"Russia First" German strategy in ww1?

The problem is the scenarios are all binary and total, WW2 style, rather than having any sort of subtlety that was possible until as late as 1917 in many circumstances. There is little consideration given to options other than the simplest and most absolute, like beating France in 6 weeks and the war over by Christmas.

The fact of the matter is that unlike WW2 WW1 can be won by the CP by military means, the correlation of forces and balance of power does not put it beyond their grasp and a reshuffling of the deck chairs can produce results. I think people know this, which is why East First threads come up so often, the problem is that while CP victory is possible east first isn't the way to do it.
Yep

And if nothing else proto-Germany has already managed to get in quick and beat France in living memory, in a result not many at the time were expecting. So in abstract it's not some unknowingly impossible thing to do (yes obviously 1914 is not 1870 for all sorts of reasons but that works in both directions). However one of the bigger differences is in 1870 the nascent Germany had played a much better political game prior to the conflict starting.


Honestly I kind of see parallels to the question that gets asked of Barbarossa in 1941, yes we know now it was a bad idea, and we know that given the reality and errors in German planning and assumptions it was a bad idea. But in 1941 in Germany it looks like doing the easy thing they had managed to do in the last war* having just succeeded in doing the thing they failed at in the last war.


And in fact in abstract when it comes to a quick advance into France followed by quick victory Germany is 2 for 3 in a 70 year period. So this isn't some impossible dream, even if it does rely on everything going right and the the French not doing well. That said I think you could argue that by the last week of July 1914 enough things have already not gone right for the Germans even before the troops start crossing borders.



*don't want to draw too closer a parallel here it did take them 3 years in 1917
 
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Only they won't be making moves based on hindsight will they?

They were however making moves based on know about both east and west situations.

and here's the thing, it not like the east first idea is some revolutionary thing the German high command hadn't considered pre-war.
It is the discussion because you want them to go against the established plan which was only wrong in hindsight

Even if he did being right in hindsight doesn't mean very much

I know that this is all in hindsight, but what does it matter? We are not limited to information the Germans had in 1914.

Plus as mentioned in the link posted by @NoMommsen, even Moltke said that the assumptions on the Schlieffen plan were incorrect by 1914 - they knew that Russian mobilization would not take two months. So it was a weird decision even at the time considering that information - maybe there was some organizational inertia behind it?

Yes but they didn't think it was, and since you still haven't shown that beating Russia quickly and then wining in the west is a more likely alternative, your alternative isn't better.

I think the problem here is you are looking at OTL and thinking their plan failed and because it failed therefore there must have been a different better plan to follow. Only that's an assumption.

(Of course assuming that OTL decisions are inherently the best ones is also an assumption, but I still haven't seen the glaringly obvious thing the German high command missed here that makes either the East first option a better option or the west first option as initially planned* a certain failure).


Not sure what you suggesting here TBH, but like I said they were much better placed to extract territorial adjustments from France OTL since they were already sitting on French soil.

Of course I haven't shown what I haven't claimed. I have never claimed that Germany could beat Russia quickly and then win in the West, as in marching to Paris. On the contrary, I claimed that Germany shouldn't even try to win quickly, as that was a doomed proposition to begin with.

It is also a weird assumption that OTL decisions are inherently the best ones - on the contrary, that shouldn't be the case, as in hindsight we can have a more accurate assessment of the situation as we have more information.

Do you have any evidence that the Germans chose the best possible plan at the moment?

Because they lost doing so and they had recognised the danger before hand, hence their plans. And this is the point the German plan was to win in the west quickly and then mop up in the east, because they knew that if they failed to do that they would be squeezed to death in a war of attrition.

Which is what happened so actaully their fears were borne out by reality.

What happened, happened because they chose to do what they did, not due to some historical inevitability. Unlike WW2, WW1 was not unwinnable for the Central Powers, and going East is a radical change to the war, to such degree that there's no way the war would be a carbon copy of OTL.

Germany was a democracy (certainly by the standards of the day), also you think the entente didn't go with nationalism or do you think the Germans are somehow super nationalistically motivated?

