Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More on the era 1871-1914

More from Chapter 2, on alliances:

Anglo-German friction would continue nearly unchecked.  To begin with. there was the naval race.  Starting in 1898, the Germans began building a major navy, arguing that they now had overseas possessions to supply and defend.  Continental power no longer sufficed.  "Our future," said the Kaiser, "belongs on the water."  The British, in alarm, reacted by increasing their naval building program, whereupon the Germans, after a suitable interval, increased theirs again.  And both governments found that the most effective method of persuading their respective parliaments to pass the necessary appropriations was to dramatize the threat from the other side.  It was not an atmosphere conducive to friendship.

Then there was the matter of colonial rivalry.  Even Bismarck had not been able to hold out forever against the dynamics of imperialism.  In the mid-1880s, the Germans began, modestly at first, to acquire African territory.  Under William II, all restraints were off: Germany must become a great colonial power!  Bismarck's insistance that Germany was a satiated nation was no longer heeded -- Germany must show the world that her energies and achievement were second to none.  A great power must grow or die; few half-truths have caused as much misery in the world as this.

(p. 35)

It would be easy to add to these instances of Anglo-German differences.  But this is not an encyclopedia of diplomatic crises.  Besides, such an unrelieved recitation of troubles can falsify what took place, obscuring the amount of good will that did exist between the two nations.  . . .   And it makes events appear far more inevitable than in fact they were.  . . .  It is only in retrospect that the various instances of Anglo-German friction look so momentous.  Hard as it is to avoid in the writing of history, post hoc ergo propter hoc remains one of the most basic of fallacies.

(p. 36)

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