In the end civilian leaders and, where present, their monarchs, made the breathtaking decision to make war or to keep the peace. But the military men had a strong voice. Possessing enough prestige and authority, as generals did in Vienna, Berlin, and St. Petersburg in late July 1914, to demand the mobilization of the country's armed forces made the men in uniform a force to be reckoned with. No civilian leader could ignore a high-ranking general claiming that a delay in mobilization would put the country's future in peril. But the mobilization of huge armies was a process that, once begun, could be stopped only with the greatest difficulty. In the eyes of European leaders, mobilization meant war.