The events of the years 1914 through 1918 were part of the great struggle for Europe between various groups of powers. In the political field, this struggle had already been decided against the Central Powers at the moment the war began. The only remaining solution was to try to rearrange the constellation of powers by military measures. This, however, only stiffened the political fronts even more. After the Central Powers finally succeeded in defeating one of the main adversaries by overpowering his forces and by cutting him off from his supply sources, they themselves suffered the same fate a few months later.
Finally decisive in the long and continually expanding theater of war was a major non-European power which joined in the fighting at the moment that the equilibrium of the European opponents, all of whom were exhausted, seemed to be changed in favor of the Central Powers by the elimination of Russia. This development also hastened the inner changes which accompanied the fighting on all fronts and affected all areas of life. These changes in the inner essence of the peoples involved led to a spiritual hardening, a one-sidedness and an unwillingness to compromise. All war cabinets in all countries restrained the political forces which opposed them, for the cabinets regarded the will to reach an agreement as a weakness or a sign that one was willing to submit to the will of the enemy.
The impossibility of a single nation holding out alone made the great powers depend to a certain extent on their allies. The problems of a coalition war became visible in all areas of existence and went far beyond the mere dispatch of troops and the mere payment of subsidies. In this technical era one sought to crush the adversary with war materiel produced on assembly lines; close to the mass armies at the front there were masses on the payrolls of war industry. The energies of the peoples were unleashed in an economic war which was at the same time a war for production figures as well as the securing of transportation and lines of communication.
This change in the system of war was not recognized by any nation in 1914. It was completed only during the increasingly bitter fighting and already showed something of what was to become known as "total" warfare one generation later. Yet the war from 1914 through 1918 was not a predecessor of World War II. Only with respect to