Did anyone offer Germany an alternative to War? Watch

NJA
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Was there an alternative vision for Germany available or at the time was militarism the only way forward for a nation wanting to be great?
I was refrring to WW1 but the same question applies to WW2.

This question arises from a discussion I got into here.

lerjj said: "Germany would not have prospered so much. In the world Germany was in, they needed an Empire to be considered a power."

I replied: "Sounds like a good and reasonable point and I don't know enough history to say if it is necessarily true. I can believe that the mindset of the German leadership could only see that point of view.

What I do know is that Germany was better placed than Britain to trade industrially with the quickly-developing nations of Europe, Scandanavia and Russia. She could have developed trade alliances instead of military ones. There were plenty of countries in other parts of the world (the Middle East, North Africa) who, for historical reasons had no great allegience with Britain."

Surely with all the diplomacy and even family connections accross Europe people were looking at alternatives to war, or was survival of the fittest the only ideology in town?
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NJA
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This book review leaves me thinking it was basically German mentality at the time.
They, like us had the "it'll all be over by Christmas" view. That view didn't go away, blitzkreig carried it on.

I can understand that they felt aggrieved that her great rival Britain had an empire and they probably felt superior to all the others who had them - France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium ...

It seems that the political leaders & diplomats of Britain and France did see it coming. What did they do?
Could they have done more or was it all inevitable at the time?
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MatureStudent36
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(Original post by NJA)
This book review leaves me thinking it was basically German mentality at the time.
They, like us had the "it'ss all be over by Christmas" view. That view didn't go away, blitzkreig carried it on.

I can understand that they felt aggrieved that her great rival Britain had an empire and they probably felt superior to all the others who had them - France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium ...

It seems that the political leaders & diplomats of Britain and France did see it coming. What did they do?
Could they have done more or was it all inevitable at the time?
John Keegans 'a history of warfare' touches on the martial state of German mentality at the time. They taken the lessons of Clausewitz.

There's also the issue of a huge amount of tension between France and Germany post Franco Prussian war.
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dean.stanston
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No. Wwi was less clear cut than WWII.

the reich had rivalries with us, France, Russia and other countries. We were scared that they would rival us navally and were rivalling us economically.

And up until the war th uk didnt care much about continental affairs. It had the largest navy and could get resources from the colonies. We also had a far larger empire than germany did pre-1914, they only had what is now Namibia, Togo, Tanzania, Cameroon and Nauru in the Pacific.
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Sir Fox
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(Original post by dean.stanston)
... they only had what is now Namibia, Togo, Tanzania, Cameroon and Nauru in the Pacific.
Plus parts of Ghana, Samoa and parts of New Guinea
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samba
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ww1 was inevitable. Plans were being made a decade before, and nobody particularly wanted to avoid it.

ww2, well that's a silly question.
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Observatory
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Before WWI, there were discussions between Germany and Britain about forming an alliance. The stumbling block was that Germany wanted Britain to stay out of an offensive war they might fight with Russia or France. Britain was prepared to accept an alliance with Germany on defensive terms and the Germans rejected it. It seems very unlikely that France and Russia would have attacked Germany on their own or that they would have won if they had tried. So a safe diplomatic path was open to Germany provided they accepted their 1914 borders.

Consistently throughout the first half of the 20th century Germany was simply unwilling to accept that it was a medium sized European power; they snatched for greatness with tremendous courage and tactical skill but very little strategic intelligence.
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samba
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(Original post by Observatory)
Before WWI, there were discussions between Germany and Britain about forming an alliance. The stumbling block was that Germany wanted Britain to stay out of an offensive war they might fight with Russia or France. Britain was prepared to accept an alliance with Germany on defensive terms and the Germans rejected it. It seems very unlikely that France and Russia would have attacked Germany on their own or that they would have won if they had tried. So a safe diplomatic path was open to Germany provided they accepted their 1914 borders.

