There’s other similarities in addition to the puerile insecurity of both men. Before Wilhem II, Germany’s diplomatic efforts had followed the design of the legendary Otto von Bismarck, who had said in so many words that of the other four great powers in Europe at the time (Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, and Russia), to always remain allied to two of them, and one of those two must always be Russia (in order to avoid a two-front war). Kaiser Wilhelm II, on the other hand, felt that he knew better and had a general disdain for the art of diplomacy…and we all see how that worked out.

What’s more, he (and his generals) assumed that England would not declare war with Germany over something so relatively small as his invasion of Belgium per the Schlieffen Plan. He could not believe that England, with her relatively minuscule army (barely more than a few divisions) would dare challenge Germany’s vast military over a mere matter of honor following the guarantee of protection England had given Belgium seventy-five years earlier, in 1839 (which treaty Wilhelm II referred to as “a mere scrap of paper”). Indeed, prior to German’s invasion of Belgium, the English were generally against involvement in a continental war…but when Germany’s invasion began, England’s national opinion shifted almost overnight, demanding war against the suddenly-hated Kaiser for his invasion of the small, weak, and neutral country.

In other words, the Kaiser had thought that honor and empathy and compassion for the weak were non-issues unworthy of consideration. Sound familiar?

Written by

Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store