View Full Version : WWI, mobilization and war.
07-07-04, 09:06 PM
WWI, mobilization and war.
Here is what I consider to be a very interest take on the WWI situation:
Complicating German decision-making further--and this is hard to believe--was that the civilian politicians in Germany and the emperor did not know that the German army understood "mobilization" to be "war." For the chancellor of the German Empire and the emperor, mobilization was the final threat before war. But for the army, it was the first tep of the war: German "mobilization" called for troops to assemble and concentrate in Belgium and Luxemburg, outside of Germany's borders. The Belgian border fortress of Liege was to be occupied on the third day of mobilization; the Luxemburg railways were to be seized on the first day. Thus Germany went to war--attacked Belgian fortresses, and occupied Luxemburg--in a fit of absence of mind. The first German acts of war were undertaken by the military high command on the authority of the (political) order to mobilize. The political leadership did not declare war, they realized they were at war.
The Russians were the first to mobilize and started the cascade towards the first war, but according to this the German politicos did not want war, but Germany mistakenly went to war. This would dismiss the notion that the Germans invaded France to prevent a two front war. It was a mistake of history instead by the looks of it. So is it just me or does this totally reshape the way we look at the beginning of that war?
I don't think the author has that quite right. While the political leadership might not have realized that mobilization meant war as the German General Staff did, they nevertheless seemed to have been willing to go to war by the time mobilization began. After Austria declared war on Serbia, Russia began mobilization on 29 July, and had completed mobilization by 31 July. Germany had gambled when it backed Austria that Russia would back down, as it had in 1908 when Austria annexed a part of Serbia. But Russia was still feeling the effects of the 1905 revolution in 1908. It was different situation in 1914. But after Russia had completed mobilization Germany only gave the Russians 12 hours to begin de-mobilization, something that couldn't be done, as Germany well knew, so it seems likely that the political leadership had decided on war at that point. I do agree with the author though that to the German military mobilization was the first step of war. The Schlieffen Plan, because it called for a complete investment of forces, including reserves, on one front, and then a quick swing to a second front, meant that once mobilization was completed the war plan would have to be initiated immediately. Of course, the problem was that the plan had originally conceived of crushing France on the Western Front and then shifting to the east before Russia could mobilize. Since Russia had already mobilized the plan was already in danger (Germany siphoned off 12 divisions from the western front to the east before its objectives had been achieved). The Germans also had not counted on the British entering the war so quickly (they hoped making it look like Russia was the aggressor would keep the British out). And they also didn't take into account that the Belgians would put up a spirited resistance. And in truth, while the Schlieffen Plan was a brilliant plan, it proved impossible to provide the logistics necessary on that scale. It wouldn't be until WW2 until it was possible to provide such logistics.
07-07-04, 11:26 PM
I don't really know enough about this to know if Undecided's quote is revelatory, but I thought this was generally understood -- that Germany more or less stumbled into war without really intending to. There's also (if memory serves) the Panther incident at Agadir to consider. The Germans were pretty clumsily trying to assert themselves, and it wasn't going over very well.
I think all sides stumbled into the war in 1914. However, I think the Germans, at least the military, understood that the war would be fought at some point, and also understood that for their war plans to be successful, they would have to strike first and hard. But the Germans were not prepared for the events of the summer of 1914 that precipitated the war.
07-08-04, 03:25 PM
I do agree with the author though that to the German military mobilization was the first step of war. The Schlieffen Plan, because it called for a complete investment of forces, including reserves, on one front, and then a quick swing to a second front, meant that once mobilization was completed the war plan would have to be initiated immediately.
Ok this is the part which I found relevant, now according to my source (which is reputable) the German politicos at the top did not start the war on any grounds other then a mistake in semantics. Now Mobilization was to the politicos a first step towards escalating the war, but not to start the war itself. So if that is true, then the politicos had no direct intention of attacking France to neutralize her. To me the question arises how much does this war owe to Germany?
Ok this is the part which I found relevant, now according to my source (which is reputable) the German politicos at the top did not start the war on any grounds other then a mistake in semantics.
I have no idea one way or the other about your source since you didn't link it, but to me the problem with his/her argument is that the Germans ordered mobilization to begin on 31 July and the next day, 1 August, the German ambassador to Russia delivered the declaration of war, which hardly suggests that the political leadership was simply using mobilization as a diplomatic weapon at that point. Through the final days of July the Germans had tried to use diplomacy to keep the Brits from entering a war, since London had a 1839 treaty with Belgium, and by 31 July it was clear Britain would honor that if German forces moved into Belgium (which the Schlieffen Plan called for), so it seems clear enough to me that the German political leadership knew on that day that war was imminent. Do I think that Germany was solely to blame for the war? No. I think Germany was unfairly saddled with war debts, but still, I don't think it is correct to say that German political leadership was unaware that mobilization meant war.
07-10-04, 11:34 AM
I think all sides stumbled into the war in 1914. However, I think the Germans, at least the military, understood that the war would be fought at some point, and also understood that for their war plans to be successful, they would have to strike first and hard. Not just militarily: the German army knew that as Russia became steadily more industrialised then the logistics moved steadily against German ability to fight a long war.