In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

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Futurist
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In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 15 Sep 2020 00:14

In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905? In his two books, Adolf Hitler actually discusses this topic on a couple of occasions and appears to conclude that this was indeed a mistake on Germany's part:

https://archive.org/details/meinkampf03 ... 2up?q=1904

https://archive.org/details/ZweitesBuch ... 2up?q=1904

https://archive.org/details/ZweitesBuch ... 2up?q=1904

The logic behind such a move would have been that if Germany would have been encircled by an alliance of hostile enemy powers, then it should try to break out of this encirclement at the most pristine and opportune moment--as in, when its enemies are the weakest. This was in 1904-1905, when Russia was busy fighting Japan and also busy dealing with a revolution on the home front. In such a scenario, Germany could have had a largely free hand in a war against France (and, if necessary, Britain) in the West and then could have turned East to crush Russia once France would have been defeated. In such a scenario, of course, the only risk for Germany would have been the lack of a Haber process--which wasn't created and/or commercialized until the 1910s. So, if this alt-WWI will last more than a couple of years, Germany might have very well run out of munitions and thus been incapable of continuing this war--though I suppose that this problem could have been mitigated to some extent by Germany's ability to loot French and/or Russian munition supplies in the French and/or Russian territories that it would have occupied during this alt-WWI.

Anyway, what do you personally think about this question of mine? In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to seek war in 1904-1905 when it was the strongest relative to its enemies France and (especially) Russia? Adolf Hitler was certainly a vile piece of scum, but I can't help wonder if he actually had a valid point on this specific issue.

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Sep 2020 12:03

In terms of 19th Century 'Limited War' doctrine it may have been a mistake. In terms of the reality of extended war or total war & the attendant economic and social destruction avoiding war was the better course.

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by maltesefalcon » 15 Sep 2020 17:52

IMHO this would not spark a large scale European war as in 1914.
Austria Hungary had no axe to grind with France and their forces were not up to the standards of France or Germany in any case.
And what would they gain by helping Germany to conquer France?

Japan was busy with Russia. There is no reason to believe Italy would join in with Germany either. IRL they did not get into WW! until 1915.

So it would be France vs Germany. Possibly UK, if Belgium invaded and/or Germany begins to crush France so badly that the balance of power is disturbed. UK may only use its navy to blockade Germany if they got involved.

The form of war would be vastly different obviously. There would be no air war, and motor vehicles would be rare as well. So movements via horse/train/foot power. No Dreadnaughts yet either.

I think the bigger question is would the gamble be worth it? France would need to be crushed utterly and fully occupied to end any threat of the French military in the foreseeable future. Did Germany have the means to do this in 1905? Did they have the diplomatic currency to get away with it without sanctions from other nations? Did they even have the political will to do so? (IIRC Wilhelm II only mobilized in 1914 to assist AH and was hesitant to do so until the 11th hour.)

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Sep 2020 18:20

maltesefalcon wrote:
15 Sep 2020 17:52

I think the bigger question is would the gamble be worth it? France would need to be crushed utterly and fully occupied to end any threat of the French military in the foreseeable future. Did Germany have the means to do this in 1905? Did they have the diplomatic currency to get away with it without sanctions from other nations? Did they even have the political will to do so? (IIRC Wilhelm II only mobilized in 1914 to assist AH and was hesitant to do so until the 11th hour.)
Possibly not. Recalling the rough OB of 1905 this would have been before Germany converted its second tier reserve regiments from a pool of replacements into operational field corps with actual tactical capabilities. So the operational field armies would have been much more even. Roughly 22-24 corps vs approx 20 French corps of similar size and firepower.

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 15 Sep 2020 22:26

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Sep 2020 12:03
In terms of 19th Century 'Limited War' doctrine it may have been a mistake. In terms of the reality of extended war or total war & the attendant economic and social destruction avoiding war was the better course.
Would a general European war in 1904-1905 be more similar to a 19th century "limited war" or to our TL's WWI?

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 15 Sep 2020 22:28

maltesefalcon wrote:
15 Sep 2020 17:52
IMHO this would not spark a large scale European war as in 1914.
Austria Hungary had no axe to grind with France and their forces were not up to the standards of France or Germany in any case.
And what would they gain by helping Germany to conquer France?
What about if Russia were to attack Germany in defense of its French ally? Would Austria-Hungary then feel compelled to intervene on the German side in this war?
Japan was busy with Russia. There is no reason to believe Italy would join in with Germany either. IRL they did not get into WW! until 1915.
If France is on the verge of falling, though, Italy might want some territorial spoils at France's expense.
So it would be France vs Germany. Possibly UK, if Belgium invaded and/or Germany begins to crush France so badly that the balance of power is disturbed. UK may only use its navy to blockade Germany if they got involved.
Russia could also intervene to protect its French ally even if it's still busy simultaneously fighting Japan and dealing with a revolution on the home front, no? Or would that be too risky for Russia?
The form of war would be vastly different obviously. There would be no air war, and motor vehicles would be rare as well. So movements via horse/train/foot power. No Dreadnaughts yet either.
Yep.
I think the bigger question is would the gamble be worth it? France would need to be crushed utterly and fully occupied to end any threat of the French military in the foreseeable future. Did Germany have the means to do this in 1905? Did they have the diplomatic currency to get away with it without sanctions from other nations? Did they even have the political will to do so? (IIRC Wilhelm II only mobilized in 1914 to assist AH and was hesitant to do so until the 11th hour.)
Wouldn't simply stripping France of Briey and Longwy in itself be quite effective in regards to this due to such a move depriving France of 90% of its iron ore reserves, though?

