THE PLANS OF SCHLIEFFEN
AUNIFORMED MAN was ushered into the room. It was an exclusive gathering of turn-of-the-century, Berlin high society. The feathered ladies, wives of top officials from the Foreign Ministry and Reich Chancellery, were dressed as if they expected the kaiser to appear. The men were attired formally and stiffly, as befitted their station in life and the state. As civilians, however, they lacked the status, the rank, and the eye-opening excitement of the elder man who walked in. It was not the emperor, but everyone knew that when Europe exploded, when mounting tensions forced a new martial resettling of European relations, when war brought the reordering of the continent that would finally give Germany its due, Alfred von Schlieffen, chief of the Great General Staff, would again guide Germany's men to victory. It was unquestioned.
Schlieffen's receding hair, elongated ears, and chiseled features marked him as an old and serious man. His subordinates would later talk about his legendary intensity. When one pointed out the beauty of a valley during a staff ride, he would say coldly that it was only a minor obstacle for his army. When juniors received an operational problem on Christmas Eve, answers were due on Christmas Day. Schlieffen was a dogmatist, a doctrinaire, and a theoretist. His dogma was the offensive; his doctrine was envelopment; and his operational theories, tested by loyal professionals, were developed to reproduce glories as great as Waterloo, Königgrätz, and Sedan. 1