July 1914, Sir Edward Grey and World War I
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By 1914, with the adults HM Queen Victoria and the architect of the European peace von Bismarck out of the room, a number of French, German, British, Russian & Austro-Hungarian officials seemed less focused on mastery of gov't than on mastery of a timeless leisure, whose role was playing at gov't.

References
Page 2: Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Balkans Crisis Arbitration 1903-1914.
1914: A general willingness to believe "war was something that was not going to happen in Europe."
Page 3: "Caught Looking": American Major League Baseball Physical
Working Model of European/British Response to June 28-July 1914 Crisis

June 28-July 1914: The Strategy of Hope
Confusion Between Defensive/Offensive Military Preparations
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey: Delayed Telegrams June-July 1914
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey on the Causes of World War I
Winston Churchill on the June 28-July 1914 Crisis
Historians on Causes of World War I
June 29th-July 1914, Wagons-Lits to the French Riviera
Aug 11, 2019.

Summary

The June 28-July 1914 Crisis that ignited World War I.

From Sunday, ≈ 11:30am June 28th through July 1914, European/British govt's were hurled into the single most destructive political meltdown in human history, millions of times worse than days of "absolute chaos" at atomic-reactor Unit II's control room caused by a Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA) at Three Mile Island, 4:00am Wednesday, March 28, 1979.

Nobody died at TMI, but European/British gov't officials in 1914 - the same ones presumably responsible for preventing large-scale European war - got into a fierce political squabble, and with every side deploying revolutionary Maxim machine-guns like battlefield lawnmowers, along with relentless overhead industrial-scale heavy-artillery bombardment, slaughtered an estimated 9 million soldiers & 6 million civilians.(1)

June 28-July 1914's European/British political collapse ignited WWI, delivering on a platter the worst century in history: WWI destroyed the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German & Ottoman Empires, left the French and British Empires dead-men-walking, spawned the Russian Revolution, the rise of Communism & Fascism, the sprawling Soviet Union, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, World War II, uncorked a tumultuous Middle East & then the Cold War, which unleashed the fearsome Atomic Age.

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"I also want to highlight that in Austria-Hungary, [June 28, 1914] there is very much a sense of genuine popular outrage. Although Franz Ferdinand was not a beloved figure with most of the population, his death, and particularly the murder of his wife, was a sincere outrage."

"It was very much like the climate after 9/11 in the United States. It was an act of terror, which the Austrians knew the Serbian government was behind."[italics added] (2)
John Schindler [Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Naval War College, formerly NSA]

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Post-WWI:
July 16, 1945: Trinity
Effects of Atomic Detonations: Hiroshima, Nagasaki
Japan: Feasibility of Atomic Demonstration-Test in 1945
USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

Iconic Foreign Secretary Edward Grey arbitrating a 1913 Balkans Crisis:

"If the Conference could not get an agreement Austria might launch an ultimatum, or even take peremptory action against Serbia. Then the whole prestige of Austria and Russia in the Balkans would be at stake, and so would the peace of Europe.

"The details with which we dealt were insignificant — in themselves mere sparks; but we were sitting on a powder-magazine.

"The Conference was allowed to dissolve. We seemed to be safe. In reality it was not so; the set of the current was the same, and in a year’s time we were all swept into the cataract of war."[italics added] (at 258, 267).

  • Introduction: Foreign Secretary Edward Grey on Great-Power Crisis Arbitration:

As the terse foreign secretary put it: "We seemed to be safe. In reality it was not so.." The outbreak of World War One was preceded by an intense crisis in the Balkans region. The crisis began Sunday morning, ≈ 11:30am, June 28, 1914, and accelerated rapidly throughout July 1914.

The Balkans Crisis' sudden expansion into World War I was enabled - driven - by long-distance electric telegraph cables (the first major electric telegraph-assisted war was the American Civil War). Lacking the electric telegraph, it is certainly difficult to see how the July 1914 Crisis could have involved so many distant countries (across ≈ 13 timezones) and accelerated to such phenomenal speeds by horseback or steam-train.