Reichstag was only controlling the legislature, while Kaiser and the military governed the government and as such the foreign policy - hardly a democracy. Unless I'm mistaken, Britain and France were democracies even in modern sense at the time.


OTL had both sides making offensives so you presenting this as an inversion of OTL is not correct.

And you still ignoring the advantage the German position OTL gave them namely sitting on 25% of France and weaken France considerably by doing that

and as I said the lowlands might be a route.

On the large, Germans were still doing more offensives than Entente.

Also, OTL Germany sitting on 25% France is just false. As mentioned earlier in this thread, it was just 4% or so.


Germany's biggest problem in WW1 is political. In 1916 the Reichstag adopted the 'Peace Resolution' of no annexations and no indemnities, which is a bit much but in reality the politicians and public were more interested in territory in the east and would have been happy to negotiate over the west. However the Reichstag was merely the Legislature, the Executive Government and the Silent Dictatorship existed and controlled Foreign Policy and the Silent Dictatorship in particular was land hungry and quite extreme politically, the Polish Strip is a good example of this.

This is why no compromise peace was offered to the west in 1917 after Russia dropped out. However by this time the French and British were quite radcialised and with the US in the war scented blood in the water so likely would have rejected a compromise offer.

Yeah, I agree about this. IMO the best chance for Germany to win is to solve those political problems and negotiate a compromise peace in West after defeating Russia - which should be easier with an Eastern strategy. This is what I have been trying to say.

A purely military victory would be much harder to pull off, and that might require successful Schieffen plan, as unlikely as that would be.
 
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I know that this is all in hindsight, but what does it matter? We are not limited to information the Germans had in 1914.

no but the Germans were!
Plus as mentioned in the link posted by @NoMommsen, even Moltke said that the assumptions on the Schlieffen plan were incorrect by 1914 - they knew that Russian mobilization would not take two months. So it was a weird decision even at the time considering that information - maybe there was some organizational inertia behind it?

Yes quite likely, I also think that teh changing situation at teh time swept the plan along as well, such is the nature of military pre-planning and politics

Of course I haven't shown what I haven't claimed. I have never claimed that Germany could beat Russia quickly and then win in the West, as in marching to Paris. On the contrary, I claimed that Germany shouldn't even try to win quickly, as that was a doomed proposition to begin with.

and you keep ignoring the issues with a long war

however to repeat again

since you still haven't shown that beating Russia quickly and then wining in the west is a more likely alternative, your alternative isn't better.

I think the problem here is you are looking at OTL and thinking their plan failed and because it failed therefore there must have been a different better plan to follow. Only that's an assumption.

(Of course assuming that OTL decisions are inherently the best ones is also an assumption, but I still haven't seen the glaringly obvious thing the German high command missed here that makes either the East first option a better option or the west first option as initially planned* a certain failure).


*As I said in a recent thread, the Germans are kind caught in their own trap here. They have a plan, that plan was based on certain assumptions two big ones being we cut through Belgium and the Belgian's (and the rest of the world) are fine with that. They then make political moves with that in mind. Only after they have made a lot of pollical moves, many of which they would find unpalatable to walk back from, they find out that those two assumptions are wrong (amongst others).

So they can either:

1). back the fuck down, but well lots of reason against doing this

2). Suddenly come up with a brand new plan, only the last week of July 1914 is really not the time to be doing that

3). grit their teeth, take the risk and go for it hoping for the best, hoping maybe they get lucky and the French are as shit as they were 40 year prior, hope the shop keepers are blustering, hope the spirit of Bismarck is smiling on them (it's not, Bismarck would have been spinning in his grave while shouting I told you so)

It is also a weird assumption that OTL decisions are inherently the best ones - on the contrary, that shouldn't be the case, as in hindsight we can have a more accurate assessment of the situation as we have more information.

But hindsight in worthless for assessing those decisions as they were made, and as I said it not like they didn't look at the east first option.

Do you have any evidence that the Germans chose the best possible plan at the moment?

