There was one way out of a protracted European conflict:
If Kaiser Wilhelm II had had the nerve to declare war on France during the 1905 Morocco Crisis, Count Alfred von Schlieffen’s invasion plan would have crushed the French within weeks. Russia’s Romanov dynasty, humiliated by its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and beset by popular revolt, likely would have fallen under more benign circumstances than prevailed in 1917. England had not decided upon an alliance with the Franco-Russian coalition in 1905. The naval arms race between Germany and England, a major source of tension, was yet to emerge. War in 1905 would have left Wilhelmine Germany the sole hegemon in Europe, with no prospective challenger for some time to come. Germany’s indecision left the initiative in the hands of Russia, elements of whose secret service backed the Serbian terrorists who murdered the Austrian crown prince in 1914, forcing Germany into war under far less favorable circumstances.
“Both World Wars of the 20th century, in my view, started too late, with catastrophic consequences for Western Europe,” I concluded. Sometimes it is better and more humane to start war early rather than late. My objection to Wilhelmine Germany is not so much that it was aggressive, but that it was reactive rather than preemptive.