Was The German Defeat On The Western Front Caused By The Failure Of The Schlieffen Plan?

2199 words - 9 pages

After German foreign policy had caused the country to have hostile countries on either side - France and Russia - Germany needed a plan to win a war on two fronts. This plan was devised in the early twentieth century by Count Alfred von Schlieffen and then tinkered with fairly extensively by the younger Moltke right up until 1914. It is known as the Schlieffen Plan.The plan's idea was to have a lightning invasion of France through the Low Countries while keeping light defensive forces on the Eastern Front with Russia, and when France was knocked out to turn the army to the East. It was based on the wars of the 1860s/1870s, which Germany had won: but what it forgot was that the enemy had come on a long way since then, as had technology, especially rapidly-firing machine-guns which favoured the defenders, and the use of rail for rapid military transport. The plan relied on the Russians either being incompetent and slow to mobilize, or just deciding to sit tight; the French also being slow to mobilize; and the Belgians and Luxembourgers being totally submissive to the Germans coming through their countries. The Germans' enemies caused the Schlieffen Plan to fail: the Belgians resisted valiantly, putting the plan a crucial two days behind schedule. This Belgian resistance also meant that Britain joined the war against Germany, and that the British and French had just enough time to mobilize using the new automobile as well as rail transport. And the Russians gallantly but unpreparedly invaded East Prussia only a couple of weeks after the outbreak of war.This briefly explains the immediate position Germany was in; now I shall go on to outline what this meant for Germany's prospects.Firstly, the Schlieffen Plan had failed when the Germans, after the six weeks designated for beating France, had only got a few score miles into the country, and were markedly bogged down. A trite, but necessary, comment to make is that if the Schlieffen Plan had succeeded, then Germany would have won the war on the Western front: i.e. if Belgium had not resisted and thus Britain had not come into the war, and the French had not had the time to mobilize, then the Germans would have had a very good chance of succeeding in their knockout invasion of France: so whether or not the failure of the Schlieffen Plan made German defeat in the West inevitable, it certainly stopped the Germans from winning, at least initially.Part of the Plan's failure was that the Belgians offered resistance: as I have already touched upon, this allowed the French time to prepare and win some sort of a victory at the Marne. But the fact that the Belgians resisted meant that Britain was obliged to join the war, being a guarantor of Belgian neutrality, and also had time to send the British Expeditionary force; this in turn indirectly meant that America joined the war on the Allied side, for it complicated the war, stretched it out for years, and thus gave time for the Germans to provoke the Americans...

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