How the left took over U.S. colleges

In the 1992 book The Rise and Fall of the American Left, John Diggins describes how the American left, which seemed to have fallen on hard times in the 1970s, found a new home in the universities. He talks about the ironies involved. Here is an excerpt, which is very relevant today..

“Although the New Left saw itself as the victim of history, in at least one respect it became its beneficiary. In the sixties and early seventies American higher education expanded enormously. University enrollments increased and new campuses opened on the East and the West coasts to accommodate the postwar baby boom children now reaching college age. Consisting to a large extent of graduate students, the New Left entered the academic profession en masse and found respectable positions at virtually every distinguished university except Chicago. Appointed at a time of expansion, the “tenured Left” survived the budget-cutting contractions of the early Reagan years. With no new massive hiring expected in the immediate future, the remnants of the New Left are the most significant ideological presence on the American campus today and most likely will continue to be so well into the next century.

“The New Left’s finding an afterlife in the academic world is replete with ironies. It will be recalled that at the turn of the century Daniel DeLeon and other socialist theoreticians worried about the implications of a radical intelligentsia whose interest may not coincide with that of the proletariat. With the dreams of the New Left shattered in the seventies, no one had to worry about whether the Academic Left could articulate the needs and aspirations of an American proletariat, since that creature had no existence. With no constituency in the real world, the New Left had no choice but to ascend to the ivory towers of theory. Yet the move into the groves of academe is surprising in many ways. No one who had watched campus demonstrations in the sixties could have anticipated the eagerness with which former protesting graduate students later accepted positions at the very institutions they said were responsible for racism, imperialism, fascism, sexism, and other evils of “liberalism.” At Berkeley, Columbia, San Francisco State, and several other campuses in the sixties there seemed to be two incompatible worlds—academic gentility and revolutionary fury. Inside the university building was the faculty member: nicely dressed, family photo on office desk, surrounded by books, polite and patient, wondering when the troubles would end so that the sacred serenity of the library might again be enjoyed. On the outside the graduate student: with ragged army jacket and beard, fist raised, noisy, rude, impatient with explanations. Facts are fictions. Scholarship is for squares. The system sucks. Fuck you, faculty; you’re either for us or against us.

“And so it went for half a dozen years. But in the end the majority of New Left graduate students, after repeating again and again that they would never allow themselves to be “co-opted,” did so without so much as a blush.”

The above is all an excerpt from the book. Diggins, who is a professor of history, says that these radicals became gatekeepers who changed who could become a professor. He writes: “In the field of American History, for example, a liberal PH.D. who subscribed to consensus instead of class conflict, or a white male conservative who admired Madison more than Marx, had about as much chance of getting hired on some faculty as Woody Allen of starting as point guard for the Knicks” (Woody Allen is a Jewish actor and producer who looks very nerdy)

The book is also interesting because it shows that the left was usually (not always) believers in Marx, and it also shows that current un-democratic manifestations of the left were already getting foreshadowed (for instance conservative speakers were being heckled on campus, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

Professor Diggins

Why the Bolsheviks won over 180,000 allied troops as well as White Russians

When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, World War I was raging. The Bolshevik leader, Lenin made peace with the Germans, which dismayed the British and French, who were still fighting the Germans.

After the war was over, the allies had 180,000 troops on Russian territory – British, French, American, Japanese, Italian and Greek, as well as Serb and Czech contingents – plus 300,000 men of various anti-Bolshevik Russian forces. Nonetheless, Bolshevism won. The reasons given by Paul Johnson in his history “Modern Times” are that most of the allied statesmen did not grasp the significance of the new type of totalitarian dictatorship in Russia. Winston Churchill was the exception – he did realize, and he wanted to defeat the Bolsheviks.

On February 14, 1919, President Wilson (of the U.S.) said he was for withdrawal. He said that “Our troops were doing no sort of good in Russia. They did not know for whom or for what they were fighting.”

Prime Minister Lloyd George was worried about British public opinion and he said “To send our soldiers to shoot down the Bolsheviks would be to create Bolshevism here.[in Britain].”

