highly logical on paper, it possessed one tragic flaw: For Germany, a mobilization of French or Russian troops meant a declaration of war on both nations. The Bosnian Crisis in 1908 nearly became the start of World War One. It should have indicated to Europe the need for changes in policy if the countries had wanted to avert war, Germany especially. When Russia secretly granted Bosnia to Austria, then Austria leaked the information before Russia’s explanation, all of Europe seethed with anger. Russia proceeded to make the situation worse with a threat of war on Austria-Hungary unless they ended their annexation of Bosnia. The Austrians refused, so Russia announced mobilization. Of course, Germany immediately reacted to this by threatening war on Russia unless they backed down. France, in an act halting the road to war, refused to back up her ally, Russia. Both France and Britain wanted to stay out of a war created over a disagreement in the Balkans, so Russia, all alone, backed down.The true error of the Bosnian crisis lay in the obliviousness of the European countries, Germany especially, to the reality that such a diversion from war couldn’t possibly occur again. William I figured if Russia backed down once, Czar Nicholas II could be counted on to back down again. The Czar thought otherwise. The Bosnia crisis, a diplomatic disaster, caused great humiliation. He swore to not back down again. He couldn’t, for the Russian public became so irate over the Bosnian Crisis another such blunder could lead to revolution. By France’s denial of assistance to Russia during the crisis, she put herself in an obligatory position to assist her ally the next time. After all, if France found herself without Russia as an ally, France could be at the mercy of the Germans. Finally, Austria held some animosity toward Germany since her ally, in Austria’s opinion, did not offer enough support quickly enough. Kaiser William found himself promising to be of more support in future situations.If World War One was to be prevented, German military policy needed to undergo adjustments at this point. Tension in the Balkans remained high, and more conflicts seemed imminent. Germany could have predicted Russian support for the Balkans, and she knew she was obligated to assist Austria. This meant invading France through Belgium. In the event of another such crisis, much leeway would be needed in the way of time in order to cool hot tempers of European monarchs as well as allow public tempers to calm to the point where peace would be supported, especially when the situation was complicated by numerous alliances.
German military policy prevented Britain from declaring neutrality, as well as boxing Europe into war. A declaration of Britain’s neutrality might have drastically affected the road to war. Without the arms race of the early 1900’s this may very well have occurred. When Germany began to develop her navy at an alarming rate in the eyes of the British navy, the only apparent foe for such a navy would be Britain herself. Kaiser William simply saw his navy’s development as necessary to be a world power, but since “England’s navy is her first, second, third, as infinitum line of defense,” according to a British naval genius, Jackie Fisher, Britain took such an action much more seriously. If Britain hadn’t developed such a competition with Germany, and remained neutral, France and Russia may have continued to maintain a position of avoiding war with Germany at all costs, without the assurance of British support. The scenario reinforces the idea of German military policy being the crucial factor in the development of World War One. In 1914 another crisis in the Balkans ignited. The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by a Serbian. This time, a local war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia resulted in large scale war. Germany backed Austria, Russia backed Serbia, and Germany once again ordered an ultimatum when Russia mobilized. Just as promised, Russia didn’t back down this time. France mobilized to show support for the Russians, and Germany began her invasion through Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany the following day. This escalation was due to the von Schlieffen plan. War between the tense countries of Europe may possibly have been inevitable due to old anger over such things as Alsace-Lorraine and duties such as Russia’s role as protector of the Slavs, yet it was German military policy that escalated a local Balkan war into World War One. Other European countries caused the war for defensive or obligatory reasons. France stood by her ally, Russia defended her weak Balkan neighbor, Britain entered after war was declared in order to protect her own interests and defend France against a common foe. Germany’s role was primarily offensive. Although the Kaiser’s first involvement in the dispute that lead to war resulted from her Austrian ally, total war became the outcome due to Germany’s military strategy. When Russia refused to demobilize, although it was made clear action was aimed solely at Austria-Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm asked France for her plan of action. France’s army mobilized, but insisted it would act in its own interests and remained ten kilometers from the border to prevent incident. Unfortunately, this relatively neutral act by France was unsatisfactory to the German army and war was declared. The von Schlieffen hair-trigger plan combined with the arms race of the early 1900’s made a war between Germany and a singular nation impossible. Alliances of the time proved often undependable, but the German military plan assured France, Russia, and Britain would all be dragged into war. When a second Balkan conflict arose in 1914, a local conflict developed into World War One.