Where there are winners, one finds losers. America is the ultimate winner. The U.S. has achieved this status at the expense of Germany. They have nobody to blame but themselves. It is to the great credit of the United States that today Germany finds itself not a loser, but a greater winner, because of its close alliance with America, than it ever would have been had they won World War II. World War I offers a different social, political and military theory. The 20th Century was the American Century. The United States' status is closely aligned with Germany. From a strictly military standpoint, Germany offered the greatest possible challenge. The defeated German wehrmacht of World War II was likely the greatest military machine in the history of man. The eternal good fortune of humanity is that the only military that ever was better up to that time happened to be the American military in that same war. It was a battle of titans.
The German military offered a magnificent opponent. Greatness often arises out of rivalry. In sports, Notre Dame rose to greatness on the strength of their rivalry with Southern California. Bill Russell had Wilt Chamberlain. The Celtics had the Lakers. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle competed for the role “baseball’s best player” in the spotlight of New York City. In the parlance of military rivalries, the Romans knew the Carthaginians were great, the French gave the British all they could handle, and the Confederates were the toughest possible challenge for the Union.
Had Germany not attempted to attain world domination in two wars, the United States still would have been a superpower. They were the richest country in the world at the end of the 19th Century. By the time Teddy Roosevelt left office they were a major world power with empire status in Latin America, the South Pacific, and Asia. Had Germany not tried again in World War II, America's status would have been quite different in the world, as would the Soviet Union's. Where history would have taken us is interesting to ponder, but offers scenarios that seem to spin off in the Universe like a satellite breaking from a planet; seemingly a random act yet destined to land somewhere.
A peaceful 20th Century offers many wonders. All of those wonders include the U.S. being a world power. It is possible that even without war, history would record it as the American Century. America’s role in economics, culture, Hollywood, diplomacy, politics, plus the threat we would have posed militarily even if we had never put it to use, would have given us that kind of prestige. The rise of Communism, which was tied so closely to World War II, would not have gotten the toehold on more than half the world’s population. China and Japan no doubt would have had distinctly different destinies. Gandhi and Indian independence would have been delayed, at best. Great Britain, not expending its economy to fend off two German wars, would resemble its colonial empire. Perhaps most important, without Germany starting two world wars, the Holocaust would not have occurred, Israel may not have become a state, and the Middle East would look a lot different.
The fact that Germany and the U.S. are so closely aligned seems almost an accident of history. Many Germans immigrated to the United States in the 19th Century. They made up a fair number of rural dwellers, and founded Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But Germany seemed to have little in the way of common interest with the U.S. The Reformation movement had started there, but American Protestantism descended from King Henry VIII in England. If we were going to fight another major world power, for many years it seemed that would have been England. But Victorian England in the 19th Century became a very different place. Politicians like Disraeli led them out of the wilderness into a style of Democracy that may not have been American, but was inspired by us. France was our natural ally, but their revolution had gone askew, leaving that country befuddled as to what they stood for. Still, Frenchmen were our kindred spirits. Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, first published in 1835, is one of the great political books ever written. De Tocqueville captured the spirit and bounty of the young country, in the cities and the countryside. His beautifully written work describes the love affair that he and many of his compatriots had with America in those innocent days. Later, a French philosopher named Jacques Barzun came to America to see what all the fuss was about. He seemed to have picked up on the spirit as accurately as de Tocqueville with the modern observation that, “If you want to know the heart and mind of America, you had better know baseball.” Teddy Roosevelt's awesome "man in the arena" speech was, after all, directed to French graduates of the Sarbonne.
It was our “special relationship” with France that began our journey towards confrontation with Germany. Their harsh language and militaristic past had never much bothered us, but it was these characteristics that many them easier to demonize when the time came.
Germanic tribes had bedeviled the Romans, but the wild-eyed Goths of the medieval period had materialized into a people of great intellect and culture by the 19th Century. Modern German history dates, I suppose, to October 18, 1813, when the Prussians sent Napoleon to defeat at Leipzig. Still, Austria and Prussia opposed German unity. As a result of the Congress of Vienna from 1814-15, and in the aftermath of Prussia helping Wellington to again defeat Napoleon, this time in his final battle at Waterloo, Germany still found itself reduced to 38 states. Under this situation, they could not attain the kind of powerful status of England. They were not as influential as France prior to their demise at Leipzig, Moscow and Belgium. Even America, still a small country, had unity in their Federal system that that allowed the kind of "nationalism" that still eluded Germany.