The War Office warned of ‘revolutionary talk in the Brigade of Guards’ and General Ironside, in charge at Archangel, cabled home news of ‘very persistent and obstinate’ mutinies among his own troops.
Leninism had let go of the small nations on its fringes, and it claimed to be for self-determination. So most western opinion saw the Bolsheviks as non-expansionist. To these Westerners, it was the anti-Bolshevik commanders, Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin, who stood for Tsarist imperialism, the old fear images of ‘the Bear’, the ‘Russian Steamroller’ and so forth. This view was by no means unfounded. Kolchak persistently refused to give the Allies the assurances they wanted about confirming the independence of Finland and the Baltic states after he had overthrown Lenin. General Denikin was strongly anti-Polish. Moreover, Denikin identified Bolshevism with Jewry and his troops committed anti-Semitic atrocities. This damaged the image of the ‘White Russians’ (the anti-Bolsheviks) in the West. The allies just pulled out, leaving the White Russians to face the Bolsheviks. Many of the Whites deserted.
Today we know that the Bolsheviks ended up killing tens of millions of people, and the story may not be over yet. Stopping them initially would have made a lot of sense.

The attempt to lynch Edward Teller (the father of the H-bomb)

Edward Teller was a Hungarian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. and became the “father of the H-bomb” (a nuclear bomb that works by fusing Hydrogen atoms together). This was such a powerful weapon that there was much opposition, including by scientists, to any attempt to create it.

Edward Teller was a conservative, politically. He watched the development of the so-called Free Speech Movement in Berkeley (where he worked) with considerable alarm. Later he wrote that “within a year there was no longer free speech in Berkeley. Within a year a vice president of the university was shouted down by the students when he reminded them that if they insist on free speech they must grant the right of speech to those who happen to disagree with them.”


By early November 1970, a flyer was widely circulated on the Berkeley campus. In large black letters across the top it exclaimed EDWARD TELLER – WAR CRIMINAL. The flyer enumerated its charges

1.. Worked on atomic bomb during WW2
2. Father of the Hydrogen bomb
3. Largely responsible for establishment of Livermore Rad Lab.
4. Leading advocate of arms race
5. Leading advocate of nuclear blackmail
6. Has acted as hawk advisor to Washington officials, including Nixon, since WW2

The message continued with the information that “He is living in our community, 1573 Hawthorne Terrace 848-8811”

A student “War Crimes Tribunal” had several speakers talk about the Vietnam war, and then Teller was attacked as a “paranoid anti-Communist” and the Lawrence Livermore Lab where he worked was called a ‘scientific whore-house.”
Eventually the audience cried “Lets get Teller” and “Break Teller’s windows, burn his house, kill him.”

Teller was warned, and called the police. The police thwarted the mob, though the mob did burn Teller in effigy.

And now for the irony. The main reason Teller wanted to research the Hydrogen bomb was that he was afraid the Soviet Union would get it first. And according to the book from which this material is taken, the Russians did indeed get it first. So Teller was right!

Source: “Energy and Conflict – The Life and Times of Edward Teller” by Stanley Blumberg and Gwinn Owens

Jews for and against Communism in Hungary

I’m reading a biography of Edward Teller, the American who created the Hydrogen nuclear bomb. As in some other books I’ve been recently reading, the connection between some radical Jews and Communism comes up again. Edward was from a middle class Jewish home in Hungary. After the Russian revolution, a series of events led to a Jewish Communist by the name of Bela Kun becoming the leader of a “workers’ and peasants’ state’ in Hungary.

The result was a complete breakdown in the economic system. Services stopped. Goods, including food, did not move to market.

As the Communists realized that their hold on the country was growing weaker, they reverted to a reign of terror. “Traitors” were being arrested, jailed and sometimes shot every day. Corpses of dissidents were hung from lampposts.

Not only was Kun a Jew, so were eight of his eleven commissars. The authors say that Kun’s collaborators had nothing in common, with the comfortable middle-class Jews of Budapest as represented by the Tellers. The Jewish bourgeoisie resented the revolution. Nonetheless, say the authors: “… by the deposed Hungarian aristocracy and the non-Jewish middle class, including many citizens of German descent, Kun’s reign of terror, his inept bungling of a still-functioning state, would be remembered as the product of Jews.”

Edward Teller’s mother told a friend “I shiver at what my people are doing. When this is over there will be a terrible revenge.”

I (the blog author) have wondered at how much the role of some Jews in Bolshevism strengthened the hand of Hitler. Its obviously impossible to quantify this, but when Bela Kun’s regime was overthrown, it was by troops led by Admiral Miklos Horthy, who while he disliked Hitler, did approve of the German dictator’s crusade against Bolshevism and initially allied with the Nazis in World War II. (Horthy later tried to extricate Hungary from the war, which got him abducted by the Nazis). The Hungarian Jews were not deported to Auschwitz until Germany occupied Hungary.