Do you have any evidence that your plan is better? (Going west doesn't have to be the best plan ever it just has to be better than yours in this comparison) and see above



What happened, happened because they chose to do what they did, not due to some historical inevitability. Unlike WW2, WW1 was not unwinnable for the Central Powers, and going East is a radical change to the war, to such degree that there's no way the war would be a carbon copy of OTL.

And yet you are the one suggesting a long war, and you still have addressed the issues with that


Reichstag was only controlling the legislature, while Kaiser and the military governed the government and as such the foreign policy - hardly a democracy. Unless I'm mistaken, Britain and France were democracies even in modern sense at the time.

Oh I agree there's definitely a spectrum, but you could make a similar point about controlling foreign policy etc elsewhere and stuff like general elections being suspended during the war in the UK, but again do you think the entente didn't go with nationalism or do you think the Germans are somehow super nationalistically motivated?

this idea that western democracies are won't fight when it comes to it (and that was the initiating claim here) get trotted out all the time but never really supported.

Especially as what happen OTL? The Germans may have won in the east but they lost the overall war of attrition, and so we go back to short war vs. long war.

On the large, Germans were still doing more offensives than Entente.

I can't be bothered to tot them up, but the entente were launching plenty of their own



Also, OTL Germany sitting on 25% France is just false. As mentioned earlier in this thread, it was just 4% or so.

Sorry yes you are right it's about 8% of the pre-war population and 25% of pre-war industrial capability / raw material isn't it.

 
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no but the Germans were!

But hind sight in worthless for assessing those decisions as they were made, and as I said it not like they didn't look at the east first option.

What does this matter? This entire discussion is completely worthless for any other purpose than curiosity.

What Germans knew at the time is completely different discussion from whether an Eastern campaign could have had better luck for the Germans.


however to repast again

since you still haven't shown that beating Russia quickly and then wining in the west is a more likely alternative, your alternative isn't better.

I think the problem here is you are looking at OTL and thinking their plan failed and because it failed therefore there must have been a different better plan to follow. Only that's an assumption.

(Of course assuming that OTL decisions are inherently the best ones is also an assumption, but I still haven't seen the glaringly obvious thing the German high command missed here that makes either the East first option a better option or the west first option as initially planned* a certain failure).


*As I said in a recent thread, the Germans are kind caught in their own trap here. They have a plan, that plan was based on certain assumptions two big ones being we cut through Belgium and the Belgian's (and the rest of the world) are fine with that. They then make political moves with that in mind. Only after they have made a lot of pollical moves, many of which they would find unpalatable to walk back from, they find out that those two assumptions are wrong (amongst others).

So they can either:

1). back the fuck down, but well lots of reason against doing this

2). Suddenly come up with a brand new plan, only the last week of July 1914 is really not the time to be doing that

3). grit their teeth, take the risk and go for it hoping for the best, hoping maybe they get lucky and the French are as shit as they were 40 year prior, hope the shop keepers are blustering, hope the spirt of Bismarck is smiling on them (it's not Bismarck would have been spinning in his grave)

Ok, I will repaste as well. :)


Of course I haven't shown what I haven't claimed. I have never claimed that Germany could beat Russia quickly and then win in the West, as in marching to Paris. On the contrary, I claimed that Germany shouldn't even try to win quickly, as that was a doomed proposition to begin with.

It is also a weird assumption that OTL decisions are inherently the best ones - on the contrary, that shouldn't be the case, as in hindsight we can have a more accurate assessment of the situation as we have more information.


And yet you are the one suggesting a long war, and you still have addressed the issues with that

I have addressed them several times, I guess this discussion is entirely pointless.


Do you have any evidence that you plan is better? (Going west doesn't have to be the best pan ever it just has to be better than yours) and see above

OTL the Germans clearly lost and it's obvious that victory was unlikely with that plan. So it's logical to consider other options, even if that requires hindsight of OTL course of events, which shattered "known inevitabilities" of the time.
 
Yep

And if nothing else proto-Germany has already managed to get in quick and beat France in living memory, in a result not many at the time were expecting. So in abstract it's not some unknowingly impossible thing to do (yes obviously 1914 is not 1870 for all sorts of reasons but that works in both directions). However one of the bigger differences is in 1870 the nascent Germany had played a much better political game prior to the conflict starting.


