Blank Checks

The Peril of Letting an Ally Determine Foreign Policy

No competent adult would write a blank check allowing the recipient to fill in the amount. Blank checks in the affairs of nations are another matter. On July 5, 1914, German Kaiser Wilhelm II issued such a check to his ally Austria and gave the world a metaphor that sums up the surrender of one nation to the caprices of another. That blank check was issued to an envoy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who had come to Berlin after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to inform the...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.