Sources:

Energy and Conflict – the Life and Times of Edward Teller – by Stanley Blumberg and Gwinn Owens.

https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Hungary_in_World_War_II

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Miklos-Nagybanyai-Horthy

When Jews in Persia were persecuted

When we hear about ‘peace initiatives’ in the Middle East, they usually assume that the Jews in Israel should give up land for peace, and perhaps allow the descendants of Palestinian refugees to return. The problem, from the Jews point of view, is that peace is unlikely because of other factors having to do with religious anti-Semitism. Long before the modern Zionist movement, life could be very precarious for Jews in Muslim lands. For example, in 1892 the Jews in one town in Persia, Hamadan, had to display a red cloth on their chests, they could never put on fine clothes. They were forbidden to wear matching shoes or cloaks. A Jew was never to overtake a Muslim on a public street or talk loudly to him. If he were insulted by a Muslim, then the Jew “must drop his head and be silent.” Jews were not allowed to leave Hamadan at all. They could not even leave their homes when it snowed or rained for fear that their “impurity” would be inadvertently transmitted to Shiite Muslims.
In Hamadan, Muslim mobs were shouting “Death to the Jews” in demonstrations or alternatively demanding their instant conversion. For more than forty days, Jews had remained besieged in their houses, “almost dying of hunger and fright.” (page 831 and 832 from the book “A Lethal Obsession – Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad” by Robert Wistrich).

This example includes a ‘purity’ concept of Shiite Muslims, but even in Sunni Pakistan today, that doctrine seems to apply. The following happened to a Christian (see Wikipedia)

In June 2009, a Christian woman, Aasiya Noreen was harvesting falsa berries with a group of other women farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbor of Noreen, Musarat, who had been involved in a running feud with Noreen’s family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drink, and that some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian, referring to the caste system in Pakistan. Noreen recounts that when they made derogatory statements about Christianity and demanded that she convert to Islam, she responded, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?” An argument ensued.
A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was taken away by the police. The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She was eventually acquitted, however the story is still hair-raising.

An interesting sidelight: Persia is now called Iran because the Shah at the time (1935), who was pro-Nazi, wanted to stress the Indo-European origin of the country’s inhabitants.

The Jews in the Russian Revolution

In 1971, a book titled “Trotsky and the Jews” was published. One section is on the role of the Jews in the Communist revolution. The author, Joseph Nedava, quotes a study of 246 personalities prominent in the October revolution or conspicuous in the early years of the Soviet regime or both. His conclusion was that 3/4 of the central leadership core were of non-Russian extraction, and of those, the Jewish element accounted for over 30 percent.

The bulk of Jews were traders and shopkeepers, members of the hated class of bourgeoisie, and so were the first victims of the Communist regime. So Nedava concludes that the bulk of Jews could not be communists. Most convincing is this quote:

The Evsektsia, whose function was to reconcile the Jewish population with the new regime, encountered almost insurmountable difficulties. “The October Revolution was met by the Jewish parties with the greatest hatred… The Jewish intelligentsia was deeply convinced that the Jewish masses would never follow us Bolsheviks.” And at the first conference of the Evsektsia (Moscow, October 1918), one delegate admitted in his report that “until now the wide Jewish masses have been inclined toward counterrevolution”

Nedava also says that generally speaking, the Bolsheviks drew their strength from the big industrial cities, which for centuries had been, by Russian legislation, almost hermetically sealed against Jews.

The “White” armies, that were fighting the Communists, targeted Jews as well, and since the Communists stopped pogroms (anti-Jewish massacres) whenever they captured an area, the Jews ended up fighting alongside the Red armies simply to survive.

It is not surprising that anti-Communists identified Jews as Communists, since many prominent Communists, including Trotsky, the commander of the red army, were Jewish. At one point a large number of Jews were in the Cheka (Russian secret police), which applied wholesale terror to suppress opposition.

But then again, judging by an election held by the Jewish national assembly in the Ukraine in 1918, most Jews were not socialist (only 31% voted for socialist parties, and those socialist parties were anti-Bolshevik).

Those of us who are Jewish and anti-Communist must be dismayed by the disproportionate role Jews played in the Communist takeover of Russia, but can take comfort from the fact that the majority of Jews did not ally with that terrible ideology until they were pushed into it by the foolish pogromists on the other side.