Honestly I kind of see parallels to the question that gets asked of Barbarossa in 1941, yes we know now it was a bad idea, and we know that given the reality and errors in German planning and assumptions it was a bad idea. But in 1941 in Germany it looks like doing the easy thing they had managed to do in the last war* having just succeeded in doing the thing they failed at in the last war.


And in fact in abstract when it comes to a quick advance into France followed by quick victory Germany is 2 for 3 in a 70 year period. So this isn't some impossible dream, even if it does rely on everything going right and the the French not doing well. That said I think you could argue that by the last week of July 1914 enough things have already not gone right for the Germans even before the troops start crossing borders.



*don't want to draw too closer a parallel here it did take them 3 years in 1917
To be honest it worked in 1914 too - They put France in a chokehold, could move troops east and beat russia, the failure lay in not getting out after Russia was out/antagonising the US.
To a certain extent, even Versailles was a victory, if Hitler hadn't screwed things up with his megalomaniacal dreams, Germany would have regained most of what she lost in 1919, and ensured their hegemony in Europe.
 
OTL the Germans clearly lost and it's obvious that victory was unlikely with that plan. So it's logical to consider other options, even if that requires hindsight with which to shatter certain inevitabilities.

Without getting caught up in the East or West debate, and making a very general point here:

OTL the Germans lost using Idiot Plan 1 (any plan that presupposes Britain will stay out after having spent two decades pissing Britain off, followed by invading Belgium is an Idiot Plan). Therefore we can deduce that Idiot Plan 1 wasn't effective. By all means other options should be considered. However, just because they are other options, that doesn't mean they are any better than Idiot Plan 1.

In July 1914, France/Britain/Russia outmuscled Germany/AH by a considerable margin (roughly 2.5:1 in GDP, 5:1 in manpower, 3:1 in financial reserves), and much of that was unreachable by G/AH (the reverse wasn't true, as the blockade was to demonstrate). In July 1914, Germany was importing 25% of its food.

All those suggest that in any lengthy conflict, Germany is screwed. Therefore it needs to win fast or not at all.

The distances on the eastern front make any quick victory there difficult at best. Therefore any Eastern initiative needs to show how these issues of distance will be overcome. If it doesn't, it's just a pipedream.
 
Without getting caught up in the East or West debate, and making a very general point here:

OTL the Germans lost using Idiot Plan 1 (any plan that presupposes Britain will stay out after having spent two decades pissing Britain off, followed by invading Belgium is an Idiot Plan). Therefore we can deduce that Idiot Plan 1 wasn't effective. By all means other options should be considered. However, just because they are other options, that doesn't mean they are any better than Idiot Plan 1.

In July 1914, France/Britain/Russia outmuscled Germany/AH by a considerable margin (roughly 2.5:1 in GDP, 5:1 in manpower, 3:1 in financial reserves), and much of that was unreachable by G/AH (the reverse wasn't true, as the blockade was to demonstrate). In July 1914, Germany was importing 25% of its food.

All those suggest that in any lengthy conflict, Germany is screwed. Therefore it needs to win fast or not at all.

The distances on the eastern front make any quick victory there difficult at best. Therefore any Eastern initiative needs to show how these issues of distance will be overcome. If it doesn't, it's just a pipedream.

I suppose that would be true in a balls to the walls - scenario, where everybody is committed to press the war to the end no matter the cost. Hence, the idea in an Eastern plan is to bypass it by making the war more limited, while reducing the advantage of triple Entente by knocking Russia out of the war a bit earlier than OTL. After all, there is no need to militarily defeat Britain and France, if Germany can convince them that it's not worth it to press the war to finish instead of taking a compromise peace.

I do realize that a pure military victory, where Germany runs over the continent, is probably less likely in an Eastern strategy.

EDIT: Out of curiosity, do you have a link to those GDP and manpower numbers? It would be interesting to see how much of the Entente advantage would be reduced by Russia being knocked out, and how much of it was in colonies (and as such was less enthustiastic for the war).

