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Was World War I Inevitable?

By trek2ride Oct 17, 2012 791 Words
Europe had been on the brink of war for many years before 1914. The rise of nationalism meant that no country was willing to yield their opinion on who should be the dominating power. Nationalism has both positive and negative definitions. It can refer to the sense of pride and unity felt by a populace of people. Nationalism can also be explained negatively as the way in which people or governments tend to put their own countries interests first. As the rise of nationalism between 1870 and 1914 led the people of Europe to be less open to the rule of a detached monarch, the traditional hierarchal world of the pre-World War I era began to crumble and the outbreak of war became inevitable. The Franco-Prussian war of 1871became the first step towards World War I, with France being humiliatingly defeated. The reversion of Bismarck’s diplomatic policies placed Europe in turmoil and alliances were lost where they should have been gained. Finally, the Austro-Hungarian overreaction to the Serbian assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the final straw which quickly determined the outbreak of World War I. France’s embarrassing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War only led to even further hostility between France and the newly formed Germany. From 1870 onwards, the aim of German diplomatic policy was to protect Germany from any revengeful attack that France might undertake. They sought to place France in diplomatic isolation and to ensure that out of the five great powers in Europe, Germany was in a grouping of at least three. As Britain wanted to remain free from entanglement in European diplomatic policies, Germany sought an alliance with Austria-Hungary and Russia, which would diplomatically isolate France and protect Germany from an attack from the East. Germany’s increasing nationalism meant that they had an inflated sense of self-importance which led them to believe that they could “walk all over” France without it having any long term consequences. This rivalry between the two countries, many believed, would lead to an inevitable war. When Kaiser Wilhelm II refused to renew the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, he demonstrated to the rest of Europe his willingness to put his own countries interests above inter-nationalism, which is “considering the interests of all people and all nations.” Wilhelm II became only interested in in what he determined to be as beneficial to his immediate surroundings and lost sight of the peace which had been at the heart of Bismarck’s diplomatic foreign policies. Before, Germany’s aim had been to avoid war and they saw the isolation of France as key to this idea. If your enemy is without allies, and you are in a group of three out of five great powers, then for him to wage war on you would be suicide. The Kaiser saw that war would be a golden opportunity to prove to the rest of the world, how powerful Germany had become. In a world where, until recently, nationalism had not always been a strong idea and most people felt no other allegiance then to that of their landlord, the rise in Germany’s arrogance left Europe bewildered and scrambling to secure their position in the “pecking-order.” Germany’s nationalistic views would ultimately be their fall. June 28th 1914, Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is assassinated. Austria-Hungary’s overreaction to this deed is the spark which ignites the powder keg which is World War I. The Ultimatum which was delivered to Serbia in response for the assassination demonstrates an over-inflated sense of nationalistic pride. Germany’s guarantee to support the Austrio-Hungarian’s bid to once more prove their dominance in the Balkans, was a direct violation of the Triple Alliance. The Alliance was supposed to be for defensive purposes only, yet Austria-Hungary was planning an offensive manoeuvre. However, Germany promised to “back them up” nonetheless. This confirmed to the members of the Triple Entente that Germany was making plans to further their reach in Europe, regardless of who or what stood in their way. The fact that, out of the five great powers, Germany was in the smaller group of two did not seem to matter to the power-hungry nation. Germany’s rising sense of nationalism, it appeared, could have only a negative outcome. Europe’s leaders clambered to protect themselves from the expanding nation and tried to delay the outbreak of war, to no avail. The rise of nationalism, particularly in power-hungry Germany, and enduring conflicts between the countries of Europe, meant that the outbreak of war was unavoidable. The only unanswered question was the event that would essentially trigger the eruption. This was brought into the light with the assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary.

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