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treaties with every other State in the world, but not with Germany.
The Entente Note, already quoted above, contained this further statement:
“As soon as their preparations were complete, they encouraged a subservient ally to declare war against Serbia at forty-eight hours' notice, knowing full well that a conflict involving the control of the Balkans could not be localized and almost certainly meant a general war. In order to make doubly sure, they refused every attempt at conciliation and conference until it was too late, and the world war was inevitable for which they had plotted, and for which alone among the nations they were fully equipped and prepared.”
The leaders of the Entente Powers would like to exalt this distortion of history into a dogma, in order that their various peoples may not bring any unpleasant charges against them. And yet the historical truth is already pretty clear to all who look for it honestly and without prejudice. The German Government believed that the Serbian propaganda would annihilate AustriaHungary, and hoped, moreover, that her last faithful ally would experience a political renaissance as the result of her chastisement of Serbia. That is why they gave Count Berchtold a free hand, in the belief that Count Bülow's success over the Bosnian crisis could be repeated. Meanwhile, however, the situation had changed. Russia and France, relying upon England's help, wanted to risk a war. When the German Government saw this they tried, like a driver of a car about to collide with another vehicle, to jam on all breaks, and to drive backwards. But it was then too late. The mistake our Government made was to consent to Austria-Hungary's making so daring an experiment, at a moment of such critical tension.
It is not true either that we were thoroughly equipped and prepared for war. We had neither sufficient supplies of munitions, foodstuffs and raw materials, or any plan of campaign for a war with England. Be this as it may, we should not have been defeated if we had abided firmly by our defensive policy. The heroic spirit displayed by the German people surpassed all bounds, and they believed quite honestly that they were fighting a war of defence. If our policy had been conducted with corresponding consistency we should have saved our position in the world. We ought always to have borne in mind the analogy of the Seven Years War, in order to have been ready at any moment to extricate ourselves from the hopeless business with the least possible amount of loss.
After the first battle of the Marne, President Wilson consistently maintained that a decision was no longer possible by force of arms. This view, which I also shared, gave us some common ground, upon which, despite our other differences, we were able to some extent to work together.
Regarding Dr. Wilson's personality certain doubts have been and are still entertained by many people. He is the most brilliant and most eloquent exponent of the American point of view. But he does not devote the same energy and consistency to the execution of his various programmes as he does to their formation. There can be no question that, as a result both of his origin and his training, the President is very much under the sway of English thought and ideals. Nevertheless, his ambition to be a Peacemaker and an Arbiter Mundi certainly suggested the chance of our winning him over to our side, in the event of our being unable to achieve a
decisive victory with the forces at our disposal. In this case, Wilson, as the democratic leader of the strongest neutral Power, was the most suitable person to propose and to bring about a Peace by arrangement.
After the opening of the U-boat campaign, two alternatives remained open to us, one of which we were compelled to choose. If the prospects of a U-boat war promised to secure a victory, it was naturally incumbent upon as to prosecute it with all possible speed and energy. If, as I personally believed, the U-boat war did not guarantee a victory, it ought, owing to the enormous amount of friction to which it could not help giving rise, under all circumstances to have been abandoned; for, by creating American hostility, it did us more harm than good.
I, as the German Ambassador, in the greatest neutral State, with the evidences of American power all about me, could not help feeling it my duty to maintain our diplomatic relations with the United States. I was convinced that we should most certainly lose the war if America stepped in against us. And thus I realized ever more and more the supreme importance of preventing this from taking place.
My communications to the Central Government were framed with a view to inducing them also to adopt this attitude; but they, of course, had to form their conclusions, not from one source, but from all the sources of information they possessed. At all events, isolated as I was at Washington, I could not confine myself merely to the task of furnishing my Government with information; but was compelled on occasion to act on my own initiative, in order to prevent any premature development in the diplomatic situation from becoming utterly hopeless.
The policy for which I stood not only promised the negative success of keeping America out of the war, but
it also offered the only prospect there was of obtaining, with neutral help, a Peace by arrangement. My belief that such a peace could have been obtained through Dr. Wilson is, of course, no longer susceptible of proof to-day. It may perhaps sound improbable in view of the President's behavior at Versailles. It is my opinion, however, that, previous to the 31st of January, 1917, Dr. Wilson's attitude towards us was radically different. I base my assumption that Wilson might in those days have assisted us in obtaining a Peace by negotiation upon the following points:
(1) A Peace by mediation was the only way in which the United States could avoid becoming involved in the war, and this is what the American public opinion of the day wished above all to prevent.
(2) It is true that even if he had wished to do so, Wilson could not have declared war on England, neither could he by any exercise of force have prevented the delivery of munitions to the Allies, or have compelled England to observe the rights of nations. He could, however, have obliged England to conclude a Peace by arrangement with us; not only because in so doing he would have had the support of American public opinion, but also because such a policy was in keeping with the best political interests of the United States.
I therefore pursued the policy of Peace with undeviating consistency, and to this day I still believe it to have been the only right policy. A thorough prosecution of the U-boat campaign was also a feasible scheme. But the worst thing that we could possibly do, was to steer the zigzag course; for by so doing we were certain not only to cause constant vexations to America, but, by our half measures and partial pliancy, also to drive Mr. Wilson even further and further into the inflexible attitude of a policy of prestige. Unfortunately, however, it was precisely this zigzag course that we adopted; and thus, in addition to destroying the prospects which my policy had offered, according to the view of the Naval people, we also crippled the effects of the U-boat campaign.
My policy might best be described as that of "a silent resolve to obtain Peace.” It was utterly wrong to publish our readiness for Peace broadcast. We should have presented a strong front to the outside world, and we should have increased the powers of resistance which we actually possessed by emphasizing our strength both to our people at home and to other States. According to my view, we ought, after the first battle of the Marne, to have recognized in our heart of hearts that victory was out of the question, and consequently we should have striven to conclude a Peace, the relatively unfavorable terms of which might perhaps have temporarily staggered public opinion in Germany and created some indignation. It was not right, however, to allow deference to public opinion to outweigh other considerations, as it did in our case. The political leaders of the Empire ought to have kept the High Military Command, which from its point of view naturally demanded firmer "assurances” than the general situation warranted, more thoroughly within bounds, just as Bismarck did. Presumably the High Military Command would have been able to perform its duties quite as efficiently if it had been prevented from exercising too much influence on the policy which aimed at a conclusion of peace.
As a politician I consider that the ultimate cause of our misfortune was our lack of a uniform policy both before and during the war. If, at the time of Bismarck's retirement, we had made a timely and resolute decision