In 1867, Bismarck said: 'Anyone who has looked into the eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.' Analyse Bismarck's foreign policy in the light of these words



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  1. In 1867, Bismarck said: 'Anyone who has looked into the eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.' Analyse Bismarck's foreign policy in the light of these words.

Bismarck's unification of Germany happened through three deliberate wars. From this perspective the statement rings false and almost seems to imply Bismarck was completely unaware of his own actions. However Bismarck was not an idealist but rather a proponent of realpolitik – he definitely did not shy away from using wars and power as means to an end. In this light the statement achieves new meaning: Bismarck rather saw war as something that should be used with the uttermost care. This can be seen both in his careful planning of the three wars which lead to the unification of Germany and his policies in the postwar era where his main motive was to preserve peace on the European mainland.


The Second Schleswig War was clever use by Bismarck of the circumstances existing in Denmark at that moment. The Danish king signed a constitution claiming Schleswig and Holstein as Danish territory in 1863, which was in direct disagreement with an earlier protocol which claimed Denmark, Schleswig and Holstein were to be separately ruled. The German confederation tried to solve the crisis by diplomatic means but got nowhere. Bismarck saw his opportunity to expand Prussia's borders and prove that Prussia was a power to be reckoned with so he entered a military alliance with Austria and attacked the Danish forces in Schleswig and Holstein. The Prussian and Austrian forces were overwhelming and Denmark had to agree to let Schleswig and Holstein fall under Prussian and Austrian control. Already in this war can Bismarck's carefulness be seen: he did not engage in the conflict by pure chance but rather used the crisis as it emerged as a way to expand into the militarily weaker Denmark while still playing the role of 'the good guy' and even then he enlisted the help of Austria to ensure victory.
Austro-Prussian war was a similar affair: Austria took control over Holstein in the peace settlement after the Schleswig war which Bismarck didn't like, he would have preferred Prussian control over both of the provinces. Austria and Prussia were the two main powers in the German confederation and the German people was to unify one of these two powers would sooner or later have to outplay the other one. Prussia had, as the more progressive one, long had the economic advantage but the Austrian Empire still had considerable military might. Due to several military reforms in the beginning of the 1860s Prussia also had a larger and more well-trained modern army. The Prussian forces also had the advantage of a fully developed railway network which would prove crucial in ending the war so soon.
Again Bismarck approached the situation with utmost care. He first ensured none of the other European powers would intervene in the even of an Austro-Prussian war and then entered a military alliance with Italy. Once again he would fight the war as the most powerful combatant and still have the support of an alliance with another nation. However most of the German confederation sided with Austria as they were considered more powerful than Prussia. These states did not have armies comparable to those of Austria and Prussia however and played negligible roles in the war itself. The war itself was over in seven weeks, hence its alternative name 'The seven week war'. Many of the German states which allied themselves with Austria were annexed by Prussia but no Austrian territory was demanded in exchange for a promise that Austria would stay out of German affairs. A new North German Confederation was formed which roughly outlined what Unified Germany would look like in a few years time.
The Franco-Prussian war was approached much like the war against Austria with the difference Prussia and the German Confederation fought on their own – a first for Bismarck. However the German military supremacy was, as almost all the states in the confederation joined the war, apparent and a Prussian/German victory was easily achieved. Much like in the two preceding wars Bismarck made his opponents declare war first which made all of them seem like defensive wars from a German point of view, which built upon the nationalism that existed throughout the confederation. After the unification of the German states into the German Empire was a fact Bismarck's policies definitely continued to reflect the view expressed in the statement. His aim was to uphold a balance of power in Europe which would make wars impossible to conduct. This was in line with his realpolitik – he saw a lasting peace as absolutely necessary for the German Empire to thrive. This is a quite telling feature of his view on war: it was simply a tool, not an evil that should be avoided for the sake of avoiding it. However the results of using the tool in wrong or irresponsible ways could be quite devastating and as such the use should be restrained as much as possible.
In light of this one can say Bismarck at least attempted to follow Thomas Aquinas' view on what a 'just' war is. Aquinas stated a just war should feature three things: authority (of the one leading the war to do so), a just cause and the right intentions. Bismarck can be said to have applied Realpolitik on these features as he had a very amoral view on politics so the 'just cause' and 'right intentions' in his politics were not moral but rather expansionist and more concerned with Prussia's best. In conclusion the statement does shed light upon Bismarck's views and policies – the pragmatism in his leadership did not mean he rejected concerns for human well-being but rather saw it as a very important factor that should be considered before going to war.

Kalle
7. Compare and contrast Bismarck’s policies towards Austria and France between 1862 and 1871.


