Note: Paul Gottfried is one of the few surviving Hapsburg loyalists who happen to be Jewish, which gives him more freedom than your average guilt-denatured modern German to point out that we were hardly innocent third parties dragged into the horror of the Great War. The Germans did no more than anyone else to send the July Crisis out of control. They were no more unpleasant in the fighting than we were. Their war aims were no more unbalanced. The war guilt clause in the Versailles Treaty was monstrous, and I hope Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George are both in the next to innermost circle of Hell – the innermost being reserved for three really wicked people, whose names I won’t mention because one of them will send the usual suspects into a frenzy.
My own belief is that the order of things before 1914 was the best of all possible worlds. And it could so easily have been maintained throughout the twentieth century by a close and trusting Anglo-German friendship. Equal, though separate and complementary, in genius, in enterprise, and in all else that makes a civilisation great, both nations had so much to gain by friendship, and so much to offer in the way of friendly guidance to the lesser nations of the world.
This being said, Paul does overlook the effect on British opinion of building a German fleet. Its only possible use was against us. It sent us into a panic. It scared us into allying with the ludicrous and declining French, and with the barbarous Russians. It allowed the devious and resentful Americans to slip the leash that kept them in the secondary status for which they have plainly always been fitted. Perhaps our response was excessive. But even a potential challenge by Germany to mastery of the seas had to be taken seriously. How would the Germans have reacted had we promised an army of three million men after 1898, and started joint military exercises along their border with the French? Because he overlooks the naval race, Paul fails to make his general case.
I think it’s best to regard the July Crisis itself as a catastrophic accident, for which no one actor can be uniquely blamed. It’s something for which whatever power you happen to be studying can be most credibly blamed. Almost every year in the two decades before 1914, there had been provocations from one great power or another. All were stupid. None wanted a general war.
Oh, and what makes it seem even more accidental is that, after 1912, Anglo-German relations were on the mend. The Germans had given up on the naval race, and would have been wholly out of it after 1916. The two countries worked amicably together to limit the scope of the Balkan War. If the crisis could have been delayed even another year, there might have been a war in Eastern Europe – but I see no reason why there would have been British involvement.
The Germans would probably have seen off the Russians in this war. But, let’s face it, so long as they aren’t wearing really sexy uniforms, when was German domination of Central and Eastern Europe ever such a bad thing?
I suppose I might also mention that this case is made at greater length in my novel, The Churchill Memorandum, which is currently on special offer via Amazon. SIG Continue reading