I just read "The Franco-Prussian War"
By Geoffrey Wawro
It was an interesting book.
I learned a lot of things - and will summarize in bullet points:
** Bismarck was a statesman and a master diplomat - but did not see into the future enough.
Otto Von Bismarck kept a cool head throughout an extremely chaotic situation while in France.
The Prussian army was besieging Paris for months, won several battles, but the French still would not give in to Bismarck's demands of territorial needs (he needed a clear win to pull all of the Germanic kingdoms together).
He did unfortunately go too far in asking for reparations, since the French foolishly were goaded into attacking Germany first.
Because Germany won in such a lopsided manner, even thogh:
** Although the German technology was superior to the Austrian in 1866, the German rifle was a breech loader, whereas the Austrians were still using muzzle loaders.
** The French had a better rifle, it could shoot effectively out to 1500 yards, whereas the German gun was only effective to 800 yards.
It was in the artillery the Prussians had a clear superiority, that and the tactics that the Prussians used made the contest a non-issue (kind of like 1940).
** Louis-Napoleon was a diplomatic lightweight and thought he was a genius.
Things I already knew:
The Prussian war machine was much more efficient than the French war machine.
So, Bismarck set up reparations which unfortunately caused the French and British to reciprocate after WW1. He did not realize the future repercussions of present actions.
But he did try to make things somewhat better - although in his eyes he was not a radical, nor a maximum punishment person, the end effect was a difficult going for France for many years.
The thing is, that Bismarck knew he needed a massive victory, and since the previous invasions of Napoleon during the early 1800's still were in many German's memories.
He would have had a good reason not to punish them somewhat.
It is interesting that the USA figured out by the Marshall Plan how to create a peaceful region out of the most warlike region of the world in the last 2000 years ( or at least it seems that way).