Otto von Bismarck was a Prussian statesman born in 1815, who later became a leading figure in the unification of Germany and in German politics in general. In this essay I will find similarities and differences between his policies towards Austria and France between the years 1862, when Bismarck was appointed Minister-President of Prussia by the King of Prussia William I, and 1871, when the German Empire was created (and unification thus achieved). I will begin by outlining Bismarck’s policies towards Austria, then do the same for France, and then compare the two before my conclusion.
After the year of revolutions of 1848 Bismarck was still supported a German Confederation under joint dominance by Austria and Prussia. However, during the 1850s he became increasingly anti-Austrian, due to the attempts of Austria to claim its authority and dominance over the Confederation, thus setting Prussian importance aside. By 1856 Bismarck outspokenly supported a Prussian-dominated ‘Kleindeutschland’, i.e. excluding Austria. When Bismarck was appointed Minister-President in 1862 his pragmatism was reflected in his policy of ‘iron and blood’, which obviously favoured militarism. In 1863 the Austrian minister Anton von Schmerling proposed a ‘Grossdeutschland’ under Austrian presidency. Bismarck opposed this since Austria would be pre-eminent, and the proposal was rejected. During the Polish risings of 1863-4 Prussia fully supported Russia in military action. However, France and Austria were in favour of concessions, and this disagreement worsened Austro-Russian relations and led to the isolation of Austria by 1864.
The Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, situated between Germany and Denmark, were German duchies under Danish rule. In the Treaty of London (1852) it had been agreed that the duchies would remain under Danish rule, but would not be incorporated into the kingdom of Denmark, and that the German nationalist-supported Augustenburg family gave up their claim to the duchies. In 1863, the new king of Denmark (Christian IX) formally incorporated the Duchies into Denmark and thus broke the treaty. This upset the German nationalists, and Prussia invaded the duchies in collaboration with Austria. Denmark was defeated and the duchies surrendered to joint occupation by Prussia and Austria. By supporting the independence of the duchies under the Augustenburgs, Prussia was linked to German nationalism, and thus Bismarck succeeded in exploiting Frederick von Augustenburg against Austria. As Bismarck became increasingly provocative towards Austria, the joint occupation of the duchies became a source of disagreement between Prussia and Austria. In 1865 Bismarck threatened to annex both duchies and reorganize the German confederation, and despite the decision, made at the Convention of Gastein the same year, to divide the duchies (Schleswig to Prussia and Holstein to Austria) relations worsened.
In 1866 the Austro-Prussian war started due to provocation by Bismarck: Prussia demanded a parliament elected by universal suffrage, and withdrew from the Confederation. Prior to the war Bismarck had effectively further isolated Austria: in 1865 during the Biarritz discussion he secured a promise of inaction from Napoleon III, and in 1866 he formed a military alliance between Prussia and Austria, which promised Italy Venetia in return for her support against Austria. Holstein was invaded by Prussia in June 1866. The Austrians were quickly defeated, and in August peace was negotiated in the Treaty of Prague. Prussia got Schleswig-Holstein, Hesse-Cassel, Hanover, Nassau and Frankfurt from Austria, and despite her poor contribution Italy go Venetia from Austria as promised. As a result of the war the North German states were united in a new Confederation (The North German Confederation) under leadership of Prussia. Bismarck’s policy of ‘iron and blood’ had proved successful.
Bismarck had not wanted to include the southern German states due to a realization that Austria and France would not accept it, and thus he chose to proceed more carefully. However, the idea of a national and united Germany increasingly preoccupied him. In 1869 a relative of William I, Leopold von Holzenhollern, was chosen to succeed the expelled Queen Isabella as the King of Spain. France was very much opposed to this, since such a strong tie between Prussia and Spain was unacceptable. Bismarck backed von Holzenhollern’s candidature, but William I withdrew it due to the French sentiments. However, William I also rejected the French demand that the issue never be revived. Bismarck used this as an opportunity to provoke France: in the Elms telegram, also published in the press, he humiliated France by making it seem like William had ignored the French. France was infuriated and declared war on the North German Confederation in 1970. As with the Austrians, Bismarck had once again ensured France was isolated. Napoleon III had tried to acquire Luxembourg, Bavaria and Belgium from Bismarck, and in 1970 (prior to the war) Bismarck deliberately published the details of the French proposals for Belgium. All this created British distrust against France. Napoleon III had also failed to find an ally: Austria had been defeated by Prussia and was not an option, Russia supported Prussia, and in Italy the question of the incorporation of Rome into the Italian kingdom still separated her from France (Napoleon III protected the Pope).
The Prussian army was superior to the French not only in numbers, but also in arms, organisation and leadership. Napoleon III was even taken prisoner, but released later to go into exile. The French defeats led to the overthrow of the Second Empire in France and the establishment of a republic under a provisional government. In January 1971 Paris surrendered. Peace was negotiated in the Treaty of Frankfurt in February, and Bismarck imposed harsh terms on France to satisfy the German nationalists and prevent a French comeback. France had to surrender Alsace-Lorraine, a valuable area of land on the border to Germany, and was also humiliated by having to stand a period of occupation as well as pay war reparations of 5000 million francs.
As a result of the war, German nationalism was soaring. Bismarck succeeded in convincing the princes of the southern states that this was a threat, and persuaded them to agree to unification with the northern states. The German Empire was created in 1971 with William I proclaimed as the German Emperor. Unification was thus achieved by the decision of the princes rather than from the invitation of the German people. When the French troops withdrew from Rome during the war, the Italians took the opportunity to occupy the city, and Rome became the capital of Italy.
Bismarck’s policies towards Austria and France certainly had many similarities. His policy of ‘iron and blood’ applied to both, as he used war against both countries as a means to achieve his aims. He also provoked both countries, but still made them seem like the aggressor: through the Elms telegram Bismarck provoked France, who then declared war, and in the Austro-Prussian war Austria seemed like the aggressor because she had to start mobilizing before Prussia in order to be ready in time. Before waging war against Austria and France, Bismarck also used his diplomatic skills to ensure both countries were isolated and without allies who could support them. Bismarck is also known for his pragmatism and ‘realpolitik’, which also was very visible in his policies against Austria and France: he collaborated with them when it benefited his interest, and wage war against them when it did not. For example, prior to the Austro-Prussian war he collaborated with Austria in the invasion of Schleswig-Holstein, as well as negotiated a promise of inaction from France, but later he provoked both to war when they stood in the way of unification of Germany.
Don’t really know what the differences could be?
Emmi

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