Ch 16 Origins of the World War

CH.16-ORIGINS OF THE WORLD WAR

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CHAPTER XVI: ORIGINS OF THE WORLD WAR

SECTION 2: TRIPLE ALLIANCE, TRIPLE ENTENTE

 

DURING THE 19th CENTURY, BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY WAS TO AVOID CLOSE RELATIONS ON THE BASIS OF ‘INSPIRED BAGMAN’ - THE MAN WITH GOODS TO SELL AND COLONIAL AGGRESSION.

IN THE 20th CENTURT, THIS POLICY WAS ABANDONED IN FAVOUR OF A POLICY OF LINKING WITH ONE OF THE TWO GREAT GROUPS OF EUROPE.

THE STORY GOES BACK TO 1870, WHEN FRANCE WAS DEFEATED BY PRUSSIA.

THE FIELD WAS OCCUPIED BY FOUR MAIN POWERS:  GERMANY, RUSSIA, FRANCE AND AUSTRIA/HUNGARY, WITH ITALY A POOR FIFTH.

AFTER THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR IN WHICH GERMANY ANNEXED ALSACE AND LORRAINE AND EXACTED A HEAVY WAR INDEMNITY, RELATIONS BETWEEN THESE TWO POWERS WERE UNIFORMILY HOSTILE.

THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR BISMARK WISHED TO MAINTAIN AN ALLIANCE WITH AUSTRIA AND RUSSIA, AND HE DID SO WHEN ITALY JOINED.

WITH THE POWERS DEEPLY COMMITTED TO OPPOSING POLICIES IN SOUTH EAST EUROPE, BISMARK’S FALL LED TO A MILITARY ALLIANCE BETWEEN FRANCE AND RUSSIA.

FRANCE’S 20 YEAR ISOLATION ENDED, BUT RUSSIA WAS LESS EFFECTIVE THAN HER SIZE AND MANPOWER DUE TO INEFFICIENCY AND CORRUPTION WITHIN THE RUSSIAN STATE.

BRITAIN HAD REMAINED AN OUTSIDER, ALTHOUGH THE TORIES FAVOURED AN ANGLO-GERMAN AGREEMENT IN 1890 BECAUSE THEY WERE THE PARTY OF COLONIALISM AND FREQUENTLY ENCOUNTERED FRENCH OPPOSITION.

IT WAS THE LAST OF THESE COLONIAL SPATES THAT WERE THE BEGINNINGS OF THE ANGLO- FRENCH ENTENTE.

FRANCE WAS HUMILIATED AT FASHODA IN 1899, AND THIS CONVINCED THE FRENCH THAT THEY WERE IMPOTENT AGAINST GERMANY AND BRITAIN. IN FACT, THEY WERE FORCED TO DECIDE WHO THEY WOULD HAVE AS AN ENEMY.

BRITAIN HAD TO CONTEND WITH THE BOER WAR AND ALSO LOOKED ISOLATED.

FIRST, GERMANY WAS APPROACHED BY BRITAIN, BUT SHE PUT TOO HIGH A PRICE FOR HER FRIENDSHIP.

NEGOTIATIONS ENDED IN A TORRENT OF ABUSE FROM PRESS AND POLITICANS ON BOTH SIDES, AND THE WAY FOR AN ALLIANCE WITH FRANCE WAS NOW CLEARED.

THERE WAS A SACRIFICIAL LAMB. MOROCCO’S MINERAL WEALTH WAS IT.

IN 1904, FRANCE RECOGNISED THE ‘SPECIAL INTERESTS’ OF BRITAIN IN EGYPT, WHILE BRITAIN PROMISED FRANCE A FREE HAND IN MOROCCO.

SO MUCH WAS STATED, BUT WHAT WAS IMPLIED WAS THAT EITHER COUNTRY WOULD GIVE THE OTHER FULLEST SUPPORT AGAINST A THIRD POWER ATTEMPTING TO CLAIM EGYPT OR MOROCCO.

