First World War all about oil?

Discussions on all aspects of the First World War not covered in the other sections. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
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TalkingZero
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by TalkingZero » 05 Jun 2011 22:01

That explains Britian hating russia. But i still don't understand why Germany is being picked out !
I'm sure i'm missing some big obvious thing, but can somone please jsut point it out to me ? So far all i can go on is that 'the kaiser was being a bit of a dick'...

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Terry Duncan » 06 Jun 2011 00:17

But i still don't understand why Germany is being picked out !
Effectively Germany picked herself out. Its a long story of failed diplomacy, lost oppertunities, and pointless threats.

Bismarck had allied Germany to a large portion of eastern Europe to ensure that in any future war with France, the latter would be isolated and Germany safe from any other threats. This involved the Re-Insurance Treaty with Russia. This treaty was allowed to lapse when Russia was keen to renew it, primarily because Germany did not wish to keep balancing Russian interests in the Balkans with Austrian ambitions there. In the end, Germany preferred Austria as an ally over Russia. This left Russia as isolated as France had been from 1871 - 1890, and Russia was not keen to be in such a position, whilst France was keen to find any ally she could.

The German 2nd Naval Law put in place the German desire for a large fleet, but also named Britain as its likely enemy, and Tirpitz told anyone who listened that his fleet was being built to challenge Britain - the Riskflotte theory, where Britain would not be able to fight Germany without destroying her own naval power in the effort. Rather obviously this was not well received in Britain.

During the 2nd Boer War, the loudest condemnation of British action came from Germany, who also aroused much ill-feeling by supplying rifles and artillery to the Boers and when the war was ending the Kaiser boasted that he had supplied the British with the ideas of how to beat the Boers! This was not true, and the Kaiser had not made the claims to be malicious, but it did not go down well. After this Britain decided she would end her 'splendid isolation' and seek some form of agreement with a continental power. The first she approached was Germany, but the two could not find any agreement possible, something made worse by the German attempt to extort colonial concessions whilst refusing any agreement. The feeling was that Britain would have no option other than to agree any terms Germany would eventually offer, as the idea Britain would seek an agreement with France was seen as unthinkable by all the senior German figures except Holstein.

The Morocco Crisis saw Germany try to split the Entente as soon as possible, but she also continued to press matters with threats until Delcasse was removed from office, and Britain and France drew closer together in the face of German threats.

In 1908 when Austria annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany forced Russia to back down by threatening to allow the matter to go to war on Austria's decision, and that Germany would fight with Austria. Bulow, the author of this policy, told Bethmann when he took over as Chancellor that this should not be tried again, as Russia would not back down again - she had done so in 1909 because France and Britain would not support her.

The Agadir Crisis saw another crisis where Germany threatened war in order to gain colonial concessions from France. Germany had some justification in her view of French intentions, but decided to allow France to complete her action before even suggesting she may object, and then overplayed the objection. The German position fell apart when she ignored Britain for three weeks and Lloyd-George issued a warning that Britain would consider war preferrable to being 'counted as of no account' in international matters.

The Balkan Crisis on 1912/13 saw Europe close to war, but this time Germany worked with Britain to avoid war and it worked well, which sadly worked against peace in 1914 when Grey based his policy on Germany following a similar line, whilst Germany decided to try and enable Austria to fight a limited war - despite Austria considering it impossible to do this from the outset!

This is just a skim over the reasons other nations were against Germany, not all, but some of the main ones, and there is certain justification for the actions of Germany too. The main problem was that German policy was flawed over a long period which only pushed her likely enemies closer together and ensured all stood against her when war did arrive.

I hope this summary helps somewhat, even if it only guides you to look at these incidents in more detail.

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TalkingZero
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by TalkingZero » 06 Jun 2011 00:44

Yeah, it makes a little more sence to me now....
I see what you mean by saying Germany had it coming to them. So this must have been a time where political figures showed their influence by threatening military action rather than a more diplomatic approach. But it's safe to assume Germany was seen as 'unfortunate' after the first world war compared to their labels after the second.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Terry Duncan » 06 Jun 2011 01:04

I see what you mean by saying Germany had it coming to them.
Not really, but it is how they were seen by France and Russia certainly. As I said, the German policies were not all bad, it was the overplaying of them when in the right, and the general high handed attitude to others when Germany knew they could not fight that created bad feeling. Others were just as capable of acting badly at times. The French were always looking to push an agreement to its limits to increase their standing, and Russia was embroiled in any number of issues in the Balkans where she had no real need other than in her self appointed role as protector of the Slavic race. Austria was acting in a similar matter, often for no better reason than the oppose Russia! It is why Bismarck said the next was would be started by some damned foolish thing in the Balkans!
So this must have been a time where political figures showed their influence by threatening military action rather than a more diplomatic approach.


