The year is 1901. Germany's navy is the second largest in the world; their army, the most powerful. But with the exception of a small piece of Africa and a few minor islands in the Pacific, Germany is without an empire. Kaiser Wilhelm II demands that the United States surrender its newly acquired territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. President McKinley indignantly refuses, so with the honor and economic future of the Reich at stake, the Kaiser launches an invasion of the United States, striking first on Long Island.
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December 31, 1994
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Excerpt from 1901 by Robert Conroy
War, thought the kaiser, was the natural order of the world, and only fools thought otherwise. It mattered not whether one was referring to animals, as Darwin had, or nations, as he now was. War was the lubricant that drove the successful to greatness and condemned the weak to a deserved obscurity. A nation that did not grow was doomed to shrivel and die. A nation that did not take from the weak was forever doomed to be weak herself. With so much of the world already under the jurisdiction of other powers, it was obvious that the essential growth that would spur Imperial Germany into the twentieth century could come only at the expense of others. Bismarck had understood that, but only to a point. To Kaiser Wilhelm II, it was a picture seen with utter clarity. For Germany's sake, he thanked God it was he who ruled the empire for the past twelve years. He was the grandson of the man who had, with Bismarck's help, formed the state of Germany. He was the descendant of Prussian kings whose military skills were feared; nevertheless, he had not yet fought a war. Worse, he knew that his English relatives thought him inadequate and had mocked him since his childhood. They would learn, he seethed; the world would learn.
The kaiser squinted and tried to see out the rain-streaked window of the small office on the second floor of the chancellery. On the street below, a handful of people out on the ugly night scurried for cover from the cold wet rain that had originated in the North Sea. They had, the kaiser smiled to himself, just lost a minor war with the elements. He tapped his fingers impatiently on the window ledge. He was always impatient of late. If he hadn't been so impatient, he would have convened this meeting in the more convivial atmosphere of one of his residences and resolved matters over brandy and cigars. But no, he was in this dismal and sparsely furnished little room that would have better served as the office of a postal clerk than an emperor.
Yet perhaps this way was more advantageous. The pomp of a formal meeting would have attracted the noses of the swinish liberal press, or, worse, the Socialist creatures who inhabit the Reichstag.
Behind him, he heard the door open and close and the last of his invitees take one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs. He turned and confronted the handful of men. In the poor light of the small office, they looked nothing like the powers who ran the empire in his name and at his call. All of them, however, had "von" preceding their surname. This indicated their stature as Junker nobility who came from that bleak Prussia their forebears had conquered from the Slavs so many centuries ago. Prussia was the military soul of the new German Empire.
Of the four men, the kaiser controlled three. They were all older than he by at least a decade. That fact made him slightly uncomfortable, and he often had to fight to control his insecurities.
Alfred von Tirpitz was the architect of the expanding navy they both wanted to be second to none, not even England's. Bald, burly, and grim, his face obscured by a long and full forked beard, he burned with an ambition for an overseas empire the kaiser shared with a passion. Their navy was now the second largest in the world, although still dwarfed by England's.