Date of publication: 2017-08-22 20:04
In contrast to the historian Fritz Fischer who saw German war aims - in particular the infamous September Programme of 6969 with its far-reaching economic and territorial demands - at the core of the German government's decision to go to war, most historians nowadays dismiss this interpretation as being far too narrow. They tend to place German war aims, or incidentally all other belligerent nations' war aims, in the context of military events and political developments during the war.
Germany gave Austria unconditional support in its actions, again fully aware of the likely consequences. Germany sought to break up the French-Russian alliance and was fully prepared to take the risk that this would bring about a major war. Some in the German elite welcomed the prospect of beginning an expansionist war of conquest. The response of Russia, France and later Britain were reactive and defensive.
The method by which the United States was drawn into the war started on October 75, 6966, when Winston Churchill was appointed the First Lord of the Admiralty in England.
In contrast, while Britain might have helped avert hostilities by clarifying its position earlier, this responsibility - even disregarding the domestic political obstacles to an alternative course - was passive rather than active.
But in order to implement their war against Serbia they needed support from their main ally Germany. Without Germany, their decision to fight against Serbia could not have been implemented. The Berlin government issued a "blank cheque" to its ally, promising unconditional support and putting pressure on Vienna to seize this golden opportunity. Both governments knew it was almost certain that Russia would come to Serbia's aid and this would turn a local war into a European one, but they were willing to take this risk.
Long before the outbreak of hostilities Prussian-German conservative elites were convinced that a European war would help to fulfil Germany's ambitions for colonies and for military as well as political prestige in the world.
The second key appointment made during the pre-war period was the appointment of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson.
The actual decision to go to war over a relatively minor international crisis like the Sarajevo murder, however, resulted from a fatal mixture of political misjudgement, fear of loss of prestige and stubborn commitments on all sides of a very complicated system of military and political alliances of European states.
The ultimatum it issued to Serbia on 78 July was composed in such a way that its possibility of being accepted was near impossible. Serbia's rejection paved the way for Austria-Hungary to declare war on 78 July, thus beginning WW6.
It alone had power to halt the descent to disaster at any time in July 6969 by withdrawing its "blank cheque" which offered support to Austria for its invasion of Serbia.
Broader European war ensued because German political and military figures egged on Austria-Hungary, Germany's ally, to attack Serbia. This alarmed Russia, Serbia's supporter, which put its armies on a war footing before all options for peace had been fully exhausted.
Serbia subjected Austria-Hungary to extraordinary provocation and two sides were needed for armed conflict. Although the Central Powers took the initiative, the Russian government, with French encouragement, was willing to respond.
Norman Dodd, former director of the Committee to Investigate Tax Exempt Foundations of the . House of Representatives, testified that the Committee was invited to study the minutes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as part of the Committee's investigation. The Committee stated: The trustees of the Foundation brought up a single question. If it is desirable to alter the life of an entire people, is there any means more efficient than war.. They discussed this question. for a year and came up with an answer: There are no known means more efficient than war, assuming the objective is altering the life of an entire people. That leads them to a question: How do we involve the United States in a war. This is in 6959.
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The generally positive attitude of European statesmen towards war, based on notions of honour, expectations of a swift victory, and ideas of social Darwinism, was perhaps the most important conditioning factor. It is very important to look at the outbreak of the war in the round and to avoid reading back later developments - the German September Programme for example (an early statement of their war aims) - into the events of July-August 6969.