SOME people believed that Hitler could be induced by certain limited concessions, made dependent on his fulfillment of certain specified conditions, to change his methods of procedure and limit his aims. Germany would then cease to figure as a troublemaker in the world and would fit into a new international equilibrium. The view was based on a number of sound assumptions and was justified by the example of the movement for German unification between 1864 and 1870. Bismarck often expressed the idea. He said that once the unified Reich had been constituted, one of his main concerns would be to create general confidence in its pacific intentions. After rectifying the injuria temporum (the Bismarckian phrase), German policy would set itself the task of becoming a force for peace in Europe. Bismarck's national policy was based exclusively on force and was eminently "practical." But its objectives were always limited. At the given moment it saw the necessity of fixing its own limits, and never overstepped them.
Sharply in contrast with Bismarck's "art of the possible" stands the hazy, impulsive policy of William II. At a critical moment during the latter's reign, the Morocco crisis of 1905, Sir Arthur Nicolson remarked that the German Foreign Office did not itself know what it wanted; and he went on to say that the real danger in German policy was not so much its expansionist outlook as its vagueness. That was entirely true. It was impossible to work out a policy of harmonious collaboration with a person who did not know what he wanted. William II based his foreign policy on surprises and sudden impulses, and that fact, much more than Germany's striving for world power, led directly to the World War.
Hitler's policy at first differed strikingly from the policy of William II. It differed also from the policy of the Weimar Republic, which was also -- though for different reasons, chiefly the Republic's inherent weakness -- wavering and uncertain. Hitler's policy was outspoken and showed that it
Loading, please wait...