(Original post by Observatory)
I agree that the German government's diplomacy in the 00s and 10s does not demonstrate that it intended to start a war in 1914; indeed the German government was not proximally responsible for the war in 1914, which originated in the Balkans primarily between Austria-Hungary and Russia.
However, the fact that the German government had developed its foreign policy so as to permit an offensive war was a necessary pre-condition for the war. If Germany had not planned to conquer any more territory in Europe and was only interested in self-defence then there were other paths open to her, such as an agreement with Britain. It also suggests that Germany's decision to back Austria-Hungary against Russia - without which Austria-Hungary would have been forced to accept the Serbian counter-offer to their ultimatum of 1914 - was made with the deliberate intention of sparking a war with France and Russia in which Germany could take the offensive on more favourable terms that were likely to present themselves in the near future.
This wasn't the case for all the other participants. In particular I think that Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire had little agency in starting the war. Italy had agency and declined to participate in the war (at least until later).
'The German problem' was coined by AJP Taylor, but definitely had prior roots in Fritz Fisher et al. I'm not giving my opinion to whether it existed as a state, and I certainly don't believe like Taylor did that it was rooted from feudal German tribes, but there's something to it. I think you need to discern between the foreign office (remember a lot of diplomatic history spent time focusing on that sort of thing to the exclusion of other stuff), and the aims of Wilhelm and people like Tirpitz. Rewind to 1898 and Wilhelm was already crying about navies with Tirpitz getting funds in parliament for it. In 1905 [british] NID was already planning distant blockade, and in 1907 Fisher (The admiral not the historian mentioned above) was already maneuvering international law in preparation for a war with Germany. There was certainly a lot of friction building up, especially on the naval front.
I would to an extent agree with your analysis about the 'agency responsibility' for the origins of the war, but in terms of structure, Britain Germany and to a lesser extent France all bore guilt. It was pretty much an inevitable when you combine all the factors though. With all the arms races etc going on, nobody particularly wanted to avoid war, and many wanted to settle scores.
They all thought it would be over pretty quickly, and all thought a short sharp war was a pretty attractive proposition.
What I meant by the origin of war isn't entirely deliberative is that most wars come about by accidental actions and reactions, as opposed to agents plotting masterplans. They 'the non deliberative factors' of war such as economy and ideology blablabla (or even the shooting of an archduke) force agency reaction, which snowballs.
In the early part of the cold war, the allies oft played with the idea of lobbing a couple of nukes at russian satellites as they didn't want to be seen to be 'appeasement' politicians. The origins of ww2 were used as an argument for that (appeasement empowered hitler etc) - obviously ww1 is a different kettle of fish, but it shows you the two levels - the planning and the accidents, and the deliberative and non deliberative actions on each level.