But a unification movement was afoot in Germany. In 1815 a loosely organized confederation was organized. The confederation was presided over by one of histories great diplomats, the Austrian Prime Minister, Prince Klemens von Metternich, over a 15-year period. Von Metternich combined the European concept of realpolitik with a diplomatic vision and ability to compromise through strength. It was his career that inspired Henry Kissinger’s. But small incidents led to unrest, and after the French Revolution of 1830, Austria and Prussia remained stable. Brunswick and Saxony were forced to grant new constitutions, diminish censorship, and deal with student rebellions.
Liberalism spread throughout the German states until Frederick William IV became King of Prussia in 1840. He was unable to maintain order in light of more unrest in France and its recurring effect throughout Europe in 1849. Demands for more religious toleration and abolishment of feudal restrictions, spread throughout the states. This eventually forced von Metternich to leave Vienna. Liberalism led to street violence, protest, anarchy, and all the other things that liberalism always leads to. There was no real strength in the land. Various regional disputes prevented all the parties from coming together. The coups of Louis Napoleon, in 1851 and 1852, and the developments leading to the Crimean War eventually created an atmosphere in which Prussia and Austria cooperated diplomatically. The Progressive Party advocated German unification between 1850 and 1860; a common currency, postal system, commercial code, commercial treaties with other states. A reciprocity agreement with France, signed in 1862, made this eventuality more likely.
Eventually, King William I considered abdication. Upon the advice of his ministers, he called upon Otto von Bismarck to head the ministry of foreign policy. Four years later, Bismarck dealt with the confederated Diet in a defiant manner. He stated flatly that “Germany’s” problems lay with their liberalism in allowing all the speeches of the revolution to take place instead of dealing with them with “blood and iron.” The beginning of the German militaristic state, the one that would terrorize a world, had begun.
With the succession of Christian IX to the throne of Denmark in 1863, the question of Schleswig-Holstein-Lauenburg once more awakened nationalist fervor. The claims to the duchies of the German duke, Frederick of Augustenburg, were revived. When Austria and Prussia declared war, Christian was forced to sign the land over to them. Bismarck contemplated war with the Hapsburg empire. Austria was dealing with revolts from her Italian possessions and Hungary. Bismarck forced the Convention of Gastein in 1865, with various neutrality agreements and territorial appeasements signed over. In 1866 Napoleon III thought he had achieved peace for France at Biarritz. He would ultimately be as successful as Chamberlain at Munich.
Internal frictions, broken agreements, worries over possible British intervention, and troop movements marked this period. As Prussia grew in power, Austria resisted and a war was fought between the two states in 1866. Austria fell in seven weeks. King William and Helmuth von Moltke advocated annexation of Austria. Bismarck forestalled French and Russian intervention, preventing a hard peace from being imposed on Austria. But Hapsburg Austria was expelled from Germany, and the old confederation was dissolved. Prussia annexed Hesse-Cassel, Nassau and Frankfurt-am-Main. They now controlled two-thirds of the Germanic lands, exclusive of Austria, and 21 states north of the Main River agreed to join a North German Confederation under a Prussian presidency from 1867 to 1871. Further political machinations followed, until Napoleon III made successive bids for compensations in the Rhenish Palatinate, in Belgium, and in Luxembourg. Bismarck, who now had the upper hand, thwarted them all.
Now, Bismarck’s path was clear: German unification. This was the single military state that would form the Teutonic conscience over the following 77 years. He felt a good way of achieving his goal was to coalesce all the German states in a war against Napoleon III. Napoleon prepared for defeat only of the Prussians that would recover all or part of the Rhine frontier. Bismarck did give diplomacy a try. Russia and Italy were brought in to press their concerns with France regarding the Crimean War, the Polish Insurrection and the War of 1859. Great Britain, always concerned with French emperors named Napoleon, pressured France regarding their true intention in the persistent bone of contention, Belgium. In 1869, Spanish Liberals offered the throne of Spain to Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Catholic relative of King William I. Bismarck insisted that Leopold take the offer, knowing Napoleon would protest.
Diplomacy followed, but Bismarck spun the report to make it look as if Napoleon and his ambassador had insulted the Germans. This in turn created a scenario whereby the French felt insulted, too. It was a war premise, brazen and full of perfidy, enough to make the Gulf of Tonkin look like child’s play. Bismarck not only had his war with France, he had France declare it on July 15, 1870. Bismarck had full cooperation from the south German states. Having been in war preparation for some time, they quickly set his new nationalized army on the march. Germany won a decisive battle at Sedan on September 1-2, 1870, orchestrated a brilliant encirclement of Paris, captured Napoleon, and forced surrender by January. France ceded to Germany Alsace, except Belfort, and eastern Lorraine. They agreed that a German army might occupy northern France until it should have paid an indemnity of five billion francs. The events of Bismarck’s unification, the small wars, and the Franco-Prussian War reduced the hope that perhaps Europe had moved past war. It helped bolster the still-credible notion that war is the natural state of man.
