World War I became one of the most meaningful events that shaped the history of humanity and preconditioned the development of global intercourse in a particular way. WWI was inevitable as it was driven by the existing peculiarities of international relations and multiple countries struggle for dominance and promotion of certain interests. It was also triggered by the rise of nationalism and pan-Slavism as two central forces in Europe at that time.
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Pan-Slavism is traditionally considered one of the primary causes of war. It is a belief that the Slavic peoples living in Eastern Europe should have their own nation that would help to protect their positions and nationhood (Kramer, 2011). It became a powerful movement in the region, especially in Serbia (Kramer, 2011). It was also a form of resistance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its attempts to control the area. The Russian Empire supported these desires because of its national ideal and with the primary aim to empower its positions and protect the Slavic peoples (Kramer, 2011). That is why it preconditioned the growth of radicalism and extremist moods in the region and the rise of tension.
From another hand, nationalism as an extreme form of patriotism that was prevalent in Germany also resulted in the aggravation of international relations and triggered the war. Driven by the desire to unite and create a powerful empire, German-speaking states believed in the supremacy of their nation, its power, and cultural dominance (Kramer, 2011). For this reason, the war was considered one of the ways to reconsider the balance of power in the region and create a new powerful German state that will cultivate a unique culture and help to achieve dominance in Europe. Over-confidence of the German nation in its selectness resulted in their involvement in one of the most tragic events of the 20th century.
Speaking about the causes of the war, the Alliance system should be mentioned. The Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance became the two central blocks that shaped the policy of that period of time. Countries that created these groups (Russia, the British Empire, France and Germany, Austro-Hungary, Italy correspondingly) had opposite visions on the ways Europe should evolve (Clark, 2014). Moreover, they tried to reconsider the balance of power in different ways excluding their opponents from the global intercourse. This system resulted in numerous states engagement in the war and it’s acquiring a total character (Clark, 2014). The critical difference in perspectives on global intercourse resulted in millions of victims and devastations.
The U.S. Neutrality
As for the USA, during 1914-1917 it was neutral. To a greater degree, it was preconditioned by President Wilsons incentive to introduce the neutrality policy stating that the USA should remain neutral in the situation, and adhere to impartiality in its actions (Meyer, 2018). Moreover, separated from Europe, the state did not have the risk of being invaded by enemy troops. For this reason, the U.S. citizens dissociated themselves from this event and did not want to struggle in Europe (Meyer, 2018). The Congress and the President correctly realized the existing moods and introduced regulations prohibiting Americas entry into the war.
Ethnicity and Neutrality
The U.S. neutrality can also be explained by the fact that the nation was formed by multiple immigrants from Europe. The majority of citizens were inclined to England and the Entente (Meyer, 2018). However, there were also representatives of other states who supported Germany and its alliance (Meyer, 2018). For this reason, the lack of common perspectives on this problem and the extreme diversity peculiar to the population of the USA can be considered one of the causes for the preservation of neutrality (Meyer, 2018). The entry into the war could have triggered numerous debates within the nation and precondition its split into two opposite camps supporting different alliances.
The U.S. Entry into War
However, the peculiarities of WWI and the way it evolved preconditioned the alteration of the U.S. course and its decision to participate in the conflict. Economic interests were the most important reason for the states entry into the war (Meyer, 2018). American entrepreneurs were interested in the victory of the Entente because of numerous investments in British and French military industries (approximately $3 billion) (Meyer, 2018). The Ally’s defeat would mean the states inability to repay this debt and the USA will experience significant losses. For this reason, the financial sector promoted U.S. participation and used the incident with Lusitania as a potent tool to shape public opinion and ensure Americans the necessary to send their troops to Europe (Meyer, 2018).
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This decision became critical to the history of the continent. The fact is that fresh U.S. troops altered the balance of power. They helped to stop the German offensive that endangered the whole Entente in spring 1918 and protect strategically important areas (Meyer, 2018). Moreover, it significantly weakened the German forces and undermined its power (Meyer, 2018). It helped to enter the final stage of the war and make all parties to the conflict realize the necessity of negotiations to end this war and avoid further devastations and new victims.
The Treaty at Versailles
Nevertheless, the end of WWI meant that there was a need for a new treaty. All participants had their own visions on how it could be achieved. Thus, President Wilson suggested his own plan for peace called the Fourteen Points with the central idea of the establishment of the League of Nations (Meyer, 2018). In 1918, at Versailles, the international pact was created; however, the USA refused to sign and join the newly organized League (Meyer, 2018). To a greater degree, it can be explained by Wilsons poor understanding of the existing political discourse and his inability to adapt to new conditions (Meyer, 2018).
America in the 1920s and 1930s
The results of WWI and the active role the USA played in the conflict preconditioned its further course and its inclusion in the global discourse. In the 1920s and 1930s, the state turns into a potent actor that might impact international policy and decision making (Meyer, 2018). Additionally, the USA became the central creditor that provided funds to all European states and affected their financial sectors. This tendency preserved up to WWII which again altered the balance of power in the world.
Altogether, WWI was a critical event in the history of humanity. It resulted in the emergence of new Alliances and the disappearance of great empires that previously shaped global intercourse. At the same time, it was characterized by U.S. participation and it’s becoming one of the central forces in the world. Since that period, the USA had turned into an active player that impacted global policymaking and the balance of power.
Clark, C. (2014). The sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
Kramer, L. (2011). Nationalism in Europe and America: Politics, cultures, and identities. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.
Meyer, G. (2018). The world remade: America in World War I. New York, NY: Bantam.