« AnteriorContinuar »
was an avowed supporter of the Western Policy. At the present moment, while we are standing as mourners at the grave of our national hopes, I am more than ever convinced, that had this policy been steadily pursued, we should have been spared the catastrophe that has overtaken us.
On the other hand, I will not deny, that even the Oriental Policy would have proved a feasible political scheme, if only we had decided to pursue it in good time. Albeit, I am of opinion that even Bismarck had already started us in the direction of the Western Policy, when in 1879 he decided in favor of Austria-Hungary and not Russia. Despite all that the careworn recluse of Friedrichsruhe may have written against Caprivi's policy, which was decidedly Western in tendency, he was himself the founder of the Triple Alliance, which, without the good-will of England, could not have come into existence. Had we pursued an Eastern Policy, though it would ultimately have led to the sacrifice and partition of Austria-Hungary, it would not have secured us those advantages in the Orient of which Marschall speaks. Nevertheless, I have always regretted that we sent such a first-rate man to Constantinople, for him ultimately to become the able director of the false policy which we pursued there. There is an Oriental proverb which says:, “Never lay your load on a dead camel's back.'
If, as I always used to hope, we had resolved to adopt the Western Policy, we should in any case have had to be prepared, in certain circumstances, to venture with England's help upon a war against Russia. And the experiences of the Five-Years War have taught us that we should have won such a conflict with ease. I never wanted a war with Russia, and was never an enemy of that country; but I believed that our position among the nations of the world would compel us to decide one way or the other, and I felt, just as Caprivi did, that we should not very well be able to avoid war. Even if, in the event of a war between the Triple Alliance and Russia and France, England had only maintained an attitude of friendly neutrality, this would have proved very much more favorable for us than the situation which developed out of the Encirclement Policy (Einkreisungspolitik). Furthermore, had we pursued the Western Policy, we should have had to reckon with the possibility of England's wishing to moderate, even in a perfectly friendly manner, our somewhat explosive economic development. I should not, however, have regarded this altogether as a disadvantage. For, truth to tell, we grew a little too rapidly. We ought, as "junior partners” in Britain's world-empire, to have gathered our strength more slowly. As an example of what I mean, take the policy which France and Japan have pursued since the beginning of the present century. If we had done the same, we should, at all events, have been saved from so seriously overheating the boilers of our industrial development, we should not have outstripped England as quickly as we undoubtedly could have done if we had been left to develop freely, but we should also have escaped the mortal danger which we drew upon ourselves by provoking universal hostility.
It is impossible now for me to demonstrate retrospectively that we should have been able to conclude an alliance with England. Prince Bülow denies that this was ever the case. Maybe that during his tenure of office this possibility did not offer a sufficient guarantee of future security to warrant our incurring the hostility of Russia. I am convinced, however, that an alliance with England would have been within our power, if we had pursued Caprivi's policy consistently, and the Kruger telegram had never been dispatched. Unfortunately we have always had statesmen at the helm in Germany,-Bismarck not excepted the bulk of whose views and knowledge were essentially continental, and who never felt quite at home with English ways of thinking. I feel perfectly satisfied on this point, however, that English commercial jealousy, with which we naturally had to reckon, would not have proved an insuperable obstacle to a good understanding with England, provided that we had declared ourselves ready, if necessary, to fight Russia.
The policy of the free hand, which we pursued until the outbreak of war, aimed at the highest possible results. Prince Bülow, who was the inaugurator of this policy, might possibly have known how to steer as through the “Danger-Zone” without provoking war. And then in a few years to come, we should have become so strong and should have left the Danger-Zone so very far behind us, that, as far as human judgment could tell, we should no longer have had any need to fear war. German naval construction from the beginning of the present century certainly made our relationship to England very much worse, while it also materially increased the danger of our position from the standpoint of world-politics. The Bülow-Tirpitz notion of a Risikoflotte,* may, however, only have been practicable on condition that our diplomacy were sufficiently skilful to avoid war, as long as the “risk” idea in England was not able, of itself, to maintain peace.
German foreign policy had been ably conducted by Bismarck; but, in keeping with the times, it had been almost exclusively Continental and European. At the very moment when Bismarck withdrew from the arena, Germany's era of world-politics began. It was not the free bloom of our statesmen's own creative powers; but a bitter necessity, born of the imperative need of providing Germany's increasing population with sufficient foodstuffs. But it was not our world-politics, as such, that brought about our downfall; but the way we set to work in prosecuting our policy. The Triple Alliance, with its excellent Reinsurance Treaty, did not constitute a sufficiently powerful springboard from which to take our plunge into world-politics. The Reinsurance contract could not be anything but a makeshift, which merely deferred the inevitable choice which had to be made between Russia and Austria-Hungary. In the course of time, we should either have had to decide entirely in favor of Russia, in the manner outlined above, or we should have had to try to come to an understanding with England, upon terms which, at all events, we should not have been at liberty to choose for ourselves. Unfortunately, however, it was an axiom of post-Bismarckian German politics, that the differences between Russia and England were irreconcilable, and that the Triple Alliance would have to constitute the needle-index of the scales between these two hostile Powers. This proposition was incessantly contested both verbally and in writing by Herr von Holstein, who was then the leading spirit at the Foreign Office. He perceived that its chief flaw was the weak point in the Triple Alliance itself,that is to say, the differences between Austria-Hungary and Italy on the one hand, and Italy's dependence upon England's superior power in the Mediterranean on the other. Furthermore, he recognized the prodigious possibility, which was not beyond the art of English statesmanship, of a compromise between England and Russia. He did not see, however, how the hostility of the French to ourselves would serve as a medium for this universal coalition against us.
*Literally: a feet for risks or for taking risks; a fleet to be used at a vonture.
In the last Entente Note of the Five-Years War there is the following passage:
"For many years the rulers of Germany, true to the Prussian tradition, strove for a position of dominance in Europe. They required that they should be able to dictate and tyrannize to a subservient Europe, as they dictated and tyrannized over subservient Germany."
We Germans know that this indictment is a lie; but unfortunately all unprejudiced Germans must acknowledge that for years this lie has been believed outside Germany. We, for our part, cherished similar views about our enemies, nor did we make a sufficient effort to dissipate their prejudices. On the contrary we constantly lent color to them by means of the extravagant and high-flown speeches, which formed the accompaniment to our world and naval policy, and by means of our opposition to pacifism, disarmament, and arbitration schemes, etc., etc. The extent to which our attitude at the Hague Conference damaged us in the eyes of the whole world is no longer a secret to anybody. As Heinrich Friedjung rightly observes:
“At the Hague Conference German diplomacy delivered itself up to the vengeance of the pacifists, like a culprit.”
During my tenure of office in Washington I succeeded on three occasions in coming to an agreement with the Government there regarding the terms of an arbitration treaty. All three treaties were, however, rejected in Berlin, and consequently in America I never ceased from being questioned reproachfully as to the reason why the United States had been able to conclude arbitration