How Germany Went to Morocco

September 1 1911

How Germany Went to Morocco

September 1 1911

How Germany Went to Morocco


A fascinating little story touching international politics, and one incidentally which is all the more interesting in view of the continued strained relations between France and Germany, is told in the English Review.

People have often asked, says the article, why Germany ever departed from her attitude of watchful aloofness towards that country. Her best statesman regarded the land of the Moors as an apple of discord wherewith to set England and France by the ears, just as Persia and Afghanistan seemed to him peculiarly adapted for the purpose of keeping mistrust and hatred between Russia and Britain continually simmering. That is one of the methods of German diplomacy. The answer commonly given to this question is that Prince Bulow struck out a line of policy very different from that of Prince Bismarck. He discerned the advantage of direct interference as a means of putting pressure upon France sufficiënt to make her pliant. In other words, Germany’s present policy is part of a cleverly laid plan conceived by a statesman who saw things clearly and looked far ahead.

As a matter of fact, Germany’s present attitude on the Morocco question is the result of a casual trip made very unwillingly by his majesty, the Kaiser, which in its origin and conception had as little to do with politics as had Tenterden steeple to do with Goodwin Sands.

When France, in virtue of her agreement with Great Britain, formally assumed a preponderant political part in Moroc-

co, Germany had acquiesced, confining her pre-occupation to her commercial interests, and had accepted France’s readily given assurance that these would be respected religiously. That was the first act of the drama.

After this the curtain was rung up on a bit of romance which seems oddly out of place in a serious political drama. But it is truth—truth of the kind that sounds stranger than fictionj and is often much less credible. The month of March was well advanced. In Berlin, balmy breezes were just beginning to awaken thoughts and feelings of spring in the minds and hearts of ordinary citizens, and Court officials were planning the Kaiser’s Lenten cruise in the Mediterranean. Only the outline now needed filling in. What places should his Majesty touch at? “Why not pay a visit to Algiers?” asked one. “An excellent plan,” remarked another, “it will give his Majesty an opportunity of .

. . ” “Tangier is the place the Em-

peror ought to call at; it offers many advantages,” suggested another. This idea was new, bold, Wilhelmesque, so to say, and after a little discussion it was adopted. But with the advent of a critical geographer came doubts and misgivings, and the plan was seriously called in question. This gentleman’s objection was grave. “Tangier cannot be included among the places of call,” he said, “because there is not water enough in the roadstead to allow the Hohenzollern to anchor there.” Here was a difficulty with a vengeance. It would never do to send the Imperial

yacht to a place where the water was too shallow to enable it to enter. “But is it a fact that the water is not deep enough?” another inquired. Nobody could answer authentically. Finally, it was decided to address the question to some one on the spot.

From Berlin an urgent telegram was despatched to the German representative at Tangier, inquiring whether there was water enough in the roadstead to enable the Imperial yacht to anchor there. As this official possessed no cypher, the message was despatched en clair, and could be read by everyone in the telegraph office. The official, replying in the same way, stated that there was quite enough water to accommodate the Imperial yacht. That settled the matter. The plan was approved definitely ; the Kaiser would visit Tangier. As yet, however, Wilhelm II. knew nothing about it. He had not been consulted. But it was assumed that he would raise no objection. In any case they would approach him on the subject.

Meanwhile the contents of the telegram had leaked out at Tangier, as all secrets are wont to do in such little places in the East. Ill-natured foreigners say it was the English who revealed them. More accurate observers set it down to people of another nationality. But the relevant point is that a journalist got hold of the news, and the Times was enabled to publish a telegram from Tangier announcing as imminent a visit of Kaiser Wilhelm to Tangier. The sensation was world-wide-. Kaiser Wilhelm among the Moors! Vernal madness! This visit, politicians said, would be a much more disturbing factor in European politics than his Majesty’s solemn entry on a white charger into Jerusalem or his symposium with Abdul Hamid had been. It would be a wanton provocation, said the French. Brief, the project seemed so freighted with dubious consequences that many doubted whether it would be carried out.

Among the personages to whom the announcement came as a stunning surprise were the Imperial Chancellor and his august master, to whom the principal role in the political adventure was assigned. And the Kaiser’s astonishment was tinged with annoyance. He resented the liberty taken. He had given no thought to poli-

tics in connection with his coming cruise, certainly none to la haute politique. It was to be a cruise and nothing more. Individuals, French, American, or others, he might, of course, receive, as he had done so often before, and enjoy a quiet chat de omnibus rebus ei quibusdam aliis. But to turn a much-neeed holiday into an international demonstration and cause a flutter of trepidation among the friends of peace throughout the world! No, this was too much. He would not join two aims so desperate as private pleasure and international politics.

