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The Great War and America’s Entry and Contribution

How the Forces of Nationalism, Imperialism, and Militarism Led to World War I?

The contribution of Militarism

Before the start of World War I in 1914, there was already a considerable military buildup among the nations of Germany, France, and Russia. Weigel (2014) described it best by calling it a form of “one-upmanship” wherein each nation, perceiving the buildup of military power by the other, also boosted their military spending as a response. This started a vicious cycle of continuous arms buildup and conscription which negatively impacted the economies of the countries that became involved in the war.

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Mulligan (2011) even suggests that the sheer military buildup before World War I was a contributing factor towards increasing the willingness of the various states to enter into the conflict. They needed some way of justifying the sheer amount of spending going towards their militaries to the dissatisfied public who perceived that the money could have been better spent elsewhere (Mulligan, 2011).

Contribution of Nationalism

The sheer length of World War I (1914 to 1918) can be attributed to the influence of nationalism. Through the use of propaganda, countries like France, Germany, and Great Britain intentionally set their rival nations in a negative light and depicted them as morally bankrupt or horrific entities. This made the war “justifiable” since they were fighting against these entities from possibly adversely affecting their cities (Weigel, 2014).

Contribution of Imperialism

Germany’s desire to create a colonial and central European empire put significant pressure on many states within Europe and contributed towards the tense international relations atmosphere at the time. Germany continuously attempted to gain more territory in Africa and the Pacific as well as contested many of the present-day territories in Europe (Mulligan, 2011). These actions drove many European nations, such as France and Britain, closer together in the form of more treaties and alliances that contributed towards them entering into the first World War.

Contributing Factors

Other contributing factors came in the form of the Pan-Slavism movement which popularized the notion of a common ethnic background among many of the Slavs located in central and eastern Europe at the time (Mulligan, 2011). This movement considered western Europe as being morally bankrupt and asserted that leadership from Russia was preferred over their current political situation which contributed towards Russia joining the first World War. Aside from this, the rise of German nationalism leads towards the desire for even greater expansion which contributed towards increased tensions in Western Europe.

Contribution of the Alliance System to the Ultimate Outbreak of War

The system of alliances at the time was tied together under what is presently described as the balance of power system. This occurred due to the military buildup of countries before 1914 since the military force was, at the time, considered as being an important facet of international relations (Phillips, 2011). Since larger states had more money and could field larger armies, smaller countries banded together under treaties to create defensive coalitions wherein if one was attacked, the other parties to the agreement would send in military assistance. This practice expanded resulting in not only smaller countries but larger ones as well entering into defensive treaties with their neighboring states (Samih Gülboy, 2014).

The problem with this practice was that one country would enter into a defense agreement with another when it noticed its rival country do the same practice. This lead to numerous interconnected agreements which could, potentially, plunge the entire region into war if one of the interconnected states went to war with another country that had the same status (Samih Gülboy, 2014). This was the primary reason why World War I grew as large as it did since the numerous treaties brought in more states and made a small conflict into a larger one.

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Why Did America Remain Neutral between 1914 to 1917

From 1914 to 1917, America has an international policy that focused on isolationism. While it expressed sympathy for the loss of life and the economic impact of the war, the fact remains that since it was occurring “an ocean away” and did not affect the U.S. directly, there was no reason for the U.S to enter into the war.

What Role Did Ethnicity Play in America’s Neutrality?

Many individuals in the U.S. (almost one-third of the entire U.S. population), were previously from Europe and, as such, expressed some sympathy for the war. However, while it is true that support from the local European ethnicities factored into the U.S. joining the war, initially support was supposed to be limited to arms and food and not direct military intervention.

What Events Drew the U.S. into the War?

Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare which sunk the British Liner Lusitania, combined with suspected sabotage of various American installations and Germany’s secret attempt (which was revealed by the British) at subverting the U.S. by promising to support Mexico in its military bid to retake Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico convinced the U.S. to enter into the war (Sen, 2015). President Wilson published the now infamous telegram Germany sent to Mexico, which incited sufficient public support for the intervention of the U.S.

America’s contribution to the War Effort

The U.S. provided a substantial economic system before it entered the war. It traded almost exclusively with the Allies and provided much-needed supplies. Once the U.S. entered into the war, it provided more supplies, military hardware, and troops which helped to bolster the diminished Allied forced.

To What Extent Did America’s Entry End the War

Germany and its allies could not compete with the industrial capabilities that America brought to the table. It could not strike American facilities and production lines, and the U.S. brought thousands of fresh troops to the front lines. This, in effect, became the turning point in the war.

Events that Lead to the Defeat of the Treaty of Versailles

The problem with the Treaty of Versailles was that it was perceived negatively by the U.S. Senate leader at the time, Henry Lodge. Lodge state that it would result in the U.S. giving up far too much power and autonomy. The result was two voting sessions, on November 19, 1919, and March 19, 1920, to decide if America would agree to the treaty. Both voting sessions resulted in the U.S. being against it.

Impact of the Defeat of the Treaty of Versailles in America’s Role in the World from the 1920s to the 1930s

With the defeat of the treaty of Versailles, America went back to its isolationist stance from before the war. This is not to say that the U.S. did not benefit from international trade or building contracts, it did and many American corporations during this period greatly benefited from it. It is more accurate to state though that the U.S. did not attempt to lead the world nor assert itself internationally in the same way it did after World War Two.

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Also, since the United States did not become a part of the League of Nations through the Treaty of Versailles, this significantly curbed the dream that Wilson had for its creation which potentially contributed towards the events that started World War Two.

Role of Wilson during the War and Establishing the League of Nations

President Wilson established the 14 points in the Treaty of Versailles that helped create the League of Nations while his role during and after the war was to assure the American people that the entry of the U.S. into the war was the right thing to do.

Reference List

Mulligan, W. (2011). The Origins Of The First World War. History Review, 3(69), 12.

Phillips, T. (2011). World War I Rescue Action. Wings Of Gold, 36(4), 68-69.

Samih Gülboy, B. (2014). Bandwagoning vs Chain Ganging: The Failure of Great Power Diplomacy in the Balkans before the First World War. International Journal Of Turcologia, 9(17), 7.

Sen, A. (2015). The economic consequences of austerity. New Statesman, 144(5265), 28-33.

Weigel, G. (2014). The Great War Revisted. First Things: A Monthly Journal Of Religion & Public Life, 12(243), 23.

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