It has been argued throughout this paper that Germanys assertive nationalism and war planners belief in offensive dominance jointly contributed to the outbreak of World War I. The injection of personal policy preferences into the decision-making process by leaders and inconsistent cooperation between civilian elites and the military lies at the heart of this issue. Whereas Brooks has written that strategic coordination between civilian elites and leaders in Wilhelmine Germany was particularly weak with the military enjoying autonomy from politicians, the evidence has shown that coordination between the military and the civilian leadership did exist with reference to the pursuit of nationalistic programs to establish Germanys world power status. These inconsistencies in coordination can be explained by the personalities and personal policy preferences of the leaders driving policy execution processes.
Germanys pursuit of Weltpolitik was spearheaded by Wilhelm II, who hoped to gain the support of the public with the united support of Blow (civil complex) and Tirpitz (military complex); while the civil and military wings were aligned under the kaisers supervision and authorized naval development, what began as an attempt for Germany to seek international recognition as a world power devolved into a costly arms race with Britain. While the Navy League and the battleship development program secured the allegiance of the middle class and generated public enthusiasm for the monarchy and support for Weltpolitik, assertive ship building challenged Britains naval dominance. This contributed to regional instability and increased the risk of a future war by prompting Britain to seek alliances with Germany’s neighbors. Britain sought alliances with Japan in 1902, France in 1904, and with Russia in 1907 to counter Germanys challenges to its regional dominance.
During this period, the civil complex and military complex lost alignment on the issue of pursuing assertive and nationalistic naval development. Blow cautioned the kaiser on a more passive and peaceful way forward while Tirpitz (military complex) presided over the passage of legislation that exacerbated the arms race and led to the construction of more ships, reflecting the assertive nationalism of the military and its growing influence. Ultimately, Wilhelm IIs desire to see Germany attain world power status resulted in the inducement of regional stability and the formation of a counterweight to German power.
Policy realignment between civilian elite and the military was regained under Hollwegs chancellorship due to his own personal policy preferences. He thought the war could be used to secure a larger colonial empire, and used the July crisis as an opportunity for Germany to launch a preventive war and preserve its nationalistic dreams. In this way, Hollwegs own policy preferences, like Wilhelm IIs, escalated regional instability and contributed to the outbreak of war. Hollweg and the civilian elites nationalist decision-making and support for a preventive war to preserve a path for the development of Germanys colonial empire was consistent with the offensive-dominance strategies of German war planners. Military leaders believed that the July crisis presented a window of opportunity for Germany to bring Austria into a preventive war, gain public support for the conflict by shifting the blame on Russian challenges to the peace, and mobilize forces quickly to attack its adversaries to capitalize on its declining offensive dominance in military strength before Russia and its allies got stronger. The personal policy preferences of leaders in decisions that were made to cause World War I mattered because the evidence has shown that they were willing to take risks in order to preserve what they thought was a pathway for Germany to pursue its nationalistic desires and build a colonial empire. The kaiser advocated an aggressive, nationalistic policy that made Germanys regional neighbors feel insecure and ally with each other.
All the while, a nationalistic, powerful military continued to push for policies that escalated regional tensions. Hollwegs own nationalistic decision-making exacerbated the tensions that had been stirred up with Britain, France, and Russia in the wake of the Anglo-German naval contest, and he acted against an indecisive kaiser to plunge Germany into war. This leader-influenced nationalism was compatible with military planners belief in the cult of the offensive and led to the outbreak of World War I.
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