Moltke Calls for War Without Delay

Wikimedia Commons [1][2]

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in August, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 117th installment in the series.

May 12, 1914: Moltke Calls for War Without Delay

One of the great ironies of the First World War was the fact that policies intended to help keep the peace had the exact opposite effect. This was especially true of military buildups like Russia’s Great Military Program and France’s Three Year Service Law, which were supposed to deter Germany and Austria-Hungary—but instead simply encouraged them to strike before it was too late.

On May 12, 1914, the chief of Germany’s general staff, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger (above, right), met with his Austrian counterpart, Conrad von Hötzendorf (above, left), at a hotel in the Bohemian resort town of Karlsbad (now Karlovy Vary) in the Czech Republic. Over tea the generals discussed the tense international situation, the increasing likelihood of conflict, and their plans in case war should war break out.

According to Conrad’s account of the meeting, Moltke reiterated Berlin’s fear of encirclement, pointing to evidence including new French loans to Russia and Serbia that would be used to build new military railroads and purchase weapons, respectively. Conrad warned Moltke that Serbia was a growing menace to Austria-Hungary, meddling in Albania, threatening to merge with Montenegro, and stirring up nationalist feeling in the Dual Monarchy’s Slavic peoples.

In light of Russia’s plans for military expansion, Moltke emphasized that the balance of forces in Europe would soon begin tilting against Germany and Austria-Hungary, so if there was going to be a continental war, it needed to happen soon: “If we delay any longer, the chances of success will be diminished; as far as manpower is concerned we cannot enter into a competition with Russia.”

Of course, war with Russia would mean war with Russia’s ally France as well, confronting Germany with a two-front war—and leaving Austria-Hungary to face Russia largely unassisted by Germany while the latter was busy with France. Thus Conrad inquired about Germany’s strategy and schedule for the western campaign, and Moltke confided that per the Schlieffen Plan, Germany counted on “making an end of France six weeks after the opening of hostilities, or at least being far enough advanced to transfer the bulk of our forces to the Eastern front.” Conrad replied, “Then, during at least six weeks we shall have to hold our backs to Russia.” Critically both men assumed that Russia would take at least that long to get ready, giving Germany time to finish off France before the Russians began advancing in the east—but they were seriously mistaken.

Moltke was closer to the mark in his prediction about the likelihood of British involvement, but noted that key members of the German government were unduly optimistic: “Unfortunately our people expect a declaration from England that she will stand apart. This declaration England will never give…” This foreshadowed the disastrous miscalculation by German diplomats just over two months later, when Berlin tried to fob off the British with empty promises and ignored British warnings until it was too late.

A week after his meeting with Conrad, Moltke again gave voice to mounting anxiety about the shifting balance of power, telling German Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow that “there was no alternative to waging a preventive war in order to defeat the enemy as long as we could still more or less pass the test.” Similarly in May 1914, Moltke’s deputy, General Georg von Waldersee, wrote that Germany had “no reason whatever to avoid” war and in fact a very good chance “to conduct a great European war quickly and victoriously.”

With this mindset the Germans and their Austrian allies were primed to seize on any excuse for war; a suitable pretext wasn’t long in coming.

See the previous installment or all entries.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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Get Into the Puzzle-Making Business With This Breaking Bad Jigsaw Puzzle

The Breaking Bad jigsaw puzzle.
The Breaking Bad jigsaw puzzle.
Amazon

Breaking Bad (2008-2013), which is widely considered one of the best dramatic television series of all time, charts the world of chemistry teacher Walter White, who turns to a life of a crime manufacturing methamphetamine and navigating New Mexico’s drug trade.

If you need to kill some time before tackling another rewatch of the show's five seasons, this 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle ($14) from USAopoly should do the trick.

The Breaking Bad puzzle offers a stark portrait of drug kingpin Walter White.Amazon

When completed, the officially licensed puzzle depicts Walter White (Bryan Cranston) sitting in his trademark yellow hazmat suit, possibly contemplating the rivals he’ll soon have to murder. The finished puzzle measures 19 inches by 27 inches; the yellow suit ensures you’ll be keeping busy trying to find the right pieces.

You can grab the Breaking Bad puzzle for $14 on Amazon.

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