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The Zimmermann Telegram, Barbara Tuchman

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"We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the USA neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following terms: Make war together. Make peace together. Generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President [of Mexico] of the above most secretly, as soon as the outbreak of war with the USA is certain and add the suggestion that he should on his own initiative invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President's attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace."

Zimmermann Telegram So reads the so-called “Zimmermann Telegram,” in which Germany tried to keep the United States out of the Great War in Europe by fomenting trouble on the already-tense southern border and to the west from Japan. Barbara Tuchman's The Zimmermann Telegram chronicles Germany's entrance into the War and her efforts to keep the U.S. neutral, even as England attempted to persuade the U.S. to join the Allies.

Woodrow Wilson worked furiously to negotiate a “peace without victory” in Europe even while trying to keep southern tensions at bay.

Problems south of the border were an immediate concern for Wilson, who was inaugurated just as a coup in 1913 brought most of Mexico under the control of General Victoriano Huerta, “a pure-blooded Indian with a flat nose, a bullet head, a sphinx's eyes behind incongruous spectacles, and a brandy bottle never far from his hand” and considered “everything abhorrent” by Wilson.

Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II had for years been plotting to manage all of the affairs of Europe, imagining himself alone sufficiently competent to carry the terrible burden. As he was able to influence his “cousin Nicky” (the Tsar of Russia) to carry out his plans, Wilhelm started looking further, to Venezuela and finally to Mexico—ultimately joining the U.S. in meddling in her affairs. He had an elaborate scheme involving Japan would ultimately lead the U.S. actually to invade (even to annex) Mexico and the rest of Latin America to respond favorably to an offer from Germany to beat back American expansion.

Unfortunately for Wilhelm, the Germans were not as smart as he had imagined, nor were the British so clueless. Some excellent intelligence work by a small group known simply as “Room 40” managed to produce definite evidence of Germany's aggression and to convince President Wilson to lead the U.S. into war against Germany, bringing in money, supplies, and a much needed boost of morale in the Allies' darkest moments.

The story is masterfully told: several themes are weaved together to carry the reader effortlessly through the intrigues of international politics at the dawn of the twentieth century. Writing in the text is a pleasure to read, engaging and elegant. Tuchman is best known for her later works including The Guns of August (which influenced President Kennedy greatly during the Cuban Missile Crisis), but even this early work stands out as excellent presentation of history. I managed to acquire a copy of an edition produced by The Folio Society, bound in cloth, complete with a case. The book is typeset nicely and includes photographs of critical characters such as Wilson, Wilhelm, Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall, Huerta, General Venustiano Carranza, and General Pancho Villa.

Any student of history is sure to find The Zimmermann Telegram an enlightening work on a critical moment in history and a pleasure to read.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2005-06-27 10:34 AM

yeah, this looks interesting

Posted by donetrawk at 2005-07-13 03:03 PM
I like The Guns of August. Great book. I'll have to look into this one.
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