Yenning Lee Period 8 March 15, 2010 “‘Germany was responsible for the First World War’. Show how far you agree with this assertion” The First World War, starting from 1914 saw European nations of the TripleEntente and the Triple Alliance fight each other in a total war that brought upondevastating results. Weltpolitik or “World Policy”, the German foreign policy whichincluded goals for European hegemony are exhibited in Germany’s many actionsregarding its interactions with foreign nations. The September Program, a documentwhich displayed Germany’s ambitions for its control over Europe, along withaccounts of militarism, colonial rivalry and general nationalism are evidences thataccount for the argument for the blame of Germany as the cause of the First WorldWar. The September Program stated that France would be stripped of all its fundsfor military armament and must depend on Germany for economic support. Belgiumwas to become a vassal state to Germany and open up its coasts and ports for Germanmilitary use, the nation was to essentially become “economically a German province”.A central European economic association was to be created. All participating nationsin said economic association would submit to German leadership and are obligated to“stabilize Germany’s economic dominance over Mitteleuropa”. Germany’s emphasison economic control over Europe is part of their weltpolitik ideology. By being thecenter of economic activity in Europe, Germany would be able to ascend to the statusof a world power. In order to compete with Britain and France in terms of colonialreaches, the program stated that Germany was to acquire colonies in Central Africa.Additional colonies for Germany imply that Germany would be able to increase tradeand raw materials for the good of the nation. The September Program ultimatelyexhibits German ambitions for hegemony over Europe, which would explain thereasons for its actions in the events leading up to the beginning of the First WorldWar. Militarism can be accounted for the accusations of Germany’s responsibilityfor the war. Britain’s Royal Navy expansion to equal the combined size of two of
Europe’s strongest navies or the “two-power standard” created an obstacle for theGerman navy. As the Dreadnought sets out to sea, Germany needed to find a way tomatch up to Britain’s powerful navy and rise its status to a world power. AdmiralTirpitz’s plan for the “risk theory”, or strategy to increase the German navy’s sizeenough to pose a threat to Britain’s much large naval force can be seen as a plan to goto war. The German naval expansion was to keep British navy in its ports after beingdamaged in battles with German naval fleets. However, Britain needed the navy toprotect its colonies and trade routes. As much as the German navy would continue toincrease in size and power, Tirppitz’s “risk theory” would have only worked ifBritain’s navy was dispersed to protect its imperial colonies and to oppose itsenemies. Germany’s naval expenditures had created a rivalry with Britain andincreased antagonistic vies from the British to the Germans Germany’s Schlieffen plan made an assumption that had the Russians gone towar with Germany, France would be supporting Russia and the German army wouldhave to fight a war on two fronts. The plan would be for Germany to invade Francethrough Belgium, assuming the Belgians would not resist their invasion, defeat Francewithin six weeks then whip back to the Eastern front ready to fight the Russians, whowould have still been preparing for war due to its underdeveloped transportationsystem. According to the plan, Germany would have been attacking France anywayseven if it had never intended to support Russia. Germany only assumed that Francewould join in the war because of their obligations as allies, however if France hadnever intended to join the war, Germany would have been creating unnecessaryconflict. Germany however, had not considered Britain’s involvement in the war. Asthe Germans initiated the Schlieffen plan in the early outbreak of the war on August 2,1914, the Germans soon realized that they had greatly miscalculated their plans.Russia declared war and mobilized much quicker than Germany had expected,upsetting the entire plan. As German troops advanced through Belgium, they werefaced with retaliation from Belgians and Britain, bound by an age old promise toprotect Belgium became involved with the war (however, the mention of the promisemay have just been a way to justify their entry in the war). The Schlieffen plan’soffensive defense only assured Germany that the war that was to happen wouldguarantee to involve many players. Germany’s concern over the affiliation between Britain and France caused itto test their relationship during the Tangier Crisis of 1905. Although France had the
approval of Britain, Spain and Italy to impose its spheres of influence on Morocco,Kaiser Wilhelm II offered the Sultan of Morocco to prevent the French takeover.Wilhelm had no intention of helping the Moroccans but was just trying to see ifFrance would declare war on Germany and whether or not Britain would arrive to aidFrance in its conflict. The following Algeciras Conference of 1906 in Spain, itbecame clear that Britain is willing to support France in its claims over Morocco,confirming their bond with each other. War seemed to be nearing in 1911 during theAgadir Crisis in which Kaiser Wilhelm II once again interfered with Morocco. Whilethe Moroccan town of Fez came under attack from rebels, the French government sentsoldiers to soothe the issue and drive out the rebels. Seeing the act as an invasion ofMorocco, Kaiser Wilhelm felt justified to send out a warship to Agadir, a port inMorocco which was near the British navy base of Gibraltar. Alarmed by themobilization of the Germans, the British prepared themselves for war at sea. Althoughthe crisis had been averted by Germany’s withdrawal of the German Navy, the eventencouraged both Britain and Germany to intensify their naval race. By interferingwith the issues of France, Germany had only created conflict for itself against Franceand Britain and antagonized itself to the two nations. To examine the short term causes of World War One, the justification of thealliance system is an issue. Austria had only confidently took action against Serbia forthe assassination of Franz Ferdinand after Germany promised Austria that it wouldfully support its ally. Germany’s “Blank Cheque” telegram to Austria which assuredits unconditional support gave Austria the confidence to declare war on Serbia. If ithad not been for Germany’s assurance of support, Austria would not have takenaction because Austria was weak militarily and feared that Russia would come to theaid of Serbia because of its similar Slavic population. However, Germany’s BlankCheque should also be examined. Contradictory to what Germany had claimed, thetelegram did not entirely suggest unconditional support. In an extract, the documentread “as far as concerns Serbia, His Majesty [Kaiser Wilhelm II], of course cannotinterfere in the dispute now going on between Austria-Hungary and [Serbia], as it is amatter not within his competence” which clearly states that Germany did not want toinvolve itself issues between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. However, the telegramgoes on to say “The Emperor Francis Joseph…will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancientfriendship”, exhibiting that although Germany wanted nothing to do with the issue
between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, it was still obligated to go to war simplybecause Germany and Austria-Hungary were allies. However, the support betweenallies could have just been another reason to justify Germany’s willingness to go towar. German historian Fritz Fischer viewed the cause of the First World War ascompletely at Germany’s fault and said that “After eliminating France as a greatpower, excluding British influence from the Continent and thrusting Russia back,Germany purposed to establish her own hegemony over Europe”. According toFischer, Germany had its own agenda for it planned to dominate Europe as a worldpower. Germany committed its actions despite knowing all the risks of war becauseGermany had a “will to war”. On another viewpoint, American historian SidneyBradshaw Fay argued that not only was Germany to blame for the cause of the FirstWorld War, but all of Europe had equal responsibilities to the outbreak of the war, asexhibited by his quote “A European War broke out. Why? Because in each countrypolitical and military leaders did certain things, which led to mobilizations anddeclarations of war, or failed to do certain things which might have prevented them.In this sense, all the European countries, in a greater or less degree, were responsible.” Though the troubles between Austria-Hungary and the Balkans can beaccounted for the cause of the First World War, Germany’s fearful ambitions for thedomination of Europe and hostility towards The Triple Entente sparked an obviousantagonism between each other. The Schlieffen Plan had also caught the involvementof more nations because of Germany’s hasty assumptions. In conclusion, although itmay be true that all nations involved with the First World War may in one way oranother, be responsible for the outbreak of the war, it was Germany that hadintensified the hostility between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.