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World War I is probably one of the biggest war that contained so much chain reaction . One feels threatened, they ally with their friends, and another nation feels threatened, so they ally with their friends. The feeling of threat leads into invasions then leads into their allies helping and invading and pretty soon, more allies come from both sides. Sooner or later, a vast amount of area, in this case a whole continent, is on a war. Silly as it may sound, this was World War I. We only hope that the feelings of threat was the cause of war. Some would argue that the assassination of a leader in Europe caused the war to happen. However, war like this was started even before they called it a World War I. In a 1915 issue of the Clock Magazine, it states, It is thought that this war that is been ongoing for over a year, began with the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. However, many other reasons led to this war, some occurring as far back the late 1800’s. Nationalism, militarism, imperialism, and the system of alliances were four main factors that pressed the great powers towards this explosive war. (Clock Magazine 1915 Aug. 17) Difficult as it may sound, (and it is) this is my argument. Yes Francis Ferdinand was assassinated and sparked the beginning of the war, but that was not the main cause. It may have been the immediate spark that triggered the starting of the war but it was not the main cause. The four major roles that played in the cause of World War I were Nationalism, Militarism, Imperialism, and the Alliance System.
Nationalism: a philosophy that is purely focused on patriotism, loyalty to one s nation and seeing its nation as the superior nation. Such philosophy remained popular around this time. In fact, it s popularity started in late 1800 s. Most countries in Europe
were nationalistic about their country and wanted their country to have strict culture and language system. Some countries even tended to take aggresional means of nationalism by wanting to get rid of inferior and small countries and convert them to their own culture. Such ideas threatened countries that were small and less powerful than most countries. This leads to the small countries making diplomatic statistics with other countries to be safe. However in example of a nationalistic cause in the war, Austria-Hungary was starting to be concerned when the Slavs in northern part of their empire wanted to join up Serbia. Of course, having a strong nationalism in Austria-Hungary, Austria-Hungary started being concerned. They did not want to lose their land and power to Serbia, especially when Serbia was doing anti-Austrian activities. Sooner or later, this lead to Austria starting to prepare themselves for a conflict/battle in case it ever breaks out.
Militarism: a philosophy that bases one s organization purely on the strict ideas of strong military, control over aggression and mass production of weaponry and any other military supplies. The conflicts caused by this philosophy seem very childish to me. The first conflict started when Kaiser William II (leader of Germany) started to be jealous of Great Britain s Navy and their increased naval production. Germany s challenge to Britain s supremacy as the world s leading trading and maritime nation and the reaction of Britain and other powers to this economic-military-psychological threat were among the major causes of the First World War. (World War I Baldwin, Hanson Pg. 4)
Supposedly, at that time, Britain had the best all-around Navy in Europe. What Kaiser William II did next was, stupidly, started to use most of German s raw material to start a huge, mass production of making weapons, ships, and any other military means he can build. Basically, he started this production to go in competition against Britain and her Navy and hopefully out-do them. Why is this childish to me? First of all, the Kaiser is wasting his country s raw material on something useless at that time and it s very stupid for a leader to be jealous over other countries navy force. The war may have had fewer casualties if all this mass production of militaristic force did not happen. So in result of the production competition, it leads to hostility and even fights for raw materials in spite of producing more force.
Imperialism: a philosophy stating that, to create or reform a country into a powerful country, it must take over all means of political, economical and military status of another country through aggression. This philosophy s cause of conflict is somewhat similar to the conflict caused by militarism. Already by what the philosophy states, you can tell that it can cause conflicts and war. A new vigorous and ambitious great power grew to strength in the heart or Europe after 1870, and its challenge to the established order was one of the primary causes of World War I. (World War I Baldwin, Hanson Pg. 6) Europe at this time was very focused on imperialism. The entire struggle for power, wealth and superiority can be pinpointed by this philosophy. Countries in Europe had colonies almost in every continent during this time. (Mostly Africa and Southeast Asia). The numbers of colonies grew massively in a very short amount of time. Sooner or later, conflicts and competitions started rising when colonies were fighting over the areas they colonized over. Some fought because another colony invaded them, some fought to take over a colony and some fought just because their countries are on conflict due to militarism and other issues. In example, France and Germany started to have conflicts of their colonies in Morocco because Germany started to kick out all the French colonies out of their own homes. Oddly enough, Germany did that to hog the raw materials needed for their childish militaristic production.
The Alliance System played a major role in the World War. Perhaps we can label the alliance system as the conflict itself. That is because there were 2 alliance systems during the World War and those two allies were the two sides that fought each other in World War I. First was the Triple Entente, which consisted of Great Britain, France and Russia. The other was called the Triple Alliance, which consisted of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy. Initially, Germany formed the Triple Alliance with Austria and Italy. France immediately felt threatened and formed an alliance with Great Britain and Russia. The two alliances swore to each other that when one of the members of the alliance was threatened or attacked, the alliance would come and aid them. Such idea like this played in the part of the chain reaction leading to the war.
In order to further investigate the causes, the events starting from the beginning to the end of the war must be evaluated. As mentioned before, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbians due to nationalistic feelings. In June 1914, the Ultimatum was sent to Serbia from Austria, demanding money and investigation of the assassination. This is where the chain reaction and the alliance system s role come in. When Serbia did not respond to the Ultimatum, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Austria then soon asked Germany, who is part of their alliance system, for help. Russia soon helped the Serbians for two reasons. One because Russia was part of the triple Entente and two, Russia claimed to be the Protector of Slavs and therefore are protecting Serbia. Germany who also had a militarism conflict with Russia, told Russia to demobilize which was ignored and started the war with the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. Around 1917, United States joined the Triple Entente because Germany killed American Passengers on a British ship that Germans sank. By 1917, the two alliance system broadens. Triple Alliance changes its name to Central Powers and Triple Entente changes its name to the Allies. The name was not the only thing that changed. Italy switches sides to the Allies, U.S. joins the Allies, and Bulgaria and Turkey joins the Central Powers.
After analyzing the war, it is pretty clear of how the four major roles, Nationalism, Militarism, Imperialism and Alliance Systems played as the major causes of World War I. Nationalism made countries in fear of losing power and started making countries take sides. Militarism created a stupid and childish conflict and competition among countries to compete each other and fight each other. Imperialism started conflicts on who controls what and who gets to control which country. Finally, the Alliance System started two groups and played a role of a gang fight where one would fight and their backups join in on the fight. It is very sad that such reasons were the cause of war. Are we so power-hungry, optimistic and arrogant that we kill over land, power, wealth and beliefs? World War I did not gain any country mass wealth power, nor a respect toward their beliefs. All it gained were the casualties of soldiers and innocent people who died at the hands of the war. Lives wasted during this war were practically pointless and even if someone did say that they gained something at the end of this war, it cannot possibly be worth anything compared to the lives that were lost in this war.
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