Now came Edward hobnobbing with the Czar at Reval. Reading the German ambassador’s report of the meeting which suggested that Edward really desired peace, the Kaiser scribbled furiously in the margin, “Lies. He wants war. But I have to start it so he does not have the odium.”We write wonderfully plausible books, convincing ourselves that our beliefs will trump reality.
The year closed with the most explosive faux pas of the Kaiser’s career, an interview given to the Daily Telegraph expressing his ideas of the day on who should fight whom, which this time unnerved not only his neighbors but his countrymen. Public disapproval was so outspoken that the Kaiser took to his bed, was ill for three weeks, and remained comparatively reticent for some time thereafter.
Since then no new excitements had erupted. The last two years of the decade while Europe enjoyed a rich fat afternoon, were the quietest. Nineteen-ten was peaceful and prosperous, with the second round of Moroccan crises and Balkan wars still to come. A new book, The Great Illusion by Norman Angell, had just been published, which proved that war had become vain. By impressive examples and incontrovertible argument Angell showed that in the present financial and economic interdependence of nations, the victor would suffer equally with the vanquished; therefore war had become unprofitable; therefore no nation would be so foolish as to start one. Already translated into eleven languages, The Great Illusion had become a cult. At the universities, in Manchester, Glasgow, and other industrial cities, more than forty study groups of true believers had formed, devoted to propagating its dogma. Angell’s most earnest disciple was a man of great influence on military policy, the King’s friend and adviser, Viscount Esher, chairman of the War Committee assigned to remaking the British Army after the shock of its performance in the Boer War. Lord Esher delivered lectures on the lesson of The Great Illusion at Cambridge and the Sorbonne wherein he showed how “new economic factors clearly prove the inanity of aggressive wars.” A twentieth century war would be on such a scale, he said, that its inevitable consequences of “commercial disaster, financial ruin and individual suffering” would be “so pregnant with restraining influences” as to make war unthinkable. He told an audience of officers at the United Service Club, with the Chief of General Staff, Sir John French, in the chair, that because of the interlacing of nations war “becomes every day more difficult and improbable.
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The last two years of the decade while Europe enjoyed a rich fat afternoon, were the quietest.
From The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.