As the foreign Secretary [right] put it:

"The week ending with August 1 [1914] had been most exhausting. The strain for every member of the Cabinet must have been intense. In addition to Cabinets, I had the strain of holding conversations of great moment with Ambassadors, of dictating after each the summary of it that appeared eventually as a telegram or despatch to the British Ambassador at Berlin or Paris or elsewhere.

"Communications vitally important at this moment were daily being received through Foreign Ambassadors in London, verbally, or through British Ambassadors abroad by telegram.

"These, however critical, had to be considered and dealt with promptly, for every hour mattered."[italics added]
Twenty-Five Years: 1892-1916, Vol II, at 11).

British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey himself cites a previous period of tranquility that within hours electric telegrams describing virtually inconceivable military maneuvers halfway around the globe had momentarily destabilized British/French govt's so far as to defy logic & common sense:

"...two incidents that, for twenty-four hours, were thought to make war between Great Britain and France inevitable....It seems incredible that two great European nations should have become nearly involved in war about anything so ephemeral."[italics added]
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey.

That is a useful case of the potential immense danger of making complex peace-or-war political/military decisions based solely on distant electric telegram cables. However the June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis had not just two Great Powers relying on the telegraph but FIVE; the Russians, the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians were also trying to assess each other's motives/maneuvers.

The mega-scary October 16, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis involved two nations, the US and the USSR. Suppose for a moment the Crisis had not two but FIVE nations intimately involved. No one would think the Cuban Missile Crisis would have been easier to settle, quite the contrary.

When the June 28 Balkans Crisis began, to have FIVE nations involved in the squabble via lightning-fast telegraph cable communications meant that much higher a risk of misunderstandings richocheting through the capitols of Europe/Britain.

The Foreign Secretary continues:

"... the constant friction, rising on the slightest provocation to quarrel and hostility, between Great Britain and France or Russia. The ground-swell of ill-will never ceased.

"British interests touched those of France and Russia in many parts of the world; and where interests touch, an atmosphere of ill-will is always dangerous.

"The blackest suspicion thrives in it, like a noxious growth under dark skies in murky air. The most simple and straightforward acts of one Government are attributed by the other to sinister motives; the agents of each Government on the spot prick and stir their Colonial Office at home with accounts of what the agents of the other Government are doing...

"...the smallest incident may assume proportions that threaten the peace between great nations."[italics added]
(at 11, 12).

"...where interests touch, an atmosphere of ill-will is always dangerous." The trenchant foreign secretary puts his finger straight on the problem:

British, Russian, French, German and Austria-Hungarian interests touched in many areas of Europe/the world. So when the June 28 1914 Balkans Crisis booted up, the heavily-armed Great Powers may well have been reluctant to act promptly to arbitrate it because every arbitration carried an immense attendant risk of "the smallest incident" whipsawing events to outrageous proportions, reigniting "the blackest suspicion," & possibly setting off a wholly unintended general showdown amongst themselves.

[(right) French Ambassador Paul Cambon 1898-1920, stationed in London. Paramount figure in greatly improving French-British relations, worked closely with the foreign secretary during London Conferences to arbitrate Balkans Crises.]

In short, it seems every local crisis in Europe posed two potentially immense dangers:
#1, if nobody offered to arbitrate it, the possibility of the local crisis expanding and dragging in one or more of the Great Powers, which could threaten the peace of Europe.

#2, if the Great Powers did offer to come in and arbitrate it, the possibility the local crisis may re-ignite previous fierce territorial disputes (e.g. Alsace Lorraine) between the Great Powers, or disturb where Great Power commercial interests "touch," such that "the smallest incident may assume proportions that threaten the peace between great nations."

This seems a useful approximation of what the governments of France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia & Britain were then facing at the time the June 28, 1914 Crisis struck. The European/British govt's had to estimate which of those two immense risks was the lesser - and they had to be right every time. The alternative was facing the prospect of a catastrophic European War. (2a)

[(right) British King Edward VII, 1901-1910. Possibly the gold standard in post-1900 British diplomacy. The single most important figure in opening - in sudden & flamboyant fashion - British-French relations after centuries of fierce rivalries/wars.]

