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The Inevitability of War: General Friedrich von Bernhardi (1912)

General Friedrich von Bernhardi’s (1849-1930) writing reflects a widespread belief among the educated, non-socialist middle classes that Germany deserved more influence and respect, in accordance with its economic power. In describing war as "the extension of politics by other means," Bernhardi repeats the dictum of Prussian Major General Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). War was increasingly seen as inevitable, especially after England and France established an entente in 1905.

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If we look [ . . . ] at the position of Germandom in the world, we must admit with a bleeding heart that the political position of the German Reich in no way corresponds to the cultural worth of the German people and the economic importance of Germandom abroad. [ . . . ]

If we are thus in a less favorable situation as a continental power, our position in the world is threatened to the same degree; indeed, it is still impossible to speak of the German Reich as having a genuine world standing as such. Even though the economic importance of Germandom has become quite significant all over the world (under the umbrella of the political respect that our wars of unification have won for us), we are still not able to assert ourselves as a world power anywhere, and there are but few places on the earth where Germandom can develop freely and independently, namely in the few colonies that we acquired back then with England's consent and still possess today.

This colonial possession, however, does not correspond in any way to our importance as a people of culture, nor to our economic needs, nor to the numerical size and developmental potential of our people. Moreover, given the way political power is distributed today, relations with our overseas possessions could be cut at any time and we would be incapable of defending ourselves against it. If, by contrast, we examine the colonial empires of England, France, and even small Belgium, we recognize clearly that we were shortchanged when the world was divided up, not without our own grievous fault. [ . . . ]

War is the extension of politics by other means and at the same time the most effective, if most dangerous, instrument of politics. Indeed, it even has to be said that the possibility of war as an extreme measure is a necessary precondition of politics. One cannot conceive of politics at all without the possibility of invoking arms under certain circumstances. Between states that cannot accomplish a peaceful accommodation of clashing interests, there is, in fact, no other measure of power than war, and merely imagining the detrimental consequences of war would bring a state to relinquish part of its most precious interests in favor of an adversary.
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