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Old December 24th, 2012, 04:06 AM
warsfan warsfan is offline
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WWI Without America

If the United States had stayed completely neutral throughout the entire course of WWI, trading with both sides but never entering the war or directly participating in the peace negotiations, how would the war most likely have gone? Would Germany's Spring Offensive have succeeded without American troops in France? Would the Entente have won, but have taken longer to do so? What might be some of the wider effects?

(Note: I'm not interested in discussing how likely American neutrality was or how it might come about-consider it handwaved for the purposes of this thread. I'm more interested in how WWI would have gone without America.)
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  #2  
Old December 24th, 2012, 04:24 AM
Strategos Strategos is offline
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Durr. The only way you end up with America trading with both sides is if America raised a massive stink in regarding the blockade. Thas it really. America threatening to either trade with everybody or nobody.

Otherwise, OTL. So durr.
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Old December 24th, 2012, 04:26 AM
wiking wiking is offline
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Originally Posted by warsfan View Post
If the United States had stayed completely neutral throughout the entire course of WWI, trading with both sides but never entering the war or directly participating in the peace negotiations, how would the war most likely have gone? Would Germany's Spring Offensive have succeeded without American troops in France? Would the Entente have won, but have taken longer to do so? What might be some of the wider effects?

(Note: I'm not interested in discussing how likely American neutrality was or how it might come about-consider it handwaved for the purposes of this thread. I'm more interested in how WWI would have gone without America.)
Assuming the US adopted a similar policy to Cash & Carry from WW2 and prevented the loaning of money, then the Entente runs out of money in 1916 and will have a much weaker war effort prior due to stretching out their money as much as possible and limiting purchasing in the US for the goods that they could really only get there. If the US allows the loaning of collateralized loans like IOTL and pretty much adopts the OTL policies all the way through, minus declaring war, then the Entente runs out of foreign exchange in 1917 and the war ends that year.

Russia was highly dependent on her allies for loans, materials, and military support. Italy was totally dependent for the import of all raw materials and food, not to mention loans. France was highly dependent on Britain for borrowing from the US so that they could purchase food, oil, and steel without which they would immediately run out of all of the above.
Britain was dependent on the US for food and oil.
The US was only accepting dollars for their own goods, which were only available via loans by 1916, as the Entente had run out of foreign exchange accepted in the US by then.
Once the Entente cannot get those necessary goods the continental Entente is pretty much out of the ability to fight. Britain could continue at a reduced rate, but their blockade would totally fall apart and Germany was the only nation yet with US foreign exchange, so could purchase in the US once the threat of the Black List is removed (the physical blockade was unenforceable, especially by 1917 when the US was getting ready to force the issue of freedom of the seas with Britain).

Any scenario in which the US doesn't join the war means the Entente either loses or has to sign an unfavorable 'negotiated' peace that leaves the Central Powers as the clear winner in the war.
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Old December 24th, 2012, 07:58 AM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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Originally Posted by wiking
Assuming the US adopted a similar policy to Cash & Carry from WW2 and prevented the loaning of money, then the Entente runs out of money in 1916 and will have a much weaker war effort prior due to stretching out their money as much as possible and limiting purchasing in the US for the goods that they could really only get there. If the US allows the loaning of collateralized loans like IOTL and pretty much adopts the OTL policies all the way through, minus declaring war, then the Entente runs out of foreign exchange in 1917 and the war ends that year.
In this scenario, the Americans now have a choice. Either they lend to the Eurorpeans so then they can buy raw materials and munitions or their economy goes into recession. No prizes for guessing what they do.

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Originally Posted by wiking
especially by 1917 when the US was getting ready to force the issue of freedom of the seas with Britain.
The Royal Navy would say "Bring it on, Yankee boys." The Army would first figuring out how many divisions it can ship over to Canada before the USA joins the Central Powers, which by forcing the blockade it is in effect doing.

To force the blockade is going to require the RN and USN to fight it out. Irrespective of the quality of the ships and commanders, Britain has the advantage that she is fighting in home waters and not 3000 miles away. Whilst most US dreadnoughts can cross the Atlantic and back, long times at combat speeds will cut into their range to the point of needing refuelling. If the RN locate and sink the oilers, the USN will have to smartly retreat.
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Old December 24th, 2012, 07:58 PM
wiking wiking is offline
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In this scenario, the Americans now have a choice. Either they lend to the Eurorpeans so then they can buy raw materials and munitions or their economy goes into recession. No prizes for guessing what they do.
No argument there.

