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Old 14 February 2014, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
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.
Well, there was that whole Hague Convention thing held in 1907 that specifically required neutral states to enforce their neutrality by interning any belligerent troops within their territory. Not only would Belgium have had to make a decision to effectively surrender a key part of its sovereignty, it would have also have to have been willing to surrender its status as a neutral state and effectively risk invasion and occupuation by the UK or France. You don't get to play the neutrality card after you let one belligerent's army pass through.

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.
Still, the best Germany could have hoped for was a major continental war. The fact that Britain was willing to go to war ostensibly over the neutrality of Belgium hardly changes the fact that Belgium's neutrality was violated by an invading German Army in the first place. The fault doesn't lie with the country honoring a decision to defend a neutral nation, it lies with the country invading said neutral nation.

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!).
I believe you're thinking of the Battle of Tannenberg, in which the German's were tipped off to Russian troop movements via unencrypted radio transmissions. A rookie mistake, but then just about everyone was a rookie when it came to wireless radio. It certainly wasn't the last time a country failed to fully consider the vulnerabilities inherent in an otherwise convenient new communications technology. Consider German U-boats transmitting HF radio signals for long enough to give their positions away to HF Direction Finding stations during WWII. There's an entire area of warfare concerned with these kinds of vulnerabilities (both their elimination and their exploitation) to this day.

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).
Is it another story altogether? So far all you've done is paint a picture of a Germany that made a lot of flawed assumptions that led to a catastrophic war for most of Europe. At best, you've explained that Germany was at fault for the war, but it just didn't expect for it to be such a big/bloody war. Mere criminally negligent global warfare vice per-meditated global warfare then... Which, to be fair, is perhaps a genuine difference between Germany in WWI vs. Germany in WWII.

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.
I'd say the Black Hand lit the fuse, but Germany laid out the plans for where all the charges ought to be laid and in what sequence the building should come down well before the fuse was lit. They just did a bad job of laying the charges and instead of the building coming down on France, it came down on Germany with substantial blast damage to nearby buildings over in Russia and in fact the rest of Europe.
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