Why Was Wwi Not Ended by Negotiated Compromise?

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Why was the First World War not ended by a negotiated compromise? The powers’ conflicting aims during the First World War ensured a prolonged, bloody massacre and prevented a negotiated compromise. While Stevenson acknowledges the ‘political goals of victory… are inherently difficult to define’[1], the fundamental beliefs of each power were diametrically opposed for the duration of the war. Alsace-Lorraine, Poland and Belgium are territorial examples where negotiation was impossible. Economically, Germany’s desire to build a central European customs association was at odds with France, Russia and Britain’s economic aspirations. The rise of Hindenburg and Ludendorff as leaders of the third Supreme Command placed huge power with the military in Germany and further prevented diplomatic negotiation. Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg’s programme of 9 September 1914 defined Germany’s general aim of the war as ‘security for the German Reich in west and east for all imaginable time.’[2] Essential to this aim was the weakening of France so ‘as to make her revival as a Great Power impossible for all time.’[3] Bethmann’s programme had unpalatable territorial, economic and political implications for France. Such a direct, provocative aim forced France’s hand. Prolonged warfare with Germany was more appealing than surrender and facing being controlled by a German state. Prime Minister Viviani made this clear in December 1914 when, in a speech to the Chamber, he said ‘France would not make peace without regaining Alsace-Lorraine and restoring Belgian prosperity and independence.’[4] Goemans comments ‘France need these provinces and their mineral deposits to redress the (economic) imbalance of power with Germany’[5]. Consequently Alsace-Lorraine was particularly vital to economic progress within France and public morale. By December 1914 it was becoming
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