The Foreign Secretary:

"The settlement [The Treaty of Bucharest] after the second Balkan War was not one of justice but of force. It stored up inevitable trouble for the time to come.

"To make peace secure for the future, it would have been necessary for the Great Powers to have intervened to make the settlement of Bucharest a just one.

"This they did not do. They dared not do it, being too afraid of trouble between themselves."

"They were afraid to move lest they should come in contact with each other..."[italics added]
(at 253, 254).

The foreign secretary states in plain English that the Great Powers coming into contact with each other while arbitrating the Treaty of Bucharest carried a potentially higher danger of a European war breaking out than the Great Powers sitting on the sidelines and leaving the Balkans to sort it out.

The June 28, 1914 Balkans Crisis turned that cautious wait-and-see approach topsy-turvy in just 3.5-5 weeks, booting up the worst catastrophe in all Western Civilization. The Great Powers June 28, 1914 decision to sit on the sidelines and HOPE the Balkans Crisis would stay localized was the shortest path to World War after all.

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  • "The foreign secretary: "One false step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result might have been fatal."
The Foreign Secretary on the 1909 Algeciras Conference:

"As one looks about, and sees all the perils that there were, how little belief nations have in each other, how prone they are to disbelieve and to suspect it, it seems almost a miracle that the Entente survived.

"One false step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result might have been fatal."[italics added]
(at 109).

The foreign Secretary describes European/British foreign policy as if occasionally crossing and re-crossing a knife edge.

The Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill:

"A sentence in a dispatch, an observation by an ambassador, a cryptic phrase in a Parliament seemed sufficient to adjust from day to day the balance of the prodigious structure [European/British alliances/ententes]. Words counted, and even whispers. A nod could be made to tell."
The World Crisis, 1923, at 199.

The Great Powers fear of starting a European war by coming "in contact with each other" kept them more or less deeply isolated from each other. The British phrase was "splendid isolation."

In the June 28-July 1914 Balkans Crisis, the Great Powers were attempting to conduct life-and-death foreign policy maneuvers while sitting behind telegraph cables, each Great Power aware "[o]ne false step, one indiscreet or incautious word, one necessary word delayed or unspoken at the critical moment, and the result might have been fatal."

[(right) German telegraph]

During the intense 3.5-5-week-long crisis, telegraph communications sometimes had to be translated from each Great Power's native language into English, or Russian, German, French, Italian etc. Ditto for the telegrams back.

Continuously accurate word-for-word translations of such radically different languages is not even remotely possible.

Yet,as being geographically separated across ≈ 13 separate timezones, that seems to be approximately what the Great Powers were attempting.

Srarting Day-1, June 28, 1914, for 3.5-5 weeks the 5 Great Powers simultaneously attempted a multi-language high-wire Karl Wallenda balancing-act astride lightning-fast European-British telegraph cables.

[(right) K. Wallenda, 1972]

The 5 Great Powers attempted this world high-wire performance as a direct consequence of what seems a tremendous fear of coming into too-close contact with each other (which risked setting off a general European war).

And after 3.5-5 weeks the Great Powers also fell off the high wire; however instead of losing 5 people, make that 15 million.

"But you must not judge the Balkan States as if they were so vastly different from the great European States. What they have done has been based upon causes for war very much greater than the comparatively slight causes which have often led to war between the Great Powers."[italics added]
Mr. Noel Buxton, War in Balkans: Statement by Sir Edward Grey. House of Commons Debates, Aug. 12, 1913, at 2301.

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  • "The secret of war lies in the communications."-Napoleon

If very long-distance telegraph cables can unwittingly amplify a couple simple military misunderstandings to the point where for 24 hours the then-Greatest Empire on Earth (Britain) and France were facing war, then it seems eminently prudent to assume that - during any suitable intense European crisis - those same telegraph cables might be used with perverse intent to spark a general war between the Great Powers.

Besides its use in organizing a conference for settling crises, or accidentally amplyfying small misunderstandings up to the point of great 1,000-year-old European empires clashing, the electric telegraph could just as easily be used for yet another purpose: in any suitable crisis, inviting distant-but-heavily-armed allies to join in, which without warning could boot up a vastly wider, more dangerous conflict.

