Imperial Germany was created in 1871, after the Prussian ending of the independence of various Germanic states after 1866 (the war between Prussia and Hapsburgs and Hapsburg allies) and 1871 (after the war with France). It was a radical new state – dressed up in conservative looking camouflage, the new Imperial Germany wanted (or rather the elites that controlled it wanted) to look much older than it actually was.
The first Kaiser (Emperor) of the new State, Wilhelm the First, was reluctant – and had to be pushed to accept his new role by Otto Von Bismark, and the second Kaiser, Frederick, was a man of Classical Liberal opinions who wished the new Germany to be a peaceful nation on good terms with the rest of the world. However the third Kaiser, Wilhelm the second, although often a charming man on a personal level, was influenced by very radical ideas – ideas of Germanic supremacy. Even Bismark was considered too moderate by Kaiser Wilhelm II and was dismissed in 1890. Wilhelm rejected the philosophy of his father Kaiser Frederick (indeed expressed a lack of grief at his father’s death that shocked Czar Alexander III of Russia) and had nothing but contempt for the free market economics and belief in peace of his, English born, mother. Kaiser Wilhelm II was continually pushed by elite intellectuals who were even more radical than he was.
German academia had, for some time, been moving away from pro liberty positions – Cicero was no longer admired by many German scholars – Julius Caesar (with his genocidal conquests, in which he actually boasted of murdering or enslaving millions of human beings, and his destruction of the Roman Republic, creating a dictatorship in its place) was admired instead. Classical Liberal (free market) economics was rejected by the German “Historical School” of economists, and peace was rejected by the rising GeoPolitics view that Germany must dominate Europe and indeed the world – including even the American continents.
It is against this background that the German Declaration of War against Russia and France in 1914 must be seen – the German government used the excuse of the murder of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Serbian nationalist, but the real aims of Imperial Germany were very radical.
Russia did not want war in 1914 and neither did France – that is now accepted (in spite of many efforts by both apologists for Imperial Germany and by the Marxists who took over Russia in 1917 and tried to undermine the memory of both the previous Russian government and its French allies) – the “two final notes” of Germany to Russia in 1914 show the Imperial German position. In one note the German government says it is Declaring War on Russia because the Russians are mobilising to support Serbia against an invasion by Austro-Hungary, but in the other final note (delivered at the same time) the Imperial German Government declares that even if Russia changes policy, Germany will declare war anyway.
The German Declaration of War against France in 1914 is even worse – there is no polite way of describing the document (the German Declaration of War against France in 1914), it is a tissue-of-LIES. The Imperial German government accuses France of doing things (such as bombing Bavaria) which France just was not doing – the Imperial German Declaration of War against France in 1914 was a “lie fest” which the President of France (Poincare) rightly described as really a declaration of war against the very idea of objective and universal principles of reason and justice – as he (President Poincare) knew that modern German academia (which had come to so influence the thinking of many, although NOT all, of the German political elite) rejected the very concepts of universal and objective principles of reason and justice – to the followers of Histoicism (and other relativists) all that mattered was power. Germany already occupied large areas of land populated by French people (i.e. people who considered themselves French – not German), but attacked anyway in 1914 – even though it, Germany, had no legitimate (legitimate) claims against France. It was the same with Russia – Germany already occupied large areas largely occupied by Slavs, but attacked even though Germany had no legitimate (legitimate) claims against Russia.
It is in this light that German proposals for a compromise peace during the First World War must be seen. The Imperial German elite (NOT the ordinary Germans – the elite who ruled them) had lied (wildly lied) in such things as their Declaration of War against France in 1914 and were known to be dominated by academic thinkers committed to the German domination of Europe and the world – so Imperial German proposals for peace were held (I think quite correctly held) to be Imperial German gambits for “breathing time” – the Germans would promise to take “only” a bit more land from other nations, but the Imperial German Government had already shown themselves to be liars (for example in their Declaration of War upon France in 1914) and were dominated by academic thinking that rejected objective and universal rules of reason and morality, and worshipped power (unlimited power). The Imperial German government would take some land and people, but then more, and then more, and-so-on – so their proposals for peace were not trusted, were not believed.
It is true that a few members of the German elite may well have been quite sincere in their desire for peace and OPPOSED to unlimited German conquest – most notably General Falkenhayn, but such figures were increasingly isolated. They were seen as “throw backs” to an age when Christianity was believed in “literally” rather than being interpreted-away by philosophers, and they were seen as people who clung to “out dated” of universal and objective principles of reason and morality. The mainstream German elite were dominated by the idea of unlimited power and conquest – crushing the independence of first European nations and then of the world.
So a German victory in the First World War (not just the Second World War – the First World War as well) would have been a nightmare. The system of forced labour (slavery in all but name) had already been established in Belgium and occupied areas of France in the First Word War (with an electric fence constructed to prevent civilians fleeing into the Netherlands – a fence upon which people died). German domination of the French and of Russia (and other European nations) would have led to revolts and resistance which Imperial Germany would have responded to with the tactics of the murder-of-civilians it used in South West Africa before the First World War, and in Belgium in 1914. The Imperial German attack on Belgium had no moral justification – and civilians in Belgium were deliberately killed, murdered, to inspire FEAR, it was a matter of Imperial German policy, NOT a matter of “rogue” German soldiers or accidents-of-war.
It is also clear in German academic (and other intellectual) writings of the period that Imperial German designs were not confined to Europe – but were world wide (Geopolitical) in their scope. The ordinary Germans were NOT to blame for the designs of the elite – but the designs of the elite clearly did include the domination (the replacement) not just of France and Russia, but also Britain and the United States as well – the Classical Liberal Kaiser Frederick (who tragically died in 1888 of cancer) would have wept, and even Chancellor Otto Von Bismark (a man not overly troubled by moral scruples) would have regarded the new German intellectual fashions as wildly over ambitious – but the German academic and political elite (the elite – NOT the ordinary Germans) were caught up in a wild desire for unlimited power in the early 20th century. Therefore a German victory in the First World War would have meant a continuation of war – both against the non German civilian populations of Europe, and against all other independent powers in the world.