Zimmermann Blunder

In the annals of diplomacy there are few greater blunders than a coded telegram sent by the German Foreign Secretary to the German amabassador to the US, Johann von Bernstorff, on January 16, 1917. 

“We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: 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 the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America 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.”

On January 19, 1917, the German ambassador to the US forwarded the telegram to the German ambassador to Mexico.  The Mexican government gave it serious consideration, but ultimately rejected it on April 14, 1917, reasoning that Mexico had virtually no chance against the US in a war, and that even if Mexico by some miracle won, the pacification effort required to hold Texas, New Mexico and Arizona would be beyond Mexico’s capabilities. 

There is only word for this proposal to Mexico:  ludicrous.  Mexico was still in the throes of civil war and revolutionary turmoil, and the idea that Mexico would even serve as much of a distraction to the US was bizarre. (more…)

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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