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Old 14 February 2014, 04:57 PM
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Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
 
Join Date: 13 February 2003
Location: Phoenix, AZ
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But again, the reality of the treaties was that if Germany attacked Russia - or, more likely, if France attacked Germany - then they would have had to have fought on two sides. This wasn't necessarily a choice for them.

This is only tangential to the original bit we were talking about, but it seems to me that Germany suffered from what I see as three strokes of slightly bad to really bad luck in August of 1914. First, the fact that the Low Countries decided not to let them through. I'd say the chances were less than 50/50 but better than zero that Belgium et al might have decided to allow Germany to march through their territories; indeed, this was one of the things that the Schlieffen Plan kind of depended on. Second, Britain's guarantee of Belgium was pretty far and away the weakest part of the setup: Germany actually had the bloodlines that stood in place of strict diplomatic ties in those days with England which were at least as strong as Russia's, and Belgium itself was neither a particularly powerful nor particularly traditional country. In the end, Britain decided to honor their guarantee, but in spite of what actually happened this was hardly a sure thing.

The third bit was that Russia mobilized far, far more quickly than anyone in Germany anticipated. In one sense this turned out to be a blessing in disguise for them, as the Russians were disorganized and were basically asking for someone to trounce them (if memory serves, they were sending battle plans across the Eastern Front via open telegraph lines, not even bother to encrypt their messages!). However, this still forced von Moltke to send troops to the East instead of sticking to the Schlieffen Plan (which IMO was doomed to failure as soon as the Belgians fought back and the BEF stayed on the continent, but that's another story altogether).

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Anyway, to the original question, I agree that the fact that Germany was, in the end, something like the initial aggressor (although I still say that on the West this is a largely semantic argument) grants them the plurality of the blame for starting the conflict. I think that a good deal of the blame still has to be apportioned to Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, and Britain as well. I'd say that the single largest "cause" was the situation that Europe found itself in, where several political leaders had been assassinated in the previous 20 years and several large political movements (communism, anarchism, and a more parochial form of nationalism being the big 3) and, without a war, there would have almost certainly been many political upheavals and civil war (as it was, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany, and to some extent Turkey all saw their governments fall during or just after the Great War).

Germany lit the fuse, or at least was the last person in the room who could have put it out. That doesn't mean they put the bombs underneath Parliament.
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