EDIT2: Heck, maybe I'm wrong and the situation really was that binary and absolute - either Germany wins quick, or is eventually ground down over the years, without any possibility of a negotiated peace. I just find it hard to believe.
 
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What does this matter? This entire discussion is completely worthless for any other purpose than curiosity.

What Germans knew at the time is completely different discussion from whether an Eastern campaign could have had better luck for the Germans.

You seem to be assuming the German hadn't considered the Russia or France question so it might be that instead of the German not seeing you clever plan that it might be your clever plan isn't as clever as you think


Ok, I will repaste as well. :)

hell or maybe address the points raised? (irony being I already addressed the OTL plans are the best possible plans strawman in the bit I just reposted!)

I have addressed them several times, I guess this discussion is entirely pointless.

No you haven't, or if you did you ignore my responses to that

OTL the Germans clearly lost and it's obvious that victory was unlikely with that plan. So it's logical to consider other options, even if that requires hindsight of OTL course of events, which shattered "known inevitabilities" of the time.
Only your plan is to have long war of attrition something they did OTl and which they lost and so it's an odd claim to make especially as you are invoking hindsight!


Again they considered the issue of Russia and France (and short war vs. long war)
 
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I suppose that would be true in a balls to the walls - approach, where everybody is committed to press the war to the end no matter the cost. Hence, the idea in an Eastern plan is to bypass it by making the war more limited, while reducing the advantage of triple Entente by knocking Russia out of the war a bit earlier than OTL. After all, there is no need to militarily defeat Britain and France, if Germany can convince them that it's not worth it to press the war to finish instead of taking a compromise peace.

I do realize that a pure military victory, where Germany runs over the continent, is probably less likely in an Eastern strategy.

EDIT: Out of curiosity, do you have a link to those GDP and manpower numbers? It would be interesting to see how much of the Entente advantage would be reduced by Russia being knocked out, and how much of it was in colonies (and as such was less enthustiastic for the war).
Problem is with the idea of convincing France and Britain to give up is that not only it assume both will conveniently fall into with your plan despite fighting an industrial scale mass mobilisation war for however long, But if it happens after Germany has won in the East leaving Germany in a much more powerful position than it was in pre-1914 and along with AH well on their way to European hegemony, which is what the alliance system and French and British foreign policy was trying to avoid.

Remember the entire point of the Franco-Russian alliance (and then later the British too) was to box Germany/AH in and that neither would let the other get isolated and picked off, and it's to all three countrie's advantage that neither is. Because it's always going to be easier to beat Germany when it's fighting all three, than with just two of you after Germany has gained from a win.
 
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I suppose that would be true in a balls to the walls - approach, where everybody is committed to press the war to the end no matter the cost. Hence, the idea in an Eastern plan is to bypass it by making the war more limited, while reducing the advantage of triple Entente by knocking Russia out of the war a bit earlier than OTL. After all, there is no need to militarily defeat Britain and France, if Germany can convince them that it's not worth it to press the war to finish instead of taking a compromise peace.

I do realize that a pure military victory, where Germany runs over the continent, is probably less likely in an Eastern strategy.

EDIT: Out of curiosity, do you have a link to those GDP and manpower numbers? It would be interesting to see how much of the Entente advantage would be reduced by Russia being knocked out, and how much of it was in colonies (and as such was less enthustiastic for the war).
If you are looking for an eastern strategy and one that may bring a victory, you may want to look at Moltke the Elders plans.

AIUI when Moltke planned to stand on the defensive in the West and attack in the east he was not planning on overrunning or destroying Russia. He (and Bismarck) recognized that after 1870 Germany was effectively a satisfied power. They basically had everything they wanted in Europe, plus some. Thus he planned to use the good defensive terrain they had won on the French Border (Alsace-Lorrain) to hold the French there. Then draw the Russians into a defeat somewhere near Germany's eastern frontier (probably somewhere near Warsaw).

