Wilhelm II

Sep 2007
34
Mexico City, Mexico
It was sort of out of his hands. Things were already set in motion with alliances. He was thoroughly shackled to the interests and actions of Austro-Hungary, and it soon became apparent, as the war pressed on, that he was "shackled to a corpse."

Eric
Don't forget that Wilhelm II was also a buff of royalty, and he managed, or tried to manage, most of his foreign affairs personally, as matters concerning only to "dinasty". He exchanged letters with his cousins, the Tzar and the King of England. The relations between Prussia and the Great Britain suffered bitterly after the passing of Queen Victoria, the Kaiser's grandmother, because her successor, King Edward, was not precisely a big fan of his nephew Willy. When King Edward died, the Kaiser hoped things would be better because of the accession of his cousin to the throne; as a matter of fact, he was invited to the inauguration of Queen Victoria's monument as one of the new king's first acts.

Also we have the nature and character of the kaiser. He had had dinner with the Archduke and his wife a week before they were shot to death. He was impressed, infuriated at the nerve of the "peasants" who dared raise their hand against their "masters", and also was disappointed that the new archduke didn't rush things to supress the rebelion in the Balcans. So, even conceding that he might have not had other choice but to go to war with Austria, he wasn't really doing much to stop the events.
 
Sep 2007
34
Mexico City, Mexico
...But one thing is sure: he did make a choice as a young man ... he chose to fire his father's prime minister, Bismarck...
Actually, Bismark was his grandfather's chancellor and prime minister. ;) Kaiser William I had a long reign, but his son, Fritz, didn't last much; he had cancer in the throat, and passed away after a few months in power. So William II accessed to the throne almost immediately after the death of his grandfather.

Bismark's disgrace was that he stayed in the job for too long. He had to swallow a lot of bitter moments under William II, and when he was finally forced to resign (not fired, which is slightly different), he spent the rest of his days in his palace at Schoonhausen. When he died, William II tried to convince Bismark's son to bring his father's remains to Berlin for a state funeral, like they had just done in England to honor Queen Victoria's prime minister; but he was disappointed to know that Bismark had ordered that his body be buried in his property, and that his tombston should bear the epitaph, "A loyal servant of Kaiser William I".
 
Oct 2007
308
The "Dropping the Pilot" cartoon of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Otto von Bismarck was probably John Tenniel's most famous cartoon. Wilhelm had to go to war because of the system set up by the Triple Alliance (Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary), the Russians mobilized against Austria after the Austrians mobilized against Serbia and the French replied to the Germans that they would stand next to their national interests, i.e. the Triple Entente (Russia, Britain, and France).

Most of the states had a different obligations to various allies. Britain came into the war because in 1831, when Belgium became an independent state, they were established as permanently neutral, Germany's invasion of the countries forced Britain to war.

The Kaiser was stuck by his alliances, plus von Tirpitz believed they could counter Britain's fleet with Germany's own, and the Germans had defeated the French easily in 1870. Theodore Roosevelt, had he been president in 1914, may have been able to stop the war through diplomacy.