Consistently throughout the first half of the 20th century Germany was simply unwilling to accept that it was a medium sized European power; they snatched for greatness with tremendous courage and tactical skill but very little strategic intelligence.
I think it's a mistake to identify the origin of war as purely [or even mostly] deliberative.
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Observatory
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(Original post by samba)
I think it's a mistake to identify the origin of war as purely [or even mostly] deliberative.
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).
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samba
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(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.
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Observatory
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(Original post by samba)
'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 way 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.
As I said I entirely agree that the specific circumstances that caused the war were not planned by anyone and were probably inherent unpredictable.

But there is good evidence that the Germans intended to launch a war when they could and the specific circumstances of the Sarajevo assassination were not key to their decision to go to war; they would have reacted to any plausible causus belli the same way.

I do not agree that Britain and France had agency causing this war and I do not agree that Britain was even a significant consideration in the decisions that led to the war. WWI, like WWII, was a conflict between the eastern powers about who should own the large tract of temperate land between the industrial centres of Germany and Russia. Britain and France were only interested to preserve the balance of powers. Britain offered the Germans a safe position in Europe at the cost of renouncing further territorial aggrandisement and it was rejected.
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samba
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(Original post by Observatory)
As I said I entirely agree that the specific circumstances that caused the war were not planned by anyone and were probably inherent unpredictable.

But there is good evidence that the Germans intended to launch a war when they could and the specific circumstances of the Sarajevo assassination were not key to their decision to go to war; they would have reacted to any plausible causus belli the same way.

I do not agree that Britain and France had agency causing this war and I do not agree that Britain was even a significant consideration in the decisions that led to the war. WWI, like WWII, was a conflict between the eastern powers about who should own the large tract of temperate land between the industrial centres of Germany and Russia. Britain and France were only interested to preserve the balance of powers. Britain offered the Germans a safe position in Europe at the cost of renouncing further territorial aggrandisement and it was rejected.
I'm not sure if you're just trying to oversimplify the answer for the sake of the OP or if you didn't quite understand what I was saying. I'm not disputing the role of agency, I was saying it wasn't the only consideration. (arms race, imperialism, alliance system, naval strategy, romantic/ideological conceptions, etc etc etc) - Agency, and especially deliberative factors within it (as opposed to non deliberative agency factors and both deliberative/non deliberative factors within structure) only played a part. How large a part is debatable. You also need to be more careful with your counterfactuals.
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Observatory
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(Original post by samba)
I'm not sure if you're just trying to oversimplify the answer for the sake of the OP or if you didn't quite understand what I was saying. I'm not disputing the role of agency, I was saying it wasn't the only consideration. (arms race, imperialism, alliance system, naval strategy, romantic/ideological conceptions, etc etc etc) - Agency, and especially deliberative factors within it (as opposed to non deliberative agency factors and both deliberative/non deliberative factors within structure) only played a part. How large a part is debatable. You also need to be more careful with your counterfactuals.
It's absolutely true that deliberative agency was not the only factor that contributed to the outbreak of the war, but you stated, "I think it's a mistake to identify the origin of war as purely [or even mostly] deliberative.".

I don't agree that the outbreak of a war of that nature (as opposed to the exact circumstances of responding to an assassination of a government figure by a small group of assassins, which of course wasn't in the control of the governments of the great powers) was not mostly the result of deliberative agency. I think the Germans decided they wanted a war, but needed a pretext that would ensure their allies came in on their side and which could be justified to public opinion. I think the Germans really did enjoy a unique role here in that it was their guarantee to Austria that led to Austria rejecting the very favourable Serbian counter-proposal and it was their unique strategic considerations that led to the war expanding into the West and Far East. Without Germany's involvement we might (but probably wouldn't) have seen a war between great powers; we certainly would not have seen a world war.

In particular I think there is a very popular misleading view that WWI and WWII are conflicts essentially between Britain and Germany. While this is to some extent true and was ultimately key to the outcome of both, I don't think it was a major factor in the origins of either.
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