THIS CAME INTO PLAY IN 1911, WHEN FRANCE ‘CREATED’ DISORDER IN MOROCCO WITH AN EXCUSE TO INVADE AND SEIZE FEZ, THE CAPITAL.

GERMANY HAD DEMANDED COMPENSATION IN FRENCH CONGO AND BACKED THIS BY SENDING GUNBOATS TO AGADIR.

BRITAIN MADE IT CLEAR THROUGH THE ONE TIME PACIFIST LLOYD GEORGE THAT FRANCE WOULD BE SUPPORTED TO THE POINT OF WAR.

AS NEITHER SIDE WAS READY FOR WAR, A COMPROMISE WAS REACHED.

GERMANY LOST OUT WITH A SMALLER PIECE OF FRENCH CONGO, AND FRANCE KEPT MOROCCO.

GERMANY WAS BECOMING MORE HOSTILE AND RELATIONS SOURED. HER NAVY’S EXPANSION BEGAN IN 1895, AND BRITAIN RETALIATED.

BRITAIN’S MEDITERRANEAN FLEET WAS MOVED TO THE NORTH SEA AND WAS REPLACED BY THE FRENCH NAVY.

LORD FISHER URGED FOR THE GERMAN NAVY TO BE ‘COPENHAGENED’: SURPRISED AND DESTROYED IN ITS HOME PORTS.

THE REPORT WAS LEAKED AND DID LITTLE TO CONVINCE GERMANY OF BRITAIN’S PEACEFUL INTENTIONS.

TWO YEARS LATER IN 1906, DREADNOUGHT CARRYING 12 x 12 INCH GUNS WAS LAUNCHED, MAKING ALL OTHER BATTLESHIPS WITH FOUR INCH GUNS OBSOLETE.

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT PROPOSED TO BUILD FOUR, BUT CONSTRUCTION FELL SHORT.

IN 1909, AN AGITATION SLOGAN “WE WANT EIGHT AND WE WON’T WAIT” WAS SUCCESSFUL IN SECURING MORE GOVERNMENT ACTION.

NORTHCLIFFE’S GUTTER PRESS, THE DAILY MAIL, WORKED UP AN INVASION SCARE, WHICH WAS EFFECTIVE, DESPITE IT FLYING IN THE FACE OF EVERY POLITICAL AND MILITARY POSSIBILITY.

ARMAMENT FIRMS HAD A FIELD DAY BY DELIBERATELY CIRCULATING COMPLETELY UNFOUNDED AND UNTRUE HORRIFYING DETAILS OF GERMAN NAVAL CONSTRUCTION.

THE SCARE RESULTED IN INCEASED NAVAL SPENDING AND ADVANCED THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PREPARATION FOR WAR ON BOTH SIDES OF THE NORTH SEA.

LORD HALDANE INITIATED THE OVERHAUL OF THE BRITISH ARMY. TERRITORIALS WERE SUBSTITUTED FOR THE RESERVE FORCE, THE ‘VOLUNTEERS’, AND A FORCE OF 100,000 WAS READIED FOR IMMEDIATE SERVICE IN FRANCE.

HOWEVER, THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT REFUSED TO CONCLUDE AN ALLIANCE. BUT BRITISH AND FRENCH GENERALS HAD OTHER IDEAS.

BY 1905, AN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE PLAN HAD BEEN DRAWN UP SECRETLY BY THE CABINET.

THIS WAS A STRIKING EXAMPLE OF THE WAY THE BUREAUCRATIC MACHINE IN A MODERN CAPITALIST STATE BECOMES INDEPENDENT OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS, WHICH ARE SUPPOSED TO CONTROL IT.

THE TIE UP WAS COMPLETED BY AN EVEN MORE SECRET BINDING NAVAL AGREEMENT. THE BRITISH AND FRENCH NAVIES UNDERTOOK TO ‘LOOK AFTER’ THE OTHER’S INTERESTS.

THIS AGREEMENT OBVIOUSLY MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR BRITAIN NOT TO TAKE PART IN ANY WAR BETWEEN FRANCE AND GERMANY.

AN UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN BRITAIN AND RUSSIA TOOK LONGER TO ACHIEVE.

THINGS WERE COMPLICATED BY BRITAIN’S ALLIANCE WITH JAPAN AND STRAINED RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA AND BRITAIN OVER THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR. THE POSSIBILITY OF RUSSIA SIDING WITH GERMANY SEEMED LIKELY.

YET, THE BRITISH ALLIANCE WITH JAPAN MADE IT EASIER FOR BRITAIN TO COME TO TERMS WITH RUSSIA.

RUSSIA HAD BEEN WEAKENED, AND THE 1905 REVOLUTION MADE HER LESS FEARED.

FRANCE WAS THE GO-BETWEEN FOR TSARIST RUSSIA AND LONDON. A LOAN WAS SUGGESTED TO HELP STAMP OUT THE REVOLUTION.

ANGLO- RUSSIAN ENTENTE WAS CONCLUDED IN 1907, WHEN EDWARD VII AND TSAR NICOLAS MET AT REVEL TO CEMENT THE ALLIANCE.

EDWARD DESERVES A MENTION AS A SYMBOLIC FIGURE: THE PERFECTLY ROUNDED AND TYPICAL MONARCH OF THE NEW ERA OF MONOPOLY CAPITALISM.

IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO SAY IF HIS STRONG FRENCH SYMPATHIES WERE THE RESULT OF PARIS BEING A PLEASURE CENTRE OR DUE TO HIS MONEYLENDING ACTIVITIES. HIS BEHAVIOUR HAS HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE: A MAN OF VULGAR REPUTATIONS AND CASH.

HE EVEN ARRANGED FURTHER SECRET LOANS TO RUSSIA BEYOND HIS OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DUTIES AT REVEL.

THE ENTENTE NEEDED A SACRIFICIAL VICTIM. IT WAS PERSIA.

BY A TREATY SIGNED IN 1907, BRITAIN AND RUSSIA GUARANTEED THE INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRITY OF PERSIA, DIVIDING IT INTO THREE ZONES: NORTH TO RUSSIA, SOUTH EAST TO BRITAIN AND THE CENTRE A NEUTRAL ZONE.

IN 1909, A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION TOOK PLACE IN PERSIA. THE SHAH WAS DEPOSED, AND A GENUINE EFFORT WAS MADE TO INTRODUCE ORDER AND GOOD GOVERNMENT.

THE PERSIAN OVERLORDS, TOGETHER WITH RUSSIAN AND BRITISH TROOPS, WENT TO ‘RESTORE ORDER’ AND THE SHAH AND GAIN THE BLESSINGS OF EUROPEAN DOMINATION.

AS IN THE CASE OF MOROCCO, THE PARTITIONING OF PERSIA WAS TO KEEP THE GERMANS OUT.

HOWEVER, UP TO THIS POINT NEITHER BRITAIN NOR RUSSIA HAD TERRITORIAL CONFICTS WITH GERMANY, BUT ONE THING WAS NEEDED TO SET THE FUSE ALIGHT.

GERMANY HAD FAILED IN THE EARLIER COLONIAL RACE AND WAS ATTEMPTING TO STAKE OUT THE ‘NEAR EAST’. THE TURKISH DECAY MADE THE AREA ONE HUGE DANGER ZONE FROM BOSNIA TO BAGDAD.

THE ASSASSINATION AT SARAJEVO WAS IN A SENSE AN ACCIDENT, BUT IT WAS NO ACCIDENT THAT THE WHOLE CHAIN OF EVENTS FROM 1908 TO 1914 WAS ROOTED IN THIS AREA.

HERE, APART FROM FRANCE, ALL THE GREAT POWERS HAD AN INTEREST IN THE SAVAGE LITTLE STATES THAT HAD ARISEN ON THE FRINGE OF THE TURKISH EMPIRE AND WHICH HAD PROVED EXCELLENT INSTRUMENTS OF IMPERIALIST POLICY.

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