The German approach led to this sort of threat on a few occaisions, others tended to threaten far less. Diplomatic solution was the norm, the threat against Russia in 1909 was greatly resented because it was a scarcely veiled threat, not because it was the usualy way of achieving a result.
But it's safe to assume Germany was seen as 'unfortunate' after the first world war compared to their labels after the second.
The Wilhelmine Germany had poor leadership in foreign policy, it was not evil or even really bad, it just played its cards badly over a misguided series of policies. With stable and consistent policy not aimed at aggravating one nation after another it would have happily existed alonside all the others. Bismarck suggested Germany avoid colonial expansion and simply consolidate Germany as it stood, and to avoid quarrels with other nations on these matters. The Germany of WWII was very different, and it is unfair to ascribe the traits of 1939 Germany to that of 1914.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by TalkingZero » 06 Jun 2011 01:22

I agree.
The First World war and the history of the early 10th century are not widley taught compared to the Second world war. I thikn it might have to do with how bizzare it was. A human power threatening the world with domination by supressing humans and forming the 'Master Race'. It sounds more like a film :P
But the first world war is by far, alot worse compared to the second. It is called the GREAT war and the war to end all wars after all.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Terry Duncan » 06 Jun 2011 02:13

One of the reasons that there are so many arguments about the start of the war and its conclusion is because there were no clear cut bad guys, both sides were justified in some actions, both overstepped the mark too.

The biggest problem is that people come to the subject with the idea it was all down to Germany, when in fact the nation that did the most to ensure a general war took place was Austria-Hungary. As the nations ceased to exist at the wars end, people relate best the the nations still around, and therefore Germany draws most of the attention, and often for the things others started.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Attrition » 06 Jun 2011 11:52

~~~~~when in fact the nation that did the most to ensure a general war took place was Austria-Hungary.~~~~~

Blank cheque?

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TalkingZero
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by TalkingZero » 06 Jun 2011 13:59

Guess they needed a scapegoat, and Germany just happened to fit the position.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Kelvin » 06 Jun 2011 15:33

Both sides needed war to achieve their political aims : Germany could break the encirclement of Great Britain, France and Russia and crippled the Russian power. Austria-Hungary solved the Serbian/Montenegrin problem once and for all and could reestablish her prestige in the Balkan.
France wanted to recover Alsace-Lorraine and Russia could extend her influence in the Balkan and reestablish her lost prestige since Russo-Japanese war. For Great Britain, solved her German threat once and for all.

I always think Bismarck was a wise man, He said that a whole Balkan not worth the bones of one Pomanraian Grenadier. Serbia worth a general war for all of them ?
But on the other hand, given the past experience, all of powers thought the war would be over within three months and no one expected a long and terrible war for four years.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Terry Duncan » 06 Jun 2011 15:40

Moltke had noted the war would last a long time, he thought maybe 7 - 30 years. He also noted the exact way it would end. 'The next war will be fought until one alliance or the other is utterly exhausted, only then will it end' which is clearly not three or four months. Kitchener also noted the British army would not even be ready to fight properly until three years into the conflic - another forecast that was remarkably accurate.

Politicians allowed themselves to believe a modern war would not last long, everything from it would cost hundreds of millions of poounds/marks etc, to the killing would be so bad after six months nobody could stand it, to the economists no nation could afford a year long war! All the evidence pointed to a long war, but that would have really hit at recruiting and being able to start a war in the first place, and so was ignored.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Attrition » 06 Jun 2011 15:46

~~~~~Politicians allowed themselves to believe a modern war would not last long~~~~~

I suspect that this is a post-war fabrication.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Kelvin » 06 Jun 2011 16:32

In light of the past experience, many European wars were short wars : Austro-French war of 1859, Prusso-Danish war of 1864, Austro-Prussian war of 1866 and Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. Given German past three wars experiences, all powers copied German military system and thought themselves as another Prussia in 1870. German expected to knock French out of the war withing six weeks. Given the small size of BEF, this was of unimportance in German short term war planning. Russian army could be dealt successfully before her completion of Big Programme until 1917.

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by Terry Duncan » 06 Jun 2011 19:28

I suspect that this is a post-war fabrication.
Quite possible, but then the politicians manage to keep closer tabs on what they said and who knew it than the military did.
In light of the past experience, many European wars were short wars
These were all fought long before the day of the million man national armies, which were what ensured the war would last a long time. There was simply no way to defeat them quickly - even the ammo would run short on the pre-war stocks after just a month or so of war!

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by mistory » 06 Jan 2012 12:19

Sorry to open an old thread - but this seems to have gone in the wrong direction somewhere.

I have just re-watched Rob Newman's excellent show - and I don't think he actually implies the railway was for transporting oil... He implies that it was a direct threat to transport routes through the Suez - for imports from Britain's greatest overseas possession: India.

So not so much about oil (though it probably played a part in it) - and more about trade route competition.

The full video is now here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 5741878159

[edited for spelling]

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Post by favedave » 09 Jan 2012 07:18

Thanks for reopening this old thread, and posting the Rob Newman program. I wasn't familiar with him and he's quite funny.

I also think the way this thread veered off proved to be an affirmation of what Newman was saying. The history of Britain in the Middle East begins with the Crusades and Richard the Lionheart and really does not end up to the present day. It is a mistake to say it was just about oil. But it is also possible to underestimate the impact of the oil discoveries and fields on the eternal value of the region. This is the most fought over real estate on Earth. Every bit of trade between Europe and Asia and eastern Africa flows through it. As a result, the Suez Canal was rightly regarded by all 19th Century politicians as the most vital of "British interests." It's late and I do want to come back to this.

Dave

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