Wars are not generally the result of “arms races” or “misunderstandings” that can be prevented with international mediation, Max Boot argues, on the 100th anniversary of the triggering of the Great War:
Rather they are usually the result of deliberate policies by capricious regimes which may not want to fight but are willing to risk conflict in order to achieve their power-hungry aims. It stands to reason that the best bet for preventing future conflict is not in sponsoring more diplomatic negotiations but rather in the forces of freedom keeping their powder dry.
That is something that Great Britain, the guardian of international order in the pre-1914 world, singularly failed to do: London was willing to maintain the greatest fleet in the world but its army was so small that it was not reckoned to be a serious factor in continental calculations and its willingness to stand up to German aggression was in doubt. This hesitancy and unpreparedness on the part of London gave Imperial Germany the opening it was seeking to launch a preemptive campaign of conquest against both France and Russia – something that even the German General Staff, arrogant as they were, might not have dared had they been certain of massive and timely British intervention.