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The Royal Navy would say "Bring it on, Yankee boys." The Army would first figuring out how many divisions it can ship over to Canada before the USA joins the Central Powers, which by forcing the blockade it is in effect doing.
The British had no divisions to spare, including the Canadian divisions, which were locked in trench warfare in Europe. Also the problem is getting them to Canada when the US fleet is pretty much at home and can take the RN ion their own turf. Plus the RN cannot spare ships from keeping the German High Seas Fleet locked up in the North Sea.

But the issue with the blockade is one that neither Britain, nor the US want to fight over. It would be a diplomatic conflict, as the blockade was mainly enforced via threatening US companies with 'Black Listing' for trading with the Germans. If the British start messing with US shipping, they can kiss US goods goodbye, which is pretty much a death sentence for France and Britain. Not only that, but Canadian shipping becomes equally vulnerable, which the RN cannot defend. Canadian grain was the other critical resource, so if US and Canadian grain are cut off thanks to the British interfering with US trade, then Britain and France are going to starve. Plus the US can then, thanks to holding Entente collateral including most of their gold, seize Entente collateral and form their own blacklist for neutral powers. Britain and France would be out of money to purchase anywhere and the US can either purchase up excess goods or threaten neutrals with being cut off from the US market, which, with the Entente out of foreign exchange, would mean they would have no customers that can pay for their goods.

Britain is already close to being tapped out, while France is already on fumes in 1917 until the US IOTL joined in an provided her with an unlimited flood of resources and manpower.

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To force the blockade is going to require the RN and USN to fight it out. Irrespective of the quality of the ships and commanders, Britain has the advantage that she is fighting in home waters and not 3000 miles away. Whilst most US dreadnoughts can cross the Atlantic and back, long times at combat speeds will cut into their range to the point of needing refuelling. If the RN locate and sink the oilers, the USN will have to smartly retreat.
Not at all for the reasons I listed above. Britain had mortgaged the figurative farm to the US, so had pretty much given away any leverage they had. If the RN starts stopping US shipping, then the US stops British shipping to their major grain source: Canada. And they cut off US grain. So Britain, which at very best can provide 50-60% of its food requirements for its home population (never mind the military in France), will starve. France is even worse off and will starve much sooner thanks to its best farmland being captured by the Germans, it farmers dead or in service, and its nitrate supplies for fertilizer being used for the war effort. Without France fighting the British had no reason to be in the war, because their army alone is badly outnumbered and will have nowhere to fight if the French surrender/negotiate. So Britain will be forced to negotiate as a block with France and Russia to get the best deal or hold out and lose everything they were fighting for on the continent.
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Old December 26th, 2012, 07:14 PM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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The British had no divisions to spare, including the Canadian divisions, which were locked in trench warfare in Europe. Also the problem is getting them to Canada when the US fleet is pretty much at home and can take the RN ion their own turf. Plus the RN cannot spare ships from keeping the German High Seas Fleet locked up in the North Sea.
On the Army and Canada I certainly agree. In fact it is one of the same reasons why Britain dedeclined to support the Confederacy some fifty years earlier.

On the RN, I beg to differ. As long as either the USN or the High Seas Fleet are in port the RN can take the other. Obviously what it can not do is if the USA and Germany co-operate at least at sea.

More generally, ever since the mid nineteenth century it has never been particularly in Britain's interest to get in a war with the USA because she has too much to lose. Thus even the threat of the USA busting the blockade would initiate a diplomatic offensive and if it meant throwing the French to the wolves, it would probably be "So be it. It is us or them"
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  #7  
Old December 28th, 2012, 08:53 PM
Glenn239 Glenn239 is offline
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Originally Posted by warsfan View Post
If the United States had stayed completely neutral throughout the entire course of WWI, trading with both sides but never entering the war or directly participating in the peace negotiations, how would the war most likely have gone? Would Germany's Spring Offensive have succeeded without American troops in France? Would the Entente have won, but have taken longer to do so? What might be some of the wider effects?

