There is not single country that can entirely be blamed causing World War 1 (WW1) despite all the literature and purported evidence that many suggest so. However, these nations were misled and influenced by protagonist misconceptions and sheer blindness and did influence the war in one way or the other. This resulted in an increasingly volatile situation that on the July of 1914 went down history as the First World War (Fay, 1929).
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Since time immemorial, nations have had conflict with each other at one point or the other and at times this conflict results in war. Notably, Germany and England had been bitter rivals and soon, this rivalry involved other nations resulting in an Anglo-German war, with each side having followers; on one divide, France, England and Russia and on the other, Austria, Germany and Turkey (Fay, 1929).
Long before WW1 broke out, there was a general consensus among the powerful nations involved; they all did not want a war. This was because irrespective of the military, economic and political power any given nation had, a war would inevitably result in economic slowdown, loss of human lives, massive destruction and human suffering. Furthermore, war would effectively dismantle any democratic and diplomatic structures that were in place. However, the war did break out simply because these nations either fuelled the fire or did nothing to quell it (Saunders, 2008).
The guiltiest power for the WW1 is probably Austria. Of course she has repeatedly tried to justify her actions, citing that it was all in self defence following Serbian agitation. Following the assassination of the throne’s legitimate heir, Austria felt that she had to retaliate, even if it was to send a warning to the world. There was evidence that suggested that Serbians were involved in the assassination and Austria had every intention of crushing Serbia. What further agitated Serbia was that the Serbian government had taken no legal steps or otherwise to prosecute the alleged assassins and in fact, one of the assassin was assisted by the Serbian government to disappear. Once Austria insisted that the Serbian government should present the assassins, Serbia offered a negative albeit conciliatory response. Even before thy response was given to Austria, Serbia has already mobilised its armies in preparation for war. So determined was Austria that she failed to even liaise with her ally Russia on handling the attack and soon the foolish assumption that that war could be contained as a local war soon degenerated into WW1 (Spielvogel, 2004).
Contrary to popular belief, Germany did not want war and made considerable effort to avert it. It was a case of being caught between a rock and a hard place because her only real ally, Austria had effectively landed herself in the hot seat. Germany could not abandon Austria because if she did, she would have no allied and thus exposed to attacks from France and Russia. Germany attempted to reason with Austria against war with Serbia but to no avail. She soon realised that the war between Serbian and Austria would not go unnoticed or uninterrupted by Russia and England. Germany went well out of her way to apply pressure to avert war but unfortunately, Russian and England felt that Germany’s appeal was insincere. Interestingly, Germany was actually the last nation to mobilize her army after Serbia, Russia, Austria and Germany. Unfortunately, her association with her ally exposed her to danger and soon, Austria and Germany were seen as the instigators of war (Fay, 1929). In fact, Germany was not he only victim of allies, Britain had amoral obligation to defend France, and since se has colonies, her colonies such as India, Canada and Australia were involved in a war that war not theirs. France was treaty-bound to Russia and so, France was at war with Germany, Austria and Hungary (First world war, 2008).
Conflict between Germany and Russia was unwelcome because irrespective of who the victor was, a social revolution in the defeated nation would cause a ripple effect that would spread to the winning nation. The situation was especially volatile for Russia due to Russians at that time practiced socialism, which could easily degenerate to socialist movement which was bound to result in wide spread anarchy. Furthermore, legislative structures would collapse because the law enforced would be too demoralized by defeat at war to bother with unruly citizens and Russia would eventually plunge into absolute chaos (Fay, 1927).
There is no doubt Russia played a central role in the Austro-Serbian dispute because Russia had consistently encouraged and supported Serbia at the cost of Austria. Austria was wary of Russia’s power as a rival and she as sure that Russia would inevitably support Serbia. Consequently, Serbia planned to use the Archduke’s assassination as a leeway to weaken Serbia’s position. Russia was also responsible for the preparation of military defence measures while handing diplomatic negotiations. However, the final straw that broke the camel’s back was the discovery by Austria and Germany was that of Russia’s hasty army mobilization during the highly volatile time, which led to the declaration of war by Germany (Fay, 1929).
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France was equally guilty because she failed to divert Russia’s military measures which were likely to result in a German counter attack. Maureen Paleologue, a French ambassador to Russia was especially guilty of failing to forewarn his nation of the military actions that were underway in Russia. France has made considerable effort to prove her innocence in WW1 but the support evidence to absolve her has been largely insufficient (Fay, 1929).
Ironically, the declaration of war was met by enthusiasm and jubilation. There was a mad rush to enlist young and energetic men into the war. London saw excited crowds of thousands throng Buckingham palace, singing patriotic songs. There were several reasons for this paradox. First, some nations welcomed the war because it presented a chance for them to demonstrate their international obligation. Secondly, war was seen as the ideal avenue to defy the will of overpowering and domineering powers as a way of self vindication. Germany welcomed the war because it was s relief after decades of diplomatic stalemates and tension. The war created a sense of nationality and optimism, so much so that religious, social and political divides in Germany’s imperial society were over-ridden. Unfortunately for them that had welcomed the war so open-heartedly, the war turned to personify death, oppression and misery. There was also wide spread propaganda that was extremely explosive in nature. As is the case in the midst of all the suffering, a group of uncouth persons benefited form the war by economically oppressing the masses (The guardian, 2008).
In conclusion, no one state can be charged with causing the world war. It was as a result of economic and political rivalry among nations. There was also the issue of nationalism. However, the assassination of the Austria heir sparked enough friction that led to the degeneration of a two nation conflict into a global war that had far reaching effect.
- Fay Sidney (1929). The origins of the World War. New York; Macmillan Company.
- First World War.com (2008). The causes of world war one. Web.
- Saunders Rogers (2008). Origin and causes of World War One.
- Spielvogel Jackson (2004). Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume I: To 1715. London; Wadsworth Publishing (Fourth edition).
- The Guardian (2008). The most fateful hour arrives. Web.