Why Scheifflen chose his aims

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  • Scheifflen
    • His Strategic Aims.
      • Entscheidungsschlacht (decisive battle), using a massive force, in a single act, to bring a swift and conclusive victory.
      • Schlieffen replaced the Clausewitzian concept of Schwerpunkt (“centre of gravity”) in operational command with the idea of continuous forward movement designed to annihilate the enemy.
      • The Schlieffen Plan had been drawn up to deal with a situation in which Germany had to fight a war on two fronts.
        • The Germans assumed that the more dangerous opponent would be Russia, so the Plan was intended to knock out France before the Russian army mobilised.
      • The Plan was based on the belief that the Russian army would take six weeks to mobilise. In six weeks France would be defeated. An army of 1,500,000 men would advance through Belgium, swing around the French army, encircle Paris and then France would collapse.
    • How he arrived at his plans.
      • Politics
        • German state allowed its army a great deal of independence in comparison with the other European powers
          • Schlieffen was under no obligation, for example, to share elements of his planning with the foreign ministry, and as Rothenberg claims “the division of jurisdictions resulted in a serious, possibly fatal, over-reliance on military schemes alone”.
            • With few political limitations imposed within the planning process, were prone to a degree of unrealistic optimism.  Hew Strachan cites politics as the main issue with Schlieffen’s ‘plan’, commenting that “its besetting sin was its political naivety”.
      • Relationships
        • Chief of the General Staff changed with each ‘Chief’s’ personality, and how far each was able to interact with above all the Kaiser.
          • Schlieffen regarded his role requirements as Chief of the General Staff as “planning, improving combat doctrine and capabilities” (Rothenberg); he did not try to influence German policy in any way.
            • Due to his predecessor Waldersee’s dismissal because of a policy disagreement with the Kaiser.
      • Why Russia and Belgium?
        • He studied the Russian military’s performance in its ill-fated war with Japan (1904-5)
          • Russia was enormous but lacked railways; any full mobilisation of its forces would take several weeks, perhaps as long as three or four months. Was also recovering from a war and a revolutions so was weak.
        • Most troops would invade via the small nations of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
          • These three nations were neutral, lacked sizeable military forces and had borders with France that were largely unprotected.
          • Switzerland's mountainous terrain was impractical.
          • He did not consider further complication was the intervention of Britain. Not knowing that the troops in Belgium would be so strong.
        • He learned that Germany would have to attack France in such a way as to avoid the heavy fortifications along the Franco-German border.
    • People writing on the subject.
      • G. Rothenburg and H. Strachan.

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