Bismarck Has Been Described as an Exponent of Realpolitik. Consider the Validity of This Claim by Looking at His Achievements Between 1865 and 1871.

Topics: Otto von Bismarck, German Empire, Franco-Prussian War Pages: 7 (2773 words) Published: May 20, 2013
Otto von Bismarck; the ‘Iron Chancellor’ is widely regarded as a sagacious enforcer of realpolitik and this political approach is greatly responsible for his success in the unification of the German states. Realpolitik is a pragmatic system of politics based on practical realisation of ones goals more so than moral or ideological considerations. This method of politics often relies on the utilisation of opportunities spontaneously as they present themselves at the resignation of prior plans and considerations. Aptly described by Friedrich von Holstein once a colleague of Bismarck as “someone who uses people as tools, like knives and forks, which are changed after each course”. This description of Bismarck by a member of his inner political circle as a manipulative aggrandizer exhibits Bismarck quite clearly – as a true exponent of realpolitik. Bismarck, was born into a land owning family from the junker class, and graduated from university with a history and law-degree. He was an alcoholic womanizer who never enjoyed his one-year of military service, finding it difficult to take orders from someone else. This idea shapes Bismarck’s greatest goal of collapsing the Bund and forming a new German confederation with Prussia, not Austria at the helm so that he could devise the terms of European operation and not have to comply with Austria. He entered politics in 1847 and believed that executive autocracy was the only manner of ruling, believing that might was unarguably right. This giving root to his fervent desire to raise a well trained Prussian army and is the reason for his success in the Danish, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars as well as collapsing the Bund and uniting Germany. Throughout his political career Bismarck shrewdly operated in a manner that many would describe as deceitful, cunning and unscrupulous yet in a time period of less than 7 years he had taken the divided states of Germany and unified them under one flag. In collaboration with Minister of War von Roon and Chief of Staff von Moltke, Bismarck presented to Wilhelm I and the Prussian parliament his intention to increase the size of the army and introduce various other army reforms. This particular request was met with dismay among the liberals who dominated the Diet and Wilhelm who were unsure of the need to expand the Prussian army and unwilling to pay the extra tax to fund these reforms. Upon the understandable rejection of this proposal, von Roon sent Bismarck the famous telegram: “Delay is dangerous. Hurry”. This was the opportunity Bismarck had been waiting for, tearing up the abdication document, driving liberals from the office, stifling the press and encouraging Wilhelm to create the new units by collecting existing taxation. With an expanded army Bismarck resolved to achieve unification with “iron and blood” rather than liberal methods. Bismarck famously declared when speaking to the Prussian National Assembly in 1862 “Majority verdicts will the great decisions of the time be made – that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by iron and blood.” The liberal rejection of army reforms gave Wilhelm only one option – the appointment of Bismarck as Minister-President of Prussia. The conflict with Denmark regarding the two duchies - Schleswig and Holstein was manipulated by Bismarck to accommodate his goals for German unity. As a clear indicator of his perceptive approach to the annexation of the duchies, Bismarck successfully isolated Denmark by ensuring that it had no major power as an ally. This was a hallmark, of Bismarck’s military strategy, a distinctive modus operandi (mode of operation) used to ensure victory in many conflicts such as the Austro-Prussian war of 1865 and the Franco-Prussian war of 1871. This was swiftly achieved in regard to the Danish war, or the Schleswig-Holstein conflict. Russia was sympathetic to the Prussian cause as a result Prussian support in every act except war during Polish mutiny of 1863, France was...
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