(Note: I'm not interested in discussing how likely American neutrality was or how it might come about-consider it handwaved for the purposes of this thread. I'm more interested in how WWI would have gone without America.)
Figure maybe a 25% chance of an Entente victory, a 25% chance of a CP victory, and a 50% chance to a draw. Of course, a draw would look suspiciously like German hegemony within about 10 years....
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Old December 28th, 2012, 10:26 PM
lonewulf44 lonewulf44 is offline
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On the RN, I beg to differ. As long as either the USN or the High Seas Fleet are in port the RN can take the other. Obviously what it can not do is if the USA and Germany co-operate at least at sea.

True enough, but that choice is up to the RN and it can't have both. Co-operating or not if the RN chooses to keep its thumb on one then the other is going to operate with a freedom that would ruin Britain’s naval strategy. I don't think either side (US or UK) would or could let things get to actual fighting ... but playing the card here if they did then the UK is stuck. If they pull ships to engage the US in the Western Atlantic then the German fleet is going to be at liberty to do damage ... if they leave the USN to stop the British Merchant Marine ... then the islands and allies go hungry.

All of this is largely mute do to the financial reason already laid out.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 07:10 AM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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True enough, but that choice is up to the RN and it can't have both. Co-operating or not if the RN chooses to keep its thumb on one then the other is going to operate with a freedom that would ruin Britain’s naval strategy. I don't think either side (US or UK) would or could let things get to actual fighting ... but playing the card here if they did then the UK is stuck. If they pull ships to engage the US in the Western Atlantic then the German fleet is going to be at liberty to do damage ... if they leave the USN to stop the British Merchant Marine ... then the islands and allies go hungry.

All of this is largely mute do to the financial reason already laid out.
I entirely agree with the scenario and the rationale behind it, which leads to another possibility, names that a US shipping company with some fast ships blockade runs.

To get to Germany the blockade runners sail to Norwegian waters then run down the coast then zip across the Baltic Sea at the last minute hoping that no British sub intercepts them. If the cargo was valuable enough, as per the blockade runners in the ACW, it would be worth risking the capital.

Going with the ACW comparison, the blockade runners don't have a Bermuda to run from so they will have to either tranship in Norwegian or Icelandic ports or refuel at sea. I would agree that the ports will eventually be shut down by high handed British action. However, the RN can not seize every oiler and small cargo ship with dodgy papers without pissing off enough lobbied American politicians who demand that the Limeys stop harassing good US seamen on the high seas.

Now obviously there is good money in shipping supplies and munitions to the Entente. There is even more good money though if you can do the same to Germany. You can forget the other Central Powers; the blockade on them is too tight.

Apart from the need to build the blockade runners why didn't anyone on OTL do so?
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Old December 29th, 2012, 08:08 AM
NothingNow NothingNow is offline
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So Britain will be forced to negotiate as a block with France and Russia to get the best deal or hold out and lose everything they were fighting for on the continent.
Pretty much, as there's no way in hell the Japanese would be able, much less willing to support anything on remotely the same scale, nor could/would shipping more grain from India and Australia help enough.

Really, in this situation the winners are pretty much Germany, the Ottomans, Japan (who has already accomplished her war goals, and could probably back out of the war on decently good terms,) and the US.

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Apart from the need to build the blockade runners why didn't anyone on OTL do so?
They did. Look up the Deutschland.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 09:49 AM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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Not at all for the reasons I listed above. Britain had mortgaged the figurative farm to the US, so had pretty much given away any leverage they had. If the RN starts stopping US shipping, then the US stops British shipping to their major grain source: Canada.

For much of the year they wouldn't even need to do that.

During the Winter months, the St Lawrence Seaway was frozen, so Canadian exports to Europe had to go through the United States. Thus they could be interdicted without firing a shot.

No doubt the US would pay for the grain at market rates (her own 1916 harvest had been very poor) rather as the British did for goods seized by the blockade. The Canadians would be furious but have little choice in the matter.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 10:08 AM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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I don't think anyone's mentioned oil yet.

Iirc in 1917 the world's main sources of oil were the US and Mexico. And their oil was vital to the RN. In Spring 1917 reserves were so short that the Grand Fleet was ordered to conserve it by cruising at three-fifths normal speed. And when America entered the war, GB had to ask the USN to send over only its old coal-burning vessels, as no fuel oil could be spared for the modern ones.

Should America stop oil exports, and persuade or force Mexico to do the same, the RN is in deep doodoo.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 11:37 AM
usertron2020 usertron2020 is online now
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Originally Posted by warsfan View Post
If the United States had stayed completely neutral throughout the entire course of WWI, trading with both sides but never entering the war or directly participating in the peace negotiations, how would the war most likely have gone? Would Germany's Spring Offensive have succeeded without American troops in France? Would the Entente have won, but have taken longer to do so? What might be some of the wider effects?