According to British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914, at 5:00pm, June 29, 1914, J. F. Jones, British Vice-Consul in Serajevo, sent a telegram received by Foreign Secretary Edward Grey at the British Foreign Office in London at 5:45pm, 45 minutes later.

British Vice Consul Jones' telegram traveling ≈ 1800Km in just 45 minutes to Foreign Secretary E. Grey in London indicates - starting Day-1, 11:30am, June 28, 1914 - just how quickly very angry or very frightened (or both) radical military/political elements in the Balkans/Vienna could have reached sympathetic Great Power allies asking for all kinds of military support:

"We say, surprise lies at the foundation of all [military] undertakings without exception...Secrecy and rapidity are the two factors in this product..."[italics added]
von Clausewitz [right], On War (CH IX. THE SURPRISE).

von Clausewitz states using speed and secrecy to achieve surprise is the foundation of all military undertakings. Thus, British Vice-Consul Jones' telegram to Foreign Secretary Edward Grey indicates possibly as early as ≈ 1:00-2:00 PM, the same day of the regicide, June 28, 1914, extremely heavily-armed Russia, Germany and/or France could have been in receipt of Balkans/Viennese telegrams asking for military support.

Or even sooner:

In 1911, a telegram "...left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later."[italics added]

Sending a telegram 28,000 miles, or 45,000Km in 16.5 minutes is over 2,700Km a minute, ≈ 163,620Km/hr. That would slice the optimal speed of Sarajevo's Consul Jones's telegram to London's Foreign Secretary E. Grey to something like 40 seconds.

The argument advanced here is - given the speed and reach of European/British telegraph cables - applying Napoleon & von Clausewitz's Rules of War indicates that starting Day-1, ≈ 11:30am, June 28, 1914, ≈ 40 seconds to ≈ 45 minutes later the so-called "local crisis" in the Balkans could expand into a wider conflict involving the Great Powers.

This is the risk with electric technology; it amplifies reach and instability simultaneously to fantastic proportions (that, of course, was also the single greatest danger in the US-USSR Cold War).

In addition to Napoleon and von Clausewitz on the overwhelming importance of speed and secrecy in war, the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu:

"Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes..."

"O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands."[italics added]
(The Art of War, XI. The Nine Situations, at 19; VI. Weak Points and Strong, at 9).

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The argument advanced here is regardless of whether or not all 1914 Great Powers at that moment had actually preferred peace (and only they know), the technological fact that after the regicide, radical military/political elements in Vienna and Serbia could hijack long-distance electric telegraph-cables, and within as little as ≈ 40 seconds to ≈ 45 minutes push the Crisis into a wider conflict seems a colossal danger to the peace of Europe.

The Great Powers' June 28th decision to sit for 3.5 weeks on the sidelines expodentially amplified this risk a million-fold. Whether or not the Great Powers themselves wanted peace is separate from the fact that Germany, France and Russia had built up the largest land-armies on earth, and Britain had dramatically militarized it's fleet.

The Great Powers, with giant weapons' stockpiles, practically sitting in each other's laps, radiated very little (if any) long-term stability. As the foreign secretary put it:

"British interests touched those of France and Russia in many parts of the world; and where interests touch, an atmosphere of ill-will is always dangerous.

"The blackest suspicion thrives in it, like a noxious growth under dark skies in murky air. The most simple and straightforward acts of one Government are attributed by the other to sinister motives; the agents of each Government on the spot prick and stir their Colonial Office at home with accounts of what the agents of the other Government are doing...

"...the smallest incident may assume proportions that threaten the peace between great nations."[italics added]

Fast-forward a couple decades and by July 16, 1945, like an elephant steppping on an aluminum beer can, all 6 empires had thoroughly imploded and vanished into the history books forever. So in 1914, in an intense local crisis, with ubiquitious telegraph cables able to instantly amplify the smallest misunderstandings to national proportions, it may have taken considerably less of a push than some historians assume to tilt the sitting-in-each-other's-laps Great Powers themselves into a crisis.