William I became the proclaimed German emperor in a ceremony held audaciously enough at Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles. French hatred for the English was now replaced by hatred for the Germans. Bismarck became chancellor and consolidated his empire, bringing in all elements of religious and political power in the states to form legal, financial, railway and military reforms. He eventually feuded with the Catholics, and the Jesuits were expelled. Relations with the Holy See were severed. The huge war indemnity imposed on France helped have an inflationary effect on the German economy. The emergence of Marxism resulted in two attempts on William’s life in 1878. Socialism was outlawed, but as a compromise measure the country instituted national insurance. This move was meant to steal the thunder of the socialist movement. Over time socialists returned to positions within the German Reichstag, but always under minority status.
Germany became a thoroughly modern state by participating fully in the Industrial Revolution, which because of its landlocked geography and lack of natural resources created the need for colonization. Protectorates in Africa and Oceana were established in 1884 and 1885 to provide the country with raw materials, which increased not only the military, but created a thriving capitalist-style economy, turning the nation into a major power. Austria and Russia found themselves drawn to King William. The Three Emperors League was formed in 1872-73. Warmongering again reared its head, with a desire to take another bite out of France, but Bismarck squelched it.
In 1878, Bismarck sided with Austria-Hungary in a territorial dispute in the Balkans. This angered Russia and was the beginning of the dispute that would eventually lead to World War I. The Three Emperors League lapsed and was replaced by the Dual Monarchy. A few years later Italy, looking for an alliance to deal with their dispute with France over Tunis, signed on and thus was created the Triple Alliance. Bismarck did manage to revive diplomacy with Russia in the mid-1880s, but their agreements were shrouded in secrecy.
Frederick III succeeded his departed father in 1888. He had liberal sympathies. In the case of Germany, a country that tended to favor the iron fist, those liberalisms might have saved the country. But he died unexpectedly. His son, William II, was a militarist of the Bismarck influence. William was strong-willed and wanted control Germany. Bismarck used his strong military, in practice and in threat, but there is nothing to suggest that he would have advocated the Great War. However, he had set in motion the events leading to it. Now Germany was in the hands of a man who liked the military, wanted little in the way of political challenge, and apparently did not have advisors to steer him clear of major blunders. An authoritarian Reich ensued. Diplomatically William’s desire to give Germany a “place in the sun” set it on a course that could not be fully controlled.
By 1900, Germany had exceeded the industrial might of Great Britain. Under William II the population in the German Empire grew from 40 to 65 million. Foreign investment grew to $6 billion. The German merchant marine carried an enormous trade route. Strategic island purchases from the ailing Spain increased its holdings. This led the way to a powerful Navy. Diplomatically Germany had influence as far away as China and Mexico. Germany became the controlling railroad operator of Europe, and their military became one of the most powerful in the world.
Still, socialism grew in Germany. Bitter internal disputes combined with regional complaints involving Poles, Danes, and the French-German population of Alsace-Lorraine plagued the government. France, isolated by Bismarck, became a sympathetic country in alliance with Great Britain. The perceived threat of Kaiser Wilhelm, as he was now known to the world, grew. The Kaiser refused to renew the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, even though Czar Nicholas was his cousin. Rapprochement occurred between old enemies, Russia and France. Germany had favored Russia in their 1905 war with Japan, but Russia was involved in Balkan rivalry with Austria. Germany patched up its on-again, off-again relationship with the German-speaking Austria, causing further rift with Russia. Germany attempted to strengthen diplomatic ties with England, but did so in a clumsy manner. They more or less tried to bribe the British through closer ties in trade that failed to take into account British desires for a peaceful Europe.
Factional disputes arose everywhere. Italy and Austria fought a small war in 1912. The Austro-Hungarian Empire created an alliance that more or less merged their empire with the Ottoman Turks. This in turn made Turkey an ally of Germany, creating the Central Powers. Germany prevented the French from occupying Morocco in 1906. Further re-grouping of European plans occurred when the Moroccan crisis came to a head again in 1911. It was revealed that Italy would be neutral if Germany attacked France. A triple entente of Britain, France and Russia was formed to dissuade German adventurism. In 1912-13, the Balkans exploded in unrest, creating anarchy that reached out and touched all of Europe, which existed now in an “armed peace.”
German public opinion makers alarmed the citizenry with the proposal that an "iron ring" of envious powers was encircling the Fatherland, thus preventing further colonial expansion. A “secret war” against France and Russia, if such ludicrousness can be imagined, was contemplated. Rampant nationalism swept Germany and all the surrounding countries. Every economic, imperial, propagandistic and political complaint was aroused.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism