Ten

WAR WITHOUT VICTORY

WILHELM II's generals had an easy time keeping him in good cheer as long as the news on the western front was favorable, for that theater of operations was always of more concern to him than was the east. It was the war in France, and particularly the fate of the British forces opposing his own army, that electrified Wilhelm. The struggle against Tsar Nicholas II's huge military machine did not interest him nearly so much, for that, in his opinion, was essentially Austria's war. 1 The Kaiser's emphasis on the western front reflected the strategic planning of the General Staff, which from 1897 had developed the "Schlieffen Plan," named after General Count Alfred von Schlieffen, chief of the General Staff from 1891 to 1905, which had envisioned the two-front war that Germany now found itself fighting. Schlieffen's tactic called for a lightning blow against France, one in which speed would be the essential factor. This would necessitate passage through neutral Belgium, and it was this maneuver that had made Britain enter the war. This was a dangerous but necessary development because the German strategists were certain that once the Kaiser's armies had moved through Belgium into France the war would soon be brought to a victorious conclusion. France would sue for peace when, within a matter of a few weeks, a pincers movement would engulf Paris, one arm moving to the north, seizing Calais, and then sweeping south to attack Paris from the west and the other arm driving through eastern France, crossing the Marne, and descending on the capital from the east. Once Paris fell to the Germans, French resistance would collapse, and the British would be unwilling to continue the war alone. With a victorious peace achieved on the western front, the German army could then wheel eastward and inflict a similar defeat on the Russians.

Once the war began, the plan was set into motion, and for a week in August 1914 it appeared that the long years of technical planning would yield precisely the rapid victory that Schlieffen had envisioned and of which both General Helmuth von Moltke and the Kaiser were confident. 2 Before the war began, Wilhelm had frequently told Sir Edward Grey,

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