Was it a mistake for Germany not to wait unil 1917 and beyond to fight a World War?

Was it a mistake for Germany not to wait unil 1917 and beyond to fight a World War?

  • Yes

  • No


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Jan 2010
4,417
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#21
My reading of history is closer to that of Jaap: i don’t think anyone wanted a European war in 1914, and I don’t think Germany had determined to fight a war sometime. I have seen no evidence for this.

I do think Austria bears more of a burden than Jaap believes. I’d say Serbia and Austria bore responsibility in the first instance, then Russia and France who had been urging Serbia on. Germany was saddled with Austria as an ally (‘handcuffed to a corpse” as I have read).

Nevertheless, I voted “yes” because I feel Germany would have been better off if the War had broken out in 1917.
 
Likes: Futurist

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,714
Stockport Cheshire UK
#22
One would have wondered what France would have done had Germany not invaded Belgium and had France still gotten mauled at the Battle of the Frontiers, though.
Indeed, but the French government had told their military that on no account were they to violate Belgium neutrality before Germany had done so.
1914: The Schlieffen Plan -v- Plan XVII
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,703
SoCal
#24
My reading of history is closer to that of Jaap: i don’t think anyone wanted a European war in 1914, and I don’t think Germany had determined to fight a war sometime. I have seen no evidence for this.
What we do know is that Bethmann-Hollweg complained about Russia's growing industrial, economic, and military power--viewing it as a nightmare.

I do think Austria bears more of a burden than Jaap believes. I’d say Serbia and Austria bore responsibility in the first instance, then Russia and France who had been urging Serbia on. Germany was saddled with Austria as an ally (‘handcuffed to a corpse” as I have read).
Germany could have refrained from giving Austria-Hungary a blank check, though.

Nevertheless, I voted “yes” because I feel Germany would have been better off if the War had broken out in 1917.
For the reasons that I stated in my original post here?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,703
SoCal
#27
None of the above. I think the question is a bit misleading. Germany did not start the World War, they simply were under treaty obligations.
Germany could have avoided giving A-H a blank check, though. Granted, I will admit that Kaiser Bill might have done this without the belief that it was going to trigger a general European war, but it was still a mistake if one's goal was to avoid a general European war.

If anyone really started it, it would be the Russians & the Serbs.
The Serbian Black Hand had killed the Austrian Crown-Prince in a premeditated terrorist attack, and that organization was merely a (no so secret) extension of the Serbian secret service. That means that Austria's reaction towards Serbia was both legal, to be expected and quite understandable. Austria made demands to Serbia via an ultimatum, which was refused and Austria shelled Belgrade.
AFAIK, the Austrian ultimatum was:

1. Unduly harsh.
2. Meant to be rejected.

@pugsville previously said that A-H declared war on Serbia even before it actually read Serbia's reply to this ultimatum.

People could have left it at that but the Russians decided it was wise to stick with their Serbian allies and mobilized their forces, although they had no hope in hell of ever winning against Austria plus it's main ally: Germany. Most countries were full of themselves, all thought they could easily defeat most others... I do not think that the Russians were even really thinking that they actually might need their allies. Or maybe they did, but were sure that the French would jump into action with the prospect of once more occupying Alsace-Lorraine, which may explain the Russian actions better.
Of course this left the Austrians and Germans with little other options than to mobilize as well. The Germans demanded the Russians to demobilize, but they didn't.
Again the Russians could have backed down, but did not do so. At the end of the ultimatum the Russians hadn't demobilized, so Germany declared war on the 1st of August.
I do agree that Russia could have avoided deescalation by demobilizing. Of course, it would have also been nice if Britain would have announced that it would get involved in the war if Germany invades Belgium. AFAIK, Bethmann-Hollweg actually did make a half-assed attempt to restrain Austria after he realized that British entry into the oncoming Great War was likely.

France mobilized the next day, in support of Russia. They did not declare war yet, but didn't have to. The Germans and Austrians could not demobilize until and unless Russia did so, and they clearly had no intention of doing so.
Ergo logically the only option left was war with Russia. The French mobilization clearly showed that they intended to keep themselves to their treaty obligations, hence war with Germany and Austria. As a result on that same day (August 2nd) Germany demanded from Belgium passage through Belgium in order to attack France, which was refused. That same day French forces were moving towards Germany and German forces moved into Luxembourg (which had no army of any consequence). The next day (August 3rd) Germany declared war on France and on the 4th they declared war against and invaded Belgium.
Because of that Belgium invoked their treaty with the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom declared war with Germany on the 4th of August.

And the rest, so they say, is history.
Germany should have refrained from invading Belgium. At least that way Britain could have stayed out of the war--at least according to @redcoat. Anyway, I will say that Germany wasn't completely to blame for the outbreak of the Great War at the very end (ex. Russia refusing to demobilize), but it nevertheless made a huge blunder with the blank check to Austria-Hungary at the start of the July Crisis.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,647
Australia
#28
Germany could have avoided giving A-H a blank check, though.
Maybe, but given the already festering tensions I doubt Russia would have wanted any form of negotated settlement. Neither they nor anyone else thought through the consequences. What should have been a localised war in the Balkans Between AH and Serbia simply spiraled out of control.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,703
SoCal
#29
Maybe, but given the already festering tensions I doubt Russia would have wanted any form of negotated settlement. Neither they nor anyone else thought through the consequences. What should have been a localised war in the Balkans Between AH and Serbia simply spiraled out of control.
There wouldn't have been even a localized war in the Balkans without the German blank check, though.
 
Jan 2017
1,216
Durham
#30
I voted Yes. Germany was gambling on a quick victory in the West in 1914 and didn't know what to do when it failed to achieve this goal. It lucked out a bit when Russia descended into revolution, but as a result of Britain and the US being in the war, Germany never managed to win on the Western Front and instead ultimately lost as a result of being overwhelmed by the Western Allies. In turn, had Germany wanted until 1917 or beyond to fight a World War, Germany would have very likely not had to fight against either Britain or the US (the Schlieffen Plan would have become outdated by 1917 and thus Britain would have likely remained neutral, and without Britain, the US almost certainly likewise remains neutral). This would have significantly boosted Germany's chances in any World War--even if it would have had to fight against a stronger Russia. British and US participation was ultimately what doomed Germany in WWI in real life and IMHO it would have probably taken Russia a long time for it to become powerful enough to compensate for the lack of British and US allies in an alt-WWI that would have broken out in 1917 or later.

In a later WWI, Germany would not have had any hope of winning a quick victory. However, it would have been in a very good position to win a long war--something that would have still been true even if Hungary would have refused to renew its union with Austria and would have instead allied with France and Russia.

Speaking of which, it's possible that British and US participation in WWII likewise titled the balance of power against Germany in that war as well.

Anyway, any thoughts on this?
I wouldn't agree.

There was a lot more to our entry than a guarantee given to Belgium. Britain and France were business partners who had arrived at an arrangement, and it follows it wasn't in our interests to see France crushed. Belgium was the tool to convince the waverers, but I think Britain would have entered the war regardless - on the side of France.

Also, Russia's army would have been stronger by 1917.

If anything, Germany left it too late. In the 10 year period prior to 1914, both the Russian and French armies grew stronger, and the alliances between France and Russia, and Britain and France, were strengthened; and so France was bound to come to the aid of Russia, due to financial ties, and Britain was bound to come to the aid of France, due to a business arrangement.

Ultimately, Germany was right to be paranoid, but should have either gone for broke earlier than 1914, or just sat it out and hoped for one of these alliances to break down.
 

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