Thus did Otto von BismarckThe three leading presidential candidates have brought experts and veterans on foreign and security affairs into their camps. They pledge that they can solve various pending problems as well as sticky issues rooted in the past with North Korea, China and Japan. But Korean history and world history shows that if the leader of a government is not equipped with a strategic mind backed by historical understanding, he or she cannot defend and advocate for the country on the intensely competitive world stage or raise the national dignity in a broader and more aggressive sense.
Historian and Yale University professor Paul Kennedy’s citation of the strategic diplomatic skills and statesmanship of Otto von Bismarck during an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo last month could provide some meaningful guidance to our aspiring presidential candidates.
When Bismarck came to power as Minister President of Prussia in 1862, what is now Germany was comprised of numerous states loosely aligned under the Confederation of the Rhine, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. It was a messy mixture of kingdoms, principalities and free cities. At the time, Europe was under a postwar peace settlement among roughly equal powers - France, Great Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia - crafted in 1814 in Vienna by the coalition that battled and defeated Napoleon’s French Empire. Bismarck broke the mythical arrangement and balance of power to wage strategic wars with Denmark, Austria and France to weld German states into a powerful united nation and dominant leader on the continent.
In invading Denmark in 1864, Prussia teamed up with Austria to strike Schleswig and Holstein and respectively claimed the territories. At the same time, Bismarck prepared for battle with Austria. He employed the power of diplomacy as much as military means in his wars. In the following year, he won a pact with France under which the latter vowed to maintain neutrality in the Austro-Prussian War. Napoleon III, convinced of Prussia’s defeat over Austria, encouraged the war.
In 1866, Prussia struck Austria and in just three weeks claimed Holstein and decisively defeated Austria in the battle of Koniggratz. Austria was no match for troops and forces that cleverly and quickly moved ahead by railroad under the command of war genius Helmuth von Moltke. Moltke and other generals wanted to march right into Vienna to crush and occupy Austria. But the Iron Chancellor said no. He refused to destroy and humiliate a state that could be its useful ally in the future.