"[1913] On all questions we took sides with Austria and Italy — about Albania, a Serbian port on the Adriatic, Scutari, and also about the delimitation of the frontiers of Albania...

"Thus with his [foreign secretary Edward Grey] assistance it was possible to coax King Nikita [Montenegro] out of Scutari again. Otherwise this question would already have led to a world-war..."[italics added]
Prince Lichnowsky [German Ambassador to Britain, stationed in London]
My Mission to London, 1912-14, at 11.

Starting June 28, 1914, whomever in the Balkans/Vienna could reach St. Petersburg, Berlin or Paris the quickest stood a chance of getting a hearing for gaining the support of millions of soldiers/Maxim machine-guns/industrial heavy-artillery.

The problem facing Europe/Britain was they used the telegraph primarily for commercial, non-military purposes. The Americans had gained extensive experience with the telegraph in the 1860's Civil War. 1914 European/British gov't officials had no similar in-depth, years-long experience with how quickly the telegraph could amplify the dynamics of an intense political/military situation.

Even though all this was known, that the Balkans region/Vienna had lightning-fast telegraph cables spilling out in every direction, connected directly to potentially highly-motivated, dangerous industrial-strength heavily-armed allies, relative technological newcomers, aka, European/British gov't officials, all born in the Victorian mid-to late 1800's, mis-identified the onset of the June 28, 1914 Crisis as just a "geographical local crisis," that is, one that could be confined locally, with the result that it was not taken seriously and promptly stopped in it's tracks.

[(right) European/British telegraph cables, 1903]

The June 28th Balkans Crisis should only safely have been considered a "local crisis" if none of the parties involved had potentially highly-motivated, very sympathetic, industrial-strength Great Power allies.

Considering that European/British telegraph cables were spilling out of the Balkans in every direction, as for any realistic basis upon which the Great Powers expected it to be confined to a "local crisis," they never really explained.

The foreign secretary [Oct.7, 1912]:

"There is the strongest desire between the Great European Powers, who are most directly interested in the Balkans, and whose frontiers would be most affected by war in that region, to see peace preserved; and this is, I trust, a guarantee that, if the peace is broken in the Balkans, none of the Great European Powers will be involved in war."[italics added]
GREAT POWERS AND BALKANS, House of Commons Debates, 07 October 1912, at 24, 25.

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Initially, the Balkans Crisis was split into two opposing but very unequal factions: the major one sitting on the sidelines hoping the local crisis would stay localized & blow over, because if it didn't they had the greatest catastrophe on Earth staring them in the face. And a very minor faction was equally determined to widen the Crisis by hi-jacking European/British electric telegraph cables to drag one or more of the Great Powers into it.

"The secret of war lies in the communications."
Napoleon

1914 Europe was an armed camp. Starting Day-1, 11:30am June 28, 1914, every single day that passed raised expodentially the immense, immense danger of radical military/political elements in the Balkans/Vienna gaining sympathy, influence and possibly military backing from one or more of the Great Powers.

"War is the province of chance.

"In no sphere of human activity is such a margin to be left for this intruder, because none is so much in constant contact with him on all sides. He increases the uncertainty of every circumstance, and deranges the course of events..."[italics added]
von Clausewitz, On War (CH III).

And those radical elements in Europe quickly succeeded because the Great Powers apparently never thought to take the elementary first step and apply the Rules of War to the June 28 Balkans Crisis.

"We say, surprise lies at the foundation of all [military] undertakings without exception."[italics added]
von Clausewitz (Ch IX. THE SURPRISE).

"All warfare is based on deception."
Sun Tsu (I. Laying Plans, at 18).

Whatever the Great Powers' logic was, if they even used logic, the point advanced here is that without applying Napoleon, von Clausewitz & Sun Tzu's Rules of War to the Balkans, the Great Powers would be left stranded at the starting gate, stumbling around in pitch blackness as to how fast the local Balkans Crisis could expand.

The foreign secretary:

"...we were all swept into the cataract of war."
(at 267).

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