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America and the Great War

The First World War in the Context of European Reforms

Nationalism, Militarism, and Imperialism as Contributing Factors

The end of the 19th century was marked by the multiple tendencies that included economic globalization, disarmament conferences, and national leagues. In his book, Fromkin describes the consequences of such reformation in the following way: “The European world abruptly plunged out of control, crashing and exploding into decades of tyranny, world war, and mass murder” (2004, p. 4). The disruptive tendencies were provoked by the sudden rise of nationalism, militarism, and imperialism.

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The imperialism cause evolved from the mass encroachment of the African lands by Britain and France. Since Germany owned only a small part of colonies at this time, the national forces started a fight for similar areas so that to surpass the rivals.

The tendency of nationalism took its roots from the congress of leading allies, which were Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Britain. Due to the outcomes of multiple discussions, Italy and German were not included in the projection of the new Europe. The mass disapproval that arose in Germany was reflected in fiction and popular magazines. Thus, the so-called children of nationalism were prepared for the right-wing nationalism and militarism patterns (Donson, 2004).

The consistent growth of European armies, which mainly concerned British and German battleships, resulted in the planning of attacks on France (Ferguson, 2002). Active militarism became the final aspect that contributed to the development of the First World War.

Pan-Slavism in the Eastern Europe vs. German Nationalism

One of the major European movements that evolved in the pre-war period is famous under the name of Pan-Slavism. The tendency appeared as the idea of the Slavic nations’ unity. The contemporary historians dwell on the similarity between the movement of Slavism and the nationalism in Germany since both events aimed at the separation of certain ethnic groups. While nationalism in Germany was inspired by the ideas of alliances and Otto von Bismarck’s ideology, the values of Pan-Slavism evolved from the politics of Mikhail Pogodin.

The Alliance System as a Factor that Contributed to the War Outbreak

A range of alliances, which represent the agreements between several states, was compiled between 1879 and 1914 years. These unions contributed to the outbreak of the First World War since the majority of such partnerships resulted in the suppression of several ethnic groups. For instance, the Triple Alliance that involved Austria-Hungary and Germany led to the overthrow of Italy that aimed at making Russia’s side. The Austro-Serbian Alliance targeted the prevention of Russian encroachment of Serbia. The Franco-Russian Alliance documented the agreement between Russia and France so that to protect their areas from the outrage of German and Austria-Hungary. Finally, the Triple Entente that was issued in 1907 by the union of Russia, France, and Britain demonstrated the opposition of the countries to the German threat.

Since the alliances were typically formed in the course of international conflicts, such partnerships predetermined the establishment of mutual military support, which contributed to the development of the First World War. Separate governments were afraid of abrupt nationalist tendencies that enraptured Germany and Italy, as well as extreme Slavism movements in Eastern Europe, prompted such countries as Britain and France to support their national interests and stability.

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The Position of the USA in World War I

Initial Neutrality

In the period from 1914 to 1917, America remained relatively neutral in relation to the First World War outbreak. The non-interventional politics was adopted by U.S. President Wilson, who preferred staying out of the European conflicts. Nevertheless, the American government provided some military support for the separate allies, which provoked the involvement of the country into further actions.

Thus, after 128 representatives of the American nation sank on a British liner as a follow-up of the German attack, the U.S. government threatened the intrusive country. Afterward, the German authority made an official claim about the future attempt to help the Mexican government in liberating the populations of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona from the American power. The reaction of the USA was immediate: the government took the direction on active intrusion into the First World War and started to reveal opposition to the German position.

Despite the general characterization of the U.S. neutrality, some historians dwell on the shaded politics of America by stating that the USA government influenced the course of the First World War since the year 1914. Specifically, the experts claim that the U.S. government kept the treatment of its ethnic groups in control throughout the war. Thus, America is believed to direct the interests of Afro-Americans in Africa, particularly the residents of the British and German colonies. Moreover, the authority of the USA conducted the active support of Jewish-Americans in Russia (Keene, 2014).

The Major Contribution of the USA to the First World War

The participation of the U.S. in the subsequent military actions was evolving quite quickly and efficiently. By the end of 1918, approximately 300,000 American combat troops were in France. The government launched a powerful program of volunteers involvements and was actively contributing to the rapid development of army and navy. In the so-called Hundred Days Campaign, the first consistent American army, which consisted of 500,000 soldiers, showed the Germans that it could cut the military scores of the Reich in the war. Although the primary objective of the USA was not reached, due to the Treaty of Versailles issue, the First World War revealed the concept of American leadership and enhanced the significance of the country on a global scale.

The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations Failures

Both throughout the war and after its ending, the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, was struggling to reach a compromise between the countries that were in conflict. As a devoted member of the Progressive Movement, the politician believed that one could realize the idea of the so-called “just peace” by following simple guidelines. Thus, in 1919, Wilson issued his fourteen points that outlined the idea of a safer world. In particular, the president considered that an overthrow of shaded diplomacy, as well as liberation of the seas, could reduce the threats.

Although the document is called one of the most elaborate political acts, the Treaty of Versailles was rejected by France, Britain, and Italy at the Paris conference. One can differentiate the two ultimate reasons for the failure of the points. First, every member country reflected the act in relation to the interests of one’s ethnicity, which made a consensus impossible. Second, the representatives of rival states were reluctant to accept the Treaty since it predetermined a loyal treatment of Germany, which seemed awkward for the European governments.

President Wilson attempted to promote his ideas in the USA by presenting them to a senate. He hoped that it would support him in developing the League of Nations. However, the American government viewed the act as a limitation of the U.S. authority. Consequently, the project was discarded, as well. Despite the failure, the documents represented the first consistent strategies of the high-level diplomacy establishment.

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Donson, A. (2004). Models for young nationalists and militarists: German youth literature in the First World War. German Studies Review, 3(1), 579-598.

Ferguson, N. (1992). Germany and the Origins of the First World War: New Perspectives. The Historical Journal, 35(3), 725-752.

Fromkin, D. (2004). Europe’s last summer: Who started the Great War in 1914? New York: Alfred Knopf.

Keene, J. (2014). Americans respond: Perspectives on the Global War, 1914-1917. Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 40(2), 266-286.

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