BERLIN, July 1, 1916 (UP) - The second year of the war will be known in Germany's military history as the year of political strategy. The moves of the military chess board of Europe have been dictated by international relations. Fighting was framed to help the diplomats.
The goal has been victory where possible and to keep the allies from winning over neutral powers or starting offensives. From this standpoint the year has been as successful as the first year of the war when the military strategy was to beat back the enemy armies in France and Russia. The first year was one of military events for military purposes; the second year one of military movements for political purposes.
An army is not supposed to play politics but in a Great War there is always danger of other nations coming in and the strategy of an army must be dictated by the then national aims of the nation. For instance, instead of invading Servia the armies used there might have been used against Russia. Riga and even Moscow might have been taken. Had this been done, the military move would have been against Russia only, and the effect would not have been great outside that country. But the armies were sent into Servia. Bulgaria joined the Central Powers and the united offensive kept Rumania and Greece neutral. That campaign solved for many months the vexing Balkan problem.
The situation there has not materially changed. The allies have occupied Salonika. For months they have had thousands of soldiers there for feed and pay. For the Central Powers this has been a valuable thing because it has further divided the attacking power of the allies. The presence of the allies in Greece, however, has been a permanent invitation to Rumania to join hands with Russia and cut the line of communication between Berlin and Constantinople. If Rumania did break her neutrality it might not be a difficult thing for the allies to bridge the Balkans between Rumania and Greece and perhaps force the fall of Constantinople via Adrianople.
With this possibility continually confronting the diplomats of Europe; with Bucharest excited by the intrigues of the ministers, Rumania was at times on the brink of declaring war. One of these moments was last February. At about the same time the German correspondents at the west front reported that papers had been found indicating that the French were preparing a great offensive on the west front March 15th. Therefore two birds could be downed with one stone. If there was a German offensive on the west front the French forces could be occupied and an offensive from that side of the allies could be postponed. At the same time an impression could be made in Rumania to show that the German army was not at the end of its resources.
Political necessity dictated the battle of Verdun. The initial success of this attack encouraged many people to expect te early fall of the fortress but the French were strongly prepared to resist and the policy of an offensive on a large scale was changed to a "nibbling." This process has been continued for three months, because in the meantime the German correspondents reported that the French had shifted the time for their offensive to May 15th. Since then the German army has attacked Verdun continually and kept a large French reserve force on the ground, preventing a unity of French forces at any other part of the front for an allied offensive.
During the last year the allies have asked: "But what is Germany gaining by all her victories? The farther she invades our lands the more she defeats herself. As long as we control the seas, Germany's military victories can gain her nothing. We are sure to win because we control the seas."
The contention of the allies is worth careful consideration. If Germany gains nothing by her victories on land, the war might as well stop, one might argue. But viewed from the standpoint that this second year of the war has been a year of political strategy, Germany's gains on land have had their diplomatic results. Rumania and Greece at this writing still are neutral. Italy has been administered a blow in the Trentino at a time when France and England were at the height of their lack of interest and confidence in Italy's campaign and when Italy was about to stimulate the public interest in the war by a celebration of the first year of Italy's fighting.
If Germany and her allies did not hold so much of the territory of the allies would she be able to get as favorable terms of peace as she will? If the Central Powers had not attacked and occupied Serbia, cold they have made the bids for terms in the Balkans they can make now? If the German army did not occupy Warsaw could the German chancellor state in the Reichstag that Germany will not make peace until there are assurances that Poland will not again fall into the hands of the Russian government? Every mile of land gained by the Central Powers from the allies can be checked off against the allies control of the seas and if Germany solves her economic problems, the loss of the sea routes will not be felt any more keenly than the loss of Belgium to the King of that country or the occupation of Serbia by the interests of Russia and the Karageorgevick dynasty.
Judging solely from appearances in Berlin and at the front the close of the first two years of the war does not find Germany nor her allies exhausted in a military way. Germany has not yet called out all of her 1916 class, while France has called the 1917 class. If Germany does this her army can be increased at any time over 600,000 men. The summer and fall months may see great battles in more than one war theater.