Framing the Jews.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a document that was forged by Russians to incriminate Jews in a plot to control the world. At the time it was created, the Russian secret services were facing a problem with revolutionaries against the Tsar, and had been forging documents to turn the revolutionaries against each other.

The Protocols used a novel by Maurice Joly on Napoleon III for some of its material, but made the conspiratorial speakers Rabbis instead of Machiavelli, who was the villain of Joly’s book.

Some of the Russian forgeries failed. But the Protocols was a forgery that succeeded in exacerbating hatred toward Jews. For instance, in the pre-Nazi period in Germany, a Jewish writer, B. Segel, attended meetings devoted to the Protocols. He describes them:


The speaker was usually a professor, a teacher, an editor, a lawyer, or someone of that kind. The audience consisted of members of the educated class, civil servants, tradesmen, former officers, ladies, aboe all students… Passions were whipped up to the boiling point. There in front of one, in the flesh, was the cause of all those ills [the Jews], those who made the war [World War I] and brought about the defeat and engineered the revolution..” he adds that the students might have been studying math or law a fews hours earlier, but now their “…eyes flashed, fists clenched, hoarse voices roared applause or vengeance…


The Protocols may have had an effect on British army behavior in Palestine (before Israeli independence) too. In World War I, Britain conquered Palestine, and in 1918 a Zionist leader named Chaim Weizmann went to see the generals who had conquered it. One General, Sir Wyndham Deedes, handed Weizmann some typewritten sheets and said: “You had better read all of it with care. It is going to cause you a great deal of trouble in the future.” It was a copy of the Protocols. All the British officers in Palestine seemed to have it.

Ironically the Russian Tsar was not willing to use the protocols, because even though he was anti-Jewish, he realized the protocols were a forgery.
But there are people today, especially in the Arab world, who do not realize they are a forgery.
It is interesting also that nowadays Russia creates fake people on social media and makes them say fake things, in order to disrupt Western societies. The Russians are still masters of propaganda.

Sources:
Why the Jews – Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin
A History of the Jews – Paul Johnson
The Lie that Wouldn’t Die – Hadassah Ben Ito

The petty torturers who worked for Stalin

In the book “When Einstein Walked With Godel” (2018), author Jim Holt talks about a debate in math – does math correspond to real entities independent of the human mind or not? In Russia, this fed into mystical notions of a trio of Russian Mathematicians, Dmitri Egorov – a religious man, and his student Pavel Florensky, who had trained to be a priest. The third member of the trio was Nikolai Luzin, a student of Egorov’s.

In a Western country, you can be a great scientist and religious, but not in Stalin’s Russia. Egorov was denounced as “a reactionary supporter of religious beliefs, a dangerous influence on students, and a person who mixes mathematics and mysticism.” His accuser was Ernst Kol’man, an impish and sinister Marxist mathematician nicknamed the “dark angel”. Egorov and Florensky were eventually arrested. Egorov starved to death in prison in 1931. Florensky was tortured and sent to a Gulag camp in the Arctic, where he was probably executed in 1937.

Luzin was spared, though several of his former students took part in the campaign against him, among them Andrei Kolmogorov, who is himself rated one of the half a dozen greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century and Pavel Alexandrov. (The latter two were gay, and their favorite activity was swimming vast distances and then doing mathematics together in the nude.)

But the point of this post is that in Stalin’s Russia, if you were too mystical and religious, you ended up either tortured and executed in an Arctic work camp, or starved to death in prison. It didn’t take much to be an “enemy of the people.”

An irony: Kol’man ended up in the Gulag himself, and later defected.

The real reason 9 hijackers killed almost 3000 Americans in a space of about an hour on 9/11/2001

When 19 Muslim hijackers flew planes full of American passengers into the Pentagon and into New York’s twin towers, Americans wondered who hated them so much. Some thought perhaps that American support for Israel was the cause of the Muslim resentment.
In response to the attack, then president George W. Bush ordered an invasion of Afghanistan. It turns out that this was exactly what the Muslim hijackers wanted him to do. In a book titled “Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars“, Daniel Bolger tells the story. In Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi jihadi leader, had a revelation that he attributed to Allah.

The Communist Russian superpower had failed, pulled out, and then imploded, all thanks to holy warrioirs in Afghanistan. If al-Qaeda (Bin Laden’s group) could lure the United States to the same killing ground, that might well cripple the far enemy, run them out of the entire region, and clear the way for the wider caliphate. Bin Laden saw a winning formula.

