Political Science

The Civil-Military Fabric of Weimar Foreign Policy


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In the historiographic debate over Germany’s responsibility for the outbreak of the two world wars, little attention has been paid to German politico- military activity in the Weimar Republic. Although Weimar diplomats and military leaders emphasized the interconnection and developed ideas and procedures for joint planning, historians have usually treated the foreign and military affairs of the republic separately. Gaines Post, Jr., however, examines the relationship between foreign policy and military planning, and charts its directions and changes to develop a model of German civil-military relations which sheds light on the general problem of modern civil-military relations.

He shows that diplomats and military leaders shared assumptions about the role of force in foreign policy and the subordination of the military arm to the political leadership, and that they collaborated in assessing Germany’s strategic situation, in rearmament, and in operational exercises. In the 1920’s, interdepartmental cooperation between the foreign office and the Defense Ministry became the foundation of a stable system of civil-military relations. The system broke down during the crisis period of 1930-1933 because of mounting institutional pressures.

The author demonstrates how, in both periods, civilian and military leaders viewed military force not simply as an instrument of national self-defense, but as an acceptable means of attaining national goals, above all the revision of the German-Polish borders.

Originally published in 1973.

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