Once this was won the plan was then to do as had been done in other such limited wars, and turn the situation over to the civilian authorities to make a deal. To be fair their is no guarantee that the Entente powers would be willing to negotiate but with much less blood spilled and Germany not demanding continental Hegemony it seems much more likely than in OTL.

This tied into Bismarck's whole philosophy of creating a place for Germany as a part of the Balance of Power system. Creating alliances that would hopefully avoid such a war in the first place and give them support and a free hand if it didn't.

However, to get this kind of situation you need to avoid the direction that Germany went from the 1890's on. Rather than working with the system to create a safety zone for Germany they tried constantly to upset it and drove their enemies together. Rather than plan for a limited war that would secure German safety the Schlieffen plan aimed for the destruction of France as a Great Power and true Hegemony over all of Europe. And the civilian leadership simply went along with it. I think Germany sowed the seeds of their own downfall in the 30 years prior to the First World War. To avoid it you probably have to change their actions in those 30 years.

War is not a military endeavor alone. It is the outgrowth of the politics and foreign policy of the nations involved and is supposed to be in furtherance of their goals. Germanies problem in WW1 is not merely its military situation but the boogeyman they had made themselves into and the goals they were pursuing. Goals that basically ensured stubborn and unyielding resistance by their opponents.
 
If you are looking for an eastern strategy and one that may bring a victory, you may want to look at Moltke the Elders plans.

AIUI when Moltke planned to stand on the defensive in the West and attack in the east he was not planning on overrunning or destroying Russia. He (and Bismarck) recognized that after 1870 Germany was effectively a satisfied power. They basically had everything they wanted in Europe, plus some. Thus he planned to use the good defensive terrain they had won on the French Border (Alsace-Lorrain) to hold the French there. Then draw the Russians into a defeat somewhere near Germany's eastern frontier (probably somewhere near Warsaw).

Once this was won the plan was then to do as had been done in other such limited wars, and turn the situation over to the civilian authorities to make a deal. To be fair their is no guarantee that the Entente powers would be willing to negotiate but with much less blood spilled and Germany not demanding continental Hegemony it seems much more likely than in OTL.

This tied into Bismarck's whole philosophy of creating a place for Germany as a part of the Balance of Power system. Creating alliances that would hopefully avoid such a war in the first place and give them support and a free hand if it didn't.

However, to get this kind of situation you need to avoid the direction that Germany went from the 1890's on. Rather than working with the system to create a safety zone for Germany they tried constantly to upset it and drove their enemies together. Rather than plan for a limited war that would secure German safety the Schlieffen plan aimed for the destruction of France as a Great Power and true Hegemony over all of Europe. And the civilian leadership simply went along with it. I think Germany sowed the seeds of their own downfall in the 30 years prior to the First World War. To avoid it you probably have to change their actions in those 30 years.

War is not a military endeavor alone. It is the outgrowth of the politics and foreign policy of the nations involved and is supposed to be in furtherance of their goals. Germanies problem in WW1 is not merely its military situation but the boogeyman they had made themselves into and the goals they were pursuing. Goals that basically ensured stubborn and unyielding resistance by their opponents.
Yep +1

Not driving their enemies together i.e. leading to the Triple Entente you create situation were you can more easily split Russia off and do this without France and Britain going all in
 
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I suppose that would be true in a balls to the walls - scenario, where everybody is committed to press the war to the end no matter the cost. Hence, the idea in an Eastern plan is to bypass it by making the war more limited, while reducing the advantage of triple Entente by knocking Russia out of the war a bit earlier than OTL. After all, there is no need to militarily defeat Britain and France, if Germany can convince them that it's not worth it to press the war to finish instead of taking a compromise peace.

Fine. The trouble is, that presupposes that France and Britain will quietly give up at a point that is convenient to Germany, just because Germany asks nicely (the concept of German diplomacy including asking nicely is a bit ASB, but we'll gloss over that).

Any plan that requires the other side to conveniently do what you want them to when there is no compulsion on them to do so, even if that action may be logical, is a plan that is fatally flawed. We saw in 1917, before USA committed to the war and after Russia started falling into revolution, that when Russia was taken out of the equation - Britain and France just kept on going. So the only evidence we have is that the chances are, Britain and France are not going to conveniently settle for a compromise peace.