I should say at this point that Bin Laden resented American troops in Saudi Arabia, even though they were there to protect the country. He also didn’t like Israel, but from the book, the desire to create an Islamic caliphate was a primary driver.

Anyway, Bin Laden realized he needed a spectacular attack on the U.S. to draw it into war. It turned out that attacking the U.S. was relatively easy, getting the U.S. to respond was hard.

The first attack, on August 7, 1998, used exploding trucks at two U.S. embassies – one in Nairobi, Kenya, and the other in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. A dozen Americans died in Kenya (among the 212 people in the vicinity who were killed). The timing had been chosen to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the arrival of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia to push the Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait.

The U.S. eventually did retaliate, by firing 66 cruise missiles into two terrorist training camps. Another 13 missiles hit a suspected nerve-gas site in Sudan. But the strikes did little damage.

“Frustrated by the limited U.S. response, searching for a way to attract a large troop deployment into the Afghan rat’s nest, bin Laden tried something bigger.” That became the attack on a U.S. warship which was loading fuel in Yemen.

The U.S. did not retaliate at all!

This was really frustrating to Bin Laden.

Hitting two embassies hadn’t done it. Almost sinking a U.S. Navy destroyer failed to work. At an acrimonious White House meeting, frustrated with the unwillingness of the military to get entangled in a manhunt in landlocked Afghanistan, State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan pointed at those in uniform and said: “Does Al Qaeda have to hit the Pentagon to get [your] attention?” The sarcasm got a few chuckles around the table. On the far side of the world, Osama bin Laden wasn’t laughing. He knew what he had to do next.

Fast forward to now (9/19/2019) as I write this blog – after 18 years of war, the leaders of the U.S. are trying to get us out of Afghanistan, which inevitably will lead to to the Taliban (which had hosted Bin Laden) taking over again, and Iran has used low flying drones and low flying missiles to blow up Saudi oilfields! The Americans don’t want to be drawn into another war in the Middle East, especially after the endless war in Afghanistan, and the negative consequences of the long war in Iraq. On top of that, I’ve heard people arguing that 15 of the hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis, and that Arabian Wahabis preaches a very anti-infidel version of Islam. What do we need to protect them for?

Did Bin Laden’s strategy work?

Was World War I Germany’s fault? Or was there blame to go around?

World War I was a complete disaster for Europe, with over 8 million soldiers dead by the end of it. I knew little about that war, but had the impression that the participants just got entangled into it, and that it was started by an assassination by an anarchist. My impression was also that the French thought they would be safe behind the “Maginot Line” of defenses, and did not foresee that Germany would invade them via the neutral country of Belgium.

To check this out, I bought the Kindle copy of Winston Churchill’s history of that World War. It shows that I was wrong about all of the above.

It is true that the British did not want war. Churchill says this:

All around flowed the busy life of peaceful, unsuspecting, easy-going Britain. The streets were thronged with men and women utterly devoid of any sense of danger from abroad. For nearly a thousand years no foreign army had landed on British soil. For a hundred years the safety of the homeland had never been threatened. They went about their business, their sport, their class and party fights year after year, generation after generation, in perfect confidence and considerable ignorance. All their ideas were derived from conditions of peace. All their arrangements were the result of long peace. Most of them would have been incredulous, many would have been very angry if they had been told that we might be near a tremendous war, and that perhaps within this City of London, which harboured confidingly visitors from every land, resolute foreigners might be aiming a deadly blow at the strength of the one great weapon and shield in which we trusted.

and

There was the actual visible world with its peaceful activities and cosmopolitan aims; and there was a hypothetical world, a world ‘beneath the threshold,’ as it were, a world at one moment utterly fantastic, at the next seeming about to leap into reality—a world of monstrous shadows moving in convulsive combinations through vistas of fathomless catastrophe.

A few people were aware of the coming danger. Churchill was one. Another was:

General Wilson (afterwards Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson)…For years he had been labouring with one object, that if war came we should act immediately on the side of France. He was sure that war would come sooner or later. All the threads of military information were in his hands. The whole wall of his small room was covered by a gigantic map of Belgium, across which every practicable road by which the German armies could march for the invasion of France, was painted clearly. All his holidays he spent [wandering around Belgium] examining these roads and the surrounding country. He could not do much in Germany: the Germans knew him too well.

and

Standing by his enormous map, specially transported for the purpose, he unfolded, with what proved afterwards to be extreme accuracy, the German plan for attacking France in the event of a war between Germany and Austria on the one hand and France and Russia on the other. It was briefly as follows:— In the first place, the Germans would turn nearly four-fifths of their strength against France and leave only one-fifth to contain Russia. The German armies would draw up on a line from the Swiss frontier to Aix-la-Chapelle. They would then swing their right wing through Belgium, thus turning the line of fortresses by which the eastern frontiers of France were protected. This enormous swinging movement of the German right arm would require every road which led through Belgium from Luxembourg to the Belgian Meuse.

