The German security problem

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 09 Jul 2002 14:32

Yes, but prior to WWII German industry barely eclipsed Great Britain but the British economy was greater because of paper assets and income from that.


In what sense would that be? Exports? Germanys productive capacity was certainly far greater than Britain's at the time.

My ideas on economic imperialism certainly don't come from Spengler, who eschewed economics, although I have read him.


Thought you might have :). You really should try Sombarts "Händler und Helden" as well, it is a most fascinating treatise, although of course primarily as a testament to the thinking in Germany at the time (which was during WW I). Sombart, BTW, was an economist.

Just out of curiosity, where do they come from? Specifically, I would appreciate a further elaboration of the concept of "Economic Nationalism" - it does not lend itself to immediate understanding, at least as far as I am concerned.

cheers

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Post by Qvist » 09 Jul 2002 15:34

she must have equal access to markets--what the capitalist powers claim are free for the competition. No mercantilism here; if you wanted to sell goods in Germany you had to buy German goods. I wish I could find the 1919 propaganda poster showing the wartime Hun who "will want to sell you his German goods after the war."


Let's not confuse propaganda with policy shall we? Germany was hardly the only country affected by tariff walls during the period.

He saw that the Achilles heel of the Versailles treaty was its self-determination of peoples (except Germans). The real reason for promoting all these petit-nationalisms was to encircle Germany and dissolve other empires, of course. By insisting that self-determination apply to GERMAN ethnicities he was able to dismantle that encirclement at Munich--and it would have worked in the Danzig corridor as well if he had not overstepped in asserting German hegemony against the rump Czech state afterward--which still doesn't mean that the self-determination of Danzigers and other oppressed German minorities was not a legitimate grievance. But Hitler had cashed in moral capital, and in diplomacy you must have a long standing relationship of trust or you will always need shocktroops standing by. Against smooth and snake-oily Anglo-Saxon diplomats Hitler preferred real soldiers. But that's not my problem
.

This unfortunately requires a detour into more general issues, so please bear with me. there is something in your description here, but it is a bit more complicated than that. I agree that Germany was not treated according to the Wilsonian principle of self-determination. In saying that the real object of this principle was the encirclement of Germany you are however confusing different aspects of the treaty and the concerns behind it. Wilson, as you know, wanted to found the peace on a new world order that represented a radical break with the power politics of the past - national boundaries set according to the principle of self-determination, outlawing war, regulating international disputes through the League of Nations. This was entirely alien to the European states, who, sensibly, lacked faith in the power of high-minded idealism to curb national ambitions. France in particular had a completely opposite approach - she wanted a punitive peace, to weaken Germany so much as to remove any future threat, preferably through breaking up the German state. Failing that, she wanted solid military commitments frtom the US and Britain to defend France in any future war with Germany. This was not forthcoming. Britains position was more ambivalent. She had played up to Wilsons ideas to secure american participation, but lacked any real faith in them. Her need for a punitive peace was less than that of France, her fear of TOO much French influence in Europe actually real and her disinterest in central and eastern Europe profound. Wilson held te strongest sway at the conference. Perhaps inevitably, the result was a compromise between irreconcilable approaches that satisifed no-one, Germany included, and secured nothing. Wilson got the League of Nations and his principles in principle, and frustrated French ambitions to break up Germany. He did regard the settlement as having weaknesses, among them the issues of large German minorities outside Germany and the Autrian issue, but hoped that the League, once in function, would rectify these. The British got the demise of the German fleet. The French got a punitive peace temporarily weakening Germany enough to remove any threat. The League, of course, without the three strongest states in the world, did not prove able to either fulfil its function or rectify the weaknesses of Versailles, and the treaty was at the same time not punitive enough for France to hold the German threat down, while certainly punitive enough to enrage Germany. Thus, the principle of self-determination as expounded by Wilson was no PR ploy, the real object of which was to encircle Germany. Wilson seems to have been a real and genuine idealist, which I do not intend as words of praise. However, the other three major allies lacked any faith in it, which brought about a compromise result with very much such a result.

