Why Nations Go To War
In John Stoessinger’s work on “Why Nations go to War” he examines ten wars that have occurred since 1914 and the one currently taking place today. These wars include World War One, World War Two, Korean War, Vietnam War, Yugoslavian War, Indo-Pakistani War, Arab-Israel War, Iran-Iraq and Iraq-Kuwait War, War on Terror, and Wars in Rwanda and Darfur. Each of these wars have many things in common, but the one thing that sticks out above many of the other statistics and reasons is that “no nation that began a major war in the twentieth century emerged a winner” (Stoessinger 387). So after reading this quote you begin to ask yourself, why then would a nation choose to start a war and face the difficulties and often tragic outcomes that coincide with war. Stoessinger thesis on why nations go to war: nations go to war out of fear and misconception that leaders have of other nations.
The first war that Stoessinger discusses is World War One. When the war was just beginning people did not see the catastrophe that would unfold in the years to come “the emperors and generals who sent their men to war in August 1914thought in terms of weeks, not months, let alone years” (Stoessinger 3). This shows the erroneous belief of many leaders involved in the war. They figured their armies to be far superior and the enemy to be inferior. But that proved not the case. Instead of stepping back and assessing the situation that they were about to put themselves and their nation into, this belief that they would dominate brought “the world catastrophe that would snuff out the lives on an entire generation and consign the next to illusion and despair” (Stoessinger 3). As a leader of a nation makes decisions they should keep in mind the people that they are making these decisions for, they should make decisions that are in the best interest of their people. Wilhelm II made a mistake when he based a decision upon personal feelings, “impelled by a generous impulse of loyalty to his dead friend, he offered what he thought would be moral support to the aggrieved party. That this guarantee would entail military support never seriously occurred either to him” (Stoessinger 6). He made the decision to fully support Austria without thinking of what consequences that would bring, “the Kaiser’s decision to support Austria-Hungary under any circumstances demonstrated an extraordinary confusion of personal ethics and political judgment” (Stoessinger 7). Wilhelm II didn’t believe that Russia would get involved in the situation be he viewed them as being on the same side as him when it sustaining the monarchs in place in Europe, “his view of the Russian as a kindred-spirited fellow monarch led him to assume that such a relinquishment of control carried no risk whatsoever. And his romanticism robbed him of all flexibility in the emerging crises” (Stoessinger 7). He believed himself to be in the right, and that other nations would view it the same way and side with him. What brought the war to a head was the fear. Wilhelm II had been trying to keep the war from happening between all of Europe and Russia through mediations. He had sent letters to Russia and telegraphed England on the pending situation. But the telegrams and letters he received in turn seemed to him as aggression from Russia and England. In the letter from Russia pertaining to the mobilization measures that Russia had taken had been used as a ploy, “the Kaiser believed that the czar had used the German mediation effort to get a five day head start in his own military preparations behind Wilhelm’s back. The “Willy-Nicky” telegrams had simply bought time for the Russians” (Stoessinger 15). And in the telegram from England he thought it meant an attack on Germany ““in the Kaiser’s view, England was combining threat with bluff”, “to separate us from Austria and to prevent us from mobilizing, and to shift responsibility of the war”...
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