3419 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
been much more moderate. One may perhaps wonder why, even at this late date,
they might not have felt inclined to endeavor to keep peace, but the reasons are,
of course, not difficult to discover. The
time had passed for diplomacy. Even
had the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary desired to come to terms, they could
not have done so. The great German
military machine was already in motion.
To have drawn back now would have been
humiliating to the last degree. All real
authority was now in the hands of the
General Staff of the army. The thoughtful among these officers no doubt viewed
England's entrance with some misgivings.
Still they knew that she could at first put
only a few troops into the field, and, confident in their plans and preparations and
in the "surprises" they had in store for
their enemies, they doubtless thought
that they could quickly strike such terrible
blows at France and Russia that they could
compel peace before Great Britain could
bring much of her real strength into play.
And how nearly they succeeded events
On the same day that the British delivered their ultimatum, Chancellor von
Bethmann-Hollweg, in the course of a
speech in the Reichstag, explained Germany's course in Belgium as follows:
"Gentlemen, we are now in a state of
necessity, and necessity knows no law.
Our troops have entered Luxemburg and
perhaps have already entered Belgian
territory. Gentlemen, that is a breach
of international law. It is true that the
French Government declared at Brussels
that France would respect Belgian neutrality as long as her adversary respected
it. We knew, however, that France stood
ready for an invasion. France could wait,
we could not. A French attack upon our
flank on the lower Rhine might have been
disastrous. Thus we were forced to ignore
the rightful protests of the Governments
of Luxemburg and Belgium. The wrong-I speak openly-the wrong we thereby
commit we will try to make good as soon
as our military aims have been attained.
He who is menaced as we are and is fighting
for his highest possession can only consider how he is to hack his way through."