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T was commonly said at the beginning of this war that, whatever Germany’s military
resources might be, she was hopelessly and childishly lacking in diplomatic ability
and in knowledge of psychology, from which all success in diplomacy is distilled. As
instances of this grave defect, people adduced the fact that apparently she had not
anticipated the entry of Great Britain into the war at all, while her treatment of
Belgium immediately afterwards was universally pronounced not to be a crime
merely, but a blander of the stupidest sort. It is perfectly true that Germany did not
understand, and, as seems likely in the light of innumerable other atrocities, never
will understand, the psychology of civilised peoples; she has never shown any signs
up till now, at any rate, of “having got the hang of it” at all. But critics of her
diplomacy failed to see the root-fact that she did not understand it merely because it
did not interest her. It was not worth her while to master the psychology of other
civilised nations, since she was out not to understand them but to conquer them. She
had all the information she wanted about their armies and navies and guns and
ammunition neatly and correctly tabulated. Why, then, since this was all that
concerned her, should she bother her head about what they might feel on the
subject of gas-attacks or the torpedoing of neutral ships without warning? As long as
her fumes were deadly and her submarines subtle, nothing further concerned her.
But Europe generally made a great mistake in supposing that she could not learn
psychology and the process of its distillation into diplomacy when it interested her.
The psychology of the French and English was a useless study, for she was merely
going to fight them, but for years she had been studying with an industry and a
patience that put our diplomacy to shame (as was most swiftly and ignominiously
proven when it came into conflict with hers) the psychology of the Turks. For years
she had watched the dealings of the Great Powers with Turkey, but she had never
really associated herself with that policy. She sat quietly by and saw how it worked.
Briefly it was this. For a hundred years Turkey had been a Sick Man, and for a
hundred years he had been kept alive in Europe by the sedulous attentions of the
Physician-Powers, who dared not let him die for fear of the stupendous quarrels
which would instantly arise over his corpse. So there they all sat round his bed, and
kept him alive with injections of strychnine and oxygen and, no less, by a policy of
rousing and irritating the patient. All through the reign of Abdul Hamid they
persevered: Great Britain plucked his pillow from him, so to speak, by her
protectorate of Egypt; Russia tweaked Eastern Rumelia from him; France deprived
him of his hot-water bottle when she snatched at the Constantinople quays, and they
all shook and slapped him when he went to war with Greece in 1896, and instantly
deprived him of the territory he had won in Thessaly. That was the principle of
European diplomacy towards Turkey, and from it Germany always held aloof.
But from about the beginning of the reign of the present German Emperor, German
or rather Prussian diplomacy had been going quietly about its work. It was worth