This left France in the uncomfortable and ultimately untenable position of trying to uphold this European order, which she indeed did by trying to encircle Germany. Britain was anything but a wholehearted partner in this venture - British policy came to be marked by increasing doubts about the tenability and legitimacy of the Versailles order, as well as considerable misgivings about the strength of the French position in Europe, which was also reflected in her policy vis-a-vis Germany. Within 5 years, with the Munich agreement, Hitler had shattered that order and reestablished Germany as the strongest state in Europe.

What made this possible was a considerable degree of sympathy for the German position. And it is easy to see why. Had I been, say, a top civil servant in the German MFA in the interwar years, I would have wholeheartedly supported the reinclusion of the Saarland, demilitarisation of the Rhineland, reintroduction of conscription, the discontinuance of reparations and a general ambition to re-establish Germany as a military power of a strength commensurate with her potential. The absorption of Austria, Danzig and the Sudetenland into the Reich, and the elimination of the Polish corridor, I would have considered just and worthwhile goals. All of these were rational political goals of any German state leadership, party politics aside. And if Hitler had aimed at nothing more than that, WWII could reasonably have been interpreted as a tragic mistake, much along the same lines as WWI. However, he did. Which brings me to:

As I've tried to explain on another thread, it is not merely the *reversal* of Versailles, or 1914 borders or whatnot, but the reversal of what Versailles entails. And that is a means to encircle Germany diplomatically and contain Germany economically and to prevent her from reclaiming superpower status.


Firstly, there was no superpower status to reclaim - prewar Germany had not had that position. Hitler, however, wanted to create a superpower - but this was something new. You have described it yourself - territorial expansion and hegemony in Europe, control of Eastern Europe up to the Ural mountains. This was a radical departure from even the wildest ambitions of Imperial Germany. These were political goals which constituted a real threat to every other nation in Europe. This is not a policy that can be reasonably described as wanting to reverse what anything entails, because it aimed far beyond what Germany had ever possessed, or even sought. A Europe at Germanys mercy (of which there wouldn't be much). And this is what you need to acknowledge - there is nothing modest in such aims, and it can neither be explained nor justified with reference to the Versailles order even in the widest sense. While Bismarcks Germany tacitly acknowledged, like all other European states since Napoleon, that a European order could only be based on a continually maintained equilibrium, Hitler sought to replace any European order with German hegemony. A more far-reaching, radical, risky or aggressive policy than that is hard to conceive of. Or one less likely to provide a workable solution to Germany's security issues in a wide sense. And certainly not one into which he was forced.


cheers

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Scott Smith
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New World Order...

Post by Scott Smith » 09 Jul 2002 16:15

Qvist wrote:
Scott wrote:Yes, but prior to WWII German industry barely eclipsed Great Britain but the British economy was greater because of paper assets and income from that.

In what sense would that be? Exports? Germanys productive capacity was certainly far greater than Britain's at the time.

I think it is simply Gross National Product, but the reason for the higher British figure was due to financial assets/earnings. I agree that German industry was greater, and some of it was even producing consumer goods. :wink:

Qvist wrote:
Scott wrote:My ideas on economic imperialism certainly don't come from Spengler, who eschewed economics, although I have read him.

Thought you might have :). You really should try Sombarts "Händler und Helden" as well, it is a most fascinating treatise, although of course primarily as a testament to the thinking in Germany at the time (which was during WW I). Sombart, BTW, was an economist.

It does sound interesting.

Just out of curiosity, where do they come from? Specifically, I would appreciate a further elaboration of the concept of "Economic Nationalism" - it does not lend itself to immediate understanding, at least as far as I am concerned.

Well, there is a strong current of "economic nationalism" in the traditional American Progressive and Populist movements, and money-lending has never been popular. The economic-nationalist view is that The USA is a cash-cow and that the West and South fed the country while Wall Street milks it. Domestic industries and farms are allowed to be foreclosed on because of cheap imports.