Besides, he had disinterested himself and his Government politically in Morocco. Had he not charged Prince von Bulow to declare that Germany acquiesced in the Anglo-French agreement on the international status of that realm? This important declaration had been made only a few days ago. How could he now embark on an undertaking which would belie all this, and perhaps jeopardise the peace of Europe? In truth, he had gone much further.France had received positive encouragement from Germany to go ahead. The Kaiser had often alluded to Morocco as French, doing it deliberately and with a purpose. In conversation with the military attache of the Republic, for example, he had employed the phrase “Votre Maroc,” with emphasis, and gazing intently into his hearer’s sparkling eyes the while. The Emperor knew, could not but know, that these words which were honey-drops to a French officer were reported to the Government of the Republic, and had been taken to heart by the President and the Ministers. And could he now unsay and undo all this? Evidently not. Noblesse oblige. Besides, why should he His views had undergone no change. Nothing had happened to modify them. His court officials had gone too far. They had acted with zeal unweighted with discretion. It was rash on their part to venture into the sphere of politics without taking a competent guide. They ought to have consulted somebody—Herr von Schoen, for example. True, Herr von Schoen was absent. . . . Well, in any

case the Emperor’s mind was made up. He would set his face against the project. The cruise would be nothing but a cruise, as it professed to be. He would touch

only at harmless ports and steer clear of Tangier.

At this conjuncture Prince von Bulow enters on the scene. Having learned from the Times telegram that the Kaiser had decided to see Morocco for himself, the Imperial Chancellor asked for an audience. He was received. “I have come,” lie said, “to offer my loyal and respectful congratulations to your Majesty on the brilliant idea you have conceived of affording the Moslems of Morocco an opportunity of doing homage to the powerful friend of the Caliph of all Islam. They will appreciate it thoroughly, and so will your Majesty’s subjects at home, for it will do more to raise the prestige of the Empire than anything your Majesty’s Government could have suggested. It is in truth a brilliant coup.”

But the Kaiser knitted his brows, listened coldly to his Chancellor, and responded in a different key. He replied that the idea was nowise his. He had neither originated nor approved it. Neither would he carry it out. He would not go to Tangier. Such a visit would do more harm than good. It would run counter to the Imperial policy announced and pursued heretofore. In a word, the Kaiser showed himself resolutely adverse to the scheme. The Chancellor insisted, giving reasons for his view and endeavoring to weaken those adduced by his sovereign. The Emperor, however, turned the conversation, and soon after the Chancellor departed. But Prince Bulow did not let the matter drop. He spoke of it to several courtiers who had frequent intercourse with his Majesty, and he urged them to recommend it. Patriotism prompted his action and would warrant theirs. Some of them mentioned the subject to the Kaiser, but stopped short when they found that they were knocking at a closed door. None of them received encouragement, and some met with rebuffs. The Emperor seemed determined not to reconsider his refusal.

Meanwhile, préparions, officia! and unofficial, for the cruise went on apace. Abroad it was assumed that the Kaiser’s visit had been decided upon. But this was an error. Even those who were to accompany his Majesty, and who met in Berlin, had to admit among themselves that the programme was an unknown

quantity. Would they or would they not touch at Tangier. Apparently not. Comparing notes, they elicited the fact that the Emperor had not said or done aught that could be construed as a token that he had changed his mind. And there was not the slightest reason for assuming that he had been won over to the plan but was keeping his conversion secret. Presumably, they would not land in Morocco. The scheme was given up. It was with this conviction that they quitted Berlin and started on their journey. All this time the monarch had been reading with intense interest the leaders and special articles which the tidings of his intended visit to Tangier called forth at home and abroad. Prince von Bulow took care that his Majesty should see every note and comment calculated to convince him of the wisdom of going to Morocco, and he had but to wish for such articles and they filled the papers forthwith like flowers called into existence by the wand of a magician. But the Emperor read in silence.

The cruise began well, but brought no change. The subject of Tangier was tabooed on board. The Imperial yacht touched at Lisbon and anchored there. But there was no symptom pointing to an intention on his Majesty’s part to land on the soil of Morocco. At last the time allotted to Lisbon was up. The Hohenzollen weighed anchor. The vessel began to move out of the Tagus, slowly at first, then more rapidly, and all at once the news spread: “The Emperor has given orders to make for Tangier. We are going to Morocco, then, after all.” What had influenced the Kaiser to forego his resolve and do the bidding of his Chancellor? Was it the arguments marshalled by Prince von Bulow? Was it the advocacy of the courtiers, or the approval lavished in advance by the Press? Probably no one will ever know.

Was the Kaiser then really converted to the plan he had so resolutely opposed? No, not yet. At least not wholly. He was entertaining it, weighing pros and cons, peering ahead and looking backwards, counting up the cost. But he still wavered. He had not yet fully made up his mind. The Hohenzollern was meanwhile bearing him rapidly nearer to Moorish waters. The critical moment was ap-

proaching. The vessel steamed into the roadstead of Tangier. Here, at last, was Morocco. What would the next step be? The weather was unfavorable on the last day of March, 1905. The water was the reverse of smooth, foam-orested waves caused the lighter craft to rise and fall, and the wind was freshening. The Kaiser still hesitated whether to land or to return without setting foot on the territory of the Sultan. He watched and waited. Meanwhile, the foreign vessels stationed at Tangier saluted the Hohenzollern and the commanders went on board to pay their respects to the Imperial visitor.

