From 1890-1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II struggled through a series of scandals and crises. His gaffes on the international stage embarrassed his government and helped create the alliances that would be arrayed against Germany in 1914. Due to these issues, even as he struggle for personal rule, his power within Germany was on the wane. When World War I began, he assumed his role as Supreme Warlord, the leader of the German army. The German general staff believed he could not “lead three soldiers over a gutter,” and therefore conspired to keep actual power out of his hands. In the end, it did not matter. In the first weeks of the war, the Kaiser suffered a nervous collapse. As historian Miranda Carter points out, for the rest of the war, he was merely a “flimsy fig leaf” for a Germany ruled by a military dictatorship. At the end of the war there were calls to officially blame him for the war through an international trial. This would never materialize – instead he spent the next 22 years of his life in exile. (23:16)
While sometimes considered a “sideshow” in histories of World War I, the Middle East was a region of considerable value to both the Allied and Central powers. As stalemate mired the Western front, both sides expended vast amounts of men and treasure in the Middle East in an attempt to outflank each other, but also with an eye to expanding influence in the region in the post-war period.