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 in particular is seen as a Wilsonian conspiracy, and figures like Colonel Edward Mandel House and Bernard Baruch, etc. are seen as the Gray Eminences for the "Merchants of Death," the war-profiteers of WWI. You can find similar sentiments with the Isolationist statesmen like Senators Borah and Nye who were instrumental in defeating the ratification of the Versailles treaty and the League of Nations. The famous Progressive Senator Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr. was the father of the famous Isolationist aviator.

The patron-saint of American finance-capitalism is Alexander Hamilton, the only non-President besides Benjamin Franklin to have his likeness on an American bill. Hamilton's feuds with Jefferson are legendary. Jefferson wanted a rural, decentralized country and Hamilton wanted a centralized, industrial country with a modern government and banking system. The U.S. Consittution is largely Hamilton's brainchild, though somewhat watered down. We have a Hamiltonian system today--what would be called "big government" by Jeffersonian populists.

Despite this "big government," Hamilton was decidedly an economic-nationalist and progressive. He was co-author of President Washington's Farewell Address, which sets forth the traditional American foreign policy of what is later derisively called Isolationism.

Capitalism, as coined by Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations (Scotland, 1776) knows no national borders. It is simple financial markets seeking to expand. There is an international specialization-of-labor where some countries produce cuckoo clocks and some cocoa, as each is more efficient at what it does best. Trade barriers should be kept low. Britain repealed the last of the Corn Laws, you know, and set forth the industrial revolution by importing food and exporting finished goods. National self-sufficiency is seen as a relic and is not a good thing. It is assumed that incomes will be equal or go by merit because all players have equal access in speculation.

The United States and Great Britain are the two leading Capitalist nations and have promoted this system. I would argue that Democracy is the other half of the coin, the liberal institutions developing from the 17th century that best adjudicate politico-economic interests that are often at variance.

There are two ways to expand financial markets globally; one is with traditional imperialism (as advocated by Teddy Roosevelt) and the other is with the Interventionist Wilsonian Idealpolitik of trying to "make the world safe for democracy." Both the Right and the Left today are Interventionists that want to expand financial markets globally. I disagree with the premise that what is good for Wall Street is good for America (or the World). The post-1945 American foreign policy, whether dollar diplomacy or "peacekeeping" I call Globaloney. After the fall of the Soviet Union, George Bush Sr. called it the New World Order. I would argue than multi-national megacorporations are an Orwellian threat of the first order that make robber-barons seem like harmless old codgers. Some megacorporations are more powerful than many whole governments.

Hitler was decidely an economic nationalist. Finance had to serve the national interest. Capitalism would argue that what is good for financial markets IS the national-interest, as would be all bourgeois values. hitler would argue that the Folk-Community would be the supreme value not foreign financial markets or trade figures.

Hitler would decidedly say NO to International Finance Capital and in Mein Kampf explains that the reason that American finance was so quick to drop real neutrality during the First World War was because German finance was younger and more patriotic, and therefore more nationally-oriented, than the Anglo-American symbiosis. The Nye committee demonstrated that the real reason that the USA entered WWI was to safeguard its outstanding loans to the British Empire. And later, American banks refinanced the Versailles treaty reparations payments, which would have left Germany paying interest until 1985. A great humanitarian effort to prop-up the Weimar regime. :mrgreen:

Well, my short work on American financial history leaves something to be desired but I'm not a professor either.
:)

U.S. cash leaves on an English ship...

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Scott Smith
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SUPERPOWERS and BALKANIZATION...

Post by Scott Smith » 10 Jul 2002 01:31

Qvist, just a quick point. I think that Germany definitely was a superpower in 1914. We could go on to define the terms but a great nation with a big economy will created a gravity well alone, regardless of whether it has colonies and a powerful navy and army. I would argue that by the turn of the end of the Civil War the USA was a supepower as well. By 1945, the USA was one of only two superpowers. With the end of the Soviet Union other coalitions might emerge but none can truly challenge the United States or Globaloney. Even Red China wants in on the take.

