The important question, however, is: What are the German people being told about submarine warfare?
Judging from past events, the Kaiser and his Navy are undoubtedly magnifying every sinking for the purpose of stimulating the people into believing that the victory they seek is getting nearer. The Government knows that the public favours ruthless torpedoing of all ships bound for the enemy, so the Government is safe in concluding that the public can be stimulated for some months more by reports of submarine victory.
Military operations in the West are probably not arousing the discussion in Berlin that the plans against Russia are. The Government will see to it that the press points regularly to the possibilities of a separate peace with Russia, or to the possibility of a Hindenburg advance against England and France.
The people have childlike faith in von Hindenburg. If Paul von Hindenburg says a retreat is a victory the people will take his judgment. But all German leaders know that the time is coming when they will have to show the German people a victory or take the consequences themselves.
Hence it would not be surprising if, after present military operations are concluded, either by an offensive against Russia or by an attack on the Western line, the Chancellor again made peace proposals. The Socialists will force the Chancellor to do it sooner or later. They are the real power behind the throne, although they have not enough spunk to try to oust the Kaiser and tell the people to do their own thinking.
A big Allied military victory would, of course, change everything. Defeat of the German army would mean defeat of von Hindenburg, the German god. It would put an end to the Kaiser’s juggling with his people’s nerves. But few people in Germany expect an Entente victory this year, and they believe that if the Allies don’t win this year they never will win.
Germany is stronger militarily now than she has been and Germany will be able for many months to keep many Entente armies occupied. Before the year is passed the Entente may need American troops as badly as France needed English assistance last year. General von Falkenhayn, former chief of the German General Staff, told me about the same thing last December, in Rumania.
“In war,” he remarked, “nothing is certain except that everything is uncertain, but one thing I know is certain: We will win the war.”
America’s entrance, however, will have the decisive effect. The Allies, especially the French, appreciate this. As a high French official remarked one day when Ambassador Gerard’s party was in Paris:
“There have been two great moments in the war for France. The first was when England declared war to support us. The second was the breaking of diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany.”
The Germans don’t believe this. As General von Stein, Prussian Minister of War, said, Germany doesn’t fear the United States. He said that, of course, for its effect upon the German people. The people must be made to believe this or they will not be able to hate America in true German fashion.