(Note: I'm not interested in discussing how likely American neutrality was or how it might come about-consider it handwaved for the purposes of this thread. I'm more interested in how WWI would have gone without America.)
As has been said, it's unlikely the war would have lasted until 1918. Between financial exhaustion of ALL the Entente powers, famine in France and Russia, the collapse in Russia, and the French Army Mutiny, the Germans will be in position to pull off a victory. Provided they can tone down their own very outrageous demands for peace.

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The Royal Navy would say "Bring it on, Yankee boys." The Army would first figuring out how many divisions it can ship over to Canada before the USA joins the Central Powers, which by forcing the blockade it is in effect doing.

To force the blockade is going to require the RN and USN to fight it out. Irrespective of the quality of the ships and commanders, Britain has the advantage that she is fighting in home waters and not 3000 miles away. Whilst most US dreadnoughts can cross the Atlantic and back, long times at combat speeds will cut into their range to the point of needing refuelling. If the RN locate and sink the oilers, the USN will have to smartly retreat.
All this assumes an aggressive US stance. In fact, between the British and Americans, it is the aggressor who loses. The factors you raise are just as applicable for fighting it out in North America, where once the US Army and Marine Corps are mobilized Canada will be all but defenseless, save in the Maritime Provinces, and for a time, Quebec.

And as to ships, by this time the US Navy had reached qualitative equality with the Royal Navy, and even quantitative if you disallow the older worn out pre-dreadnoughts. Besides, sending in a British fleet big enough to engage the US in it's own home waters would risk uncovering the German High Seas Fleet, meaning opening up Britain's own home waters, which would have been unthinkable.

Ironically, if human nature and history is any guide, it's likely the British might have tried to split the difference, which would have been disastrous for them.

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The British had no divisions to spare, including the Canadian divisions, which were locked in trench warfare in Europe. Also the problem is getting them to Canada...<snip>
Pretty much.

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On the Army and Canada I certainly agree. In fact it is one of the same reasons why Britain declined to support the Confederacy some fifty years earlier.

On the RN, I beg to differ. As long as either the USN or the High Seas Fleet are in port the RN can take the other. Obviously what it can not do is if the USA and Germany co-operate at least at sea.(1)
1) The entire US East Coast, Gulf Coast, Panama Canal, West Coast, and Hawaii are a helluva lot harder to manage in terms of "keeping them in port" than the single port of Wilhelmshaven.

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True enough, but that choice is up to the RN and it can't have both. Co-operating or not if the RN chooses to keep its thumb on one then the other is going to operate with a freedom that would ruin Britain’s naval strategy. I don't think either side (US or UK) would or could let things get to actual fighting ... but playing the card here if they did then the UK is stuck. If they pull ships to engage the US in the Western Atlantic then the German fleet is going to be at liberty to do damage ... if they leave the USN to stop the British Merchant Marine ... then the islands and allies go hungry.
Exactly. The RN could keep up the blockade of the Germans, but they flat out didn't have the forces remaining to engage the USN in American waters. The aggressor loses, whoever it might be.

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For much of the year they wouldn't even need to do that.

During the Winter months, the St Lawrence Seaway was frozen, so Canadian exports to Europe had to go through the United States. Thus they could be interdicted without firing a shot.

No doubt the US would pay for the grain at market rates (her own 1916 harvest had been very poor) rather as the British did for goods seized by the blockade. The Canadians would be furious but have little choice in the matter.
The St. Lawrence Seaway did not even open until 1959. So...twelve months a year?

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I don't think anyone's mentioned oil yet.

Iirc in 1917 the world's main sources of oil were the US and Mexico. And their oil was vital to the RN. In Spring 1917 reserves were so short that the Grand Fleet was ordered to conserve it by cruising at three-fifths normal speed. And when America entered the war, GB had to ask the USN to send over only its old coal-burning vessels, as no fuel oil could be spared for the modern ones.

Should America stop oil exports, and persuade or force Mexico to do the same, the RN is in deep doodoo.
Coal would be an issue too. The USA is the Saudi Arabia of coal.

