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.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Office Writers Considered Making Michael Scott a Murderer, According to Greg Daniels

NBCUniversal, Inc.
NBCUniversal, Inc.

Greg Daniels is best known as the showrunner of The Office, a job that earned him two of his four Emmys. As reported by Screen Rant, the acclaimed creator dished in a recent interview with The Guardian about why the American version of the much-loved show almost wasn't made, along with a proposed plot twist for Michael Scott that forced Daniels to put his foot down.

"The UK version hadn’t finished airing and I’d never heard of it. My agent sent me a VHS tape of season one. It had a somewhat boring title so I didn’t look at it. He told me he wanted to show it to someone else if I wasn’t interested, so I popped it in. I watched the entire first series that evening," Daniels said.

As the show really got going after Steve Carell's role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin made him a household name, Daniels said some ideas in the writers room got too wacky for their own good. He recalled one particular instance, saying, “There were times where [the writers] would become enamored with a joke, and I'd have to put my foot down. For instance, they really wanted Michael to kill Meredith with his car. That was an early pitch, where he runs her over in the parking lot and then comes back, gets a tire iron and finishes the job. I was like, 'You can’t do that, that’s crazy!'”

Michael being a murderer certainly would have changed the tone of the show, so it makes sense that it never happened. Imagine the courtroom scenes we would have had to endure! The Scranton Strangler storyline would have paled in comparison.

[h/t Screen Rant]