[quote] King George V, Czar Nicholas II, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor Joseph II, Emperor Taishō, Raymong Poincare, Woodrow Wilson, Leopold Berchtold, Sir Edward Grey, Sir John French, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Sergey Sazonov, and the list goes on...
Never before or after WWI were there so many distinguished, sophisticated, and intellectually superior men making these immoral and horrific decisions.
I’d question whether King George V, Czar Nicholas II, Kaiser Wilhelm II or Emperor Franz Josef were intellectually superior to anyone at all.
George V was a famously rigid, unimaginative man with mundane interests and a deep, abiding suspicion of anywhere except England. However, his great advantage was that he was a symbolic figurehead and accepted the limits of that role. It meant that the politicians were responsible for the military disasters and bodybags and George could reasonably retain the loyalty and respect of the British people.
In contrast, Nicholas and Wilhelm were regarded by their people as military leaders and absolute rulers, so they were held responsible for every failure, even when the decisions had been taken by others. They were both deeply out of their depths. They loved dressing up in military uniforms, but were disastrous as diplomats and military tacticians.
Wilhelm was a fool, driven by his hatred of his English mother and by his desire to gain supremacy over his English relatives. He sought to build a navy to beat the British, but got his nation embroiled in war before his navy had reached sufficient strength. (Hitler made the same mistake in 1939.) He was also indecisive and a complete liability due to his inability to think before he spoke. He promised Austria unconditional support against the Serbs and then was horrified when this encouraged Austria to threaten war. He spent years telling his generals that war against France was inevitable and desirable, but also wanted someone to prevent him from being proven correct.