War is not a military endeavor alone. It is the outgrowth of the politics and foreign policy of the nations involved and is supposed to be in furtherance of their goals. Germanies problem in WW1 is not merely its military situation but the boogeyman they had made themselves into and the goals they were pursuing. Goals that basically ensured stubborn and unyielding resistance by their opponents.

Just so. Clausewitz (drink) said it: "War is simply the continuation of political discourse with the addition of other means."

He also said (drink): "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will."

There is no compulsion in your scenario for Britain and France to do Germany's will at this point, namely come to a compromise peace. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But a plan that assumes that they will is doomed to face a possible issue when the other side doesn't do what you want them to do.
 
Fine. The trouble is, that presupposes that France and Britain will quietly give up at a point that is convenient to Germany, just because Germany asks nicely (the concept of German diplomacy including asking nicely is a bit ASB, but we'll gloss over that).

Any plan that requires the other side to conveniently do what you want them to when there is no compulsion on them to do so, even if that action may be logical, is a plan that is fatally flawed. We saw in 1917, before USA committed to the war and after Russia started falling into revolution, that when Russia was taken out of the equation - Britain and France just kept on going. So the only evidence we have is that the chances are, Britain and France are not going to conveniently settle for a compromise peace.



Just so. Clausewitz (drink) said it: "War is simply the continuation of political discourse with the addition of other means."

He also said (drink): "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will."

There is no compulsion in your scenario for Britain and France to do Germany's will at this point, namely come to a compromise peace. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But a plan that assumes that they will is doomed to face a possible issue when the other side doesn't do what you want them to do.

yep and if the gamble doesn't pay off, Germany ends up trying to mop up in Russia while Britain and France is hammering on a door being held by less troops than OTL and is the front is a lot closer to the German industrial heartland than the French one. (oh and the RN will be doing it's think with the blockade).
 
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Any plan that requires the other side to conveniently do what you want them to when there is no compulsion on them to do so, even if that action may be logical, is a plan that is fatally flawed. We saw in 1917, before USA committed to the war and after Russia started falling into revolution, that when Russia was taken out of the equation - Britain and France just kept on going. So the only evidence we have is that the chances are, Britain and France are not going to conveniently settle for a compromise peace.
The UK's Desiderata from the war was the German evacuation of Belgium and France - If the Germans aren't in there, what do they want then?
The UK didn't join to preserve Russia as a great power, but even if it did, Russia remains broken, so what is the UK's desiderata? They were afraid the Germans would offer a withdrawal from belgium and france OTL, and army morale would prohibit them from declining, no such offer was ever offered.
In a scenario where Germany hasn't conquered any land in the west, Germany could make that offer, and I can't see how the UK would want to persist?
Tbh, I don't even think the French army would be willing to continue absent the occupation and resultant hard feelings - the Politicians dreamed of the return of AL, the Poilus dreamed of peace.
 
Fine. The trouble is, that presupposes that France and Britain will quietly give up at a point that is convenient to Germany, just because Germany asks nicely (the concept of German diplomacy including asking nicely is a bit ASB, but we'll gloss over that).

Any plan that requires the other side to conveniently do what you want them to when there is no compulsion on them to do so, even if that action may be logical, is a plan that is fatally flawed. We saw in 1917, before USA committed to the war and after Russia started falling into revolution, that when Russia was taken out of the equation - Britain and France just kept on going. So the only evidence we have is that the chances are, Britain and France are not going to conveniently settle for a compromise peace.



Just so. Clausewitz (drink) said it: "War is simply the continuation of political discourse with the addition of other means."

He also said (drink): "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will."

There is no compulsion in your scenario for Britain and France to do Germany's will at this point, namely come to a compromise peace. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But a plan that assumes that they will is doomed to face a possible issue when the other side doesn't do what you want them to do.