And now comes one of the cruellest strokes of irony in the story. The French commander received a superlatively warm welcome from the Kaiser. He was a genuine, rough sea-dog, a latter-day Jean Bart, whose breezy, seamanlike frankness could at a moment’s notice be transformed into dare-devil prowess. The Kaiser plied him with questions on naval subjects, and seemed delighted with his pithy replies and the way in which they were given. Then suddenly came the fateful query. Pointing to the roughening water the monarch asked : “Is it possible to land to-day without danger?” The answer was an emphatic affirmative, an affirmative that came with the cheery tones of an incentive that whets desire. And it was that reply which settled the matter. Thereupon, the Kaiser issued the order to man the launch and prepare to go ashore. In this way the cause was set operative of all the subsequent international trouble which _ brought _ Europe in sight of war, and still trails its slow length along. The irony of fate willed it that it should be an honest Frenchman devoid of political guile _ who turned the scale with his “Possible? Mais assurément. Pourquoi pasr

The Kaiser went ashore, and Tangier was transfigured. The streets appeared clean—-for this occasion only. From the balconies hung many-colored flags, crowds of graceful figures in flowing draperies of white filled the narrow thoroughfares. Si Abdul Malek Mulai Hassan, the Sultan’s uncle, appeared to welcome the Imperial visitor, and brought gifts of horses, oxen, sheep, and other offerings galore. The Emperor mounts his charger. As he moves forward a French lady throws a

tricolor bouquet to which a long train of| crape is attached—a reminder of the lost| provinces. The Imperial charger, startled,! rears on his hind legs. At last the Kaiser starts on his two hours’ visit. It was during those two hours that he declared that the Sultan of Morocco is “an absolutely independent sovereign,” and that he, Kaiser Wilhelm, would treat directly with him. The semi-official Press in Berlin took their cue from these words, and an anti-French campaign was inaugurated which led to the fall of M. Delcasse, the diplomatic conflict with M. Rouvier, the conference of Algeciras, and the present entanglements.

Such is the genesis of Germany’s Moroccan policy. The German nation, as a whole, are entirely ignorant of its origin, and we, of course, regard it as part of the Emperor’s genial statesmanship, whereas in reality it was as sudden and accidental as was the famous telegram to President Kruger. _ They call it “Plotzlichkeitpolitik” in German. It may be styled the policy of the unexpected.

And when people ask, “What is Germany seeking in Morocco, what deep-laid plot of demarcation or expropriation has she laid there, is it a port she wants, a coaling station, mines, land, or what?” the true answer is quite as simple and, to the general, quite as unexpected. As it was chance that took the Emperor to Morocco, so now he uses it in exactly similar fashion, suddenly, unexpectedly, at haphazard, as a pawn in the Kriegspiel of diplomacy, for this and that purpose.

He sticks to it because out of the medley of international condominium something assuredly will issue. It may be a port, a concession, an actual demarcation of sphere of influences. That is not the question. The question is that some good, some benefit must inevitably accrue to Germany. It must, because with her power, and her recent rapprochement with Russia, the German and Austrian armies are the controlling influence on the Continent. It has been well said that Germany occupies the same position in Europe to-day as did Napoleon after Jena. And it is the key to the whole situation. That being so, the Moroccan question may be viewed quietly. Neither France nor Germany desires a war about Morocco. The entire situation is one of diplomatic

bluff, out of which Germany, with her major power, confidently anticipatos some substantial compensation.

Nor, from our point of view—from the military point of view, of course—would it seriously matter to us if France agreed to present Germany with a port, or, indeed, gave her such sphere of influence as she might please. A port in Morocco would decentralize the German Navy. It would be a source of weakness to Germany in time of naval war. From the English standpoint it is ludicrous to pretend that we have any reason to complain if the defensible area of Germany is extended. The very contrary is the case. The more Germany enlarges her line of defence, the more vulnerable, in time of warfare, would she be to us. It may be said outright that Germany’s ensconcement at Agadir would materially weaken her naval arm.

The reallv serious part in the Moroccan affair is this disposition of Germany to

invalidate international treaties at will and pleasure, for here the ethical side of diplomacy is offended, and things that are inherently immaterial in themselves assume the gravity of serious crises. On three occasions Germany solemnly entered into agreement with France regarding the problems and respective rights in Morocco, accepting the principle of international control, and three times now she has cast her agreement to the winds. On each occasion the Moroccan question has become a grave international concern, because there are other signatories to the agreements, and if treaties are to have any value at all it is considered wise to adhere to them. The question arises: Why does Germany enter, apparently loyally, into agreements if she reserves the right to break them? And the corollary presents itself : What is the use, therefore, of entering into agreements with Germany if she has no intention to respect them? And that is, in fine, the problem.