The Zimmermann Telegram Feasability Study

Most Americans know that it was the Zimmermann Telegram, sent by Germany to Mexico at the height of World War I, that brought US into the war in Europe. Frustrated with blatant US support of Britain, Germany solicited Mexico to invade the southern United States and offered aid and assistance. However, the telegram was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence and passed to the US, which provided the sufficient casus belli for war.

What few people know is that the Mexican response was, on its face, carefully considered. The country was then undergoing a constitutional crisis shepparded by President Venustiano Carranza, who assigned the military with a feasibility study of a takeover of lost territories of Texas, Arizon, and New Mexico. The study concluded that the plan as proposed by Germany was neither possible nor desirable for the following reasons:

* + Attempting to re-take the former territories would mean certain war with the United States.

* + No matter how “generous” it was, Germany’s “financial support” would be worthless as the United States was the only sizeable arms manufacturer in the Americas.

* + Even if Germany was to supply arms, the British Royal Navy controlled the Atlantic sea lanes, unless if absolute submarine warfare truly was successful in destroying the British fleet, which Mexico doubted.

* + Even if Mexico had the military means to re-take the territory it would have had severe difficulty pacifying the large English-speaking population.

Mexico accordingly provided an offical rejection to the offer by Germany — two weeks after the US declared war on Germany.

Also, I find it interesting that the decoded text of the telegram referred to possible involvement by Japan:

… we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and make peace together. We shall give generous financial support, and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona… suggest that the President, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence with this plan; at the same time, offer to mediate between Japan and ourselves.

Reading the text of the telegram was the first I heard of the Japan connection. Interesting to note that the possibility of war between the US and Japan, and peace/alliance between Germany and Japan, was openly discussed at this early year of 1917.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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5 Responses to The Zimmermann Telegram Feasability Study

  1. Adrian says:

    I find it amusing that the only reason the Germans didn’t include California in their offer was that they never knew it used to be Mexican.

  2. zenpundit says:

    Japan’s somewhat mad Taisho Emperor was a great admirer of Kaiser Wilhelm II and several of Hirohito’s brothers later on were philo-Nazis.

  3. Curzon says:

    What is also pretty amusing is that Wilson barely won reelection on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” That probably counts as the broken campaign promise of the 20th century. (Unless if you want to legalistically argue that it was not a promise but an assertion of his record.)

  4. StephanFH says:

    Actually, I doubt that “most americans know this”. I would be very surprised if 10% of the population know what the Zimmerman Telegram was.

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