ORIGINAL: Joe D.
ORIGINAL: Joe D.
"Despite being part of the Triple Entente, Britain was not committed to going to war in 1914. The Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, spent much of the summer of 1914 furiously trying to reassure Russia and Germany and prevent a war happening. Even when German troops invaded France and Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan, Britain did not have to go to war.
"Germany hoped Britain would stay out of the war altogether. However, the Germans knew that Britain had promised to defend Belgium under the Treaty of London of 1839. The Germans wanted the British government to ignore the Treaty of London and let the German army pass through Belgium. The British government made much of their duty to protect Belgium. Belgium's ports were close to the British coast and German control of Belgium would have been seen as a serious threat to Britain. In the end, Britain refused to ignore the events of 4 August 1914, when Germany attacked France through Belgium. Within hours, Britain declared war on Germany. The Kaiser said how foolish he thought the British were. He said that Britain had gone to war for the sake of a 'scrap of paper.'"
Is the word of a sovereign not worth the paper it's written on?
[Earlier posts removed because the chain was becoming too long]
I note you have taken one instance – at the end of the process. Naturally the further down the process one is, the less room for manoeuvre.
Why not start at the beginning? Day 1 – the Archduke and his wife are assassinated. At this point Austria-Hungary can do a number of things. A declaration of war on Serbia is not the only solution – and in AH’s parlous state, it is not a sensible – or practicable - thing to do either. Forget Russia, with the AH in the state it’s in, beating Serbia alone is going to be difficult, and costly. Options, Choices.
At this time diplomatic and economic measures are possible. The Austrian emperor appealing to the Czar – one monarch to another - over the dangers of Regicide in an ever more unstable world may even have seen some sort of co-operation and toning down of Russia’s support. Options, Choices.
Despite what you say, at this stage there is no requirement for Germany to do anything. There is no war, no one is mobilising. Austria-Hungary is (rightfully) hurting having suffered a terrorist attack and Germany can understandably show moral support for her ally. But that is not what Germany does. Options, Choices.
Despite not having to do anything, Germany actively promotes AH declaring war on Serbia. Germany knows that Russia is unlikely to stand aside – and certainly won’t if Germany are seen to be pulling the strings – and yet, despite this, Berlin issues the ‘blank cheque’. Let’s be clear. With Russia likely to support Serbia, it is this action that makes the AH declaration of war on Serbia possible. Germany does not need to take this action but CHOOSES to do so. Yes, Options, Choices.
Remember Serbia did not want war – even knowing it has Russia giving support. How do we know this? Well AH gave a list of demands. In an act of desperation, Serbia accepted all bar one – a demand that AH knew she could not realistically concede to. AH could have accepted this Serbian humiliation but, armed with the blank cheque, she did not want anything but war. Yes, Options, Choices.
The above is why the majority of the blame for WWI sits with Germany (and of course Austria-Hungary) but even once the choice is made to attack Serbia, Russia could decide to stay out. You mention a ‘tinderbox of alliances’ but just as there was no requirement for Germany to give AH the blank cheque, so there was no formal alliance between Russia and Serbia. An AH attack on Serbia does not commit Russia to action in Serbia’s defence. It was an action that Russia chose to take. Options, Choices.
Of course once we reach this point then alliances and (AJP Taylor’s famous railway timetables) come into play and at this point there is a feeling of unstoppable forces dictating events and the key individuals appearing almost powerless to stop a juggernaut that has built up too much momentum. But this only happened in the last few days before the outbreak of war.
There was also a whole month between the assassination and the AH attack on Serbia. If World War I was bound to happen because of the murders, what was happening during this time? Time gives both a chance for reflection and allow calmer heads to prevail, it also allows time for hawks in government and the military to spin their web of intrigue. And let’s be clear, when one talks about Germany or Austria-Hungary or Russia, or any of the major powers, there were those within who wanted war, there were sane minds who realised what it would mean and didn’t, and those, like the Kaiser whose bellicose nonsense helped stir the pot and then apparently wanted to back down. All these people – all these Options, Choices.
The assassinations did not cause World War I. They were a catalyst for what ultimately happened. But there was nothing pre-ordained about World War I from the moment Gavrilo Princip did the deed. This was not a case of automated processes driven by clauses within legal documents making Governments powerless to intervene. There were plenty of different paths that could have been taken, different choices made that could have satisfied AH's genuine wish for vengeance against those responsible for the assassination of their heir to the throne, but that didn't result in the useless and massive waste of life that World War I was.
catalyst: something that causes an important event to happen; a substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. In King's English, Serbia caused WW I, but unlike a chemical catalyst, it got itself deeply involved in an exothermic reaction well beyond its control.
And if Serbia didn't want war, what was the motive for its assassination of the heir to the AH throne? What did they expect would happen after they threw a match at a European powder keg?
LOL - I'm not going to get into a war of words over what constitutes a precisely accurate similie. I like catalyst and will continue to use it in this regard. If you don't like catalyst then I can live with that. But for the purposes of this discussion let's park catalyst and make it clear without that word. Put it this way; the assassination of the Archduke and his wife was not a trigger - it did not start WWI.
What was Serbia's motive if 'they' didn't want all out war? Well, given that AH was a total mess, I am guessing that a) they may have believed that AH would have to suck it up as they were not strong enough to go to war (thereby lowering their stock even more), b) the action would at least help to de-stabilise the succession to the AH throne and thereby continue to add to the crumbling Empire's woes and possibly create a power vacuum that the Serbs could exploit, and c) I raised this point previously; Not everyone in every country was of like mind. There were no doubt Serbian hotheads who would welcome a war and the chaos (and of course potential opportunity) that that would bring to AH (and Serbia). What is your understanding of "state-sponsored terrorism" in a country like Serbia - that bedrock of democracy? But if those in charge wanted war then they could have simply told AH to go do something that's probably impossible (although personally I've never tried it). They didn't.
But I don't think they did want war, although again I think you miss the point. Let's just say they did and the plotters, with remarkable foresight, saw the defeat of the Central Powers in any war that they started (and of course without the crushing of Serbia, the death of, how many through disease and starvation)? That still does not mean that the major powers had no choices, no options and that one assassination = World War I. No ifs, no buts, no chance for anyone to do anything to stop it. Sorry it simply doesn't.
< Message edited by warspite1 -- 9/1/2017 5:07:38 PM >
22nd November 1944 - The British Pacific Fleet is born (temporary avatar changes to commemorate the ships and aircraft).