Also, Mexico was in a state of a long revolution at this time, so I don't know how well the oil wells would be operating.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 12:00 PM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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As has been said, it's unlikely the war would have lasted until 1918. Between financial exhaustion of ALL the Entente powers, famine in France and Russia, the collapse in Russia, and the French Army Mutiny, the Germans will be in position to pull off a victory. Provided they can tone down their own very outrageous demands for peace.
The Germans can still win even if they make outrageous demands. After all is that not what the Entente did?

German victory could end with France and Russia knocked out and Great Britian agreeing to some form of armistice followed by a Anglo-German-US cold war. From Britain's point of view they were not defeated by strength of arms but were stabbed in the back in a major trading partner so no great love with the two other major powers of the world. Germany can extract most or all what it wants from Europe, the Ottoman Empire and China so why be too chummy with its rivals. The war will have have shown the USA the perils of engagement in Old World so isolationism will appear attractive.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 10:01 PM
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The Germans can still win even if they make outrageous demands. After all is that not what the Entente did?(1)

German victory could end with France and Russia knocked out and Great Britian agreeing to some form of armistice followed by a Anglo-German-US cold war. From Britain's point of view they were not defeated by strength of arms but were stabbed in the back in a major trading partner so no great love with the two other major powers of the world. Germany can extract most or all what it wants from Europe, the Ottoman Empire and China so why be too chummy with its rivals. The war will have have shown the USA the perils of engagement in Old World so isolationism will appear attractive.(2)
1) I'd take a harder look at German demands being made even in 1918. I mean, all French territory up to the Seine River, leaving just an enclave for Paris!? France's demands for the Rhineland were pretty extreme, but they weren't THAT bad! And then there's the Treaty of Brest-Litvosk...

2) Good analysis. I'd only point out that it really is difficult to predict how the British will react long term to this ALT ending. When all your allies are virtually destroyed...and how does Canada end up IF the US does get in the war? (3) If Canada is either lost (save for Quebec, as I don't think the US would take such a poor and non-English speaking province on a platter) or loses major chunks of its territory then Britain will be seen as just as much a "loser" of the war as the rest of the Entente.

3) Apologies to the OP, as this is really supposed to be about American neutrality.
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Old December 29th, 2012, 11:00 PM
Mikestone8 Mikestone8 is offline
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1) I'd take a harder look at German demands being made even in 1918. I mean, all French territory up to the Seine River, leaving just an enclave for Paris!? France's demands for the Rhineland were pretty extreme, but they weren't THAT bad!

Who exactly demanded that? Even Fritz Fischer makes no mention of such a demand, iirc.
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Old December 30th, 2012, 02:16 AM
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Who exactly demanded that? Even Fritz Fischer makes no mention of such a demand, iirc.
I've seen maps of such a "provisional settlement" in WWI histories, but I confess it's been a long time since I've had them. BTW, this idea did not touch on territory very much to the south of Paris. Basically, France from the Seine to Belgium & Germany. And I agree, it's over the rainbow as demands go. But it really isn't all that far from what they took from Russia.
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Old December 30th, 2012, 02:21 AM
wiking wiking is offline
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I've seen maps of such a "provisional settlement" in WWI histories, but I confess it's been a long time since I've had them. BTW, this idea did not touch on territory very much to the south of Paris. Basically, France from the Seine to Belgium & Germany. And I agree, it's over the rainbow as demands go. But it really isn't all that far from what they took from Russia.
Be extremely careful of German demands, as there really wasn't an official position, but a bunch of people throwing out a bunch of ideas. Also Allied propaganda put out fake demands for the Entente public to think that the Central Powers wanted to take everything and destroy their country, something the Central Powers did too.
Just know that there were no official positions put forth by Germany throughout WW1, though there were lots of public figures in and out of government that put forth ideas.
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Old December 30th, 2012, 02:50 AM
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Be extremely careful of German demands, as there really wasn't an official position, but a bunch of people throwing out a bunch of ideas. Also Allied propaganda put out fake demands for the Entente public to think that the Central Powers wanted to take everything and destroy their country, something the Central Powers did too.
Just know that there were no official positions put forth by Germany throughout WW1, though there were lots of public figures in and out of government that put forth ideas.
On mature reconsideration, I think you are right. I remember reading of philosophical discussions going on in Imperial Japan in WWII where commentators were talking up the idea of Japan accomplishing world conquest!
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Old December 30th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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Where did the Allies get their nitrates from after they ran through their pre-war stockpiles? Was it mostly from South America?
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