If you could go back in time and reverse one decision made by one person in the 20th century to change the course of history, who would it be? I know who I would pick: Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. In 1914, he made the catastrophic decision to preemptively cross Belgium into France to start World War 1.
He did NOT want war. He did everything he could to prevent it, to avoid it. He was related, by blood, to both Queen Victoria and the Russian Czar Nicholas. He did not want a war against his relatives. He had nothing to gain by going to war, and no desire whatsoever to start one. So, why did he do it?
He did it because he thought he had no choice. The French and the Russians had already mobilized, meaning placed their armies in position, cocked and ready, to invade Germany, and he thought that a two-front war would be a disaster for Germany. He thought that, since war could not be avoided, as much as he wished it could, that he needed to strike first to knock out France quickly and then turn around and face the Russians. He did not want a Two Front War.
Well, it didn't work out that way. The Russians poured in as soon as he launched, so he had to turn half his troops around to face them, and the fight against France bogged down into a trench-occupying stalemate. Germany actually did very well against the Russians. It's fair to say that Germany won the war in the east. But, once the Americans joined the war in the west, it was over for Germany.
But, the reason why he should have waited is because he knew that he didn't want war. Therefore, he should have waited and let the other side attack him- no matter what the disadvantage. He should have retained the moral high ground- at any cost.
Probably nothing would have happened, at first. Eventually, the French or the Russians might have accused Germany of some phony border incursion, and used that as justification to attack. But then again, maybe not. Maybe there would have been no such opportunity, and maybe there would have been no World War 1.
Can you imagine if there had been no World War 1? If there were no World War 1, there would have been no World War 2. World War 2 was very much a continuation of World War 1. You should think of the interwar period as just a long ceasefire.
But, let's say there was a World War 1, but without Germany making the first military move; without German troops ever crossing their borders. Even if Germany lost, the outcome to Germany would have been much better than what they got because there would have been no basis to blame Germany for the war, hence no basis to impose the extremely punitive punishments on Germany after the war, ripping out huge swaths of her land to give to other countries, taking her best farm land away, her best mines, and imposing $33 billion dollars in reparations, and that's in 1919 money. Remember that World War 2 was started by Britain and France. They declared war on Germany, not vice versa. But, they did so in response to Hitler invading Poland to get back German lands, particularly Danzig. So, if that had never been taken away from Germany, and Woodrow Wilson did NOT want it taken away from Germany, the basis for WW2 starting would never have materialized.
Plus, if Germany had never crossed into Belgium to get to France, the lies known as the "Rape of Belgium" would never have occurred. That was just war propaganda. Read:
So, if I could go back in time, I would go back to Berlin in July 1914, and I would beseech Kaiser Wilhelm to refuse to start the war. I would tell him to station his troops inside his border but not on the exact edge, to leave a buffer, and just wait. Force the other side to make the first move. If he had done that, the entire history of the 20th century would have been different. Not just no World War 1 and no World War 2, but no Cold War, no Korean War, no Vietnam War, no 9/11, no war on Afghanistan, no war on Iraq, and no JFK assassination either. They are all related. Don't you know that?