Wilson was not clairvoyant. There was:

Overwhelming detailed evidence was adduced to show that the Germans had made every preparation for marching through Belgium. The great military camps in close proximity to the frontier, the enormous depots, the reticulation of railways, the endless sidings, revealed with the utmost clearness and beyond all doubt their design.

Churchill had a revealing talk with the German ambassador:

One night the German ambassador, still Count Metternich, whom I had known for ten years, asked me to dine with him. We were alone, and a famous hock from the Emperor’s cellars was produced. We had a long talk about Germany and how she had grown great; about Napoleon and the part he had played in uniting her…He said people were trying to ring Germany round and put her in a net, and that she was a strong animal to put in a net….
Count Metternich was a very honourable man, serving his master faithfully but labouring to preserve peace, especially peace between England and Germany. I have heard that on one occasion at Berlin in a throng of generals and princes, someone had said that the British Fleet would one day make a surprise and unprovoked attack upon Germany. Whereupon the Ambassador had replied that he had lived in England for nearly ten years, and he knew that such a thing was absolutely impossible. On this remark being received with obvious incredulity, he had drawn himself up and observed that he made it on the honour of a German officer and that he would answer for its truth with his honour. This for a moment had quelled the company.

The last paragraph is interesting – it shows that the Germans had a misperception of British motives. Perhaps it was also a misperception of Russian motives that gave them an idea of “we will be attacked eventually, therefore we must attack first” (they didn’t say this, I’m guessing) and that is somewhat backed by another conversation of Churchill with a German:

I had met Herr Ballin. He had just arrived from Germany. We sat next to each other, and I asked him what he thought about the situation. With the first few words he spoke, it became clear that he had not come here on any mission of pleasure. He said the situation was grave. ‘I remember,’ he said, ‘old Bismarck telling me the year before he died that one day the great European War would come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.’ These words, he said, might come true. It all depended on the Tsar. What would he do if Austria chastised Serbia? A few years before there would have been no danger, as the Tsar was too frightened for his throne, but now again he was feeling himself more secure upon his throne, and the Russian people besides would feel very hardly anything done against Serbia. Then he said, ‘If Russia marches against Austria, we must march; and if we march, France must march, and what would England do?’ Churchill gave an answer that it would be a mistake for Germany to be sure England would stay out but then Ballin continued: speaking with very great earnestness. ‘Suppose we had to go to war with Russia and France, and suppose we defeated France and yet took nothing from her in Europe, not an inch of her territory, only some colonies to indemnify us. Would that make a difference to England’s attitude? Suppose we gave a guarantee beforehand.’

To me this seems to indicate that the Germans were really worried about a growing Russia, not so much about France.

So could World War I have been avoided?

Churchill does say that Germany’s neighbors were strengthening their militaries, but he says it was in response to fear of Germany. Perhaps from Germany’s point of view its neighbors were preparing that net that Metternich referred to.

Churchill does not seem to think that the first World War could have been avoided:

A will to peace at Berlin and Vienna would have found no difficulties in escaping from the terrible net which was drawing in upon us all hour by hour. But underneath the diplomatic communications and manœuvres, the baffling proposals and counter-proposals, the agitated interventions of Tsar and Kaiser, flowed a deep tide of calculated military purpose.

Russia did try to alleviate the situation:

Austria had accepted the conference, and intimate personal appeals were passing between the Tsar and the Kaiser. It seemed to me, from the order in which I read the series of telegrams, that at the very last moment Sir Edward Grey might succeed in saving the situation. So far no shot had been fired between the Great Powers. I wondered whether armies and fleets could remain mobilized for a space without fighting and then demobilize. I had hardly achieved this thought when another Foreign Office box came in. I opened it and read ‘Germany has declared war on Russia.’ There was no more to be said.

Sources:
Churchill, Winston S.. The World Crisis, 1911–1914 . RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.