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BY CHARLES W. ELIOT
President Emeritus of Harvard University
HE causes of the World War are many in number and various in intensity and effectiveness. Some of them, like the dull but vigorous and belligerent quality of the Prussian people, may be traced back for centuries. The continuance into the nineteenth century of many features of the Feudal System in Central Europe was a contributory cause; as was also the too common acceptance there of autocratic dynasties that claimed to rule by divine right. Another cause was the existence among all the nations of Central Europe of a professional military class that gained greatly in power when military service was made universal; all able-bodied men were brought early into military service and kept late, and were at the call of autocratic rulers and a military ruling class. European armies ceased to be comparatively small professional bodies, and became huge masses of trained men which could be suddenly thrown against neighboring nations less well prepared.
When the new German Empire was constituted in 1871 at the close of the highly successful war against France, the German people and their rulers were filled with a new ambition. They had just learnt that war might yield them, first, territories rich in mining and manufacturing material capable of supplying highly profitable German industries; next, that the whole cost of a brief aggressive war, and indeed much more than the cost, might be exacted from the conquered nation; and thirdly, that the German military power was greater than that of any other nation in Europe. Building on these foundations, the German government and ruling classes set out to win new powers and fresh triumphs in the industrial field; and this object they achieved to an astonishing degree within forty years. These large successes inspired new and confident expectations. The German government, the military class, and the financial, manufacturing, and commercial classes all made up their minds that war "paid." In the meantime the German ruling classes and the government saw that the military and industrial strength of France were both stationary like the population, that Great Britain maintained only a small army of an antique pattern, and was losing ground industrially and commercially, and that Russia was making no progress in military organization, and only slow progress in manufac turing and in popular education.
Before the unification of Germany in 1871 Bismarck had tried in 1864 a little war against gallant but feeble Denmark, from which Prussia gained some valuable territory, and had, in 1866, inflicted in
a few weeks a heavy defeat on her recent ally Austria, from which Prussia reaped a large profit in military and political prestige. Only four years later, Bismarck and Moltke decided that they could advantageously attack France without danger of interference by any other European power, France being under the weak and unacceptable rule of a nondescript Emperor who said he ruled "by the Grace of God and the national will." Their diagnosis of the European situation proved to be correct, and their military victory was colossal. This victory with the accompanying creation of the German Empire started the extraordinary financial, manufacturing, and commercial development of Germany during the following forty-three years. It soon appeared that the German government was fostering in every possible way this development, and that the object it had in view was an expansion of German influence in Europe and power throughout the world.
Here is the primary and sufficient cause of the World War which broke out in August, 1914. Without the support of Germany, AustriaHungary would not have been so overbearing towards Serbia. Without the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, which infected Russia and the Balkan States with so many malignant germs, the attack of Austria-Hungary on Serbia would not have lighted the fires of war in the Near East so promptly as it did in 1914.
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR
IN 1914 Germany had no Bismarck and no Moltke, and nobody approaching them in capacity and insight. Germany underestimated the resisting power of republican France and the morale of the French people. She also had no conception how quickly Great Britain could organize a huge and effective army capable of acquiring rapidly all the new methods of fighting which Germany was prepared to spring upon her adversaries. As to the United States, the German military and political leaders thought that the American people neither would nor could do any effective fighting from across the Atlantic,-a serious, and as it proved, a fatal error of judgment on their part. That is, Germany overrated her own strength and the advantages of surprise, and underrated the number, resources, and resolution of her probable adversaries.
Among the causes of the War must therefore be set down the German misunderstanding of the state of mind and the character of the French, British, and American peoples. Moreover, there never was a more vivid illustration of the truth of the Biblical proverb-" Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall."
The sudden invasion of Belgium by the German Armies in violation of treaty obligations, and the barbarous conduct of the German. armies toward the Belgian people caused the immediate entry of Great Britain into the War, with the cordial support, so unexpected to Germany, of all the British colonies, dominions, and commonwealths. This cause of the immediate expansion of the War was not so much. material as moral. It revealed in the German government and ruling