At the beginning of the war it was a group of military leaders consisting of General von Moltke, General von Falkenhayn, General von Mackensen, General von Herringen, Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, and a few of the Prussian military clique, which prevailed upon the Kaiser to go to war after the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne and his wife. The Allies proclaimed in their publications, in the press and in Parliaments that they were fighting to destroy and overthrow the military party in Germany which could make war without public consent. Millions of Allied soldiers were mobilised and fighting in almost a complete ring surrounding Germany, Austria Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. They had been fighting since August, 1914, for twenty-one months, and still their fighting had not shattered or weakened the hold which the military party had upon the people and the Kaiser. Von Tirpitz and von Falkenhayn, who, shortly after the war began, became the ringleaders of Germany’s organised Might, had fallen not before the armed foes on the battlefield but before an unarmed nation with a president whose only weapon was public opinion. First, von Tirpitz fell because he was ready to defy the United States. Then came the downfall of von Falkenhayn, because he was prepared to damn the United States and all neutrals. Surely a nation and a government after thirteen months of patience and hope had a right to believe that after all public opinion was a weapon which was sometimes more effective than any other. Mr. Wilson and the State Department were justified in feeling that their policy toward Germany was after all successful not alone because it had solved the vexing submarine issue, but because it had aided the forces of democracy in Germany. Because, with the downfall of von Falkenhayn and von Tirpitz, there was only one recognised authority in Germany. That was the Chancellor and the Foreign Office, supported almost unanimously by the Socialists and by the Liberal forces which were at work to reform the German Government.
But this was in May, 1916, scarcely eight months before the Kaiser changed his mind and again decided to support the people who were clamouring for a ruthless, murderous, defiant war against the whole world, if the world was “foolish” enough to join in.
THE PERIOD OF NEW ORIENTATION
Dr. Karl Liebknecht, after he had challenged the Chancellor on the 4th of April, became the object of attack by the military authorities. The Chancellor, although he is the real Minister of Foreign Affairs, is, also, a Major General in the Army and for a private like Liebknecht to talk to a Major General as he did in the Reichstag was contrary to all rules and precedents in the Prussian Army. The army was ready to send Liebknecht to the firing squad and it was only a short time until they had an opportunity to arrest him.