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 15 Sep 2020 22:29

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Sep 2020 18:20
maltesefalcon wrote:
15 Sep 2020 17:52

I think the bigger question is would the gamble be worth it? France would need to be crushed utterly and fully occupied to end any threat of the French military in the foreseeable future. Did Germany have the means to do this in 1905? Did they have the diplomatic currency to get away with it without sanctions from other nations? Did they even have the political will to do so? (IIRC Wilhelm II only mobilized in 1914 to assist AH and was hesitant to do so until the 11th hour.)
Possibly not. Recalling the rough OB of 1905 this would have been before Germany converted its second tier reserve regiments from a pool of replacements into operational field corps with actual tactical capabilities. So the operational field armies would have been much more even. Roughly 22-24 corps vs approx 20 French corps of similar size and firepower.
When did Germany make this conversion?

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Sep 2020 23:00

I don't remember. It may have started around 1907. Things like reforms in the Russian Army post 1905, a change in German perception of French capabilities, & other changes caused a perception that a larger 'first strike' field army was needed to make the war plans work and decisively beat one or more enemy nations. Depending on how you count it added between 12 & 15 corps of two divisions each to the field armies. These did lack the heavy 15cm & 10.5cm artillery of the "Active" corps, & the other service units at corps & division level were smaller or less capable. One analyst rated them at about 70% of the offensive combat power of the first tier corps. The Landwehr regiments were also nominally grouped into corps, but those seem to have been paper organizations. Ranks of men in their forties & fifties with no supporting units or effective tactical HQ staff above regiment.

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 15 Sep 2020 23:13

Very interesting; thank you! :)

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by maltesefalcon » 16 Sep 2020 02:07

Futurist wrote:
15 Sep 2020 22:28
maltesefalcon wrote:
15 Sep 2020 17:52
IMHO this would not spark a large scale European war as in 1914.
Austria Hungary had no axe to grind with France and their forces were not up to the standards of France or Germany in any case.
And what would they gain by helping Germany to conquer France?
What about if Russia were to attack Germany in defense of its French ally? Would Austria-Hungary then feel compelled to intervene on the German side in this war?
Japan was busy with Russia. There is no reason to believe Italy would join in with Germany either. IRL they did not get into WW! until 1915.
If France is on the verge of falling, though, Italy might want some territorial spoils at France's expense.
So it would be France vs Germany. Possibly UK, if Belgium invaded and/or Germany begins to crush France so badly that the balance of power is disturbed. UK may only use its navy to blockade Germany if they got involved.
Russia could also intervene to protect its French ally even if it's still busy simultaneously fighting Japan and dealing with a revolution on the home front, no? Or would that be too risky for Russia?
The form of war would be vastly different obviously. There would be no air war, and motor vehicles would be rare as well. So movements via horse/train/foot power. No Dreadnaughts yet either.
Yep.
I think the bigger question is would the gamble be worth it? France would need to be crushed utterly and fully occupied to end any threat of the French military in the foreseeable future. Did Germany have the means to do this in 1905? Did they have the diplomatic currency to get away with it without sanctions from other nations? Did they even have the political will to do so? (IIRC Wilhelm II only mobilized in 1914 to assist AH and was hesitant to do so until the 11th hour.)
Wouldn't simply stripping France of Briey and Longwy in itself be quite effective in regards to this due to such a move depriving France of 90% of its iron ore reserves, though?
In regard to Russia I will quote from your own OP:

"This was in 1904-1905, when Russia was busy fighting Japan and also busy dealing with a revolution on the home front."

Either Russia is otherwise occupied (thus an opportunity that did not exist in 1914) or they are not. Please don't take both sides of the debate just to bring AH in.

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 16 Sep 2020 02:18

TBH, what would really be ideal would be if Russia entered the war but was too occupied to effectively fight Germany and thus was able to suffer a quick and crushing defeat at Germany's hands. I suppose that if Russia doesn't enter the war, Germany could still try declaring war on Russia after it defeats France, but I am unsure that there would actually be the necessary support in Germany for such a move.

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Re: In hindsight, was it a mistake for Germany not to spark a general European war in 1904-1905?

Post by Futurist » 16 Sep 2020 02:19

Whether it fights Russia or not, though, Germany likely wins either way due to it being able to strip France of Briey and Longwy. That in itself is worth a preventative war, no?

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