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But the wonderful, unconscious tradition proved to be too strong for him. The leader of the Tory wing of the party, Balfour, would not go all out for the Imperial Tariff and all that went with it. Churchill and many others deserted the Tory/Unionist Party for the Liberal Party. which in the course of the Boer War had come under the effective leadership of the Liberal Imperialist followers of Lord Rosebery - Asquith, R. B. Haldane, (later a Labour minister) and Lord Grey. After the 1906 election the Liberal Imperialists made secret preparations with France, through the 'Committee of Imperial Defence', for the balance-of-power war against Germany which produced chaos in Europe and put the skids under the Empire itself.

The British Empire missed out on its Augustan period by committing itself, through Liberal Imperialism, to indefinite expansion in indefinite forms that could not be consolidated.

The European War that broke out in July 1914 was Irredentist/Expansionist on the Allied side and defensive on the Axis side. France could not settle down within the borders that resulted from its 1870 war on Prussia. The loss of the mixed region of Alsace/Lorraine was found to be intolerable. And Tsarist Russia, in essence an expansionist state, was at that moment intent on hegemonising the Balkans and acquiring a position on the Mediterranean. And in 1915 Italy, encouraged by Britain, launched an irredentist war on Austria. (Insofar as Fascism is a combination of radical socialism with assertive nationalism, it had its origin in the Italian war movement of 1914/15, led by Mussolini and encouraged by Britain.)

Germany and Austria-Hungary had no territorial ambitions. They were both states on the defensive. Germany's concern was that France should accept the legitimacy of the 1871 settlement. After Britain declared war on it, stopped its seaborne trade and set about seizing its colonies, Germany adopted war-aims beyond a restoration of the status quo of July 1914. But the war was not caused by German discontent with its borders as they stood in July 1914. And Germany was willing to accept severe limitations on the means it would use in its conflict with France if Britain would take up a position of neutrality with a view to acting as arbitrator in a settlement. But Britain, long before 1914, had made detailed secret military arrangements with France for co-ordinated action against Germany. It concealed its position until battle was joined on the Continent, and then it pounced in the expectation of a quick and easy victory.

The gains directly expected from the defeat of Germany were the German colonies - which were not very important - and the seizure of German trade. But the great prize was the Ottoman Empire, seizure of which would establish a continuous stretch of British territory from India to Egypt.

Britain had been expecting pieces of the decaying Ottoman Empire to fall into its hands until Germany began helping the Ottomans to modernize the infrastructure of the state in the Middle East. That was the major way in which Germany obstructed British Imperial ambition. Constantinople (Istanbul) declared itself neutral in the European War, which Britain was making a world war. But a war in which the Ottoman Empire survived through neutrality was not in the British script. Constantinople was subjected to a series of provocations designed to push it towards a declaration in favour of Germany. When the Turks did not respond to these provocations, Britain declared war on it anyway in November 1914, using the excuse of an obscure incident (or alleged incident) between Russian and Turkish boats in the Black Sea. The 'Indian Army' - as that part of the British Army established in India used to be called - instantly sprang at Basra expecting to roll up the Ottoman Army without difficulty and be in the Garden of Eden by the spring. (Although Biblical belief as an actual medium of thought about world affairs had evaporated, the prospect of incorporating the site of the Garden of Eden into the British Empire raised a kind of nostalgic shiver of delight amongst the Imperialists whose Millenarianism had been secularised, and there was a feeling that it would be a fitting culmination of things.)

But the Turks proved to be almost as stubborn and capable as the Germans. It took years for the Indian Army' to reach Baghdad - with the assistance of an 'Arab Revolt', which had been no part of the initial plan, and which had to be fed with false promises. (The peoples and creeds in the Middle East had lived more or less harmoniously together for centuries under the lax Ottoman Empire - they have never done since Britain set about liberating them.)

The Liberal Imperialist War - the "war that will end war" - went badly astray. Even though Britain won it in the end, it did itself damage from which it never recovered.