As far as your point about the self-determination of peoples, I know that this was the lofty idealist Wilson's agenda. He wanted to use national self-determination against monarchy and Evil Empires in order to promote Democracy (i.e., Capitalism). The more realistic statesman immediately say its value in promoting the balkanization of Germany, which at once eliminated a superpower rival. Balkanization of the continent is the traditional foreign policy of the British; when successful, this allowed her to remain isolated from European affairs and focus energies on her overseas empire.

That's the trouble with Idealpolitik. You have the same selfish goals but you must dissemble everything with "humanitarian" motives. You don't fight wars or campaigns anymore. Now they are "peacekeeping missions," operations that promote the expansion of financial markets or remove threats to hegemony or access to markets and resources. It all becomes rather Orwellian. War is Peace. War is Defense. Peace is our Profession. And nobody is better at this kind of propaganda than Anglo-Saxons. They have shown a historical talent for even getting their enemies to define issues according the Anglo-Saxon definitions and values. And sometimes outright atrocity story lies. Yes, humanitarian tripe is very appealing. That doesn't make it true propaganda, however. They hate us "because we are free," according to Bush, Jr. :lol:

I prefer Realpolitik, as you might have guessed. And in my Fortress America mentality I prefer neutrality, non-Intervention and an end to malignant Globaloney.
:)

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walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 11 Jul 2002 20:46

Qvist,

Thanks for your excellent, thoughtful and thought provoking introduction to this thread, as well as the further discussion it generated. A great pleasure to read, and quite up to your usual standards.

I quite agree with your analysis and approval of Bismarck's policy of providing for Germany's security during his tenure, and also with your conclusion that:

It seems to me that Bismarck's approach was the one most likely to create security for Germany, be it in 1875, 1910 or 1938 ......


I am not, however, convinced (a) that other leaders of Bismarck's qualities and stature would have necessarily been available in Wilhelmine Germany or thereafter to carry on his approach, or (b) that even another Bismarck would have been able ultimately to prevail over the mounting pressures of nationalism, not only in Germany but elsewhere on the continent.

I do have some thoughts on the Hitler portion of your post which I will reserve for possibly another time. For now I will contain myself to the Bismarck portion, and that only to respond to Scott Smith's notion that:

....Bismarck was a monarchist. The Tsar and the Austro-Hungarian and Prussian Kaisers were therefore more legitimate than the French republic. Germany's policy under Bismarck was not to have any non-German aspirations and to keep France isolated. But he seems not to have considered that what challenged France the most was the German claim to Alsace-Lorranine [sic].


Bismarck was indeed a monarchist, but not in the sense of those legitimists of the Congress of Vienna era whose guiding principle was the divine right of kings and whose diplomacy resulted in the Holy Alliance. Bismarck was a Prussian monarchist, and believed his loyalty lay exclusively to his king and his state. He would gladly have supped with the devil if he felt it to Prussia's advantage to do so.

This he clearly laid out in his correspondence with Leopold von Gerlach, his former mentor and to whom he owed his entire career. Gerlach had written Bismarck expressing his shock and outrage at Bismarck's proposal to attempt to establish good relations with France, because it violated Gerlach's basic political principle of a war against revolution. Bismarck replied:
France interests me only insofar as it affects the situation of my country and we can make policy only with the France which exists....As a romantic I can shed a tear for the fate of Henry V [the Bourbon pretender]; as a diplomat I would be his servant if I were French, but as things stand, France, irrespective of the accident who leads it, is for me an unavoidable pawn on the chessboard of diplomacy, where I have no other duty than to serve my king and my country. I cannot reconcile personal sympathies and antipathies toward foreign powers with my sense of duty in foreign affairs; indeed I see in them the embryo of disloyalty toward the Sovereign and the country I serve.


Source: Henry Kissinger, "Diplomacy", Simon & Schuster 1994 at 125, citing "Briefswechsel des Generals Leopold von Gerlach mit dem Bundestags-Gesandten Otto von Bismarck", Berlin 1893 at 315.

