(EUROPE'S SLIDE to WAR – continued)

home | 1901-WW2 Index

EUROPE'S SLIDE to WAR (5 of 5)

previous | next

Finding Blame

Soon tons of paper would be consumed in declaring innocence and blame regarding the war's origins. Franz Joseph was blamed for having given his approval to war against Serbia. Germany's army was accused of pushing Germany into a preventive war. Bethmann-Hollweg's predecessor as chancellor, Prince von Bülow, was upset that Germany had made itself appear as the aggressor, and he found fault in Bethmann-Hollweg giving Austria-Hungary a blank check to do as it pleased against Serbia. And he found fault in Bethmann-Hollweg believing that a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia would remain localized.

Fault was found with the British government's failure to notify Germany early in the crisis that it would go to war on the side of France and Russia. The British were accused of supporting France and Russia because they feared Germany as a growing power and wanted to contain or cripple Germany. Raymond Poincaré and the French were blamed for encouraging Russia, for wanting to win back Alsace and Lorraine, and for wanting war while circumstances were right. Russia was blamed for its hostility to Germany, for drawing its gun first, by mobilizing, against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Some would conclude that imperialism was the cause of the war. Some would see capitalism as having inevitably led to war. Some would blame autocracy. And a few would blame the war ultimately on Satan, some of them seeing Satan as having invaded the body of Wilhelm.

People didn't fear war as much as they would after the war. A common misunderstanding of what the war would be like can also be blamed. The war would be a disaster for vanquished and victor alike and that was not understood. None of Europe's leaders was properly restrained by an awareness that going to war would be a disaster for his nation.

Nations go to war expecting to win – especially when they believe God is on their side. Following Franz Joseph's launching his war against Serbia other European powers failed to serve their interest through diplomacy and compromise. Each nation believed that it was acting in its interest, but the gods were not telling them what that interest was. The war was foremost a product of naivete that interfered with diplomacy and compromise.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

  W.B. Yeats, 1919


Helmuth von Moltke and the origins of the First World War, by Annika Mombauer, 2001

Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed, Chapters 1~6, 2009

The Road to Sarajevo, by Vladimir Dedijer, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1966

The Russian Origins of the First World War, by Sean McMeekin, 2011

The Kaiser, by Virginia Cowles, 1963

The Romanovs, by Virginia Cowles, 1971

Kaiser Wilhelm II, by

Alfted von Tirpitz and German Right-Wing Politics, 1914-1930, by Raffael Scheck, 1998

The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan, 1962

The Pity of War, by Naill Ferguson, 2006

The First World War: A Complete History, by Martin Gilbert, 1996

Francis Ferdinand, by Bartleby.com, http://www.bartleby.com/65/fr/FrancisF.html

The German Chancellor's view of the Origins of World War I. His "scrap of paper" comment. Posted by First World War.com, http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/scrapofpaper2.htm

"Who Began the War and Why," The New York Times, Current History, 1915

Additional Reading

Who wanted war? The origin of the war according to dipolmatic documents, by E. Durkheim and E. Denis (Frenchmen), 1915

Germany Above All (über alles), by Émile Durkheim, 1915 (narrow)

1913: In Search of the World before the Great War, Charles Emmerson, 2013

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.