You are right that betting on negotiated peace being possible in West would have been a gamble, but IMO it would still have been a better gamble than the Schlieffen plan. I mean, how likely was the Schlieffen plan to succeed? I'd be surprised if it had better chances than one in four or so.

In addition to what @kham_coc said, I wonder how many years it would have taken for the British and French to hammer the Central Powers into submission, if Russia surrenders sometimes in 1916 and the Americans are staying out? That could be quite a lot to stomach for their populations.

Though you are correct that all of this would have required the Germans to fix their politics.

However, to get this kind of situation you need to avoid the direction that Germany went from the 1890's on. Rather than working with the system to create a safety zone for Germany they tried constantly to upset it and drove their enemies together. Rather than plan for a limited war that would secure German safety the Schlieffen plan aimed for the destruction of France as a Great Power and true Hegemony over all of Europe. And the civilian leadership simply went along with it. I think Germany sowed the seeds of their own downfall in the 30 years prior to the First World War. To avoid it you probably have to change their actions in those 30 years.

War is not a military endeavor alone. It is the outgrowth of the politics and foreign policy of the nations involved and is supposed to be in furtherance of their goals. Germanies problem in WW1 is not merely its military situation but the boogeyman they had made themselves into and the goals they were pursuing. Goals that basically ensured stubborn and unyielding resistance by their opponents.

Yes, I agree that Germany would have needed to drastically scale down their ambitions to have a chance. Beginning with not aiming for destruction of France as a great power with the Schlieffen plan.

But would it really have been too late to have some sense in 1914, shortly before the war started?
 
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But would it really have been too late to have some sense in 1914?

Sense went out the window from about 1898, so to expect it to suddenly reappear in 1914 is a bit of a stretch.

You are right that betting on negotiated peace being possible in West would have been a gamble, but IMO it would still have been a better gamble than the Schlieffen plan. I mean, how likely was the Schlieffen plan to succeed? I'd be surprised if it had better chances than one in four or so.

When one is going to war with a one in four chance of success, then one has to question why one is going to war in the first place.
 
To be honest it worked in 1914 too - They put France in a chokehold, could move troops east and beat russia, the failure lay in not getting out after Russia was out/antagonising the US.

eh France and Germany were in each others chokeholds, and by the three years it took to beat Russia Germany is not really in much state to win anything in the west. Remember the German 1918 Spring offensive is pretty much their last role of the dice and is turned back by the French and British before the US really get there (subsequent 100 day offensive has heavier US involvement)

You also can't just get out after winning in Russia as you have to consolidate and make all those gains quickly turn a resource profit


To a certain extent, even Versailles was a victory, if Hitler hadn't screwed things up with his megalomaniacal dreams, Germany would have regained most of what she lost in 1919, and ensured their hegemony in Europe.
Well this is a theoretically perfect spherical Hitler who's effective enough to get all the OTL wins, but without the OTL overreach and losses (and genocides)
 
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When one is going to war with a one in four chance of success, then one has to question why one is going to war in the first place.

I agree completely. If they had no better plan than the Schlieffen plan, they should have just buggered off. It's beyond me why they did what they did.
 
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When one is going to war with a one in four chance of success, then one has to question why one is going to war in the first place.

I agree completely. If they had no better plan than the Schlieffen plan, they should have just buggered off. It's beyond me why they did what they did.
It's like my comparison to Barbarossa, I can see why they did it. Don't get me wrong they were wrong for all sorts of reasons, but I can see why they thought it could work, and I can see how in both cases they created their own traps for doing it (although the traps were different)
 
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But would it really have been too late to have some sense in 1914?
I mean, it is probably not impossible but your would really have momentum against you. When Schlieffen first presented his plan to the German government either the Chancellor or the Foreign Minister of the day (I can't remember which) basically said that if a military man like Schlieffen thought this was the best plan then the political heads must adjust around it.

The civilian government was willing to build their entire diplomatic and political strategy around a military operational plan! An operational plan that, even at this point, could not be executed with the forces then available to Germany (it only got worse with later iterations).

Having subordinated governmental strategy to military strategy for 10 years during peacetime, it would be very difficult to reverse course at the 11th hour.
 
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