Bismarck was certainly aware of the problem that the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine presented in terms of Germany's relations with France. He only reluctantly agreed with von Moltke on its annexation and later indicated that he had come to regret it. And his foreign policies were premised on the assumption that France would be an eternal enemy because of it. [I am, however, personally not sure that this would necessarily have been the case for all time. Had Berlin's attitude toward the annexed territories been less arrogant, autocratic and vacillating it seems to me at least possible that after a few generations the language and natural proclivities of the indigenous population could have resulted in an attachment to Germany sufficient to support a plebiscite in its favor, which would have inevitably dulled the edge of French revanchism.]

Therefore in a sort of game of musical chairs Bismarck played at various times and with various degrees of success England against France and Russia, Russia against Austria and England, Austria against Russia and Italy, Italy against Austria and France and France against England and Italy. A delicate balancing act which showed signs of tiring toward the end of his tenure.

But unquestionably had Bismarck's policies been capable of successful continuation the history of the 20th Century would have been far different and far, far more benign.

Best regards, Kaschner

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 15 Jul 2002 11:24

Hello Walter

Good to have you back, and thanks for an excellent post.

Some thoughts on this passage:

I am not, however, convinced (a) that other leaders of Bismarck's qualities and stature would have necessarily been available in Wilhelmine Germany or thereafter to carry on his approach, or (b) that even another Bismarck would have been able ultimately to prevail over the mounting pressures of nationalism, not only in Germany but elsewhere on the continent.


Two very good points. The former was actually invoked by Hitler as an argument against the Bismarckian approach, and it is of course real enough. I think it could be taken for granted that Germany - or any other state for that matter - could not expect to produce leaders of such stature on a regular basis. The question then becomes whether that approach fundamentally required chancellors of such inrivalled ability to be feasible at all, and of that I am less sure. The dual arrangement with Russia and Austria was immensely demanding, if not impossible, diplomatically. A satisfactory arrangement with Britain, on the other hand, should have been much more easily within the grasp of more mediocre personalities than Bismarck. And for a really threatening situation for Germany to emerge, they both had to go wrong. As Bismarck left, Germany was after all in a very secure position - the challenge of his successors was far less than that faced by the Iron chancellor, basically just to avoid a drastic deterioration in the state of affairs, which should have been manageable considering that France was the only state who wanted such a development.

Which brings me to the second point, that of nationalism. One thing is diplomatic miscalculation, the second, and perhaps greatest, ingredient in bringing about a powerful coalition hostile to Germany was of course the erratic and confrontational nationalist policy of the Wilhelmine years. It is a fact that perhaps the strongest driving force between this policy was the increasingly nationalist sentiment of the German populace, a state of affairs also present in other countries. This again means that a rational foreign policy would have been in contradiction to public opinion - a thoroughly depressing conclusion, and worse, one that is still valid in principle. I agree that this made such a policy much more difficult to pursue. But still, I don't think that absolves Germany's leaders from blame for failing to see reality themselves. It could well be that they had been forced to conclude that certain policies were politically impossible due to their own public opinion - but in that case, they could at least have articulated policies which, rather than just reflecting that public opinion, attempted to assuage it while causing minimum damage to the national interest. Or even policies who reflected nationalist pressures, but which contained tangible aims and a coherent approach.

BTW, hope you decide to post your thoughts on the Hitler posrtion as well.

regards,
Qvist

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 15 Jul 2002 13:37

From what i ahve read i believe that Bismarks failure to continue to juggle was the ticking time bomb that started the series of wars. There was a agreement called the dreikaiserbund but this was just an agreement between the monacrchies to support each other in case of domestic upheavel. Bismarck did negotiate the re insurance treaty, although i just cant recall what it did, some complicated thing that helped germnay, unfortunatley it expired.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 15 Jul 2002 13:50

Lord Gort -

, some complicated thing that helped germnay, unfortunatley it expired.


It expired, and Bismarck's successors decided not to renew it, opting instead for a clear-cut Austrian alliance.

cheers

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