If we’d thought about it would we have sent New Zealand troops to World War I?
To say that World War I was spawned by imperial rivalries is simply to state the bleeding-bloody-obvious.
The question New Zealanders needed to (but didn’t) ask themselves in 1914 was: ‘Why is the empire we belong to – the British Empire – so willing to invest its blood and treasure in a quarrel between the empires of Russia – Germany – Austria-Hungary and France?’
The answer is simple: because the British Empire was frightened.
The British Empire also feared Germany.
Since reunification in 1871 German industrial expansion had been phenomenal.
Britain’s pre-eminent economic position along with her ability to defend it faced a formidable challenger.
Unchecked Germany would soon become the economic arbiter of Europe (just as it is today!) and that economic power – strapped to her undisputed military prowess – would soon make Germany the most powerful nation on earth.
That was not a position the British Empire was willing to relinquish – not yet.
The diplomatic outcome of all this was the Triple Entente.
By aligning herself with Russia and France – Britain was able to neutralise the threat posed by the former – while quietly encouraging the anti-German ambitions of the latter.
The designated victims of all this geo-strategic manoeuvring were to be the two weakest members of the imperial club: the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.
The prospect of dividing-up the territories of these decrepit dynasties (along with those of a defeated Germany) made Russia – France and Britain salivate like hungry dogs.